A British Summer

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Chapter Twenty-Three

The next week is filled with checklists and shopping trips. They’re in a rush to get everything done in such a short space of time and there’s not much information for them to go off. They know where they’ll be staying in LA and the time of their flights. Nick still needs to arrange a car rental when they land, and Olivia needs to plan out her wardrobe. Nick’s visa was already in the works, but so far, they had only managed to secure Olivia a tourist visa, allowing her to stay in America for three months. This would be fine for the time being as Nick offered to pay for her travel until she can find work, either as an actress or as some other worker on the film. The problem is, she cannot get a working visa without a job already lined up and right now, nothing is certain. The uncertainty, whilst scary, is also exciting to Olivia. It makes travel seem more romantic - not knowing what’s coming next. Claudia had been shopping for warmer clothes. Even though they will be heading to LA as a final destination, Nick had proposed the idea that they travel to New York first. It wouldn’t be much warmer there than it is in England.

A few fears remain in Olivia’s mind. Those little niggly fears that hold us back from doing what we really want to do. Those are always the things that keep us from taking leaps. Those tiny fears, like pieces of comfort. We all like our creature comforts. It can’t be helped. For Olivia, her fears are a different kind. She doesn’t care about her bed or her own bath. What Olivia fears for are the people she will miss. She would miss her friend and the love of her friend’s life, (speaking of, as it turns out, Loui has a curiosity for the law and Emily’s parents had taken to him swimmingly. They’re in the process of convincing Loui’s father, Pierre, that he should stay with them for a few months to learn more about the legal system. If Olivia had any ideas about how Ian works, she’s certain he’ll close the deal.) She will miss her home, but she reminds herself that it’ll always be there for her and distance makes the heart grow fonder. Most of all she will miss her mother. Claudia is the one she worries for the most. It helps that she has Clive and it seems as though they’ll use Olivia’s temporary distance, to move Clive into the home for good. Olivia told him, under no circumstances, must her room be turned into a gym. She’d like it just as it’s left when she returns. Claudia doesn’t think she will return. She has it in her head that as soon as Olivia touches down in the states, she’ll be blown away by stardom and will forget all the little people in her life. Olivia had assured her there are no little people in her life. They’re all parts of her – all big important parts of who she is. Olivia ponders that frequently. The size of mankind. She sees herself as this insignificant being in the grand scheme of things. But how wonderful a thought. We send rockets into space and we make art and music. How wonderful a thing, to be so small and insignificant, and to reach to the stars with the hands of giants.

It’ll be tough, leaving England behind for three months. It’s not like it’s going anywhere but as it is, Olivia already feels like she will be somebody else when she returns. Will England look different? Will her mother be different? Will the world see her differently? Again…she is excited by the idea – not afraid.

This morning a large box arrived for her in the post. Her name and address written in cursive on the top. She opened it, half afraid of what might be inside. It’s a pair of boots. Beautiful black, heeled boots, with buckles on the side with a note attached:

Dear Olivia,

Thierry and I miss you so much. I’m glad that we text, and I hope that we can chat in person soon. I remembered my promise to you, to make you your very own pair of shoes. They’re one of a kind and I swear I won’t ever make another pair for anybody else. I’m terribly excited to hear that you’re heading off to America and I pray that you’ll come see us when you get back. Take these boots with you. I like the idea that they’ll keep you stylish. Feel free to tell those big Hollywood producers the name of your designer. Love you lots and lots. Travel safely, give Emily our love.

Yours faithfully,

Lily xxx

PS: Look inside the shoes.

Inside there is a picture of Thierry and Lily, sat side by side on Nick’s dock at the lake house. On the back it says: Take us with you to the states, so you don’t forget us. She slides the picture into her carryon bag and zips it closed, careful not to snag the edges. She sets the shoes on her feet…a perfect fit and heads out onto the back field.

This is the place. The same place she had started the summer. Jeans are required at the moment and she wears them with a knitted, blue, turtleneck sweater. Her hair is pulled back into a high ponytail, her raven black locks swishing around as though it had its own mind. A cool breeze howls from the distance. Blue skies, sunshine, birds, cracking flags and water fights are but a distant memory. The start of this summer had had Olivia sat on this very same field, bathing in the heat and lost in the world. There had been nowhere to be, nothing to do, nobody to see. She had been a bird overseas, with no place to land. She had been in a position of cluelessness and idle wandering; a camera around her neck, a paintbrush in hand she hadn’t quite figured out who she was. Standing on this hilltop now, looking out at the cars racing by the motorway below, she plays with the idea that nothing has changed. She’s still wandering, still confused and still terrified of life; only now she has a focus. There’s something in her sights. America. A dream. Lucinda. The wonderful world of LA awaits her. The prospects are mindboggling. Of all the things that could come from this trip, there is one thing Olivia finds herself most excited for – the idea that she will have Nick by her side the whole time. She is getting the most unique experience, that most people can only dream of, and she’s getting to experience it with a person she cares a great deal about. She thinks back to a week ago.

During the last week of August. They had stood under that canopy with the first rain of summer, battering the rooftops and an idea of travel set before them. Her mother had reached out her hand and held Olivia’s face. She had smiled at her and Olivia can still remember the wrinkle in her nose and the way she frowned as though she would never see her again. She’d uttered one word. “Go.” Olivia knew that she had meant for her to go to America. Olivia had hugged her mother tight enough to crush bones and then taken Nick by the hand. She had pulled him out from their shelter and under the rush of water. They were soaked, from head to foot in seconds. Her dress had hung heavy around her body and as a flash had lit up the sky she’d looked into his eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes. She’d held his face in her hands and nodded her head. Her laughter sounded muffled by the overwhelming loudness of a storm hitting rock and plastic and tin. No words needed to be said. They were consumed in each other and in their moment of heaven nothing else existed. The rain was shrouding them with a curtain of privacy. They could be seen but not heard. With no concern of their audience, Nick had kissed her, and he didn’t stop kissing her till the rain lightened and they’d looked up to find Claudia and Clive had headed back inside. The yard was strewn with plastic plates and the bag of marshmallows had blown around, sending tiny white cushions of gooey sweetness, into the gale and had stuck itself in the trees around the garden. They had laughed at the mess. Nick had rested his head on hers and uttered the words: “We’re crazy.”

Yes, they are. Olivia thinks as she takes off her shoes and lets the muddy grass, squelch between her toes. They are well and truly crazy. The bruises on her face are gone and the cuts are so small they can’t be seen unless examined up close. A branch creaks in the wind at the side of the field. If those trees could talk, what would they say? They have seen this little girl grow. The summer has taught her lessons she never thought she could have learned. The romance, the violence, the heart ache, the fear. She closes her eyes and lets the wind carry them away into an incoming Autumn countryside. As she opens them again, she looks into the distance. The skyline of town and the city of Manchester. An iron paradise beyond the hills. Olivia is comfortable here. This is home. She can feel the earth shifting beneath her feet. The blissful memory of this summer will stay with her. She doesn’t know what the future holds in America, she only knows that that’s where she is heading. No matter the risks, no matter the uncertainty, she will let excitement and fear lead her. The darkness holds the light and she must persevere to find her place in this world. Only hopes and dreams can persuade her that her place is in a business of art and make-believe. She will go to LA and she will make them see that she is the person to play this role. The role that she was born to be and after that, who knows?

“Olivia!” Nick calls to her from across the field. She waves to him. It’s time to go. Olivia takes one last parting glance at this town she loves so much, as she puts her unique boots back on her wet feet. Home will still be here when she gets back, she tells herself. It’ll still be here. It won’t change, even if she has. She heads back to the hole in the fence of her house. She heads to the gateway of unanswered possibilities and gloriously unusual experiences. A tall piece of grass tickles the tip of her fingers. Somewhere in the distance, a magpie clicks its beak. Olivia Monroe steps through the gate and closes it shut behind her; she closes the door on the finest British Summer she has ever lived through, she closes it on the person she had been at the start of this season and looks forward to the future, ready to embark on a new journey of self-discovery.

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