Two Hearts in a Grave by Pamela Harju
There is a lot of sadness in Jeff.
Jeff and Hazel are in love. Life should be so simple, but an incident in Jeff’s past haunts him to the point that he becomes a recluse. As his band prepares to release its first album after the tragedy, Hazel watches as Jeff’s passions turn into obsessions. When Jeff’s sorrow gets the best of him and alienates Hazel from her friends, the couple has to finally face the truth of what happened three years earlier…
Will Jeff’s grief tear their love apart?
TWO HEARTS IN A GRAVE is an evocative read for those who like their love stories with a twist.
Targeted Age Group:: all audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
It was a single random thought that popped into my head. I don't want to go into detail on what that thought was because that would give away the plot! As always, my love of rock music inspired most of the story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters just come to me. I don't create them. As soon as I had the general idea for this story, I had the characters too.
They say home is where the heart is, and I’m here. I’m home.
I walk up the narrow path towards the front step. The sun shining behind the house makes it look murkier and taller than it is. It is a big house, bigger than necessary, but I love it.
I pull the front door key out of my handbag and open the door. Silence greets me. The house is so empty. There is no one waiting for me. I’m unused to such quiet houses. Having a dog helps, but my dog Sammy hasn’t moved in yet. There’s been too much going on with the move. I want to unpack first before letting him in to wreck everything in his way. Sammy’s not that big or heavy, but he’s boisterous. He loves life.
I leave my keys on the hall table. It was one of the first items I unpacked. One needs somewhere to leave their keys, phone, handbag – all the valuables, basically. I know they say it’s not good to keep them by the door, but how else am I supposed to gather all my bits and pieces quickly if I need to leave in a hurry?
I throw my coat on the pile of boxes beneath the stairs. There will be a coatrack there one day, but that day hasn’t come yet.
I flick the heating on before entering the galley kitchen to make a cup of tea. It’s cold inside. It happens with old houses, and the house is old. I like old things. Not old men, mind. Just things.
I fell in love with the house at first sight. It’s a period property like I wanted, made of grey stone, and comprises three storeys although the top floor is only an attic where I can’t stand straight. It’s a bit creepy up there too, but it will do for storage. The property was above budget, but what do you do when you fall in love? You go for it with all you’ve got, even if it means punching above your weight.
Although it was Jeff who insisted on this house, he is rarely here. That’s why the house feels so big, empty and quiet, and it’s not like Jeff is loud when he is around. For a musician, he makes little noise. I guess if the neighbours knew a rock star lived next door, they would have opinions, but they don’t know. They probably never will. Jeff is not the partying type. The thick stone walls keep the noise within even when he is playing, and the sound of Jeff’s voice is as lovely as the light patter of rain on a stifling hot summer’s day after a dry fortnight. Nobody could complain about his singing.
The kettle flicks off, and I go for the teabags on the counter. There’s dust on the box of teabags like there is on everything else in the house. After the dust settles, as the saying goes, except when you are in the middle of moving to a new house, it never seems to finish settling. I change my mind and reach for the green tea on the windowsill. The kitchen window gives out onto the side of the house. Some of the stone wall between the houses has been replaced with wrought iron railings, so I can see next door. I haven’t met the neighbours yet although I have seen lights on in the room across sometimes. The window is so small and so high above ground that it must be a bathroom. The curtains in the other windows on that side are usually drawn, at least when I’m home. Such private people.
I bet they think the same of me.
It rains the following morning. There is no sign of Jeff, but I suspect he was home for a while during the night because I seem to recall a kiss on my cheek at some point although there’s no evidence that the other side of the bed has been slept on. That’s not unusual. He doesn’t always get into bed with me. He sleeps at weird hours or doesn’t sleep at all. He’s not much of a sleeper, really. It sometimes gives me wakeful nights too, but these days I’m exhausted. At least we have a bed. For the first week in the house, we only had a crappy old mattress, and there’s no underfloor heating although the house has been through a lot of modernisation.
When I go downstairs, there’s a note on the console table at the bottom of the steps. It’s a little handwritten note on a piece of cardboard – God knows where that came from – and says ‘All my love’ in Jeff’s squiggly handwriting. There’s a small bar of dark chocolate on top of it. Chocolate for breakfast. It puts a smile on my face. I leave the note where it is but bring the chocolate to the kitchen with me.
I eat it in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, and wash the chocolate down with a cup of coffee. There’s no dining table yet. Well, there is, but it hasn’t been assembled yet. I haven’t assembled it yet; Jeff never will, so I will have to. I turn to look at the dining room, which is much too big for us. It overlooks the garden at the back. The boxes containing the dining table rest against one wall. Maybe that could be my project for the day. It would be nice to have dinner sitting down for a change.
One look at the contents of the fridge and freezer tells me that there will no dinner unless I either go shopping or order something in. It will probably be the latter. I have enjoyed far too many takeaways recently, but cooking for myself feels so pointless. If only Jeff were around to enjoy dinner with me for once.
The doorbell rings later in the morning when I’m on my hands and knees on the dining room floor, shifting through the assembly instructions spread all round me and underneath me. I get such a fright that I almost fall flat on my face. I only avoid it by putting a hand on the floor to steady myself. It’s not much better because my hand lands on top of a screw which digs painfully into my palm.
I didn’t know the house had a working doorbell. The sound is loud, rambunctious and disturbing – not at all welcome. I’m too used to the quiet in the house. Why have I not got around to unpacking the stereo or even the Bluetooth speakers? No wonder Jeff isn’t around. He’s as fond of listening to noises as he is creating them.
I sit back on my knees and stare down the hall. Of course, I can’t see anything. The angle is wrong and the porch door closed, so I can’t see the front door from here.
I worry about my appearance as I walk into the hall. I’m wearing old clothes, dusty and badly fitting, but if I’m going to get the door for this caller, I don’t have time to do anything about it. Through the frosted glass of the front door I see a shape on the step outside. I open the door to see properly.
“Good morning. I hope I’m not disturbing you. I thought it was about time I introduced myself. You’ve been here a while now, so I thought it was getting a bit rude of me.”
The woman is in her mid-fifties, carrying what looks like a cake box and wearing a wig. It has to be a wig.
“Well, no… I mean, yes. It’s nice to meet you. It’s not a great time.”
It isn’t, but it also isn’t a bad time for visitors. If I wait for the perfect time, it will be two years later. There is a lot to do with the house.
“Oh, I don’t want to put you out. I’m Iris from next door, Iris Richardson. I just brought you this.”
I realise that my conversation has gone entirely off track. I already told her I was pleased to meet her before she introduced herself. Iris Richardson is holding the cake box out for me.
“Thank you,” I mutter and take the box. It feels heavy in my hand.
She is still looking at me, and I wrack my brain for something to stay.
“Oh. Hazel. It’s Hazel. Hazel Pearce.” I stick my free hand out to her, afraid that I will drop the cake while it’s balanced on my left palm. We shake awkwardly. Then we stare at each for a while. My neighbour is clearly trying to see behind me into the house, and I can’t think of anything to say. I don’t want her to come in.
“Well, I should go,” she eventually says and starts to turn.
“Thank you for dropping by. And for the cake. You should come over for tea, or coffee, when we’re a bit more settled.”
“I haven’t seen your husband yet.”
The woman is clearly a gossip. I can see it in her eyes that light up at the mention of my husband.
“We’re not married. He’s away a lot. Comes and goes, weird hours. He’s a musician.”
Judging by the tone of her voice, Mrs Richardson – she is wearing a ring – sees a lot that’s not there, only by the mention of Jeff’s occupation.
“Maybe I will get to meet him next time.”
The thought of Mrs Richardson, who is starting to remind me of Mrs Bucket – Bouquet – from Keeping Up Appearances more and more each passing second, meeting Jeff with all his tattoos, pierced ears and eyebrow and unconventional dress sense, makes me want to snigger, but I smile politely.
“I’m sure he would love to meet you too.”
He would – for the comedy value – but I know he won’t.
Iris Richardson nods and moves off down the wet footpath.
I’m in the kitchen having a cup of coffee and a slice of Iris’s delicious carrot cake when the doorbell rings again.
It’s a delivery company.
“We have a delivery for Hazel Pearce,” the man at the door says. He looks me up and down. I know that look. It’s the you-could-be-good-looking-if-you-made-an-effort look that doesn’t take into consideration that I have just finished setting up the dining table and still have six chairs to assemble.
“That’s me.” I take the docket that lists exactly what I expected.
The man looks at the door, steps back, looks at the door from further off as if it were a piece of art and then moves to look at the sitting room windows.
“It’s not going to come in through here.”
“I know,” I say and move a little out of the porch, careful not to get my slippered feet wet. “I think you’ll have to take it down the side of the house and in the patio door. I’ll show you.”
I guide the man through the house, open the patio doors for him and watch as he carefully measures the gap with a measuring tape he pulls out of his pocket.
He disappears outside.
It takes three men a long time and a lot of effort, but eventually, Jeff’s precious grand piano is back where it belongs, in his grandmother’s old house. It sits in a corner of the dining room, exactly where he wanted it. It’s the only room it will fit. Ideally, it would be in one of the bedrooms upstairs, but then again, what if he wants someone to listen to him play? The idea of trying to manoeuvre the piano upstairs doesn’t bear thinking about either. The sitting room is too awkward with the fireplace, two doorways and its large windows, and it wouldn’t fit into my downstairs office, so the dining room it is.
At some point during the operation, when I’m in the kitchen fetching the delivery guys glasses of water, I swear I can see Mrs Richardson peeking out through one of the closed curtains in her house. She looks smug and pleased at the sight of the piano. Little does she know that the piano is not Jeff’s main passion in life.
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