Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Five

This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

At the time, I thought Norma’s plan was pretty lame, and couldn’t see it working. But then I had no idea about the ace up her sleeve that she didn’t want me to know about. There was something very calm about her that night, and that transferred to me. She went over it again.

“So, ask your dad to use his contacts to find out Gregg’s address. I will drive there and talk to him. I won’t be angry, just let him know that you want to meet him to talk things through. I will tell him you want me to be there in case he becomes violent, and also that he can stay overnight. Sleeping on the sofa of course. I will bunk in with you in your bed in case of any funny business. During the evening, we will offer him a lot of money to leave. It doesn’t matter where he goes, but he cannot stay in this county. Believe me, I will be persuasive. You have money, your dad has money, and for that matter I have savings too. It will be enough to buy him a flat somewhere, and a fresh start away from us”.

When she had left to go home, I was unconvinced. Would Gregg take money to leave me alone and never come back? He might, but I doubted it. For him it was a pride thing, a masculine thing. I was his wife, and as far as he was concerned it wasn’t up to me to say the marriage was over. To humour Norma, I agreed to try her idea, and the next morning I rang dad and asked him to use his Rotary Club or Masonic Lodge contacts to find out Gregg’s address. I didn’t tell him why, and he didn’t ask.

With so many Freemasons in the Police, it didn’t take long. I had the address by three in the afternoon, and rang Norma at work to give it to her. She seemed pleased. “Not sure when it will happen, but I will give you plenty of notice, Alicia. You stay off work until you feel better, let me know if you want me to get you any shopping”.

That Autumn was terribly wet. It rained non-stop for days and I was glad not to be out in it.

I was left wondering just how much money Norma had in mind. In those days, you could buy a nice little house in Essex for thirty grand, probably less for a decent flat. If she offered him fifty to go, we could cover that easily, and he would have enough to get by on for a year if he didn’t find a job. Any more than fifty, and dad would have to dip into his investments. As he was saving those for me, he could be convinced to use them to get rid of Gregg if it came to it.

Late October remained wet and dismal. But I went back to work that month, albeit with this crooked nose.

One afternoon, Norma came into my office, speaking quietly.

“It’s going to be this Saturday. I have arranged with Gregg to come and see you, told him it would be to his advantage, and didn’t elaborate. I am going to pick him up on the slip road to the bus station in Gloucester at six that night. I will get fish and chips on the way back for us to eat, so no need to cook. You have to be strong, Alicia, promise me you will be strong”. I promised.

Okay, I was scared, I admit that. Even with Norma there, Gregg could easily beat up the pair of us if he went rogue. I was trembling all day Saturday, and I didn’t bother to dress up nice or wear any make-up. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea and think it was all back on. By five-thirty I was pacing the room, even though I knew they wouldn’t be there until around seven. I soon tired of looking out of the front window, seeking solace in a glass of white wine to calm my nerves.

By the time Norma’s car pulled up on the driveway in front of mine, I had the jitters, big time.

He was carrying flowers, and Norma was holding two carrier bags. As they walked to the door, I opened it and stood smiling in the doorway.

But I wasn’t smiling inside.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Norma refused to tell me what her idea was, but gave me a hint. “I have a plan, but it involves us meeting Gregg. You have to trust me on this, Alicia”. I told her that I trusted her completely.

With my nose swollen badly, and two black eyes, I wasn’t about to go into work. But I felt that it was time to involve my dad, as I couldn’t allow myself to keep lying to him. On the Sunday, I drove over to the house, and as he opened the door I quickly told him not to be shocked by my appearance. I could have used my key, but felt my injuries were a big enough surprise without just walking in.

During the time it took me to outline everything that had happened with Gregg, I managed not to cry at all. He went from furious to frustrated, but had to agree with me that the police were going to do nothing, given my failure to report him the first times, and his alibi now. Being dad, he told me to take unlimited time off, and to let him know whenever he could do anything to help. He suggested adding better locks to the house, and changing my car so Gregg wouldn’t recognise it.

That seemed very sensible, so I agreed that he would send a locksmith on Monday, and also have a new company car delivered next week, the old one being taken away at the same time. Trouble was, once it was parked outside my house, Gregg would soon work out it was mine. Dad also said he was going to ring a couple of men he knew that had connections with the Council in Gloucester. “See if we can’t make them put pressure on the police. At the very least, they could stop Gregg if they see him driving that Fiat”.

I turned down his offer of moving back into the family home, telling him that I was determined not to let all this nastiness stop me from enjoying my own house. I was actually more worried about him than myself. Although he wasn’t that old, I hated the thought that it would affect his dodgy blood pressure, and give him a stroke, or worse. But he seemed relieved that I had confessed everything to him, telling me that since Gregg’s return from The Falklands, he had been worried about me.

Before I left for home, I hesitated, wondering whether or not to tell him that Norma had some sort of plan to sort Gregg out. But I didn’t tell him, not wanting to worry him further. I got home and didn’t even bother to check the driveway or the house. If he was coming for me, then let it happen. Telling dad had been a weight off my shoulders, and I soaked in the bath that night drinking a large glass of wine and wondering if my nose was broken.

Oh, it was by the way, hence why you can see it is still crooked now.

The young locksmith asked me no awkward questions, but suggested a complete change of locks, just in case anyone had made a copy of the keys. I agreed to all his recommendations, including a mortice deadlock cut into the door at the front, and in the kitchen. There was also a device installed that stopped the metal patio doors being forced open. He said he had been told to send the bill to the auction house, and left me with three sets of keys. I was going to give one of those to Norma when she came to see me.

It wasn’t until the following day that they came with the new car. I was surprised to see what my dad had ordered for me. It was a Ford Capri, but with the large 2.8 engine and fuel injection. I presumed he wanted me to have lots of power if I needed to escape at any time. Compared to my old car, it looked very sporty and swish.

Three days later, Norma came over after she finished work. She brought me some groceries and other things I had run short of, and I cooked us a simple dinner. Once we had eaten and talked about everyday things as well as my new car, she poured me a glass of wine and told me to sit down and concentrate.

“Listen carefully, as we cannot write any of this down”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

The man from the garage told me that the tyres on my car had been let down without being damaged. They put air in them and returned the car to work for me. There was still going to be a hefty bill for the low-loader though, charged to the company account. If Gregg was trying to get me to notice him, he was doing a good job, as well as making me very angry with him.

That Friday, we held the very last of our auctions for the items from the Hall. It was common knowledge that work was starting on the Country Park the first of next month, and the builders planning to convert the place into luxury flats had already screened off the building and the land that would be used for the golf course. Perhaps because it was the last sale interest was high, and it did much better than we had expected. After sandwiches and coffee at work before we closed up, I was looking forward to getting home and relaxing.

On my driveway, I locked the car and dropped the keys. As I bent down to pick them up, a hand grabbed my head from behind, and pushed it into the side of the car with great force. Before I could scream or do anything, it happened again.

Three more times.

Sitting on the gravel with blood streaming from my nose and tears rolling down my cheeks, I managed to find the keys and get into the house in a half-crawl. I reached the phone and dialled 999 for the police, telling them I had been attacked, and was bleeding. Then I rang Norma, who said she would be right over.

For the rest of that evening, I felt I was in a dream. The ambulance arrived ten minutes before the police car, and they patched me up, suggesting I go to hospital. When the police came, I blurted out that my estranged husband had attacked me, and gave them his name and a description. I didn’t know his address of course, but told them he was living in Gloucester, and might be driving an old battered Fiat. When Norma arrived, I sent the ambulance away, telling them if I needed the hospital, Norma would take me.

Norma’s face was like stone. “This time, you are going to prosectute. Did he say anything? Did you see him leave? What was he wearing?” She fired questions at me so fast I didn’t have time to answer one before the next one was asked. Eventually, I just broke down in tears and said nothing. It was a good hour before I could make sense and explain to Norma that I hadn’t seen who attacked me as it had happened so quickly and nothing had been said. She helped me get properly washed and cleaned up, shaking her head at how swollen my nose was. But despite her suggesting I should, I didn’t want to go to hospital. The police had said they would try to find Gregg and let me know what happens next.

It was almost midnight when someone from the police rang. They had found Gregg, which implied they must have had dealings with him at the new address. Trouble was, he had a cast iron alibi, backed up by two men who also rented rooms in the house. They all told the police that they had been drinking in Gregg’s room since just after six, and none of them had left Gloucester. The officers confirmed that all three men were very drunk. One of them was also the registered owner of a 1971 Fiat.

As I had not seen my attacker, and Gregg had his solid alibi, it was decided not to arrest him. The woman on the phone was sympathetic, but also realistic. “He would never be charged, Mrs White. It’s your word against his, and he has witnesses, which you sadly don’t. Are you even certain it was him? To be honest, it could have been anybody”.

When I told Norma what the police had said, she nodded. “Just as I suspected. Even if you had lied and said you had seen him attack you, that alibi would have meant no charges. But this has got to stop, it really has”. I was crying again, and told her I didn’t think it would ever end. She put her arm around me, and replied in a measured tone.

“Leave it to me, I have an idea”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 775 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

I could smell the alcohol on him even as he approached me from behind. Instinctively, I got into the driver’s seat and locked the door from the inside. Gregg pressed his palms against the window, leaning forward and shouting.

“Just talk to me, I only want to talk! I’ve got a job, starting next Monday. It’s in a warehouse in Gloucester, good money”.

Without replying, I turned the key and started the car. He walked round to the front of it and folded his arms, almost daring me to run over him. Of course, he had forgotten that only the house where I had been was at the end of that lane, and I had to reverse out. Reversing as fast as I safely could, it took him a few moments to realise, and then he started to chase the car. But he had left it too late, and I was able to swing out onto the village main street before he caught up. As I drove away at speed, I noticed an old battered Fiat haphazardly parked at the junction.

My heart was racing as I headed for home. He must have borrowed that Fiat from someone and followed me, but I hadn’t noticed it on the way there. Why would I? He was banned from driving, and had no car. The last thing I had been worried about was Gregg following me.

With the chance that he would drive to the house, I went to Norma’s instead. Fortunately there were no police cars around, as I was driving well over the speed limit all the way. I told Norma what had happened, and she calmed me down with a cup of strong tea.

“He is taking chances to get to you now, Alicia. Driving a car when he is banned and has been drinking, he would get in real trouble for that if he gets stopped. You are going to have to seriously consider reporting him to the police, or at the very least see your solicitor and get an injunction against Gregg to prevent him from harassing you”.

She was talking sense as always, but I really didn’t want it to go that far. If he had a new job, he might get his life back on track. Even though I had given up on our marriage, I didn’t want to be the one to ruin his life by reporting him. He was doing a good enough job of ruining it on his own. It sounds silly now, telling you this, but I suppose I was still soft hearted at the time.

Despite Norma’s offer to stop over, I was determined to go home. If I saw the Fiat anywhere near the house, I would phone the police and to hell with it. I could not allow Gregg’s behaviour to dictate where I went, or stop me from living in my own house. Norma told me to phone her once I was safe inside. “Lock everything, all the windows too”.

There was no Fiat, and I actually managed to get a good sleep, which surprised me. I looked outside before leaving the house though, just in case. Ready for work, I checked all the locks twice before leaving.

But I didn’t get very far.

All four tyres on my car were flat. They didn’t appear to be damaged, but had no air in them at all. It had to be Gregg, I knew that immediately. Back inside, I rang for a taxi, and also phoned the garage we used for all the auction house vehicles. They said they would pick up my car on a low-loader, inspect all the tyres, and let me know later by ringing me at work. By the time the taxi arrived, I was angry.

Using an unoccupied office at work, I spoke to our solicitor on the phone. I outlined the events of the night before, and the flat tyres. Reluctant to mention any violence, I did tell him about the slap during dinner. I told him I wanted to arrange an injunction to stop Gregg coming anywhere near me. His reply was less than encouraging.

“Did anyone else see him approach the car, Alicia? Are you even sure he drove the Fiat there? Witnesses would be essential, or he could deny everything. I doubt anyone saw him letting down tyres in the middle of the night, and as for the slapping, I’m afraid you should have reported it to the police. As things stand, there would be no possibility of an injunction on that evidence”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-One

This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 804 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

As I was feeling worse two days after being pushed against the bath, I took the rest of the week off as arranged. Norma checked up on me daily, and brought food three times, joining me for dinner. She kept me up with the news of what was happening at work, and confirmed my suspicions that my dad did think Gregg was involved. “He talked to me about involving the police, Alicia. I managed to convince him that wasn’t what you wanted, and you were unlikely to press charges. But I could tell he was very upset”.

Did I miss Gregg, she wanted to know. I had to be honest, telling her I missed the good Gregg. The cuddling up on the sofa watching a film Gregg. The just in from work and chatting over dinner Gregg. But I didn’t miss a Gregg who could slap my face, swear at me, insult my dad, and push me into a hard bath edge.

That Gregg, I didn’t miss at all.

It wasn’t until the weekend that I got the call I had been expecting. It was his mum, barely able to contain her anger.

“My boy did his best, ‘Licia, you must know that. Not his fault that it was so bad over in the Falklands, or that he came home to find some poncey Lord sniffing around his wife. You gotta cut him some slack, woman. Give him time to get over it. Now he’s living in a poxy bedsit with other drunks and junkies in the same building. That ain’t gonna change nuffink, is it? You need to grow up, realise you’re a wife, for better or worse. Do you think it’s all roses for me with his dad? I could tell you some stories that would make your hair stand on end about him. At least Gregg ain’t knocking off other women, he really loves you”.

I let her drone on. No point arguing with her. It might sound snobby to say this, but she just wasn’t intelligent enough to see both sides of any argument. It was her way or no other way, and she had been raised in the school of hard knocks. I got her off the phone by telling her that I meant Gregg no malice, but couldn’t live with someone who might hurt me, perhaps even kill me. Then I really upset her by telling her that if he came near me again, I would involve the police.

She slammed the phone down so hard, it made me jump. I was rattled enough to drink a Gin and Tonic, at two in the afternoon.

Norma had already mentioned getting advice about divorce. To get a mutually agreed divorce following one year of separation, I would have to wait a good few months, and then hope for no contest from Gregg. Alternatively, I could cite domestic violence, but for that I would need police and hospital reports. I checked with the solicitor our company used, and he said it was best to wait for the full year, then start proceedings based on irretrievable breakdown. I cried quite a bit after that phone call. It hadn’t been what I expected when we married on that Friday.

When I went back to work the following week, I still had a visible mark below my eye, but nobody mentioned it. I went straight in and spoke to dad, who had left me alone all the time I was off. I told him I would be looking for a divorce, and not allowing Gregg back into the house. He put his head in his hands. “It gives me no satisfaction knowing my fears were proved right, I want you to know that, my dear. All I ever wanted was to see you happy and prosperous, and maybe to be a grandfather before I died. Whatever you need from me, you only have to ask. Take any time off that you need, Norma has already shown willing to help out beyond her contracted hours. That lady is a real treasure to both of us”.

Late that afternoon, I went out to see a collection of modern paintings being sold off by someone who was moving abroad. They were nineteen-fifties abstracts by Patrick Heron of the St Ives movement. Not my personal choice, but carrying a good value when sold, anything from two grand to ten grand at the time. The seller lived in Tetbury, around twenty miles away. He wanted to haggle over the commission rate, and it was getting dark by the time I left and walked back up the lane to my car. As I opened the door, a voice behind me made me jump.

“‘Licia, it’s me. Don’t be scared”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty

This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 800 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Norma convinced me that I had to end it with Gregg. To save my dad getting really angry and making himself ill, I phoned him and told him I had fallen over while getting into the bath and would not be at work for the rest of the week. Norma could cover my paperwork, and he could ring me at her house if there were any queries.

He didn’t ask why I was at Norma’s. I had a feeling he wouldn’t go there.

When Norma got home from work, she came home with me for moral support. Even with her there, I actually felt afraid to enter my own house. When I saw Gregg smiling as if nothing had happened, I launched into him. Told him there was no way I was going to tolerate living with such temper and violence, and that he had to go. He looked genuinely surprised at the state of my face, and said he had no recollection of pushing me into the bathroom.

“So I had been drinking. So what? I wouldn’t have hurt you”.

I held up my hand to silence his apologies and told him he had to go. Pack his stuff, and leave. I said I would give him a thousand pounds transferred into his account to find himself somewhere to live, preferably in Essex. I would pay for a taxi anywhere he wanted to go that night, and enough money for a hotel. Norma quietly suggested that he sign on as unemployed as soon as he reached his destination. Meanwhile, he would have to learn to live on his pension.

She took charge, saying the things I couldn’t bring myself to say.

“If not, the police will be involved. It may be Alicia’s word against yours, but she has the visible injuries, and you have a proven track record of violence. If you refuse to go this evening, Alicia will come back to my house, and the police will be called about you. So decide quickly, I am not about to give you much time to do the right thing, Gregg”.

He saw the writing on the wall, and began packing his things into a holdall and a large suitcase. All the time he was doing that he said nothing, and his jaw was set in a non-humourous grin. In one way, I was relieved. But my commonsense told me that it was far from over. Norma stood over him, unflinching. I realised just how much I owed her for her support. After less than an hour, we had called a taxi, and he left without so much as a glance at me.

At the time, I was convinced that was because he knew what he had done.

Norma stayed over in the spare room that night, but we didn’t get to sleep until almost first light. I finished off a whole bottle of Chablis, while Norma stuck to cups of tea. She tolerated my regrets, my what-ifs, and eventually my drunken crying. If I had wished my mother was still alive, I could not have hoped for a better one in Norma. She went into work the next morning, exhausted. Then she covered my job unselfishly, and came back to my house that night with the makings of a tasty dinner.

Undoubtedly, I loved her like the mother I had lost. That was how it felt, anyway.

My face was black and blue the next morning. Norma agreed to stick to my story, and left very early to go to her place and get changed before she went into the auction house later. My dad left me alone all day, which convinced me he knew the truth.

After managing a light lunch, I set about cleaning the house. I wondered if I was trying to erase all traces of Gregg, but halfway through, I found myself crying because I missed him. It came to me that he might be the only man I ever truly loved, and I was upset thinking about what that said about my personality.

When I had been shopping and made myself a light dinner that evening, I was not really surprised when the house phone rang just after eight.

“Hi, it’s me. I have found a room in Gloucester. It’s not much, but okay for me. I have signed on as unemployed, and they are trying to find me a job, so they say. I promise you I will do better, Alicia. I love you, and never want to hurt you. I won’t be going back to Essex and my family, so you can expect to hear from me soon”.

That night, I double-locked the door. Even though he had given me his keys.

Branscombe Hall: Part Nineteen

This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 780 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

The move to the new house went off easily. All we had to take were our clothes and a few personal items, and we had waited until everything else was delivered and in place. It meant paying an extra month’s rent on the cottage to only use nine days of that, but I didn’t care. I had been hoping it would give us a fresh start, and indeed it did. For the first few months we were like any happily-married couple. It was going really well, even better that I had hoped.

Then Gregg lost his job.

He was vague about the reason for being sacked, but I suspected a temper outburst, perhaps even violence. I told him not to worry as I was earning enough to cover us, and he had his Army pension to get by on. I even suggested he invite his parents to visit us to see the new house, but he shook his head.

“Didn’t go well when I was staying with them last time. Dad nagged me like an old woman, my sister kept coming round moaning at me, and only my mum stuck up for me. I told my old man he should have seen some action in the Falklands, then he could talk. After that, he shut up, and I was pleased to come back to you”.

When I went supermarket shopping on Saturdays, he began asking to come with me. I soon found out that was so he could buy beer and vodka. He paid for it out of his own money, but I was worried that he was going to start drinking when I was at work. As the nearest pub to where we lived was four miles away, I doubted he would be happy walking there and back.

Sure enough, I returned from work one evening and found him on the bathroom floor. He had been sick in the toilet bowl, then presumably passed out. Luckily for him he landed on his side, as he might well have choked and died on his back. It took me ages to rouse him, and then he wanted to stay where he was. I tried pulling him up, but didn’t have the strength. I sat downstairs eating a microwave meal getting really annoyed. Okay he had a bad time in the war, but so did a lot of other men. They can’t all have been popping pills and getting drunk, surely?

Determined to go up and have a nice soak in the bath, I found him still snoring on the floor. I managed to drag him out of the way by grabbing his ankles and sliding him on the bathmat. Then I left him on the landing, and ran my bath. As I was getting undressed in the bedroom, he suddenly lurched in and flung himself onto the bed. I asked him if he wanted anything to eat, and he swore at me. I walked past him in my dressing gown and got to the bathroom door when I was shocked to feel a huge impact against my back. That flung me forward and I stumbled, hitting my face against the edge of the bath.

Gregg was standing behind me, shouting. Most of it was impossible to understand as he was so drunk, but he made reference to Julian Branscombe, said some horrible things about my dad, and finished off by calling me a spoiled little rich girl. I didn’t reply, just stayed where I was, kneeling on the bathroom floor. My face really hurt around my right cheek and eye, and I could feel tears rolling down my face too. It was a relief when he stopped shouting and walked back into the bedroom. I waited until I could hear him snoring before I moved.

With some changes of clothes and my make-up stuffed into an overnight bag, I got re-dressed in what I had just taken off, and left the house. My reflection in the car’s interior mirror shocked me. The side of my face was already changing colour, and my nose had swollen to twice its normal size. As I reversed out of the driveway, I already knew where I was going.

To Norma.

She was terribly shocked by my appearance, and poured me a stiff Gin and Tonic. I refused her pleas to let her take me to hospital, and asked to stay the night in her spare room. She was as kind as always.

“Stay as long as you like, but please promise me you will end it with Gregg. The next time he might kill you”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Eighteen

This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Not contacting Gregg was deliberate on my part. I wanted him to think about why I had asked him for time away, and I was hoping time with his family would make him see sense. When he rang me he was apologetic, and admitted that his mum had given him a serious talking to. He said he could still work for the building company, and wanted to come home. I should have said no, made a clean break. But I still didn’t want to admit defeat in my marriage, and said he could. So he asked me to pick him up at the station on Sunday afternoon.

He looked good as he walked to the car. Happy and smiling, carrying some flowers that he had probably bought in Essex and had not survived the train journey that well. He spoke very little about his time at home, but was keen to tell me that he was back at work the next day, and being picked up by the van at seven. I had already preared a meal for us to eat that night, and as I warmed it up, he was affectionate and just like the time we first started dating.

The next morning, he was up and gone before I woke up. We had slept in the same bed, but other than a nice goodnight kiss, nothing else had happened.

When I got to the office, there was news of the sale of the Hall. Not to the rehab clinic as expected, but to a developer wanting to convert the building into luxury apartments, using some of the grounds for a nine-hole golf course. The bulk of the land was going to become a public Country Park, sold to the council at a reasonable price to speed up the whole process. We still had five auctions to complete, and Norma told me that even with no reserve on most items, it had greatly increased the profits of our company. We had taken in more money from selling the items from the hall than the business had earned in the four years previously.

All of us were guaranteed a very good bonus.

For the next few weeks, life became quite normal. I was mainly working at the office, and rarely had need to visit the Hall. Gregg came home at a regular time, ate dinner, watched TV with me, and we got back into a reasonable sex life. He was still on the Diazepam of course, with a regular prescription collected from our family doctor. He gave me cash every week from his wages, and that usually paid for our weekly shop at the supermarket. I was calm, relaxed, and made a decision based on my bonus and salary.

We would buy our own house, and stop renting the cottage.

Gregg thought it was a good idea, and offered to work overtime on Saturdays to help with the mortgage. We did some house-hunting, and found a nice property in the opposite direction, around an hour’s commute from work and the Hall. If anything, it was better for Gregg as his company were going out of their way to pick him up and drop him off every day. All it meant for me was a reasonably pleasant drive to work, and as I was not on any time clock, it didn’t matter if I showed up a bit later.

The three-bed house was a new build, but not on an estate. It had been built on the spare land behind an old house, accessed by its own driveway and a garage provided at the end. It meant buying everything of course, all the furniture and white goods. But we got a choice of flooring, bathroom, and kitchen units, and the mortgage was actually cheaper than the rent on the cottage, as I was able to offer up a large deposit. Dad wanted to help too, and gave me a cheque for three thousand pounds. I knew he wasn’t happy still, but he tried to be nice to me.

“Make it work, Alicia. Once his driving ban ends, I am happy to give him a second chance with a job at the company”.

That night, I told Gregg what dad had said, expecting him to be happy. But he wasn’t.

“Tell your old man he can stick his job up his arse. I wouldn’t work for him again if I was starving”.

Uanble to get to sleep later, I sat downstairs on the sofa.