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Chapter One – The Beginning.

 

            I should have stayed in bed. I should never have answered the door. I certainly should not have opened the package… A small, innocent looking thing it was, It didn’t even have my name in it. That being said, I knew it was meant for me – I was the only one who had ever lived in that house, and it was the only house for miles.  What’s done is done I guess. There is no going back now, and believe me I know I couldn’t change a thing if I tried. Wait, maybe I am getting ahead of myself? Here I go again putting my words out there and you don’t even know who I am? Or even where I live, or how! Well, my name is Sandy – this is the story of my life…

I was born in December, in a cold damp area of Wales, UK. Not England. Just so you know. I was born a healthy girl, six pounds and eight-and-a-quarter ounces. My parents were probably very proud. I was too young to remember, and I never asked them. When I was two years old, my father won the lottery. He had been a working man, and he didn’t have very expensive taste as he always earned his keep so felt that splashing out would have been wasteful, so he put his money in the bank and left it there. He used to tell people that it was guarded by a dragon, or that it had been taken by goblins. I even heard someone say that he spent it all in a two pence slot machine, one coin at a time. I just laughed so hard when I heard that one – imagine how long that would take! My mother worked in a factory for a few years, before her lungs decided that she should stop working and raise a family instead. Then, when my dad had his sudden luck, she simply no longer needed to go back to the daily grind. It was her that insisted that they put enough aside to use for bills and essentials (such as food and clothes) and to put the rest of the money that they didn’t need into my name. I guess it was because she couldn’t work herself, but wanted to secure my future. They also gave a large donation to charity. In the donation letter (which I was given a copy of) they said that because they were fortunate to have luck on their side, it was only right to pass that luck along when they no longer needed it. Part of me swells with pride at that thought, but there is a side of me that hates them for it too. They must have given too much luck away, for it was on the journey back that night that they were involved in a car accident. They died…

 

Chapter Two – Dearly Departed

            My Uncle Jack was a carpenter, and he’d been given some money for taking me in, as a small leeway with the inheritance in my name. While I was growing up, he took a lot of hassle from some of the neighbours. The other car that had collided with my parents was driven by Logan, a successful businessman. The kind that was able to buy other people’s opinions with a few well placed comments in the events he hosted as a tax right-off scheme. Most of the town was under his payroll, so to speak. So most of the town spoke for him…

Logan was found to be under the influence on the afternoon of the accident. He claimed that some sort of light had got in his way or something, and that because the mystery that caused him to crash he had to have his left arm amputated. He was under the impression that my parents cost him business revenue by “being on his road” and therefore was due some of their money as compensation. All I know is he only lost an arm. I lost my parents…

It was my Uncle who had lost both a brother, and his sister-in-law, at the same time as gaining a child. As I was not of legal age he was given the option of disregarding the will of my father. This was because even though it was in a sealed envelope addressed to the bank, it was not filed so could be wavered. He insisted that he should only be eligible for 10%, which was still a large amount. More than enough, he reasoned, to pay for the cost of raising a child. The rest of the money should be kept secure for when I was old enough to want it. I was never spoiled, but also never in need. He also decided that it was best if the three bedroom house that had two less mouths inside of it (and far too many empty rooms) should be rented out. He figured that I should be moved into his home instead. This was made incredibly easier by the knowledge that as my mother had paid off most of the bills in advance, there was a significant portion of the utility bills paid for several years. This meant that even in death, people envied my parents. Uncle Jack almost immediately decreed that as a fitting tribute, all of the rental income he didn’t need for upkeep costs or repairs was to be donated to the charity that my parents had visited under their names – William and Joan. It was literally their dying deed to start donating, and no black robed figure would prevent their kindness from its due course.

Uncle Jack made a personal decision to buy a large area of woodland on which to build two houses. The way that the town had treated us was no environment to bring up a small child. Hated by others for being given something we never asked for, with false smiles and fake friendship at every turn. He and only a few close friends used all their own skills and lumber, and built them from the ground up. I have been told his land is around 700 acres in total, or approximately a square mile. I suppose that would be extreme in most people’s eyes, though to me it has always been his land so I don’t really think of it all that much. One house would be mine to inherit, my own personal space if ever I needed one. The other, for his own family’s use and a space from which to operate his carpentry business. All of Jack’s land surrounding the houses is woodland of varying degrees. Apart from a little lumber for business use, it is all registered as preserved land. In his words, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a little solitude.

Chapter Three – The Woman in the Woods

            So, let me fast forward my narrative a few years – I was taught at school, I mostly stayed within our compound and I grew up with respect for a honest day’s work. I always knew that I never had to work for a living, but it was treated as an escape route rather than a golden ticket. My uncle’s business gave him a respectable income, but the more time that passed, the less people would trade with him. At one point I figure he just decided it was easier to close up shop than fight the system. Having little reason to venture into the world, he became a sort of hermit – happily self confined in his hand made home. I was asked to move out when I was sixteen. Uncle Jack said that as a teenager turns into a young adult, they should try to make their imprint on the world. With all his bad relations in town, he wanted me to have the freedom to my own thoughts, while he enjoyed semi-retirement. I didn’t have to move, it was simply a request after all, but I jumped at the chance to have my own space. I already have a house to live in, and he was always just a phone call (or brisk walk) away from me if I ever needed him.

            So, I was a sixteen year old woman with my own house, no bills, a fairly decent education, and a safety net of however much money was under my name – I never asked, I simply didn’t need that kind of thing. Power can go to a gal’s head, and I was smarter than to give myself the temptation. I decided to do what my heart told me to do – I became the link between my Uncle and the outside world. He’d even built a massive wall to keep people out of his land. Eight feet high timber with reinforced sections shut out the world, and it reminded me of those medieval forts that I read about in the history books Jack bought from the internet. Yes, we had the internet – he was a hermit, but he still kept up with technology. Too much distance would make him crazy, so I became the official supply runner of our secluded compound. I would go into town and buy whatever groceries he couldn’t grow for himself, or that he couldn’t otherwise do without. Rice, pasta, other staple foods with which he could add his own vegetables and the occasional meat. Jack and I looked after the animals as best we could, we even studied veterinarian books. Sometimes you just can’t save all the injured (or elderly) animals, and to keep out some of the dangerous wildlife we would occasionally eat the fallen. We would never hunt them ourselves though, for that was a line we were not willing to cross…

Each weekend Jack would cook us a decent meal, and in return I helped him clean both houses. The rest of the week I had to survive on my own. Pizza helped me there, for as much of the town disliked me, there were a few friendly faces still. Josh from the local takeaway was one of Jack’s close friends from before the move, one of those that helped him build our place. He was astounded when my uncle paid his kindness by paying for his home and restaurant in return, so much so that he delivered us our regular orders as thanks. I don’t know if Jack still paid him for it or if it was given on the house, literally.

 

Chapter Four – Pizza Pride

            I took a part time delivery job with Josh’s pizza place when I started visiting the town, as it occurred to me that it was probably the easiest way to meet people from town without them having a need to talk to me. The ones who disliked me tried to claim that I didn’t need to be paid for the order, as I already had enough money. I simply stood my ground and told them they could either pay me or put it towards the charity fund instead, but either way Josh’s business was providing a service that needed to be paid. I never took a salary anyway, so it didn’t really make any difference to me, I just didn’t want to harm the business.

            During my delivery rounds I worked out the townsfolk that liked me, and those who didn’t, and within a fortnight had a rough idea of when I would get tipped or abused, but the one thing that I did not expect was for the special order. Logan would call in regularly, at a seemingly random time, and demand that they get an order delivered by me in person to their mansion. Since the accident he was not allowed to drive, but he had hired servants to care for his every need, and chauffers to take him anywhere he needed to go. Had no reason to do this other than what I suspected to be entertainment. In some sick and twisted way, he was amused to have me at his beck and call. I could have refused, but I guess there was a part of me that wanted him to acknowledge that me and my uncle were decent people – I didn’t want to be known as “the person who refused to deliver to the disabled old man” and if Logan could see that I was just a regular person, then maybe he could lift his imposed exile on us. I know that me and my uncle could have moved back into my parents’ old house any time that we wanted, and that moving away was our choice, but there is something to be said for gossip and slander. With the bad reputation we were given lingering over our heads, it simply did not feel like home, but since my uncle and my parents were born there it also did not seem fair to have to move away. So, I endured the special orders. The three-minutes-before-closing feast, or the six individual trips in a single day because he “hadn’t decided what he wanted as a next course yet”. I even endured the orders that simply didn’t make sense, such as the “plain white bread pizza with no toppings.” After all, the customer is always right. Or so it is said. I just thought it was stupid…

So I gave my best little smile, and my cheerful attitude. I worked my fingers to the bone and kept my nose to the grindstone. Anything to prove to people that I was actually a human being and not just a spoiled little rich kid who ran away to live in the forest. But, one day something changed my peaceful little world. It all came with a delivery Josh brought to the house one day, acting as unofficial postman. Something was put on his counter while he was in the kitchen cooking (he has a little bell, but it wasn’t used) and he decided to bring it to the house in person. So, he came to me the next morning and knocked on my door. Again, I should not have answered. It would have been rude, sure. Though any mail usually got delivered to my uncle, so this was out of the ordinary. There was just a strange feeling in my gut, guiding me towards the package, telling me that I simply had to open it. I should have resisted…

Chapter Five – Parcel of Regret

            I got out of bed and was told that I didn’t have to go into work that day (it wasn’t my shift anyways) and that he was simply saving me a trip. The parcel itself looked innocent enough. It was wrapped neatly in brown parcel paper. It was creased neatly along all the right edges, the surface smooth and inviting. There were a few things about it that bothered me. Firstly, it had my parents names on it. I hesitated, thinking surely it should have gone to my uncle instead, but when I called him he told me that he didn’t know anything about the package, and insisted that since he hadn’t been expecting anything it was not meant for him. Secondly, it had a modern stamp that had just came into circulation. I don’t collect stamps or anything, but this one was pretty specific. It had the year printed… Someone had posted a parcel to my parents, this year. Anyone who knew them surely knew that they were deceased, and the parcel was delivered locally. Nobody local would be that ignorant. Finally… it was written in my own scruffy handwriting. Tied with a red velvet bow.

© Michael Ennis 2016.

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