Bonus Story

Thursday, 9 November 2017

As promised, here's the opening to the wonderful bonus story ​Borrowed Time ​by Paul Holbrook. The rest of the story will be released in sections to patrons only as a thank you for supporting our project. 

Borrowed Time


They didn’t have to hold too tightly onto Nora’s arms.  Her rage had more or less left once they had got her into one of the small meeting rooms at the back of the library.  She still shook, but her torrent of foul mouthed expletives had simmered down to a mutter, the words of which no one could clearly hear.  Harold, George and Nina sat down with her, the men glancing nervously at each other, uncomfortable in the situation, Nina stroking Nora’s arm, saying soothing words in an attempt to bring her around.

Quite what had brought about Nora’s sudden and violent attack on Pavel, they did not know.  Of course they were aware of how a man known as the happiest person alive could sometimes rankle people and stir them into anger, but Nora and Pavel had always been close; they could often be seen sitting in the library chatting or sharing a pot of tea over at Nellie’s. If anything Nora was one of the few people who allowed Pavel to get up their nose without annoyance or outburst.  In fact Nora herself was known as one of the jolliest and kindest people that you could hope to meet in Finlay; something which made today’s incident all the more unusual.

Nina knew why Nora had been in the library today.  She had worked at the library long enough to know that today was the anniversary of Nora’s husband Jack’s death, five years previously.  It was the one day of the year that Nora did not wear a happy face; in fact Nina remembered how bright Nora had even been at Jack’s funeral, there was no sign of grief or sadness in Nora whatsoever.  She had worn a smile at the remembrance service at the crematorium, and had been the life and soul of the party, if party were the right word, at the gathering at The Foresters Arms afterwards.  She had circulated the pub in a lively manner, carrying around trays of sandwiches, making sure that everyone had a full glass, and generally being a happy and exuberant host to all of those that attended – and who wore slightly confused faces at her behaviour for the duration of the event.  Nina watched her now, Nora appeared a shell of the woman she had been that day.

Harold, feeling that Nora’s aggression had passed, stood, gesturing to George to follow his lead.  George did not need much encouragement.

‘How about I go and make us all a nice cup of tea, eh?’  Harold said.  ‘I’m sure I’ve got some biscuits hidden away somewhere, Nora.  Why don’t you just sit for a while with Nina and get yourself calm again.’  As he opened the door to leave George hurried after him, mumbling something about helping to find the biscuits.  The door closed behind them and Nora spoke clearly for the first time.

‘We are beings of light, not this rubbish.’  She said tugging at the paper-thin skin on her arm.  ‘That’s how I think of him.  Not as a person but as a ball of bright energy.’

‘Yes,’ Nina replied.  ‘He certainly was a lively sort of fella your Jack.’

Nora simply looked at her and rolled her eyes.  She didn’t understand, and she wouldn’t, unless Nora explained it, unless the whole story was told from the beginning.  She sat for a couple of minutes, trying to recollect all the events, the order they came in, and how each moment of the story held a special place within her heart.  Nina watched her, she looked so far away and Nina was reminded of the looks on the faces of some of those that she visited at the care home; lost and trapped within their own minds, sometime visitors to the world’s reality.  She reached out and clasped Nora’s hand within her own and, for a brief moment, she felt suddenly very dizzy, as if stood at the top of a skyscraper leaning over the edge.  She pulled her hand back quickly as if she had touched a flame.  Nora smiled.

Harold came back in carrying a tray with cups and a teapot.  ‘I found them,’ he said cheerily holding up a packet of Fruit Shortcake biscuits and attempting to open them.

‘Our souls first met when I was a 12 year old boy and Jack was the oldest woman in the village,' said Nora suddenly.

Harold dropped the biscuits.

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