This weeks Fiction Friday prompt: A woman revisits the neighbourhood where she grew up to find that her childhood home has been condemned.

Sîan once again picked up the letter from the solicitor's, and turned it over and over in her hand. She knew this was the final blow. The house was sold, making her a rich woman. But what did she care for that! Time and again she tried to make sense of the film running out of control through her mind. The first letter from the solicitor, repeated calls requesting she put the house on the market, heated discussions with her sisters, the decision to return home. Finally, the day when she once again set foot on her home soil.

Fifteen years it had taken. She had dreamt of this moment almost every day. A joyous celebration was how it had always been represented in her mind. And indeed, she was glad to be back home. Yet, she had never imagined it being a lonely matter. Her sisters' decided lack of enthusiasm and their unwillingness to travel down to see her were bitter disappointments. Gwyn had even refused to answer the telephone last time she called, hiding behind her ten year old son.

Then came the visit to the rectory. It didn't take long for her to realise it was beyond repair. Condemned, the solicitor had put it, and the word battered away its around her mind whilst she carefully picked her way through the broken floorboards and the undergrowth that had once been their play room. So many happy memories, but someone must have erased that hard disk. She failed to conjure up a single one, not even her father in his study. If it hadn't been for Delwyn she'd have drunk herself stupid that night.

He'd recognised her at once. Called out her name. Come up to her. It wasn't until he brushed his index finger over her cheek that she realised who he was. Time had not been kind to him. He was greying far more than was normal for his 36 years, and his features were ruddy and harsh, doubtless the by-product of years of labour in the local stone-quarry. But a few words sufficed for her to realise that time had not erased his courteous, even generous, manner. She remembered the shy little boy who'd come to hear them sing. Then later, he'd even joined the group. Four years they sang together and were often solicited for various local concerts. Then came her one big chance. No one could refuse a scholarship to the Royal Musical College of Wales. She'd left without so much as a good bye; and regretted it ever since. He walked her back to the hotel that night. And as he ran his finger down her cheek, she saw her sisters' reflection in his eyes as they'd stood there teasing her. She had always asked herself if there was anything in their gentle badgering. Now, she knew.

She invited him to breakfast the next day. He turned up saying he'd taken the whole day off work. This time it was his turn to talk, and she discovered to her amazement he'd become one of the most successful people in town. He'd inherited the quarry from his father and turned it into a thriving business, employing over a 250 townsfolk. But he still lived in the run-down old house behind the scrapyard, though he did admit to having done it up, somewhat. As they were chatting away, the hotel manager arrived with three letters, each from the solicitor. She couldn't help explaining her business there now.

"So, you see either I have to come up with £350 000 by next week or accept one of these offers and get out of here for ever."

His eyes more than his lips asked: "Is there no way you can raise the money?"

"Not by next week. If I had another six months, I might manage it, if..." But that part of her life still lay under a shroud of secrecy.

He excused himself right after breakfast but promised to pick her up before eleven. We'll walk out to the canal and take a boat down to Tonwy. She'd not quite imagined the boat being his boat but loved the thrill she got from standing at the tiller, Delwyn standing behind her, holding firmly onto her shoulders to keep things steady. They'd lunched on a fine old ploughman's at "The Crossed Keys", washed down by a quenching pint of real, brewed by the landlord himself. And when she saw the piano sitting alone in the tap room, she couldn't resist. Another pint of real and the three of them - the landlord also loved a sing-song - were off. They sang all afternoon, going through their old repertoire several times, and even trying out some newer songs. People came and went and were generous with their applause. But not one of them recognised that they had before them half of the foursome who had entertained not a few of them some fifteen years ago.

That night it was Sîan who lovingly raised her finger to caress Delwyn's cheek, hoping that he might... They parted without a word, not even making arrangements to see each other the next day. But, thought Sîan, he knew where to find her.

Sîan slept the next day until after ten o'clock. Delwyn had proved the perfect antidote for her troubles and she was looking forward to seeing him again. The moment she appeared in the lobby, the manager came out to meet her.

"Miss Pryce, your solicitor has been trying to get hold of you, all morning. He wants you to go and see him as soon as possible."

Sîan shivered a little as a cold foreboding came over her. If only Delwyn was here now. She poured down a cup of pretty tepid coffee and grabbing an apple made her way into town.

"Mr. Silkin, will you please explain what all this is about. You said there would be no further developments this week."

"Yes, but I was not expecting an additional offer, and one you can't refuse."

"An offer I can't refuse?"

"Yes, I have received an offer of £550 000 for the immediate sale of your property. At that price I would be failing in my duty if I didn't advise you to accept. True, the bidder wants an exclusivity clause, but he's a respected local business man and even if he had to invoke the clause, it would take six months at the most."

"Could you please explain what you are talking about."

"An exclusivity clause, Miss Pryce, means you agree to forego any current offer on the table. So in the case of the buyer not being able to come up with the money in the required time, he would be granted an automatic extension of six months to find the necessary sum. But as I have already said, the likelihood of that happening is extremely remote."

"Six months! But Mr. Silkin, if you had only waited six months I could have raised the sum needed to restore the property and keep it in our family."

"That I'm afraid, Madam, is beyond my control. You were not able to pay the outstanding bills, so..."

"Mr. Silkin, would you kindly inform me who this extraordinary offer is from?"

"That, I'm afraid Madam, is not possible. The bidder distinctly requested his identity be kept a secret until the contract itself is signed. And now, if you will excuse me, I have a prior engagement at my golf club. Good-day Madam."

Before Sîan was even aware of what was going on, he had disappeared. She slowly got up from the desk she'd been sitting at and made her way to the front door, only to hear the secretary call out:

"Come here, love. I shouldn't really be telling you this, love, but you seem so distressed. The bidder is a Mr. Davies, Delwyn Davies, the man who runs the stone-quarry in town. And if it's any consolation to you, he's a really nice man. Not much to look at maybe, but he's got a heart of gold."

"Yes, a heart of gold," replied Sîan in a daze. "A heart of gold, gold, that's all his fucking heart thinks about; gold, gold, gold and more gold; cold, gold heart; slimy, cold, money grabbing bastard." The office door shuddered behind her.

Sîan left the hotel within the hour. No humiliation could touch her now. She was beyond being moved. Like a worm he had courted and cheated; wormed his way into her trust before wriggling back down into the earth where his wealth had come from. Suddenly, she saw her father standing in front of a gaping whole. His words had both a familiar and a comforting ring to them: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shallt return." If only... but she knew she would never find the courage.

The next day she'd gone back to the solicitor's to pick up the remaining documents.

"There you are, my dear. Hope you're feeling a bit better this morning. Mr. Silkin is out right now, but he's left everything here for you to collect. Always his usual efficient self, Mr. Silkin.

Sîan took the envelope without a word. She walked out into the park wondering whether or not to read the fateful words the letter contained. It made little difference whether she read them or not. Yet, she had to know. After hours of dithering she finally took her penknife and slit open the envelope. The letter bore the familiar letterhead blazoned above the terse statement.

Dear Ms. Pryce,

I regret to inform you that our bidder is currently unable to go through with the deal. He has begged me to be allowed to inform you of matters himself, a procedure which while highly irregular, I reluctantly agreed to in light of the very generous offer made. I therefore enclose a further note, the contents of which I am wholly ignorant of. Should they reveal any failing on my part, I beg you to excuse me.

Your's faithfully,

J.I. Silkin Esq.

Sîan examined the envelope once again. It contained one further sheet of paper. With a slight tremble she unfolded this second letter and read:

Dear Sîan,

Now is not the time for keeping up pretences. When I heard of your predicament, I decided, I could not leave you helpless as you seemed. Had I tried to offer you the money needed to cover your debts, you would doubtless have refused me. So I made my way immediately to the offices of J.I. Silkin Esq and made an immediate offer of £500 000 for your property, insisting on an exclusivity clause being written into the contract, in order to assure no other bidder could present themselves until six months after any failure of completion on my part. I am so pleased to inform you, that I am currently unable to complete and that the likelihood of my doing so within the next six months is very small. If at the end of these six months, you are able to raise the money to clear your debts, you are free to do so. It is normal in such circumstances for a penalty of 10% to be imposed up the failing partner. If this sum can be a help to you in paying off your debts, I shall be only to pleased to have been of assistance.

Please forgive me. I'm not much of a writer. But what I really want to say is...

It was Sîan's own tears that had blotched the rest of what he wrote, rendering it unreadable.


This was a fabulous piece of work. I like to follow the fortunes of the characters and their background and you have been able to open that up in a short space of time. The interplay between the two shows a great conflict, without the two of them in the same room. A great read.

24 January 2010 at 03:37  

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