When North Norfolk artist Eddie Fowler accepts an invitation from his business partner, Martin Hogg, to visit Venice, he finds that this beautiful, intimate city reawakens long-hidden memories.
He is reminded once again of Martin’s wife, Theresa, a fragile and intuitive artist, who mysteriously disappeared nearly twenty years before.
As he searches for answers to this mystery among the vast landscapes of the North Norfolk coasts and the narrow streets and canal-side cafes of Venice, Theresa’s daughter, Maria, asks him to help her with her own search to discover the secrets of her family’s history; a search that leads to discoveries neither of them expected.
A story about love and sacrifice, about secrets destined to remain hidden.
The woman in the florists was adamant: There was not even one male member of staff, let alone anyone matching Elena’s description of the young man she thought had served her.
“Back to square one, Dear,” Mary whispered as they exited the florists into the cold drizzle.
“Maybe I dreamed of meeting him here, too,” Elena said, opening her umbrella.
Mary tugged at her arm. “Stick to your guns, you saw what you saw. I believe you.”
“You are probably the only one who would.”
That night Elena didn’t feel much like talking to Michael. Complaining of a headache, she went to bed early and started to read. Unexpectedly, she found herself nodding off within only a few minutes.
She became aware of standing on grass in warm sunlight. It looked like a park of some kind. There was a copse of ash trees on a nearby hillock in full leaf, partly obscuring the sun. What sounded like a flock of geese was squawking away, somewhere nearby, but as yet unseen. It might have been a summer’s evening, it felt too warm to be morning. She was standing by a few large oak trees, and could reach out and touch the bark of the nearest one. Some of it flaked off between her fingers. This time her dress was a dark blue with the widest cuffs she’d ever seen. Looking down, Elena could also see she was wearing a very fine necklace, maybe diamonds and pearls. She touched them, rolling a few between her fingers. They looked and felt real.
Then she spotted something carved into the bark of the nearest oak. A heart and two initials, PH. It had only just registered in her mind what she was looking at, when he stepped out from behind the bole of the tree. She had almost been expecting him. He had that telling little smirk on his face, like some mischievous boy might have. But this boy was definitely a man. He reached forward, pulling her towards him, kissing her gently.
“Elena, you feed me,” he said. This time it was coming from his lips.
“What do you mean? Are you hungry?”
“Elena, you feed me!” His hands clutched his heart in a dramatic stance. He smiled, broadly for the first time and bowed gracefully towards her like some actor.
“I’m glad, I think. But who are you?”
He took her hand and they began to saunter through the grass. It was quite long, there were red splashes of poppies strewn ahead of them, amid the gentle summer fragrances wafting all around. She figured it was around early July. Soon they reached the ash copse and began to follow the path around it. In all this time, they said nothing.
As they cleared the corner of the copse, a large country house came into view at the bottom of a hill. It nearly took her breath away, the mellow golden stone shining in the lowering sun, its tall chimneys as high as steeples. She knew it wasn’t his own house, it was a friend’s, though what they were doing there was anyone’s guess.
He led her down the hill towards the house. There was no one else about, only a few deer and some cows. When they got to the walls she touched them. It all seemed like recent work, newly built.
They entered what appeared to be a courtyard with a tree at the centre, some shade. She sat down as best she could on the wooden seat, the dress was hard to brush underneath. Where had he gone? She became aware of a light high up, it wasn’t the sun. It began to spin round and round.
Elena was sitting on the toilet.
“Elena? Are you ok?” Michael tapped on the partly open door.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Why were you walking about?”
“What do you mean?”
“I woke up and heard you pacing along the landing and then into the small bedroom.”
“What? I’m… are you sure?”
“Were you sleepwalking?”
“I don’t know, maybe I was.”
“Ok, well, are you coming back to bed?”
She stood up, looking at her tired face in the mirror, the dark blue nightdress she was wearing.
Elena Trimble awoke with a fright. “What was that all about?” Michael, her husband, was stirring beside her. “What’s up? Bad dream?” Elena wiped the sweat from her face. “No. I mean, maybe.” Michael hauled himself upright, blinking rapidly. “Do you want to talk about it?” Did she? Elena wasn’t too sure. Michael was watching her. “Ok, so you’ve had a dream about some other guy. It happens, I get that.” Elena felt herself blushing. “Well, it wasn’t anyone I know, if that’s what you mean.” Michael swung his legs around and gazed at the clock. “Look, it’s only half five, and it’s Sunday. What chance of getting back to sleep now?” Elena reached for the notebook, if she wrote it all down she might be able to make more sense of it later. They said that recording your dreams was important. “So what was he like, this guy? I presume it was a guy…” “Of course it was a man! Sorry, for shouting.” “That’s alright. What was he like though?”
Elena found it difficult to explain, in words. The dream took place somewhere with
quite poor lighting. He was young, charming, powerful in some odd way. And his eyes,
she could remember them, quite dark.
“He kissed me.” Michael laughed spontaneously. “Did he now. And was this Lothario a good kisser?” “Yes, he knew what he was doing, if you know what I mean. He had these nice lips.” Michael smirked. “Was he as good as me?” He reached across, kissing Elena full on the lips, lingeringly. “Mn, that was nice.” He looked into her lovely blue-green eyes. “You are so beautiful, did you know that?” “Get away.” “Actually, I was wondering – is all this kind of..?” She pushed him firmly from her. “Not at five thirty on a Sunday morning! And besides, I feel a little queasy.” “Hm, it must be the shock.” Michael flopped back onto his side of the bed. “Ok, so did this Romeo have anything to say?” Elena flinched at his question. “Romeo.” “Yes? Juliet?” “Shut up. It was just you, calling him Romeo, that’s all. I don’t know.” “What are you scribbling?” She was trying to draw Romeo’s face. She had already been doodling some things which had come to her. “What does that mean?” Michael asked, leaning across. “What’s the date today? The twenty third?” “Yes, is it important?” Elena breathed in and sighed. “I think it might be.”