Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: Both
Michael waited for something to happen, but nothing did. He expected to be thrown into another time parallel and start the hunt for Rob, but he remained there staring at an empty armchair
He recalled the Jester saying to ‘embrace all the good places, as they were far and few between’ and wondered if this might be one of them.
Michael stood up and took a walk round the house, switching the lights on as he went, and leaving them on, wanting to brighten the place up and not feel the darkness that crept at the edges. Each room its own feel; the lounge with its soft, comforting furnishing, and warm, embracing hearth; the dining room with its stately dark wood table and ten straight backed chairs, and the kitchen, with its open, welcoming space, and island in the middle just inviting a person to cook.
Michael paused in the kitchen, realising it had been hours since he’d eaten. He went over to the cupboards and had a look through. He found all the crockery and glassware he might need, as well as all the cleaning stuffs. He was about to wonder if there was any food when he opened double doors to a treasure trove of dried goods. But the ‘pièce de résistance’ came when he opened another door that matched all the others, but revealed a fridge.
It was full of all sorts of food; condiments, meats and cheese, as well as fruits and vegetables. He was tentative at first sure that it couldn’t possibly all be fresh, but as he picked up each item he found it was. Then at the back he discovered a punnet of strawberries, something he hadn’t had the luxury of in what felt like an eternity. He was overjoyed. It was his favourite fruit, and the first thing he plucked out of the fridge and hurried to prepare.
Michael stayed in the kitchen a long time gorging on the contents until he felt like he would burst if he ate any more. Before his binge Michael had spotted another door leading out of the kitchen and in his satiated state thought it might be a good idea to continue his tour.
He opened it to find the most enormous two storey oval room. It had wooden panelling on the lower half of the wall around the ground level, where an array of paintings and sculptures were displayed. The high domed ceiling appeared to rest on the upper level, which was a gallery offering an extensive library of books. On the far side of the room there was a stout oak desk, and in the middle a sofa and two armchairs sat facing another large fireplace that dominated the room.
Michael took his time inspecting the contents of the room looking forward to perusing the books in the gallery as well, but he stopped in front of the one of the paintings and had to remember to breath.
It was a watercolour showing two women walking in the countryside. They had their backs to the painter as though walking away from him. They looked conspiratorial with their arm linked and heads leaning in to each other; one was tall and blonde, the other slightly shorter with dark hair. The rolling hills, tall trees, and even a river to the far right, were all painted in exquisite detail, but it wasn’t any of these things that struck Michael, it was what he saw on their backs, tattooed on the exposed skin at the nape of necks.
He could see the tip of the feather and the fluttering of birds rising out of it. Maybe someone else wouldn’t be able to make out that detail, but he knew because he’d run his finger over it many times – at least on the blonde woman, who had to be Isabella.
Michael recalled the day he found out that Annie had an identical tattoo. She’d popped round to visit Isabella and bent down to retrieve something out of a cupboard for her. Her hair had fall forward and revealed her neck. Annie had blushed when Michael had asked about it, and the two of them had exchanged a look that was only now beginning to make sense to Michael.
He’d had his suspicions that they were more than just best friends, but Isabella would never talk about the past claiming it was no longer relevant. Michael hadn’t pushed her at the time either, because like so many in his home town he thought she was just another survivor of the Jester’s sick games. Now he knew differently.
Michael scanned the other paintings, but found no others showing them. He stood wondering who had painted it, and how it had come here, and whose house this really was. Was it the Jester’s? Was it their childhood home? What were they really to him? What did it all mean?
Michael’s head spun with the thousands of questions this threw up, and then he felt like the room was spinning. He thought it was tiredness at first until the familiar sensation of floating arrived and everything around him started to fade. It seemed to be time for the next adventure.
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