“So what has this to do with anything?” she asked at last, when the small talk dried up over their beer.
“Your dream,” he said, “the one you keep having about a glowing necklace of strange pearls.”
Jess nodded, she had told him of it when he asked her if she ever remembered her dreams.
“I’m not sure they were pearls, just the kind of odd light they gave off made them seem like it. They were pearls shaped in ridged spirals.”
In the dream, she had seen something glowing under her uniform blouse, shining and everyone staring until she had run away and been standing on a cliff edge, then ripping open her blouse to see the strange necklace lying there on her naked breasts. The image came into her mind clear as a photograph and she heard Roald draw a small, sharp breath, which brought her back to the pub.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, his expression slipping into an odd smile, “that’s the one.”
For some reason, she felt uncomfortable and looked out of the window to escape the moment.
“It’s only been since the – the accident,” I’ve never had that kind of dream before.”
Standing naked on the cliff-edge, her hair so long it ran the full length of her back and blew out around her, sparking with energy, and feeling so whole, so complete – so powerful.
The way he said it, made her blush. She started pulling herself to her feet, leaning on the crutches.
“I need to get back – I promised I’d take my aunt to the talk on astrology. She loves all that kind of stuff.’
Roald rose too.
“And you don’t?”
“I never used to,” she admitted, as he helped her ease back into her coat.
She tried to shrug, but it was not so easy with the crutches.
“Maybe, believing in fate helps make this all seem less meaningless. Maybe it helps make sense of the senseless. Even if all I’m doing is seeing patterns in the stars by joining the dots with random lines.”
He stopped on the way back up the hill to the car. Asking her to wait as he dived into a tourist shop, full of costlier craft items. She studied the window but could not see what had caught his eye. When he came out he pushed a small flat box into her hand.
“Just something to remember today by,” he said. The leaned forward to kiss her, lightly, one hand running up over the curve of her breast, lingering as he whispered: “You look beautiful naked.”
She had been so stunned that she had frozen, her whole body stiff, paralysed. Just as it had been when she woke up to find herself in hospital. So she had not said a word as he turned his broad back away and strode off into the crowds of tourists, lost to sight the moment he did so.
Sitting drinking coffee poured from her aunt’s ceramic samovar, it seemed a lifetime ago.
“You know the young man I mean, don’t you pet? He came to one of my rune workshops? You went out with him a couple of months ago – he seemed such a nice young man.”
“I don’t think they got along, Susan,” her uncle said, frowning.
“No. We didn’t have much in common,” Jessica said quickly.
“Oh that’s such a shame,” her aunt sounded almost as if she really meant it. “He was at the workshop again yesterday, I told him he should be the one teaching it, he’s very good. I invited him over for dinner.”
Jessica felt her hands lose all their strength and the tiny coffee cup slipped through her fingers to shatter on the polished wood of the floor. It was suddenly hard to breathe, as if something was stifling her. Then her uncle was there, helping her up, helping her to escape to the sanctuary of her own room, knowing what she needed, so leaving her alone after a brief hug.
“Don’t fuss over the girl so much, Dave. She’s not a piece of china. And get something to clear that up, good thing it was mostly empty. I’d never get the stains out of the curtains…”
Her aunt’s voice receded as the door to the lounge closed.
She sat there for a moment then started to pack. Slowly, because movements were awkward and not easy still. She had tried to slip unnoticed through the kitchen, but her uncle was there starting on making the usual sandwiches they had for lunch, thick cut ham with pickle for Aunt Susan, and Marmite salad for himself and Jessica. She saw him take in her appearance as he looked up from his work and he wiped his hands on a tea-towel, before reaching into his pocket.
“Take this, lass.” He pushed a wad of notes into her hand. “No arguments. Come back when you can. “
Part 3 of Maybe will be here next week…