Laura’s day off
It was the morning after she’s been ejected from the Transport Museum Library, and Laura was determined to make the most of the rest of her time away from work.
I am going to lie in bed all morning, she’d decided, that’s what normal people do on their days off. By nine o’clock though she was bored and restless so she got up. She threw on some jeans and a strappy vest, and after opening her curtains to blazing sunshine added a thin long sleeved shirt. Then she grabbed her bag and a hat and went downstairs. She knocked on Mrs Patterson’s door and hten pushed without waiting for an answer, knowing it would be unlocked. The French windows were open and Mrs P was outside in the garden feeding the birds. She looked over her shoulder when she heard Laura’s footsteps.
“I didn’t think I’d heard you go to work this morning, are you ill?”
“No I’m fine, I’ve just got a day off and I’m going to have some fun and go somewhere. I don’t know where yet, I’ll just see where I end up. Do you need anything bringing back later on?”
“No thank you dear. You have a nice day, and come and tell me all about it tonight.”
“Okay, bye then” and Laura almost skipped out of the room and down the hall to the front door. She was determined to have a good day, just her and her Oyster card – Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, Epping Forest, she could go anywhere.
Laura squinted in the bright sunshine as she shut the front door behind her. When her eyes adjusted to the glare the first thing she saw was an old red van parked on the street in front of the house, and Joseph Singer leaning against it. He had one hand buried deep in the soft grey fur of Brian the cat, who lay stretched out across the bonnet of the van purring ecstatically.
“Good morning,” he said.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to see you.”
“How did you know I’d be in?”
“I’ve been here since seven so I knew you hadn’t gone to work. Get in, we need to talk.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you, I’m having a day out.”
“Perfect, we’ll go out together, I know just the place.”
“No chance.” Laura hurried down the steps and started to march up the street, but Joseph caught her arm.
“Please. I want to talk to you, to explain a few things.”
“More fairy stories I suppose. I’ve been doing some research myself thank you very much”
“And did you find what you were looking for?”
“Not exactly,” Laura admitted, and stopped trying to pull away from Joseph. “If I come will you answer my questions? And what place?”
“I’ll try. We’ll go to the river, that’s a good point to start.”
He lifted the still purring Brian down from the bonnet of the van, unlocked the passenger door and held it open for her. With a sigh of resignation Laura dropped her bag by her feet and got in.
Once Joseph was behind the wheel he looked across at Laura with an amused expression on his face.
“Are you going to keep your arms folded for the whole day?”
“Probably.” Laura was feeling very defensive, but hadn’t realised she was making it quite so obvious.
“Fair enough,” Joseph said and turned the key in the ignition.
The engine spluttered into life and they pulled away. After a mile or so Joseph swung the van casually across the road straight in front of the oncoming traffic and towards what looked to Laura like an old churchyard.
“Is this the outing?”
“Nope. Just a quick stop,” and he put on the handbrake, hopped out and jogged across what she could now see was in fact a building site with an old church at its centre. A team of men were starting to construct an intricate web of scaffolding around the almost derelict building and there were a couple of signs propped up against a skip. Peering through the grimy window Laura could just about make out the word “restoration” on one, and “SSS” on the other.
She tried to open the window to see better, but only managed to wind it half way down before the handle came off in her hand. It had opened just enough for her to hear one of the scaffolders call down to Joseph.
“Hi boss, checking up on us?”
Boss. Well he should be able to afford a less clapped out van then, and she didn’t feel so bad about dropping the handle into the footwell, where it settled beside her bag in a cosy nest of empty crisp packets and coffee cups. She watched as Joseph pulled himself up onto the scaffolding with easy strength and scrambled quickly upwards like a kid on a climbing frame. After chatting with his workers for a couple of minutes he swung himself down, jumping the last couple of feet.
“You opened the window,” he said accusingly as he got back into the van.
“Sorry ‘boss’. Shouldn’t the boss have a less crappy van?”
“Shouldn’t you be more careful?” Joseph retorted, reversing out of the site.
“Are you really the boss?”
“SSS – Singer Scaffolding Services – that’s me. I just needed to make sure they’d be alright for a few hours, it’s quite a tricky build. Done now, next stop the Thames.”