First 2 Chapters for NaNoWriMo only another 48,000 words to go….
A Universal Truth
Sarah Bevan Fischer
Lewis Benton ground his teeth in anticipation. He winced and a pained expression crossed his features as a door slammed loudly across the hallway.
‘It’s not fair’ screeched his fourth daughter, ‘Lara always gets EVERYTHING that she wants.’ Footsteps thundered through the hall past his study door and receded into the distance of the first floor. Lewis waited, his face set, for the inevitable slam of a bedroom door followed by a blast of ‘music’ more suited to splitting eardrums than soothing the soul (a function that he had used to associate incontrovertibly with music).
Lewis glanced at his watch and seeing that the hour was gone six contemplated departing his breached sanctum in favour of a pint at the Bird and Baby. His mind was made up by the sound of more door crashing and strident voices as his youngest embarked on a slanging match with his middle daughter. The pub it was. Lewis stowed a leather bound volume of Voltaire in the pocket of his threadbare tweed jacket and slid into the garment as though donning a second skin. Despite the middle June date the weather was typically inclement for the time of year.
Tension fell from his shoulders as he walked briskly down the Woodstock Road towards his destination. Since the students had gone down for the summer his excuses for being out of the house all of the day and much of the evening had worn thin. She who must be obeyed, otherwise known as his wife, Amanda, had ideas on how his time should be spent other than in his normal consolation, total immersion in literature. Lewis bent his mind to more pleasant family matters as he strode purposefully into Blackfriars and crossed the road to the sanctuary of the, more correctly named, Eagle and Child.
Lewis ordered his pint and chatted politely with the bartender for a moment. He made his way from the bar to the small lounge where he preferred to sit. He sipped his pint and allowed his mind to look forward to the return of his second daughter. Eme would be returning home for University for the summer holiday sometime tomorrow. At least he would be able to enjoy the company of one rational creature in his otherwise dysfunctional home.
Eme took one last look around her student accommodation for signs of orphan belongings and dispassionately closed her suitcase. The array of carrier bags, a rucksack and the aforementioned suitcase contained the extent of her possessions. She breathed a sigh of relief both for finishing the job of packing and that she would not be returning to this dark, sad room ever again. Next year Eme planned to be housed in much more glamorous surroundings, her ambitions were all for a job in publishing.
Eme smiled at the happy thought and tapped a message on her mobile to let Scarlett know that she was ready.
‘Gr8 we r outside’ binged back into her inbox. Eme began to ferry her stuff downstairs to be greeted by Scarlett’s father and Scarlett both offering their assistance. Mr Lucas insisted on carrying her suitcase and the girls shared the carrier bags between them.
‘What have you got in this case Eme? Bricks?’ Joe Lucas hazarded jokingly. Eme, full name Emerald, (her father had not been able to dissuade her mother) had known Scarlett and the rest of the Lucas family all of her twenty-one year old life. Eme and Scarlett had been born a day apart. The girls’ mothers, although not great friends, had attended pre-natal and anti-natal classes together. The families lived close by on adjacent tree lined avenues in the northern part of the city of Oxford, famed for its University. The babies had attended the same nursery, and then moved through primary school and high school in the same classes. They had been and remained bosom pals.
Even though the two girls had spent the previous day together the car journey home to Oxford was scene of a lively discourse between the two interspersed with comments and enquiries back and forth about their respective families. Claire Lucas, Scarlett’s mother, up-dated Carle and Eme, first with an account of the Lucas family happenings.
‘William will be home on Friday. I expect we’ll hear all his news at the weekend.’ William had followed in his father’s footsteps by choosing a career in medicine. ‘Henry has a holiday job at Top Man, and as Lily works at Top Shop, he seems to spend most of his day chatting to her and sees customers as a shocking inconvenience’ Claire glanced over her shoulder to share a wry smile with her audience.
‘Is Henry still in love with Lily then?’ Scarlett sounded amazed,
‘Lord no! There must have been a dozen since that phase, BUT they are as inseparable as ever…’
‘They’re like us’ Scarlett declared with a grin at Eme, ‘been friends since nursery…’
‘What about Sandy?’ Eme chipped in. She was fond of Alexander, the youngest of Scarlett’s brothers.
‘He did really well in his final year in junior school. He won a prize for Art and Creative Writing’ Claire spoke proudly of her son’s achievement. Alexander struggled at school as a consequence of mild dyslexia he was certainly entirely unlike his academic siblings. ‘He can’t wait to see you both. We had a tough time persuading him to go to school this morning he had determined on coming with us to collect you’ she smiled a little wistfully, her youngest child was a constant source of worry for her despite his engaging personality and happy disposition.
‘Joe bumped into your father, didn’t you darling’ Claire requested veracity from her taciturn husband, who surprised her by taking up the refrain,
‘Yes’ he corroborated, ‘he was on his way home from the Bird’ Joe chuckled at the recollection of his conversation, ‘he was keeping out of your mother’s way. Been looking forward to seeing you of course and happy that Jade will be home again at least for a wee while…’
‘I know’ Eme colluded, ‘poor Dad; he told me that Lara and Kylie are driving him up the wall with their antics. Lara is desperate to be a celebrity…’ Eme rolled her eyes up as she explained her fifteen year old sister’s motivations for fame and fortune, ‘she thinks if she goes to London she will immediately be ‘Spotted’. Quite what for I’m not sure’ Eme added wryly. Her youngest sister was a constant source of mild annoyance, in Eme’s opinion recklessly encouraged by her doting mother, but she wasn’t about to share that openly however close her friendship with the Lucas family.
‘It will be nice for your father to have you and Jade home for a while’ Claire smiled and refrained from adding anything censorial about the rest of Eme’s family. Joe and Claire Lucas had often wondered what ever the brilliant Lewis Benton had seen in his silly wife, Amanda.
‘Yes it will be nice’ Eme echoed, ‘I can’t wait to see Jade and hear all her news from London. I’m going to get a job there myself, I’m a little surprised that she wants to come home to finish her training at the Radcliffe.’ Eme was only surprised to the extent of her own ambitions being quite different, she knew that her older sister preferred the relative backwater that was Oxford compared to the big city life.
‘I like Oxford’ Scarlett defended stoutly; she was not keen on losing her best friend to a career in London. Her preference was as Jade’s for a smaller city. ‘Oxford has everything anyone could possibly want, and all within walking distance.’ Claire and Joe exchanged a small smile of relief. For now at least they were not about to lose their only daughter. Having her away for three years at University had seemed enough of a wrench.
‘When are we going down to Rock?’ Scarlett asked. She had spent every summer that she could remember at the family holiday cottage down in Cornwall. The place was as dear to her as their home in Oxford.
‘Not until the beginning of August, your father has to attend a medical conference in Amsterdam’ Claire informed her daughter with a proud smile, ‘your father is a special guest speaker. I’m going with him for the weekend, I’ve never been to Holland.’
‘That sounds like fun’ Scarlett answered, ‘congratulations Dad.’ Her father was a renowned heart surgeon consequently the news hardly fazed her. More important by far for Scarlett was if her parents had heard from their friends the Brooks family with whom they often socialised at their place in Cornwall. Scarlett was very keen on their son Ashley. ‘Did you hear from the Brooks? I wondered if we would see them all this year?’ Scarlett questioned nonchalantly.
‘I haven’t heard. I must give Amy a call. I expect we will overlap time with them anyway, they’re usually down for a month or so, although I’m not sure if Ashley will be with them he’s working away from home now I think…’ Claire had long guessed at her daughter’s crush on the older boy. He was a pleasant lad to be sure but Scarlett was too young yet to form an attachment. Though the Brooks were a very respectable family. Claire smiled wryly to herself Good Lord I sound just like my mother…Eme’s eyes met Scarlett’s in a look of commiseration and she mouthed ‘Facebook’, they were bound to be able to find out something about Ashley’s current situation. Eme hoped that he was single as she knew that her friend would be gutted if she discovered that he had a girlfriend. The same thoughts ran through Scarlett’s mind as she mouthed ‘thanks babe’ in return. Why didn’t I think of that? Scarlett upbraided herself, but Eme had always been more techie than she. Scarlett’s choice to read History of Art spoke for itself in some ways.
Conversation changed to home as they approached Oxford. Both girls looked out for familiar landmarks and commented on changes since their last visit. Not many as they approached the suburb of Summertown made up of Victorian redbrick houses, the larger ones set well back from the tree lined avenues on which they stood. Joe Lucas stretched gratefully in his seat and eased the tension from his shoulders as he pulled up outside Eme’s home.
‘Here we are. Home safe and sound’ he smiled at Eme fondly, ‘I expect we’ll be seeing you tomorrow if not before.’
‘Yep I expect so’ Eme agreed with a grin. She hopped out of the car and ran around to help extract her bags from the car boot.
‘Got everything?’ Joe enquired as he regained the driver seat for the short drive to Lucas Lodge. He waved a hand to Eme and to Lewis as he emerged through the front door to greet his daughter. Scarlett hung out of the window waving her farewell as the care disappeared around the corner.
‘Hello darling’ Lewis Benton held his arms wide to greet his daughter. His eyes looked suspiciously moist as he hugged and kissed his second child.