Wyld Dreamers- Pamela Holmes. Part of the Urbane publications Extravaganza #Lovebooksgrouptours
Twenty-five years later, the group is brought together again in unexpected circumstances. Can events of the past be forgotten? Or will the secrets that are revealed devastate once unbreakable friendships?
Her watch says ten o’ clock when she wakes next morning, drymouthed.
‘Here Comes the Sun’ is playing at full volume and
The Beatles are right. Dim light filters through rents in the red
satin curtains making the room glow rosy-pink; how can David
Amy is washed with cheerfulness. Their high bed stands in
the middle of the room. Against the wall is a wooden chair that
reminds her of school; there’s a chest of drawers half-painted in
gold. She slips down, not from under sheets and blankets as she is
used to but a puffy eiderdown. Her bare feet hit bare floorboards.
Taking a dressing gown from the back of the door, she tip-toes
along the thread-bare carpet looking for the toilet. Stella appears
in a floor-length nightdress and disappears into a room. The
sound of splashing.
Amy sits on the toilet. The room swirls with dotted light from
the stained-glass mobile that hangs like a mushroom above her
head. On the door, a framed poster for an exhibition shows a halfnaked
man on a green bed. No carpet, no neatly stored bottle of
toilet cleaner, no toilet paper. Luckily there’s a used tissue in the
pocket of the dressing gown. She washes her hands and face in
the cracked sink. Back in bed, her cold feet wake David. Feigning
fury, he rolls over to cover her with his body. Pinning her down,
he blows kisses on her neck. She is jubilant.
18 Wyld Dreamers
Half an hour later, Julian kicks open the door and comes in
carrying mugs of tea. He is dressed in what looked like a woman’s
nightie; his hairy legs stick out from the bottom. ‘No time for all
that now,’ he says, ‘we’ve got to get going. Seymour is arriving soon
with Simon. Let’s go see the cottage. Find yourselves some boots,
it’ll be damp.’
Cutting through a gap in the hedge into a field of chest-high
nettles and hummocky grass they find it, a dilapidated two-up
two-down stone building with a brick lean-to on one side. Slates
are missing from the roof and parts of the building’s exterior reveal
what looks like straw and mud walls.
‘Someone lived here until about just before Seymour bought the
place,’ said Julian, water pooling around his boots. ‘Pipe cracked
last winter, that’s why it’s soggy here below the window.’
He shoves his shoulder against the front door. The wood resists
briefly, then gives way. They dip their heads to step inside. A steep
wooden staircase leads up from the hall. There is a sitting room
with a fireplace and beyond it, another smaller room with a set
of backstairs. The ceilings in both rooms are bowed, the walls
streaked with dirt. There’s a lean-to kitchen and bathroom. Mould
grows on the walls. It smells damp.
Julian nods as Amy starts up the stairs. ‘Yes, have a look. Stairs
and floors are safe, that’s been checked.’
‘Needs just a little bit of attention,’ she hears David and Julian
None of three rooms upstairs are large. The middle one has
windows on both sides. How pretty it once might have looked. She
wonders who might have slept here. Was a baby been born, had
someone died, perhaps? Would the ghosts fade once it was painted?
Brushing away cobwebs, she works at a window latch. She can
see the farmhouse where she slept last night. Built from stone,
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the square building has windows on either side of the grand front
door, a grey-slate roof and big chimneys. Hard to believe that
she, Amy Taylor, is staying in such a place. She brushes away the
thought that she lied to her parents to be here.
In the cottage garden, Stella is sitting on a branch of a tree. Her
long dress spreads around her like a sail. The girl could be model
from the magazines that Amy sometimes flicks through in the
newsagents. She exudes an untouchable air of exotica even in the
way she breathes. Amy feels a flash of envy: why can’t Stella wear
trousers and an anorak like she does? Amy chastises herself for
being small-minded. Stella simply suits the surroundings better
than she does.
In the single room at the far end of the cottage, there’s a set
of wooden stairs to the room below. Picking up a brown curl of
newspaper from the floor, she sees a story about ‘a Country Show
in 1959’. She waves it at David.
He is craning his neck to look up the chimney trying to look
as though he knows what he’s doing or what he’s looking for. She
touches his shoulder. He turns and taking her in his arms, rests his
chin on her head. ‘Amazing place, eh?’
‘Seymour talks about doing the place up. Though who’d want to
live in this dump, I can’t imagine,’ Julian jokes.
‘It could be made lovely, surely?’ She looks around.
‘For spiders perhaps. Want some?’ Julian offers her a joint.
She shakes her head and wanders outside. Someone had once
tended the garden here for there are the remains of a broken
path and rose bushes and a plant she recalls her father called
‘a butterfly bush’. How pleased he would be to know that she
remembers something he taught her. She tugs a plant she thinks
is a weed.
Stella brushes past. Barely glancing at Amy, she murmurs; ‘I can
20 Wyld Dreamers
hear a car coming up the drive. It’s probably Seymour. Tell Julian
I’ve gone to meet him.’
Amy goes back into the cottage. The boys are larking about in
the kitchen. ‘I think your father’s arrived, Julian. Stella says she’s
gone over to meet him.’
‘Right-o. Okay you two, prepare to meet Seymour Stratton.’
On the drive is a white Jaguar car. A man is reaching into the
boot and pulls two bottles of wine. It’s Simon Webster, a university
friend of Julian and David’s whom Amy once met on an anti-war
march in London. He has those angelic boyish looks that won’t
change much with age, fair hair and a shy smile. But it’s the leatherjacketed
man in his late forties whose she’s more interested in. This
must be Seymour, Julian’s father. Wild curls and a pointed nose, his
heeled boots make him only an inch or two taller than Stella. The
woman stands next to him shaking her hair like a starlet preparing
for the camera. A delicious wave of schadenfreude. Stella reveals
overly-large teeth when she smiles.
Amy and David follow Julian.
‘Julian, my boy, how are you doing?’ Father and son grasp arms.
‘So these are the friends you’ve been telling me about.’
‘Hallo Seymour, meet David Bond. He and I were on the same
It is an accurate statement. Whether they will both graduate is
not certain. David would be content with a second class degree
but Julian, who spent much of the summer term away due to poor
health, isn’t confident he will pass. No one is quite sure why he was
away so much. They sense it is a subject he prefers not to discuss.
Seymour and David shake hands. ‘And this is David’s girlfriend,
‘Hallo Mr Stratton, pleased to meet you. Thank you for inviting us to stay here with Julian
. You have a beautiful place.’
Wyld Dreamers 21
‘Hallo. Like it, do you, Amy?’ Seymour’s gaze seems to pin her
to the spot. ‘It’s a bit tatty round the edges but yes, a certain charm.
Julian, can you take the camera from the car? And the bag of food
on the back seat of the car. Would you mind bringing it in, David?
Simon, those bottles must go straight into the freezer. Mrs Morle
looking after the place alright, Julian? And how is our feisty Lynn
He leads them into the house, calling for Pilot; asks someone to
lay the table, to fetch glasses, to put music on. A Little Feat album
plays while foods she has never seen or tasted before are spread
across the table. Smoked salmon, the thinnest slivers of meat,
olives fat with anchovies, roasted peppers sprinkled with herbs,
a smoky green dip pungent with garlic. They rip pieces of breads
from baguettes, the drink makes her tongue sing.
As they eat, Seymour tells them what he’s been up. People he
has photographed that week, names she has seen mentioned in
newspapers, exotic and eccentric people of note. He tells a story
against himself, a gaff he made with someone famous and it’s very
funny. It all sounds unreal, too strange for her to envisage, the
opposite of the life she has shared with her parents where routine
prevails; jobs and homework and meals and washing up. The
wisps of her hangover disappear.
‘Let’s have a toast,’ Seymour says. ‘To the summer. To you
all.’ He pushes back his chair and stretches out his arms in a
magnanimous gesture. ‘Have you had a look around the place
yet? What do you think of my escape to the country? I’m thinking
of an artist’s retreat, somewhere laid back and cool where people
can rejuvenate the creative juices and have fun. Just needs a few
improvements, here and there, and I’m thinking that Julian could
run the place, perhaps. That’s all in the future. We’re just glad
you’re here now to help us get our little dream going.’
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Amy is a bit drunk. A song floats round her head, Dusty
Springfield’s ‘I Only Want to Be with You’. She is sure it will be
somewhere in the snake of vinyl in the sitting room. What if the
boys scoff at her choice?
She puts on the record. It was playing the first time she saw
David in the Student Union bar. Her brother had invited her and
Mary, her school friend to the ‘Spring Bop’. The students, mostly
men as far as she could see, were much older than she and Mary.
They were ranged like skittles around the football table shouting
as they whacked or watched a tiny ball race up and down a table
between the legs of plastic figurines. They clasped pints of beer.
In the corner was a student with a different style. A cigarette
clamped between his teeth, one booted foot resting on a stool, the
man with long nut-brown hair, a stubble-coated chin and a Led
Zepplin t-shirt lazily strummed a guitar. She was mesmerized. A
girl with long hair parted in the middle joined him to share a joke.
Amy felt jealous. Two months later, when she had kissed the guitar
player, she was introduced to the girl. It was Maggie Bond, David’s
A ringing telephone brings her back to the present. No one, it
seems, plans to answer it. So Amy decides she will. Down the hall
she finds a room with a desk and on it, a heavy black telephone.
‘Hallo? This is the, ah….the Stratton family.’ She stifles a snort.
It is not her family but she answering as though it is.
‘Amy, is that you?’
Her mother sounds relieved.
‘Oh, hallo, Mum! How are you?’ Amy realises that her speech
Her mother says: ‘I’ve been calling on and off all morning, Amy,
but there’s been no answer. I’ve been so worried. You didn’t ring last
night to say you had arrived. Are you alright? Amy, are you there?’
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‘Mum, hi, sorry, I couldn’t call last night. We got here really late.’
‘You could have called this morning though.’ No one else
listening would know her mother is hurt but Amy does.
‘Sorry, Mum, I was waiting until one o’ clock when it gets
cheaper to make calls.’
‘Amy. It’s Saturday and calls are cheap all day!’
‘Oh yeah, course. Sorry Mum. Yes, I’m fine. How are you?’
‘I can hear music. Is there a party going on?’
‘No, well, yes, just a few friends of the family have come for
lunch with Mr Stratton. Dad alright, Mum? Look, I’ll call again in
a few days and tell you how we’re getting on.’
Her mother does not reply.
In other moods, Amy might have persisted. But she wants to get
back to Dusty and the smelly cheese. ‘Mum, I said I’ll call in a few
days. Speak soon.’