The Library of Lost and Found | Chapter 34 of 46

Author: Phaedra Patrick | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 18326 Views | Add a Review

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Martha treated Zelda, Will and Rose to a portion of fish, chips and mushy peas each. The sky was darkening to indigo as they carried them over to a bench halfway up the cliff that overlooked the bay. It was more sheltered here, without as much wind.

Martha made sure her hair slide was secure before she opened up her carton. She was ravenous after the Read and Run at the football ground and their visit to the beach.

Zelda leaned back in her chair. She scratched around under her headscarf, unfastened and then removed it. After folding it into a small square, she put in into her pocket.

“Why haven’t you got any hair?” Rose asked as she squeezed out a sachet of ketchup.

“I’m kick-starting a trend,” Zelda said. “It’s a strong look for us octogenarians. What do you think?”

Rose widened her eyes, then laughed. “I prefer you with the scarf.”

“Why do you have a scar on the back of your head?” Will asked.

Zelda didn’t miss a beat. “It’s from a nasty crocodile attack. I wrestled it and won.”

Will and Rose shared a shoulder shrug before they carried on eating.

Martha loved the ceremony of eating fish and chips outside, especially when it was cold. She liked to add too much vinegar so it pooled in the bottom of the carton in a brown puddle.

The four of them huddled in a line, their shoulders hunched and noses pink. They used both hands to hold their chip cartons, to keep them warm.

“What do you fancy doing, when we get back to the house?” Martha asked when they’d finished eating.

“I can show you how my phone works,” Will offered.

“Can we play with the dragon’s head?” Rose asked.

Martha thought of the beast, with his face part gray from the papier-mâché repair. “You can’t really play with him because he belongs to the school. He’s also waiting to be sandpapered and painted.”

“We could do that,” Will suggested. “I like painting.”

“Me, too,” Rose said.

Martha pictured her grandmother, niece and nephew sitting on the dining room floor, circled around the dragon’s head, like it was a substitute campfire. It was a strange but rather wonderful idea.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s give it a try.”

When they got back to the house, Will’s phone rang and he darted into the kitchen to take the call. “Okay, Mum. Yes, we’re having a good time. Yes, we’ve eaten. No, I probably haven’t drunk enough water.”

Martha followed him. “Please don’t mention the football ground or Zelda,” she whispered. “I’ll tell her about them.”

Will gave a shrug. He closed the door behind him and his voice turned to a hum.

Martha maneuvered the dragon’s head onto the floor and shook the tubes of paint out of Suki’s shopping bag.

Rose crouched down beside her. She rearranged the tubes so the colors ran from light to dark.

“I’ll just pop upstairs and unpack my things,” Zelda said. She stood up from the wooden chair. “I’ll pick a bedroom.”

“Use mine if you like,” Martha said.

After a few minutes, Will reappeared. He sloped into the dining room and slumped down on his inflatable mattress. Resting his chin on his knees, he played with the laces in his shoes. “Mum wants to speak to you,” he said to his sister. “The phone’s on the dining table.”

Rose got to her feet and it was her turn to shut herself away.

Martha looked at Will’s glum face. “Do you want a cup of tea? Do you need an extra pillow on your mattress?”

Will shook his head. He undid his laces and took his shoes off. He straightened them up side by side. “Nah. It’s okay.”

Martha studied him for a while before she lowered herself down, sitting beside him.

“I don’t want a biscuit,” he said automatically.

“Do you want to talk about anything?”

Will moved his head in a half shake, half nod.

Martha waited.

Finally, he worked his tongue around inside his mouth. “Mum and Dad aren’t getting along at the moment.”

“Oh.” Martha thought about putting on a cheery face, of thumping his arm and telling him to keep his chin up. But she fought against the urge, not saying or doing anything.

“She likes everything to be perfect.” Will sighed. “I can’t leave socks on the floor or eat food in front of the TV. If she says I’ve got to be home at nine o’clock, god forbid if I’m even a minute late. Now she’s asked me to make a note of everything we do this weekend, so she knows what’s gone on. It’s going too far. It’s so crappy, trying to please her all the time.”

Martha gave his arm a brief rub. She knew what it was like, trying to please a demanding parent. “Your mum likes to be organized,” she tried to explain. “She’s just trying to show an interest in you.”

“It’s more than that,” Will said. “She’s obsessed. It’s like she thinks that someone is going to show up with a clipboard and give her marks out of ten for everything she does... everything we do.”

“Your granddad liked everything done in a certain way, too. Perhaps it’s rubbed off on your mum.”

Will leaned back on the mattress and it squeaked beneath his elbows. He glanced around the room. “Gran wasn’t that old when she died, was she? My mate at school has grandparents in their nineties.”

“Zelda is almost ninety, too.” Martha stopped talking, not wanting to let it slip to Will that she was his great-grandmother. “Your gran was only in her midsixties. I don’t think she knew how to live without your granddad.”

“What? She died of a broken heart?”

Martha mused on this. “Something like that.”

Will folded his arms. “I remember them sitting around the dining table. Granddad gave us chocolate when Mum wasn’t looking, and his hair was really black, like a vampire’s. He liked flowers, didn’t he? There was always a vase on the table.”

“Yes, freesias. He bought them for your gran each week.”

Will nodded. “Gran looked after us. She wore nice colors, like an exotic bird. Though she was always nervy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know those horror films where there’s a woman on her own in a spooky house, and she’s walking along a dark corridor to investigate a strange noise in the kitchen? Like no one would ever do in real life. Well, Gran was like that, like she always expected something to jump out at her.” He looked down. “I kind of miss them both.”

Even though her parents had shaped her life, Martha also missed them. “Me, too,” she said. She hesitated before she draped her arm around his shoulder, not sure if a thirteen-year-old boy would appreciate a hug.

Will pressed himself against her for a couple of seconds before he moved quickly away. “Cheers,” he muttered.

Rose and Zelda entered the room again at the same time. Zelda lifted her nose and sniffed the air. “Is everything okay? Have I missed something?”

Will and Martha shared a brief smile.

“Nothing,” Martha said. “We were just about to get started on the dragon’s head. Choose which paintbrush you want to use.”

The next two hours were ones that Martha knew she’d remember and relish for a long while. Time with her nana, niece and nephew might be short and she was determined to enjoy it.

After Martha gave the dragon a light sandpapering, Rose mixed the paint. She stuck her tongue out from the corner of her mouth as she concentrated on stopping it from oozing off the plate.

Zelda instructed her how to mix the colors. “For the dragon’s fleshy tones, you can use white with a dab of red and yellow. Never add black to darken a color, or you deaden the shade.”

“How do you even know that?” Rose marveled.

“My friend Gina is nifty with a paintbrush.”

Will insisted his job was to hold the dragon’s head up, so Zelda didn’t have to lean down too far to paint his face.

Martha thrived on taking charge of instructions. “That red is a little too bright, tone it down a little... Watch your sleeve doesn’t dangle in the paint, Rose... Would anyone like a nice cup of tea?”

Will talked about Spotify on his phone, and Martha agreed he could play some music.

They painted the dragon to the sound of Katy Perry and Beyoncé.

“He looks friendly,” Rose said, sitting back on her heels to admire their work. “I think he might live in the cave on Sandshift beach.”

“Dragon’s don’t live on the beach,” Will snorted. “They wouldn’t be able to breathe fire because the sea would put it out.”

“Of course they do,” Zelda said. She pressed a fine paintbrush against the dragon’s eye, adding a dot of white light to his pupil. “Haven’t you ever heard of the Sandshift Dragon?”

“No.” Will rolled his eyes, but then he leaned in a little. “What about it?”

“Tell us,” Rose said.

Zelda made her hands into claws. “His body is iridescent like a dragonfly’s and his scales look like rows of crescent moons. When you stare into his eyes, they look like they are full of fire. He isn’t a red-and-yellow dragon, like this one. The Sandshift Beast is dark green, the color of swampland.”

Martha looked at her nana and down at the tassels on the rug on the floor. It transported her back in time, to when she lay scribbling in her notepad. Words began to pop into her head and she joined in with the story. “It’s so he’s camouflaged against the seaweed on the sand. Each morning, before anyone wakes, he gobbles it up for his breakfast. People think he’s scary but really he’s shy...”

Zelda nodded. “Some say he comes from Romania, Count Dracula country. He came over on a boat, an exotic pet for a wealthy aristocrat. But the dragon set fire to his mansion. Somehow he escaped and found his way down to the sands...”

“He’d never seen the sea before,” Martha said. “Or sand. He loved the quietness of the cave. If you ever hear a roar in there, sometimes it’s the tide coming in, but often it’s the dragon testing out his lungs. He likes to paddle in the shallows and sometimes goes for a swim...”

Will gave a deep sigh. “Oh, sure. Dragons can’t swim.”

“The Loch Ness Monster swims. He’s not a dragon, though he’s some kind of distant relative.” Martha shuffled back by a few inches, moving her head to examine her work. “I think this fellow is finished.”

Will and Rose smiled, proud at what they’d accomplished, yet Zelda wore a look of contemplation. She kept hold of her paintbrush.

“Are you okay?” Martha asked.

Zelda stared at the dragon and then at her. “You’ve done it,” she said.

“Yes. We all have. He looks great, doesn’t he? You’d never know he was damaged before.”

“No. I mean that you’ve done it. You told a story. You remembered how to do it.”

Martha swallowed as a warm feeling began to creep over her, just like the one she sought by doing things for other people. It was as if she’d just stepped out of an air-conditioned room, and she savored it for a while.

“Yes, I did, didn’t I?” She nodded. “Maybe we should write the story down.”

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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