Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Photo by Peter Herrmann on Unsplash

You can read the story from the beginning here. This chapter was inspired by Writing Prompt Number 28

“It’s all the fault of Sir Thomas,” Ian grumbled.

Noah glanced at him as they lugged the boxes of equipment and props into the house. “What is?”

“His old cook, or his family’s cook, or whatever it was, gets on with Mrs Tuesday.” Ian pushed through a doorway and into a bare room. “I didn’t think that it would be possible for them to be a bad influence on each other.” He carefully set the box down. “All this stuff just for some photos?”

“I want to get a load done that can feed through campaigns over the next few months,” Noah said. “So I’ll be taking Summer pics as well as a load of Christmas stuff. I thought if we spent a few days getting good images, I could then concentrate on the books that Kadogan and Lady Freydis want.”

Ian groaned. “I’d forgotten about the books,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not the one supposed to be writing them.”

“Noah has been diligent and competent,” Lady Freydis said, sauntering in with a third large box that was stuffed with candles. “Failing to plan is planning to fail. He showed me work that he has done, and I was happy with it.” She set the candles down. “I’ll go and fetch the last box.”

Ian looked at Noah. “Why is she here?” he asked. “And why is she being subtle?”

“She’s being subtle?” Noah asked.

Ian nodded. “She wants something with this house. When she heard about the renovations, she insisted that I bid for the contract.” He checked the box. “I’m pretty sure that she influenced me getting this job as well. That doesn’t sit right with me. I like to get my own work fair and square, but I never do this sort of work.” He pulled out a strand of wooden beads. “I’m up to the job, of course, but I usually just stick to plumbing.”

“I hadn’t planned to use this location,” Noah said. “I mean, it’s useful, but I thought I’d keep the White Hart as the frame.”

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” Lady Freydis said as she returned. “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Where should I put the lunch?”

Ian winced. “You’ve been reading that book of proverbs that Callum got for his birthday.”

“There’s one that I don’t understand,” Lady Freydis said. “It goes, Name not a rope in his house that was hanged. Was it translated from the Portuguese?”

Noah looked at her blankly. “I’ve no idea,” he said. “Why don’t we start with the candles. I’ve got examples from all the ranges and I thought we could arrange them on stairs.”

“The stairs are completely unfinished,” Ian said. “There’s no point plastering there if you’re going to be carrying heavy kit up and down and risking knocks to the walls.”

“That could work well,” Noah said. “If the stairs are rough and ready, they’ll make a good contrast to the candles. I’ll have to be careful with the lights.” He frowned. “Candle flames can be tricky to shoot so I’ll be checking my filters as well.”

“The stairs will make a good picture,” Lady Freydis said. “Apparently a clean fast is better than a dirty breakfast but why don’t you have something to eat before you start. That way well begun is half done and you can have the energy to work well.”

Noah closed his eyes for a moment. “I’ll go around with my phone and take some quick reference shots. I can work out some of the staging while we eat.” He looked at the boxes. “I can also start getting my gear unpacked.”

“And I can give you a hand as there’s no point trying to get any building work done while you’re taking pictures,” Ian grumbled. “There’s a sandwich shop across the road. I’ll go and get something now.”

“Not at all!” Lady Freydis said. “Hettie and Mrs Tuesday have been trying to impress each other and have provided lunch.”

“Really?” Noah said hopefully. “The shepherd’s pie last night was amazing.”

“Hettie was asking Jeanette about food grade flowers as well,” Ian said. “She sent a fruit cake and it was amazing.”

Lady Freydis held out the top box. “Hettie packed a lunch. Mrs Tuesday said that you need to eat it or she’ll have words for you.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t think that there’s anything in the book of proverbs that covers Mrs Tuesday.”

“I’m not saying anything,” Noah said. He turned to Ian. “You know that they’ll be watching every mouthful we eat,” he said.

“Yep,” Ian said. “Mrs Tuesday will be making the evening meals but Hettie will be cooking for the café. I think the standard of meals is about to go up.”

“Hettie has agreed to bake sausage rolls, pork pies, quiches and muffins,” Lady Freydis said, sauntering towards the hall. “She’s converting the back room to a kitchen.”

Ian winced and watched her walk through the door. “I suppose I’ll be helping with the renovations,” he grumbled.

“It’ll be worth it,” Noah said, following Lady Freydis. He pulled out his phone to get some shots of the unfinished, dusty staircase, then froze. Lady Freydis lifted the tread of one of the stairs and removed a book-shaped package, slipping it inside her jacket. He turned around and sat on the bare boards next to the box of lunch. “What have the ladies sent us?”

Ian reverently opened the box. “They’ve sent a lot,” he said. “And we had better eat most of it.”

Noah stared at the contents. Golden pork pies were nestled next to sausage rolls, chicken sandwiches brimming with salad, slices of treacle tart and a slab of apple cake. Tubs of pickled onions and apple chutney nestled next to fresh apples and a hunk of crumbly Wensleydale cheese. “Do you know a good gym I could join,” he asked. “Because I think that I may need it.”

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