Branscombe Hall: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 768 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Gregg had been correct when he said I would soon know what all the fuss had been about. Argentina had invaded The Falkland Islands, and Britain was sending a task force to recapture them. At first, it didn’t feel like a real war, not like the war you see in films, or history documentaries. But I knew Gregg was going there, ships could be sunk, planes shot down, and soldiers could be kiled or wounded. It seemed like I could become a widow before I had started being a wife.

Dad sat me down for a serious talk.

“Look, he will come back, I’m sure of that. We are more than a match for the Argies, I promise you. I wouldn’t be surprised it it was all over by the end of the month. Meanwhile, I think you shoud look for somewhere to live. You know you are welcome to stay here for as long as you want, but I am sure you will agree it would never work with Gregg living here as your husband. Get yourself a nice cottage nearby, you still have the money mum left you for a deposit, and you earn more than enough to get a mortgage. When he comes home you will just have to be firm with him, tell him there is no chance of you ever moving to Essex”.

I was conflicted. Moving out of home felt like a big step to me. Bigger than getting married even. Dad was right though, I would never leave the business and live in Essex. That would have to be sorted out as soon as he got back from the stupid war. Best to have a place of our own to come home to. They were bound to give him leave after a real war. I didn’t want to commit to buying though, so I rented a two-bedroom cottage three miles away. Fully-furnished, and in nice decorative order, it had been used as a holiday cottage for some years, but lack of renters for holidays had made them change to residential rental.

The contract was for six months, and all I had to move were my clothes and a few very personal things I wanted to have near me. It was also around the same distance from Branscombe Hall, though in a different direction. The first night I slept there felt weird. My own place, albeit rented. When I had been at uni I had shared a flat, but never felt precious about the property. This felt completely different, as it would likely be my first marital home.

The Hall kept my mind off the war, though when I got home in the evening I eagerly awaited the main news on TV. Of course, the war was the main story every night, and I suspected that the Paras would be fighting on the front line. Dad had told me that the Army would let me know if anything happened to Gregg. He found an address for me to write to, and I notified them of my change of address to the cottage, and my new home phone number.

It soon became obvious dad was wrong about how long it would last. With the end of the month looming, there was little sign of it ending.

Away from the cottage, I didn’t discuss the war. I continued to catalogue the paintings and antiques, sending two major art works I found down to a specialist restorer in London. Their work would be expensive, but could seriously increase the sale price at auction later. I was delighted to also discover some amazing provenance for almost everything in the house. Receipts and invoices dating back to the early eighteenth century, even bills of sale from before that. The Branscombe family had obviously never thrown away a single piece of paper. Each day at work was a treasure trove for an art history obsessive like me.

Back at home each evening, I forced myself to eat something, and watched the news. I kept reminding myself of the old saying, ‘no news is good news’. I had no news of Gregg, so considered that to be good. But the Falklands was a long way from Gloucestershire, so who knew how long it might take for news to reach me.

During the first week of May, I was busy examining some Chinese porcelain, and hadn’t heard the door to the room open. When I heard a voice behind me, I almost dropped a very expensive vase. “You must be Alicia, the lady who is going to make my fortune”.

That was the day I met Lord Julian Branscombe.

39 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part Six

  1. (1) I wonder what Peter Falk was doing in 1982?
    (2) Bad citation: “Dad was right though, I would never leave the business and live in Essex. But I would gladly take a gander at the real estate in Goose Green.”
    (3) Bad citation: “The first night I slept there felt weird. There was a blue light that shone through the window, inspiring thoughts of performing erotic acts in the islands off the coast of Argentina.”
    (4) Gregg is a tough egg. The Argies may capture and interrogate him, but he won’t crack.
    (5) “The Branscombe family had obviously never thrown away a single piece of paper.” Alicia even found a receipt for services rendered by the Société de la contrefaçon des oeuvres d’art (Commune de Faux).
    (6) Lord Julian Branscombe: “You must be Alicia, the lady who is going to make my fortune. Right now, I’m living the Bohemian life. But is that the real life? Or is that just fantasy? Am I caught in a landslide, with no escape from reality? No, Alicia! I’m going to open my eyes, look up to the skies and see! Why am I living like a poor boy? I need no sympathy. I’ve always believed in easy come, easy go, a little high, a little low. Any way the wind blows didn’t really matter to me. But now that I’ve met you, I long to be a rich aristocrat—the king of this castle…with you as my lovely queen!”


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