On a windy night in the middle of June 1982 in the small town of Windmister, Durham, Edmund Brown was once again thrown out of the town’s only pub ‘Drinks Up’. Lying on the pavement still hurt from the brawl, Edmund fails to recollect what exactly he did wrong. When the cricket match updates were being announced all he wanted was another pint. After he had ordered his drink, he forgot where he kept it and then suddenly the announcements stopped. He did not realize that he spilled the drink on the radio, causing it to stop working; he was punched a few times and thrown out. Barely able to pick himself up, his neighbor, Richard ran over to help him up. A man of small stature and a well-trimmed mustache, he was pleasantly dressed and seemingly well-mannered in his early thirties.
“Why must you do this to yourself, Edmund?” Richard asks as he picks him off the pavement. Edmund is a man in his mid-thirties, over six feet tall with an overgrown beard and long hair. Despite being big in stature, his clumsy appearance and behavior often cause him to get in trouble at the pub. Richard takes him to his apartment; a messy old place which is a clear reflection of how Edmund keeps himself. When brought home Richard gives him some water and then leaves him after he assumes Edmund has fallen asleep. When Edmund hears the door close, he slowly tries to get up and proceeds towards the liquor cabinet. He finds a bottle on his table and drinks from it only to find it is water. Unable to acquire the strength to move, he falls to the ground holding the bottle of water and sleeps.
Edmund wakes up the next morning like nothing has ever happened and goes about his daily routine. As he is making breakfast for himself, Richard walks in, “You’re up early?” He says with a serious look on his face.
Edmund smirks at these words. “I can surprise you, can’t I?” Edmund sets his plate out on the table. “You want some?” he asks as he finished making the eggs and pours a glass of milk for himself.
“What is the matter with you?” Richard asks. “You were beaten again; why do you keep going there when you know people will.” He pauses and then continues “Look, I know you are a nice guy, I know you can fight too, but why don’t you? You just keep setting yourself up to be their punching bag.” Edmund smirks and begins to eat. “You saved my life. I know how strong you are, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here right now. I want to help you, but you don’t seem to care…”
“Aren’t you going to be late for work, professor?” Edmund asks as he stuffs his mouth. Richard clearly angry by his response clenches his fist and storms out. His friend’s words of concern seem to have no effect on Edmund, as he finishes his breakfast and gets dressed for work. Doing odd jobs to get by, Edmund often works as a carpenter, plumber or gardener. He puts on some clothes and tries to comb his beard. He ties his hair into a ponytail and carries a small bottle of vodka with him as he leaves his apartment unlocked, without a care in the world.
Finding work at odd times and often being rejected for his clumsy appearance, Edmund walks around town most of the day trying to find some work or the other. By evening he found work to cut grass in a lawn. He did a slow but good job which took him a few hours, satisfied with his work, he is paid £20. Taking his money, he begins roaming around town, a few hours pass by as he sips his drink and the bottle finishes. Deciding to go home and finish his bottles, he starts walking home.
As he is at the corner of the street a young woman bumps into him and they both fall to the ground. The girl, who is short with blond hair, falls near him, as he gets up he tries to help her up as well. “Help me!” she exclaims as he lets go of her hand. She opens her eyes and looks at Edmund with fear, her beautiful dress torn and her knees bruised from the fall. Two men then come running, as she tries to get up and run, one of the men grabs her arm. “Where do you think you’re going?” the man asks. She screams and bites him and the other one hits her. Edmund looks confused at the events happening in front of him. Then a car comes close to them as one of the men takes out a knife and threatens Edmund “You didn’t see anything.”
Edmund looks at the girl whose mouth is now gagged, clearly in trouble, her eyes plead with him for help. Just as she is about to be pushed into the car Edmund gets up and punches one of the men. This move sends him to the ground, while the other man momentarily lets go of the girl to attack Edmund. With one kick, he too is on the pavement clenching his stomach. On witnessing this, the man in the car drives away; Edmund then grabs the girl’s arm and runs. They run for a while and stop at a nearby alleyway. As he lets go of her hand she removes her restraints and says “Thank you,” as she breathes heavily. He sits beside her, alert, looking towards the road, ensuring no one was tailing them. As she sits beside him catching her breath, he is now sure, that her pursuers have given up for now. He then gets up and begins to walk away.
“Where do you think you’re going!?” the girl asks rudely. Edmund looks back at the once helpless girl, who has now gained enough strength to talk. “You are not going to leave me here, are you?” He turns around and walks away from her. “Wait!” she shouts as she gets up and follows him.
“I helped you enough.” Edmund says as she catches up to him “Now I don’t want to get dragged into any of your business.”
“How could you say that…like I am the cause of this?” She says clearly angry. “I don’t know those men.”
“But you clearly did something for them to be after you.” Edmund says firmly as they walk down the street.
“I did nothing. Look I just want to get home.” These words seem to have got Edmund’s attention and he slows down as she begins to walk beside him. “My name is Stella Billington, I live in Bournemouth, and I was driving to get there when my driver was killed a few miles away from this town. Those men were after me and I escaped before they got a hold of me. I ran as fast as I could, I don’t know who they were and I just want to go home.”
“And, what is it you expect of me?” Edmund stops in his tracks and stares at her seriously. “What do you want me to do?”
Mustering up as much courage to face the serious Edmund, she demands with a slight tremor in her voice “I want you to take me to Bournemouth.” Edmund’s serious look soon breaks and he begins to let out a loud laugh.
“Ha ha ha…You seriously think I will take you to Bournemouth? You’re funny.” He says as he laughs and walks away.
“Wait,” she trips and falls. He looks at her still smiling. “Aren’t you going to help me?” Getting angry with his behavior she sits down stubbornly on the pavement.
“I am not your butler you can boss around; you want help ask for it nicely.” He looks at her for a moment smirking. He then turns around and begins to walk away. She now realizes that she cannot get her way, she stands up and follows him yet again.
“Please,” she says looking at the ground with a presumptuous look on her face. Edmund swoops down to look at her face and they make eye contact. “I need your help, please…” She says as she painfully swallows her pride.
“Fine, Follow me.” Edmund walks ahead and Stella trying to hide her smile and relief, follows him. He takes her to his house and says “You can stay here for a while.” She sees him with no key and just opening the door. As she enters, she gets the musky smell of the room and her dislike of it becomes apparent. With a mess of a house right in front of her, Edmund moves the things from his bedroom.
“What is this place?” She asks confused.
“My house.” He says as he begins to set the bed for her to sleep in. “You can sleep here, I will take the floor.”
Looking scared and disgusted with the sleeping arrangements Edmund has drawn out for her she asks skeptically “You’re not serious, right?”
“I am.” He says smiling as he takes a pillow and sheet and lies on the floor, clearly amused.
When she begins to hear the sound of rain outside, she understands that this is her only option at the moment. Trying to come to terms with her surroundings, she asks softly, “Where is your bathroom?” Edmund points to the door connected to the bedroom, Stella holds her head up high and opens the door, and slowly goes into the bathroom. Just then Richard walks into his room looking irked by their previous conversation.
“Hi.” Edmund says with a wide smile.
“A smile?” Richard looks confused at Edmund’s jolly behavior. “That’s rare. What happened?” Just as Richard finishes his sentence Stella screams from the bathroom.
“Mouse!” She runs out of the bathroom door and is caught by Richard. He looks at her for a moment as she calms down and then looks at Edmund.
“Who is she?” Richard asks.
“Stella.” Edmund answerers with a single word as he sits up. “I found her on the street today, now she’s staying with me tonight.” He says with a smirk.
“What are you picking up whores now?” Richard asks with a condescending tone.
Stella hits Richard across his face and Edmund laughs at this reaction. “How dare you.” Stella shouts. “You have no idea what I can do to you, you rotten peasant!” Richard looks surprised at her and then at Edmund still laughing.
“I helped her out. She needs a place to sleep for a few days.” Edmund explains as Richard looks back at Stella as she turns her head infuriated.
“I see.” Richard says rubbing his cheek. “My name is Richard by the way.” He extends his hand to greet her.
Just as Stella is about to react Edmund interrupts and says “I think the poor girl has had enough of drama for one day, perhaps we should let her sleep?”
“Do you have new sheets?” Stella asks Edmund. He points to the sheets he had put on the bed and she reacts with disgust. Richard looks at the sheets and then comes close and picks them up. As he holds them he picks up the smell of the sheets.
“Yuck. Edmund when was the last time you washed these?” Richard asks.
“Umm…” Just before Edmund is about to answer Richard looks at Stella and says, “I have a few new sheets, wait here, I’ll get them.” He drops the sheet onto the floor and rushes out. Stella looks at Edmund who is comfortably lying on the floor. Richard soon returns with a new sheet and she smiles in relief.
“Thank you so much.” Stella says as she happily holds the sheets.
“It was nothing. Consider it an apology for earlier.” He smiles at her and then looks at Edmund not moving a muscle. “Goodnight.” Richard says and leaves. Edmund then closes his eyes and doses off. Stella left with new sheets, she tries to put the sheets on the bed and goes to sleep.
After a very disturbed sleep, she wakes up early in the morning. With the sun just rising, she gets out of bed and decides to take a shower. With severe skepticism, she takes off her clothes and takes the sheets and showers. By the time Edmund wakes up, she is walking out of the shower with the sheet wrapped around her. Edmund stares at her for a while and she looks at him, trying to hide her shyness she says “Why are you staring?” while holding the sheet around her body.
“Nothing, I was just wondering what you were planning on wearing.” He says with a mischievous smirk. She immediately begins to search the room with her eyes and soon realizes that her dress is dirty and torn. She looks at Edmund intensively, as he gets up and walks towards her. She looks at him as he walks past her and picks up some clothes. He takes them and is about to enter the bathroom.
“What?” He pauses momentarily and he looks at her.
“Don’t you have any clothes for me?”
“You should’ve just asked.” He says as he walks to the cupboard and takes out new clothes, a shirt and pant for her to wear. He throws them at her, and she tries to catch them, dropping them both in the end. She then stares at him in anger as he walks away. He then looks to her and says “What? You want me to dress you too?” Stella immediately picks up the clothes and steps back. He lets out a rather loud laugh again and goes into the bathroom.
She begins to get dressed, angry with Edmund’s casual behavior towards her. She sees the price tags on the clothes and realizes he has bought them recently. She then goes to the dining table and waits for him. He then steps out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist as Stella watches him. He looks around for another towel and doesn’t seem to find one. He then proceeds to take off the towel from his waist and wipe his hair.
Stella stares at him, now naked, and gets up from her seat abruptly. He hears the sound of the chair falling and sees her. “Sorry. I forgot you were here.” He then closes the door and gets dressed. Stella still in shock with his careless behavior tries to collect herself as he comes out from the room.
As he enters, she asks sharply “What are you making for breakfast?” Trying to avoid eye contact with Edmund.
“I’m making eggs.” Edmund replies without a care in the world.
“I like mine sunny side up and orange juice.” She says as she crosses her legs and leans on the table.
“Scrambled and milk it is!” He says gleefully as he feels her glare on his back. Just then Richard enters the apartment. “Good morning, Richard.”
“You’re still in a good mood Edmund. Guess someone’s presence is making your life cheery.” As he walks in Stella glares at him because of his comment. “Don’t tell me you are still mad about yesterday?” Edmund grins in the background and begins to prepare the eggs. “I’m sorry love.” He says as he sits next to her, “I haven’t introduced myself, I’m Richard Robinson.” He says with his hand stretched out.
“I’m Stella Billington.” Stella shakes his hand and smiles. “Nice to meet a man with good manners around here.” She says as she looks towards Edmund expecting a reaction, he instead takes out a cigarette and lights it with the fire from the stove, ignoring her.
As she gets furious with Edmund, Richard asks “What business do you have in Windmister?”
“Actually I was on my way to Bournemouth, but I met with certain trouble on the way.” Stella says seriously. “Do you know the way to Bournemouth.”
Just then Edmund interrupts the conversation by firmly placing the eggs in front of her. He then pours her a glass of milk and sits opposite her and begins to eat. “He may not look like it but he can cook, try it.” Richard says as he looks at his watch. “I have to go now, nice meeting you, bye now.” He waves and leaves as Edmund waves at him. Stella takes up her fork and knife and begins to eat. She likes the way the egg is prepared but doesn’t tell Edmund.
“How is it?” Edmund asks as he drinks his milk.
“I prefer bull’s-eye, but I guess this is quite nice as well.” She says in a soft voice. “So…when are we planning on going to Bournemouth?” Edmund almost chokes on his food and looks at her.
“Why would I be going to Bournemouth?” Edmund stops eating and stares at her.
“Because you said,” she looks at Edmund’s serious face and then clears her throat and sits up straight. “I will pay you, 5,000 pounds if you do.” He looks at her with no change in his expression. “My great-grandfather, Sebastian Reed Billington was the founder of the company ‘Billington Enterprises’ which specializes in the distribution and manufacturing of bottles. We also have a started business in the alcohol and…”
“I know…Bills Beers.” Edmund interrupts as he rests his chin on his palm and continues to stare at her.
“Well… since you know who I am now, you know I will pay you. So when are we leaving for Bournemouth?” Stella demands with an arrogant smile.
With a clever smirk, he asks “And when is it you plan on paying me, Ms. Billington?” Stella looks at him taken aback for a minute. “You clearly have no money or ID on you. How do I know you are telling the truth?” Stella looks stunned and is unable to answer his questions. He then gets up from his seat and begins to walk to the front door. As he is about to leave he turns to Stella and says, “Don’t go around telling people who you are. That will cause you more problems than solutions.” With these parting words, Edmund leaves and Stella begins to follow him.
“Where do you think you’re going?” She demands.
“Work, Ms. Stella. You see some of us have to work for our daily living, it’s not just handed to us.” Stella waits by the door and watches him leave. She then enters the house and decides to wait for him to come back. She looks around the room and is saddened and angered with the conditions she is left to survive with. With no other option, she sits at the table, consoling herself.
Within two hours Edmund returns and finds Stella still sitting at the table, clearly angry. He puts a packet of food on the table and sets another bag in front of her and gestures her to open it. With skepticism, she opens it, and she finds women’s clothes, a pair of high waist jeans, and two tops.
“This is the best I could get right now, either this or the flabby abomination you’re wearing.” She looks at the clothes she is wearing and takes the bag and decides to wear it. She moves to the bedroom, changes and steps out with the clothes Edmund got her. He looks at her and smiles and she sighs looking at what she is wearing. Now the food Edmund had bought earlier is spread out on the table.
“So when are we going to Bournemouth?” Stella asks as she sits near him avoiding eye contact.
“Again with the same question,” Edmund gets up annoyed. “Why do you want me to take you there anyway.”
“Because,” she begins to choke and he looks at her. She then takes a breath and continues “My grandfather is ill. I was celebrating my 27th birthday, and I got a call telling me that my grandfather was in the hospital. I decided to drive to Bournemouth immediately and then… I was attacked, I believe I told you that.” She looks at Edmund seriously as her story doesn’t seem to move him. “Like I said I will pay you if you help me. When I get home, I will give you the money, I promise you.” She finally begins to plead with him wholeheartedly, as her eyes are filled with tears as she tells him.
“Now you are telling me the truth.” Edmund says as he looks at her with comforting eyes. “I don’t mind helping you; I just don’t want to be treated like some second class citizen. That attitude does not work in your situation, you know.” As he says that he leans back and takes a breath. “It’s not easy to go to Bournemouth just on-demand we need resources. I need resources.” Stella looks at him and is about to speak. “No, you promising to pay me later will not do.” He interrupts as she looks at him puzzled. “Welcome to the real world kiddo!” He says smiling. He then gets up and begins to walk around the room “We’ll leave in a few days; I should be able to afford bus tickets by then.”
“Wait! You expect me to travel on a bus?” Stella looks in shock.
“Yes. The way I see it, you don’t have a choice.” Edmund says smiling and then sits next to Stella and continues with a serious face, “Listen, I am ready to take care of you, but you must allow me to do that.” Feeling comfort in his words, she slowly nods her head as she looks him in the eyes. She then notices his light brown eyes, despite his rugged appearance; his soft eyes oddly gave a more mature vibe. “Well then, see you for dinner.” He says abruptly as he gets up and leaves the apartment. Stella looks on as he leaves swiftly and then turns to the table and begins to eat the food he laid out for her.