Pace, pace, pace.
Josiah had been walking up and down for the last half an hour. His worry had grown, unabated, uninterrupted, apart from the appearance of a secondhand walnut shell salesman a few minutes ago. It had been a moment of normality in an otherwise fraught day.
He was worried still about Cecily; the evening had grown dark, cold and had a gentle odour of somewhat over-ripe apples. Unsure of whether to go and look for Cecily or not, he had stayed at home and fretted, somewhat senselessly as it helped nobody and aided nothing.
The pragmatic, nay the spontaneous and impetuous, may cry “Go and find her, you fool! “
But Josiah had considered this carefully, what he felt was fear that the conversation he had had last with Cecily rather signalled that his presence was unwelcome. He also worried that she might be on her way home already and the last thing he wanted was to go out and leave her stranded, possibly distraught at home. Last of all, he had lost the instructions for using the door, so he was completely trapped in the house.
There was a kerfuffle in the front garden which took him back. Back to happier times, innocent days. A warm Sunday afternoon….
It had been his ninth birthday. He was twelve, his parents had ignored the first three birthdays because it would be pointless to celebrate them as he didn’t know what was what at that age. His father spent the subsequent savings on an extensive left football boot collection which was the envy of nobody. Anyway, this time there had been a birthday and a party! The young Josiah was so excited that he had spent the whole day speaking 3 semitones higher than usual. For a whole week beforehand, he rushed everywhere and gabbled so excitedly that his parents had considered phoning the local zoo to beg for tranquilisers.
The kerfuffle had occurred during a game of pass the parcel. Inside each layer of wrapping paper there had been a sweet as a little prize. The young Josiah had been most partial to a particular brand of sweet; a sumptuous and delicious mix of mint and rhubarb. He was sure that there would be a few of these treats tucked away inside the parcel. Youthful anticipation flourished as each sheet was removed; none of his favourites had yet emerged.
It so happened that the music stopped just as the parcel fell into the hands of Marianne. Slowly, her fingers dug beneath the colourful paper, savouring the anticipation and excitement of winning this chance of a gift. Her delicate face looked on with bright eyes and gently rotating ears as she peered at the tearing paper, looking for her prize. All eyes were on the package around the circle. All eyes that is except for Josiah’s. For the young Josiah loved Marianne with all his little heart so he was watching her, waiting excitedly for her face to light up at the sight of something lovely. And light up it did.
There in her angelic hand was a cuboid, covered in the vivid coloured splashes of the sweet wrapper. It was green and pinky-red, a particular combination which denoted the flavour of sweet - lemon and lime in this case. As Marianne opened her delicate fingers to let the remaining wrapping paper fall to the floor, so the paper went limp and another delicious prize rolled out. A bonus for Marianne! Yes, but a trial for Josiah too. It was a mint and rhubarb sweet.
His piping voice had laid claim to it and Marianne had readily agreed that he should have it. Everyone had nodded in agreement, so with humility and gratitude restored, he took the sweet. The kerfuffle had happened later when an out of control ball of scrunched up wrapping paper had nearly damaged one of his mother’s prize carnivorous plants. But, eventually, the parents and the young party guests had forgiven her for her loss of temper and the ensuing three-day siege was always the subject of numerous humourous anecdotes over Christmas morning sherry.
Marianne had later gone off to university. She went there to study the effect of the fluctuations in the price of air freshener on skunk owners and had never returned. Josiah had always felt this was inevitable; he just couldn’t compete with the heady world of skunk breeding. Still, the sweet had been nice.
This delightful trip down memory lane was rather abruptly ended by the door bursting open. Cecily staggered in, looking pale and windswept. A leaf was lodged in her chaotic hair whilst her hands were covered by nettle rashes.
“Thanks for coming to find me, “ she snapped.
“I didn’t think you wanted to see me,” Josiah replied. “I did what I thought you wanted.”
“You did something? What, some action? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.”
He blinked before answering “I didn’t. You just kind of did a little laugh all by yourself. “
“You know what I mean! “ Cecily said angrily . “I mean you are not a man of action.”
“You know I need time to perfect my conducting.”
On cue, forty or more musicians filed in and arranged themselves in rows. Each one pulled out sheets of music before proceeding to tune up. This done, Josiah waved his baton and a glorious chord reverberated around the room. Just as Josiah was about to set them off on a subsequent chord, a viola player dropped her bow and two cor anglais players got into a bitter argument over whether you should paint a radiator any other colour than white. The music trailed away into cacophony and discord, a revered firm of solicitors famed for their excellent legal minds and flagrant disregard for punctuation.
“That was awful,” Cecily told him as the orchestra filed out, shamefaced, leaving only a concussed cor anglais player behind.
“I am glad you’re safe. I was very worried.”
“I should think so. I was nearly accosted by a cad and a ne’erdowell.”
He staggered in physical shock before recovering himself.
“Sorry, was that one person who was multi-tasking?“ he checked .
“Ok,” he nodded, adding some information to a database of characters who had appeared so far in the story. When it came to royalties, he wanted to know his exact share.
His horrified demeanour returned and he gasped “How did you get away? “
Cecily looked at him, a hint of triumph or possibly Suzuki on her face.
“I have a new protector. Someone tall, handsome and who loves me.”
“You work quickly,” snarled Josiah, eager to hide his anguish. “Where is he now?”
“In the kitchen, “ she stated before calling “Darling, could you please come into the lounge.”
Her saviour strode through and stood beside her.
“My word!” Josiah exclaimed. “It’s a heron!”