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Charred Remains - Excerpt From the Novel Just Say It!

Tessa Barrie is a blogger and wannabe novelist from Jersey, Channel Islands, who believes life is too short to be niche.



By 1997, Lisa had reached the pinnacle of her career. She had worked hard to reach the top of her tree, but her private life had suffered as a result. During the months after Rory dumped her, the affirmation from her teenage years, I don’t need a man to complete me, started seeping into her brain. Maybe her career was fulfilling enough?

Lisa’s Rich and Famous interviews included a host of celebrated achievers. Oprah Winfrey, Baroness Boothroyd, The Spice Girls, French and Saunders, Fascinating Aida and Helen Fielding. Nevermore had Lisa so totally identified with a novel's heroine than in Fielding’s novel, Bridget Jones's Diary. Her private life apart, fate was waiting in the wings to lop a few branches off Lisa's career tree.

She was looking forward to her next assignment, interviewing one of her favourite actors, Harrison Ford, at the Dorchester Hotel. He was in London promoting his new film, Air Force One and Anna Lockwood sent staff photographer, Zac, with her.

‘Hi, Harrison, I'm Lisa Grant from Focal Point, and this is Zac.'

FOCAL POINT: The magazine for the Nineties Woman


Interview with Harrison Ford

'Ah, yes. Focal Point. My wife buys it. She has it shipped to the US. She says it is a politically radical, beautifully designed, intellectual women's magazine.'

'That's the plan, and I'm delighted to hear she enjoys it. So will, Anna Lockwood, our editor. What a pleasure it is to meet you, Harrison. Like thousands of others, I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan. I’ve seen and loved all three Indy films and now, Air Force One, which came up to all expectations.’

They were sitting quite close to each other at a small circular mahogany table. Harrison smiled, his perfect incisors gleaming, as he moved his head closer to her ear. He smelt wonderful. Dior Sauvage? And in a half-whisper he said,

‘I’m so glad you enjoyed the Indy films. I’d love to do another. A character that has a history, and a potential, it’s a rollicking good movie ride for the audience and with Steven Spielberg as a director, what’s not to like?’

Still glowing from the few seconds she had been a kissable distance away from Harrison Ford, her mobile phone started vibrating in her pocket. She took it out and hit the red button and put it back.

‘Sorry about that.’

He shrugged and said, ‘No big deal,’ as it started buzzing again. Lisa fiddled around in her pocket, trying to switch it off, flashing Harrison an awkward smile as it continued to vibrate. Her cheeks flushed from the usual dusky pink to hot scarlet as she squirmed around in her seat with her hand in her pocket. She couldn’t turn the damn thing off.

‘Why don’t you answer it?’ Harrison suggested, flashing her one of his trademark smiles.

‘Thank you, I will, and I’m so, so, sorry about this. It must be some sort of emergency. Most people just leave a message when I don’t pick up.’ She got up and walked away from Harrison and Zac.

She was incensed when she realised it was her mother. She had never given Elizabeth her mobile phone number for this very reason. She would have something to say to the person responsible for passing on such sensitive information. Although whoever it was would be forgiven, because they would have crumbled under intense interrogation.

She hit the green button and put the phone to her ear. There was a strange crackling noise. She couldn’t quite make out what it was because of the intensity of her mother’s laboured breathing.

‘Mother! I’m working! It's not a good time,’ she snapped as Harrison looked up laughing, while Zac took a series of pictures.

‘The rumour is… that Lisa has the mother from Hell…’ Zac mumbled from behind the shutter.

‘From hell or anywhere else, nothing will keep our mothers from us and certainly not now there are cell phones,’ Harrison responded.

‘I fear this may be the last time we ever speak, Lisa dear…’ Her mother was panting. Silkwoods was on fire, and she was trapped inside, trying to rescue Arthur. ‘I don’t think we’re going to make it, Lisa dear. So, as it looks like we are both about to be fried alive and I will never see to you again, I need to know that I can rely on you to sort everything out. Now I must go and try to save dear Arthur!’

‘On fire! Silkwoods? Mother? How did it catch fire?’ Then, with the sound of a wailing emergency vehicle siren, the line went dead. She tried to call her mother back several times, but there was no response.

‘Silkwoods?’ Hissed Harrison to Zac.

‘Hmm… the family pile. Apparently, her father put the house in Lisa’s name when she was born. I’ve never been there, but legend has it that it’s a big draughty old barn of a place that’s been around since the Battle of Hastings.’

‘You don’t say? 1066 and all that.’

‘I’m so, so sorry for the interruption.’ Lisa was conscious of the queue of waiting journalists in the next room and didn’t want her reputation going down the pan.

‘A bit of family crisis, eh?’ Harrison got up and put his arm around Lisa’s shoulders. ‘Look, don’t be sorry. It’s not every day the family home burns down. I will give you everything you need to know in ten minutes and then you can go put out the fire Indiana Jones-style!’


Smouldering Pyre

She drove down the M4 with the soundtrack from The Temple of Doom ringing in her ears. Visions of finding her mother’s charred mobile phone amongst the ashes or, even worse, the charred remains of her mother and Arthur, flashing through her mind.

When she arrived, the wheels of her Honda 600 Coupe scattered the gravel on the drive before scrunching to a halt. She flung the car door open and ran towards the smouldering pyre that was once one of the best examples a Cotswold stone manor house.

Mother? Arthur?’ Her voice was an emotional breathy whisper like Melanie calling Ashley’s name in Gone with the Wind as she ran towards the front door, only to be restrained by a burly fireman.

‘No, no! You can’t go in there, my lovely. The roof’s about to cave in.’

‘But it can’t! Don’t let it! My mother and stepfather are in there!’

‘No need to fret, neither of them is in there. Mr Goldsworthy never was, he was in Cheltenham with Jim and Nellie. Your mum said she was inside when the fire took hold, but she was sitting in her car when we arrived, then she drove back to London. She said you were coming to sort everything out.’

The sound of groaning ancient timbers prompted the fireman to scoop Lisa up in his arms and carry her away from the smouldering wreck. The midsection of the roof collapsed with a thunderous crash, as billowing smoky debris gushed everywhere.

Lisa was stunned. Why was her mother incapable of telling the truth? Why lie about being trapped inside the inferno? Another lie: another mother-induced mess.

© 2020 Tessa Barrie

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