A British Summer

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Chapter Seventeen

It is midday. August 4th. There’s not a cloud in the sky. All evidence of last night’s antics has been cleaned away. The bottles and packets. The plates and flute glasses and Emily’s stomach contents, which Olivia had gotten up early to swirl away with a bucket of hot water and bleach. Olivia has scrubbed every inch of the house, silently, as not to wake Emily. The poor dear is still in bed and fast asleep. She has just gotten back in from walking Poppy into the village for supplies to restock the kitchen.

The village had been quiet, despite it being so late in the day. She had been pleasantly surprised to find that Poppy was allowed to join her in the store and decided that’s just the kind of place this village was. She had purchased more coconut milk, tins, rice, bread, some of that delicious dark chocolate that Thierry had introduced her to and a bouquet of flowers. She had paid for it all with an envelope of money Nick had left for supplies. She figures, the least she can do is make sure the kitchen is fully stocked before he returns. She is excited for him to come back, now that her and Emily are on better terms and wonders, idly what the future will hold for them. After all, he lives in Paris for most of the year and he’ll be somewhat busy when they announce the film is being made. In fact, she feels a touch of worry that this summer may burn out their romance as the autumn months start to faze in. Olivia steps through the front door, her skin still smells of the sun and her freckles dance on her cheeks. She feels fresh, somehow, despite the glisten of sweat on her collar bone and brow. The day is optimistic. Things are resolved that weren’t resolved yesterday and she can allow herself a little bit of excitement for the future. Olivia lets Poppy off the lead, and she rushes to guzzle up some water. Olivia can relate. She finishes putting the shopping away and decides to whip up a coffee and a stack of pancakes. The likes of which took an unfortunate five attempts to perfect, much to the gratefulness of Poppy who got to eat some of the failed versions. She heads up the stairs and sneaks into Emily’s room. She sets the pancakes on the side, with a cup of coffee in the hopes that the smell would rouse her. As she starts to stir, Olivia slowly retreats and closes the door behind her. Her friend fed and conscious, Olivia decides to find a quiet place to retreat to so that Emily can have the house to herself for a little bit while she comes to terms with her hangover. The library that doubles as an office seems like a great place to cut herself off for a bit.

The office is a little stuffy. Olivia cracks open a window and fires up the computer. ‘At the top of the hill’ sits on the keyboard. She moves it to the side the way one would move a new-born baby. It’s precious to her. In this moment Olivia recalls that she still hasn’t spoken to her mother and decides to write her an email. It reads as follows:

Hi Mum,

Sorry it’s taken so long to write you. The signal up here is terrible! I’m having a lot of fun. Emily is well, I am well, Nick is very well, and Poppy is adorable as always. We met some amazing people. They’re called Lily and Thierry, and they are twins who live in a house near Nick’s. We had them over for a game of truth or dare last night…which was eventful to say the least. I’m wearing sun cream, don’t worry and I’m not drinking too much.

I didn’t want to tell you at home, because the money takes a few days to reach your account and it seemed too good to be true, but I won £5000 on a scratch card. It should have cleared by now. Can you believe it?! My bank card is on the shelf in my room, my pin is your birth year, please take it and buy whatever we need. Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, on me! I hope you’re enjoying having the house to yourself. Miss you a lot.

Lots of love,

Olivia xxx

Ps: I’m vegan now.

She sends it and sits back in the chair, stretching out her neck. She doesn’t think it would have gone down well had she told her mother about her newfound connection with Nick but knows she has an open mind and will approach the topic when she’s home. Another idea suddenly comes to her. She grins to herself and searches the internet for a song that she used to listen to when she was a teenager and suddenly has a whole new meaning. She types up an email to Nick and adds a link to the song, ‘Untouched’ by the Veronica’s. She giggles to herself as she hits send. The computer pings and she sits up, alert, assuming that Nick has replied already. He hasn’t. The reply is from her Mother.

Olivia,

I presumed you were safe. I turned your ghost mode off on Snapchat, weeks ago, when I started having to work nights again. I saw you’d arrived safely and assumed you were having too much fun to call your dear mother.

I’m kidding of course. I’m glad you’re having fun and I hope the trip has cleared your head some. I’m excited to see you when you get home and I’m planning another blue WKD and star watching BBQ for us for when you return.

As for the scratch card and the £5,000…WHAT?! That’s wonderful! Congratulations! You must be crazy if you think I’m touching that money! Although, knowing that, I do feel a little less guilty about the £50 you left on the table. I’ll be sure to order a gigantic pizza tonight. With lots of CHEESE! That’s right. CHEESE! Vegan? Honey. I’ll give you two weeks. I love you, stay safe. Drink less. Sleep more. Eat your vegetables. Don’t talk to strangers… And then ignore all of that so you can make some good memories. Can’t wait to hear all your stories about your new friends.

Lots of love,

Mum xxx

Olivia smiles fondly and is setting up another email when the computer starts ringing. She is confused. A picture of Isabelle pops up on the screen and shows a request for a Skype call. Olivia hadn’t even noticed the camera on top of the screen. She clicks to answer and Isabelle beams at her. “Olivia! Hello!”

“Hi.” Olivia waves. “How are you?” Isabelle looks lovely as ever and smiles warmly.

“I’m very well thank you. I’m back in LA and ready to get started on this movie! All the contracts are signed now, so we’re getting ready to announce the project…I’m going to assume Nick has already told you?” She thinks a moment and wonders if it’d get Nick into any trouble if she said that he had indeed told her. Then she remembers how lovely Isabelle was back in Manchester and decides there probably isn’t much to worry about. “Maybe.” She answers. Isabelle laughs.

“Well we’re very excited about it all. The script was written before we even approached him. A good friend of mine put it together. It was actually one of the reasons he agreed to it, he said that he couldn’t have imagined Hollywood being able to preserve the art of the story if it was converted to a movie, but we managed.” She laughs again. “You know something…you really do have a look of the lead. Have you read the book?” She asks.

“I have. It’s wonderful.” Isabelle narrows her eyes in thought, then leans into the camera like she has a secret. “I wonder if you’d want to audition for us. We haven’t even reached out to casting directors yet, though I’ve got one in mind. Producers really do have last say and you’ve just got the look that fits so perfectly with Lucinda.” Olivia doesn’t know what to say.

“I mean…are you serious? Because I’ve never acted professionally before. I’ve done some acting for fun, but never for money. That’s a lot of pressure.”

“It is.” Isabelle agrees. “But all I’m asking for is a self-tape, maybe. We’ll send you a scene from the script, record yourself performing the scene, send it over, I’ll show it to my partner, and we’ll be in touch if we want to see more. That’s all.” Hmm. Olivia is immediately excited. That’s nothing really. A self-tape. She can do that. Either they like it, or they don’t. Opportunities don’t come along like this very often. “Sure, I’ll do a self-tape for you.” She answers at last.”

“Brilliant!” She squeals. “That’s exciting. Now, where is the wonderful writer? Is he around?”

“Actually, he’s in Paris.”

“Oh, of course. I knew that, too. He did say. Okay, no problem. Just have him call me when he’s back…I’ll send the scene over now, get that tape back to me as soon as you can.” She nods. “I will. Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” She laughs then hangs up the call. Olivia sits staring at the screen in disbelief. What in the world just happened? A printer across the room kicks into action and Olivia jumps. She walks over and sees that it’s a fax. The script pages are coming through. That was fast. She pulls them out and is about to start reading when Emily comes rushing into the room. “Nick’s back early.” There is a second of a moment where Olivia is wondering if their fall out is about to be brought back to the surface, but Emily shoves her arm and laughs. “Don’t be gross about it.” She rolls her eyes and heads out down the stairs. Olivia follows. Nick is, indeed, stood in the middle of the sitting room. As Emily and Olivia come around the corner, they both freeze as they notice Nick isn’t alone. Sat on the couch by the unlit fireplace, is one of the most handsome men Olivia has ever seen. His hair is wispy and gold like an Egyptian tomb. His eyes are bluer than the waters in the Maldives. His skin as perfect as a pearl. He smiles up at Emily who screams, piercingly next to Oliva. Emily looks at Nick like he is the best human being anybody could ever dream of. She clasps her hand over her mouth and looks as though she is about to kneel down, but then she runs to Loui and he stands to accept her embrace. She jumps into his arms and wraps her legs around his waist. He holds her tight and kisses her. They don’t seem to be stopping and Olivia turns her head half embarrassed and half to give her privacy. Nick walks away and beckons Olivia to follow him outside. She follows.

“So, that’s Loui?” Olivia asks as they reach the tyre swing, which Nick pulls at curiously. “That’s Loui.” He confirms. “I like this.” He says. Olivia thinks he may be acting a little shy about something. “Are you okay?” She asks. He nods.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m being so awkward.” He shakes his head at himself. Olivia takes his hand that hangs by his side. She pulls him a little close by his shirt and as their eyes meet, Olivia’s stomach flutters. She is millimetres from his lips and decides to pull away. “Hmm. Maybe we shouldn’t.”

“Hmm. Best not.” He laughs. “How is she?” They both look back to the house.

“She’s great now. Beyond great thanks to you. We talked while you were gone, and she essentially gave us her blessing. She was just hurt I didn’t tell her my feelings before she had to find out the way she did.”

“Thank god.” He murmurs. Olivia slips herself onto the swing and he stands close behind her. “So, what feelings are we talking about?”

“Oh no,” Olivia teases, “is it not a little early for that talk?” She looks up at him and he leans back. “I guess it is.” He laughs. He pushes her gently, so she is always within arm’s reach.

“Besides, I think I made that clear enough before you left.” He nods. Then holds the swing by the tyre and pulls her back towards him, holding her still. He leans in. “It’s kind of killing me not kissing you right now.” Olivia swallows.

“I can relate.” They both look to the guest house in the same beat. Not another word is said. They head towards the house that sits under the canopy of trees. Nick opens the door and lets Olivia in. She takes a second to note the minimal décor and deep brown colour theme before turning and pulling Nick into an embrace. His lips find hers and she holds him close to her body. The passion is just the same as it had been that day at the dock and the world swims away in her mind. All there is, is her and him. Their lips. Their hold on each other like each one is the sole protector of the other one. It’s Nick who breaks away first. “I almost forgot.” He starts rummaging in his coat pocket. “I was supposed to leave this here for you before I left, but I decided the clasp needed fixing and I had a guy do it for me in Paris.” Olivia’s heart stops. He pulls out the necklace. The necklace. The one she had dropped in the lake and nearly died trying to get back. The one her father had given her. It was perfect, the silver chain, the rose droplet. Perfect. She takes it from him, mouth open. “You…you got it back?” She asks, holding back tears.

“Yeah, I went back in for it when you were asleep outside this very door. Figured if it was left there too long the current would pull it away or an animal would steal it.” She looks up at him. He doesn’t realise what this means to her. She tenderly rests it on the side, tracing her finger over the pendent. “Is that okay? If the clasp is wrong, I can take it to…” He can’t finish his sentence. She is kissing him again. This time, she has no intention of stopping. The only time they pull away is for her to shrug his jacket onto the floor and look into his eyes to let him know something amazing is going to happen. No words are spoken. No words need to be spoken. Layers are dropped to the floor and only when they’re completely free of them do they fall onto the couch by a small, burnt out fireplace and leave the universe behind to find out what happens when two parts of the same soul become one.

Nobody comes looking for them and Olivia can only imagine that Emily and Loui are, in the same way, occupied. Somewhere between their first and their last, Nick has lit a fire and they lay together, wrapped in an old blanket from somewhere that Olivia didn’t care to notice. She leans against his chest and, as he runs his fingers through her hair, she falls asleep listening to the beat of his heart. Outside, the sky is dark. The day has been burnt away and even the sun couldn’t compete with the fire in the lover’s passion. No animals sound, no birds cheep, the water cannot be heard. They have been left totally alone by the world. Only the slowly appearing stars are let in on the secret and a full moon rises to commemorate the night.

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