Helena lifted the angel to her cheek and felt the heavy varnish stick to her skin. She closed her eyes, picturing the peppermint-green figure, a crude angel-shape with black stripes that reminded her of a sad humbug. But it brought back memories of the night, that night.
“Has anyone not seen a demonstration of mediumship before?”
Helena had felt embarrassed, but seeing other hands going up, she’d stuck her arm up in the air, feeling her mother’s bangle sliding on her wrist. Would she be here? Was it even possible?
“There’s nothing to worry about. If anything horrible comes along, I’ll be first out the door!”
The person who called himself a medium wasn’t old but had the appearance of someone old. Hair greased back, a tweed-coloured suit with waistcoat, shiny black shoes and a gold pocket watch on a chain tucked into a waistcoat pocket. Robin someone. She’d seen him outside on her way in, smoking and with tattoos on his wrists.
“Now, I’m being drawn over here.” Robin gestured to the other side of the room. Helena felt relief. “I’ve a gentleman in spirit, I believe a grandfather by the name of Arnold, or is it Donald?”
Hedging his bets, Helena thought.
Then, “Yes, my grandad was Arnie … er, Arnold,” a huge lady in a black cloak said, “I was at his grave yesterday.”
“Don’t feed the medium, please, I was just about to tell you that!”
“He’s sending you a lot of love, sweetheart, and he’s pleased that you’ve taken up … is it painting, dear?”
“Ah, well, pots have to be painted, don’t they, sweetheart?”
After a few more minutes, Helena turned to Elizabeth, her companion for the evening. “Lizzy, how can he know all this stuff?” she whispered.
“He’s getting it from spirits.” Elizabeth mouthed.
“What, whisky or gin?” Helena whispered back.
Helena replaced the angel in the box of bric-a-brac where it had been thrown. The removal men were almost done now. Just an afternoon’s work for her to do, finding the essential stuff: cutlery, toiletries, bedding, food, that kind of thing. She gazed around, hardly able to believe her luck. A chandelier hung down from a high ceiling, a myriad glass baubles sparkling in the sunshine streaming through huge windows. Through one she could see the ancient grey stone of St Mary’s church, and through another, a croquet lawn badly in need of TLC.
Mum had died just over a year ago, and a week after she’d won the wooden angel, the startling proceeds of her mother’s investments had come to her. Now, though she still found it almost impossible to believe, she could afford a manor house in this tiny Lincolnshire village.
Then, to her horror, it had been Helena’s turn.
“Has anyone over here lost their mother recently? Maybe six to eighteen months ago? I’m getting a name, is it … Debbie?”
Helena felt her eyes burning, and her cheeks too. “Yes.” Everyone was looking at her now.
“And last night she came to you in a dream, you were on a barge on a river, she’s telling me.”
How the hell? “Yes,” then she could speak no more, gratefully accepting tissues being thrust at her from all angles.
When she’d calmed down, Robin had continued. “And I see you’re moving house.”
“No, I’m not. I couldn’t afford to!”
Robin laughed. “Well I’m being told you’ll need to buy some ‘croquette’ gear. That’s the game, not cooking potatoes!”
“He means croquet,” whispered Elizabeth.
Everyone laughed and Helena relaxed and smiled, wiping tears from her eyes.
Afterwards, there’d been a raffle. The nice stuff had gone and she’d ended up with this sickly green and black-striped angel, rustic, to put it kindly. But she wasn’t complaining. She picked it out of the box once more and kissed it. “Thanks, mum.”
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