Branscombe Hall: Part One

This is part one of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for allowing me to use one of her photos as a story prompt.

Norma was picking me up at ten. It was going to be twenty-six years. Hard to imagine, yet it seemed like yesterday whenever I tried to get to sleep. It would take well over an hour to drive there from where I lived now, but at the time it had only been ten minutes away. I chose what to wear carefully. Casual, nothing to stand out. Just another visitor.

Gregg had been everything I didn’t usually like. Short, cocky, in your face. But he had some things about him that I did like. His London accent, a good physique, cropped hair, and a very manly posture. There was nothing remotely soft about him, and somewhere deep in my mind, he seemed like the real men I had read about in books. Confident, assertive, not taking no for an answer. Attractive in both personality and looks.

I was fresh out of university, a Gloucestershire girl who suppressed her giveaway accent, and had hardly travelled. Unless you counted a caravan holiday in Wales, or a school trip to Calais. My knowledge of the world was vicarious, taken from photos, books, and study. I knew all there was to know about nineteenth century British art, but had never felt the need to visit the places where they were painted. It was a cosy world, cocooned by doting parents. But it had been a happy world.

There had been boyfriends, but nothing serious. One at school, and two more at university. My mum had told me not to give them what they wanted too soon, or they would dump me. I ignored her, but she was proved right.

Then she died, and broke my heart.

Dad took me on, trying hard to be both parents and juggle a busy life. He owned the premier auction house in Gloucester, famous for high art and expensive ceramics. To make me feel involved, he took me to work with him, and one day he told me that it would all be mine, and he wanted me to be his partner. It was so easy to slip into that life, which became so much more than my first, and only, job. I became the paintings valuer, and I was occasionally allowed to preside over the fine art auctions. The first time I raised the gavel on a thirty-three thousand pound sale, I thought I would pass out. But I didn’t.

So when I came home with Gregg after our second date, he wasn’t amused. He had only been in Gloucester for a friend’s stag night, and I had only been in that bar at the insistence of an old schoolfriend. A regular army paratrooper based in Essex was far from his idea of being the son-in-law he wanted, or the husband for his only child. I could feel the awkward atmosphere as Gregg tried to charm him, and my dad did his best to make him feel unwanted. Then the army took him away. Exercises somewhere, location not disclosed. Dad jumped on the opportunity.

“Use that time away, Alicia. You have to realise that he is not for you. Just look at the differences in background and aspirations in life. He spoke about getting three stripes in the Paras, and hoping for an army house when he got married. Can you imagine yourself in that situation? If you think about it, you must see sense”.

That’s what dads do, try to protect their daughters. But as soon as they turn against your choice of man, that makes you all the more determined to prove them wrong. That should be lesson one in father-daughter relationships. Don’t try to turn them against a man, as that will make them fall in love with him.

And of course, that is exactly what happened.

Norma did the finances at the auction house. She worked out the commissions, paid the wages of the staff, and dealt with the accountant to sort out the tax. I guessed at the time that she was at least ten years older than me. She never spoke about family, and wore no wedding ring. She was a private person, and I confess I wondered whether or not she had a thing going with my dad. There was no evidence of that though. She never once came to the house, and dad didn’t make excuses to work late, or disappear at weekends.

Back then, I had no idea what an important role Norma would play in my life. How could I?

58 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part One

  1. I tried to wait until you finished this story and posted the whole thing BUT….I got to impatient and made the decision to go ahead and start it now. Lol Here I go about to read part one 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great, a new serial! Thanks, Pete! I am so sorry for another delay i had. But now i will follow this new one continuously. Thank you also for publishing the whole story of Phyllis. I will try to read it asap. Best wishes, and have a wonderful week! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to confuse you. Just ignore the first paragraph, as it will be referenced again later, hopefully in clearer context. (It refers to the photo, but not directly)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. (1) Does Norma resemble Marilyn Monroe?
    (2) Gregg has three g’s. He’s quite forceful. As a comparison, the Space Shuttle launches involved a force of 3 g’s.
    (3) I had to look up how to pronounce Gloucestershire. Excuse me now while I go pour myself a glouce of milk.
    (4) So Alicia is involved in auction action.
    (5) Dad jumped on an opportunity. Gregg jumped off a plane. They’re both jumpers.
    (6) Dorian Gray tried to get Alicia to auction off his portrait, but she turned him down. “Sorry, but this painting is not holding up well. In fact, it seems to be going through fifty shades of ugly.”
    (7) Gregg’s last name is Gorian. He marks every jump on his calendar.

    Liked by 1 person

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