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pen to print showcase write on poem roots short story Making a Connection Lynda Shepherd

Making a Connection

by Lynda Shepherd

 

“You can’t sit indoors all day staring at a screen.”

I can hear my son from three houses away; the battle, it appears, rages on. He told me he was tearing his hair out.

“All she does is hang about the house, glued to her phone, listening to music or streaming films.”

Jack lets me in and we walk through into the lounge.

“How are you both today?”

“Fine.” Milly, my granddaughter, shrugs without turning around. My son cocks an I-told-you-so eyebrow and begins gathering paperwork from the kitchen table. It looks like a cuppa is out of the question. He’s off to work. Milly has her back to me, knees up to her chin and one of her ever-present white earphones dangling as she stares at something on the floor ahead of her.

Jack kisses my cheek on his way out and calls over to Milly: “Behave yourself for your gran today. Milly?”

“He treats me like I’m six,” Milly mumbles. “What am I supposed do? How’s all this going to help my future? He gets to go off to London and I’m stuck with all these books or being taken out for the day as though I still wearing my hair in bunches.”

For a few moments, the house falls silent save for the quiet chatter of sparrows, starlings and the occasional chorus of pigeons not wanting to be outdone. The spell is broken as Milly leaps forward. Her mobile phone screen lights up heralding a friend’s message, I suppose. I hadn’t been sure about Milly having a phone. It wasn’t just the cliché of ‘we didn’t have those when I was her age’. More, it was the wrong kind of attention she might receive that I had been concerned about. Did Jack know who she was talking to? Milly’s fingertips fly over the on-screen keyboard. I can’t see her expression. Is this good news or bad?

My thoughts turn to the little trip I have planned. Was it misguided? I want to try and connect with my grandchild. I felt sure that, if I could, it would make a difference and I remembered my discussion with Jack on Sunday.

“Can I help?” I’d said, when he ran out of steam after the latest heated discussion with Milly, part of which was held through a closed bedroom door.

“She’s got homework to do, but I don’t want her spending all the school holidays indoors. Milly needs to do other things too. I tried showing her leaflets for all kinds of stuff but she just shrugs. I can’t get through to her. I wasn’t like that.”

No, you were worse, I’d thought, as I twiddled a loose hot pink thread on the hem of my top. I bit my tongue. Jack, I recalled, had never liked being asked questions as a teenager. They were more alike than they realised.

“Won’t she be spending time with Meggie G and Rose?”

“No, she and Meggie fell out last week. As for Rose, she’s in Portugal for a week at her Dad’s villa. Milly wasn’t very happy when I told her we couldn’t go away as I have to work.”

“I could take her out for the day.”

“You can try. As I say, she only seems to want to surf the net, take selfies or play that sugar cube game on that phone we bought her.”

Hmm, my thoughts are disturbed as I watch out the corner my eye as Milly launches her phone at the sofa, causing a pile of discarded text books to nose dive towards the laminate.

“Milly, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Shall we head off then?”

“S’pose.”

“Do you want to take your phone, just in case.”

Milly picks it up and shoves it into her jeans pocket.

*

We don’t chat much onboard the 52 as it stops and starts its way towards the high street. Milly has her earphones in. Her father would have had something to say about that if he’d been able to come. I, however, think better of it. Milly would open up when she was ready. The traffic’s terrible, roadworks more than likely the cause. I hadn’t checked online, maybe I should have done. Perhaps I should check the opening times of the hall. No, by the time we get there, I’m sure they’ll be ready for their public.

“The destination of this bus has changed,” announces a disembodied voice. Oh no, it wouldn’t help my connection with Milly if we ended up walking for miles. I take deep breaths and wait for a further announcement.

“52 to Meredith Square.”

Thank goodness, that’s where we need to get off anyway. I look at Milly, her face expressionless. Eventually, the traffic begins to thin as we come out of the high street, turn left, then second right before a final left turn into the square. The sun has broken through and we walk in the sunshine towards our destination. A brown tourist sign on one of lamp posts indicates for us to take the next turn. I, however, didn’t need the sign.

“Here we are, Milly. Hanlon Hall. You’re going to—” I begin, then stop a few steps short of the huge ornate iron gates where a sandwich board declares Hanlon Hall is closed until the end of the month. Now Milly really is going to be unimpressed with my efforts. Hang on, where’s Milly?

She’s over by the gate, gazing at something or someone. But what, who?

I step around the sign and pause a step or so to one side, saying nothing, my gaze following hers. There’s a large group of people milling round the grand main entrance. Some casually dressed in jeans, Puffa jackets and caps, others dressed in Victorian clothing. I’m sure I’d heard that a new adaption of a Charles Dickens classic was being filmed. At the time, I’d supposed that they would use somewhere like Hampton Court or Highclere Castle that had been used for filming that drama with Hugh whatshisname in but no they were here. Milly appears to be transfixed. Has she spotted someone famous? It seems unlikely that someone she thought cool had been cast or would be involved with period drama. I look again, harder. There is young man, his face partially obscured by a Victorian shop boy’s cap. He seems familiar. Had he been in a class photo or had I spotted him at the borough’s annual show last month? Jack would know instantly, I suspect. He was wary of any young man that might take an interest in his daughter. This discovery would, I’m sure, help perhaps to create a different impression. With a bit of research, I think I may yet just be able to help Milly and my dear son reconnect.

“Milly, shall we go and get some brunch?”

“Ok,” Milly mumbles, eyes still fixed on the crowd on Hanlon Hall’s sweeping drive.

“Milly, come on, I think it’s about time I told you about how I met your grandpa Tom.”

Milly slowly turns around, a questioning look on her face as if to say, “More?”

“I met him here.”

“Here?” Milly closes the gap between us.

“Yes. Brunch and I’ll tell you all about it.”

We walk back towards the high street with the tempting waft of bacon, hash browns, sausages and toast tickling our nostrils. Before long, we are ensconced either side of a Formica tabletop.

“My Tom took me here on our first date.”

“He did?” Milly says, chewing on her toast. “How did Hanlon Hall come into it?” Milly reminds me so much of Tom, her attention can be all-consuming when you have it. Eyes like twin deep blue pools.

“Your granddad was working on its restoration after they had a massive fire in 1968,” I tell Milly.

“Did he, like, wolf whistle at you on your way to work?”

I laugh. Tom had definitely been a bit of a lad back then. Even now, that naughty twinkle in his eyes was still there.

“No, I took a class there and I saw your grandpa working. We kept catching each other’s eyes.”

“What did he do?”

“He came over to me whilst my class were busy and asked me for my number.”

“And?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, so he gave me a business card and he wrote the address of this cafe down with his number and said he’d be here for his tea on Saturday around five.”

“So, did he win you over?”

“Well, I joined him for tea! He was great company but I wondered if there was anything more to him. He went a bit quiet when we went to leave. Said he was sorry he couldn’t walk me home, he had to be somewhere for seven.”

“Did you think he was up to something?”

“I did. I said thanks for my tea and went to go. Then he put his hand on my arm.” Milly’s fork clatters back onto her plate. “Then he says he was going to the Pavilion and I could come too, if I liked. See the show, but he might have to leave me to watch on me own, as a mate needed his help.”

“A mate?”

“I went, he showed me to some seats about six rows from the front and said he’d be back. Then I watched as he disappeared through the stage door.”

“Wasn’t that a bit cheeky?”

“I thought so! Then the show started. It was a musical. I was fascinated; I’d always wanted to go to one.”

“Did Grandpa make it back before the interval?”

“Kind of,” I said, watching Milly take a slurp of her extra thick banana milkshake. “He was on the stage in front of me.”

Within an instant, the table top became a milkshake spatter crime scene.

“Gran! How come no one told me this before? Like, this is amaze balls!”

“It is?”

“Yeah!”

“Do you want another milkshake?”

“Definitely. So, how did Grandpa get involved in acting?”

“It’s a long story, Milly.”

“I don’t mind. Does Grandpa still act? Could he get me behind the scenes at Hanlon? Do you think I could get on telly?”

“Hey, one question at a time. Would you be interested in acting then?”

“Yeah! Why sit at home all day watching, when you could be part of it?” Milly’s whole face lights up as she speaks and I feel like not only had I’d been able to help Milly, but I had a feeling Jack would be rediscovering his smile, too. “Gran, do think Grandpa could help me make some connections?”

“Oh, I think he’d be delighted.”

 

 

Copyright Lynda Shepherd 2019

 

Follow Lynda on Twitter via @loneshepherdess

“Did Grandpa make it back before the interval?”
“Kind of,” I said, watching Milly take a slurp of her extra thick banana milkshake. “He was on the stage in front of me.”
Within an instant, the table top became a milkshake spatter crime scene.
“Gran! How come no one told me this before? Like, this is amaze balls!”