"Country Roads" part 2, more 21st century Jane Eyre!

Part 1 is here: “Country Roads” – a bit of Jane Eyre in the 21st century.While part one was chapter 12 of Jane Eyre, this is chapter 13… sort of. Brontë tells these bits in ~7000 words, I had 2500 in total, so it feels quite rushed and I’m not particularly pleased. I prefer the 2500-word version with all parts put together and rearranged slightly to these 1000-word bits I’ve posted here. Either way, constructive criticism is appreciated as always. 🙂

“Country Roads” (cont’d)

Julia thought about the events as she continued to the post office. Who was that man? Not that it actually mattered; he was just a man passing her on the road, never to be seen again. And on a motorcycle as well! She had never even touched a simple scooter and that day in school, she had to see the dentist, much to her relief. Always eager to learn, except when it came to transportation. She was nearly ten before she learned to ride a bicycle without support. Her aunt had forced her to take swimming lessons when she was about eight, and now, she was twenty years old and had never learned how to drive. If she needed to go somewhere, she took the bus. Easier that way. Cheaper. Safer. Definitely safer. Her uncle had tried to encourage her once when she was sixteen, by putting her behind the wheel in a deserted car park. As soon as she touched the pedals, she freaked out and started crying hysterically. He never tried it since.

‘Sooner or later, you’ll have to face your demons, Julia,’ he’d said on the way back. ‘You can’t go on like this.’
But she had, four years and counting.

Coming back, Moorland House looked just as it always did – dark, turreted and like it was waiting for something. It was a handsome house, surrounded by gardens that probably looked spectacular in the summer, but in February, everything seemed … dead. The only remnant of life was the dark ivy clinging to the side of the house she passed on the way to the kitchen entrance.

As Julia entered, the BBC4 voice spoke of the latest upset in Westminster, as always. ‘The radio keeps me company,’ Mrs. Deacon explained once. There was music playing somewhere, but the old lady didn’t appear to notice it – she was too busy preparing a tea tray.
‘Oh, there you are, dear! He’s been asking for you.’
‘Who?’
‘Mr. Harrington, of course! He’s returned, and as always without notice. Incorrigible man! Now, he’s had a bit of a tumble, but he’s all right, he says.’ Mrs. Deacon poured the kettle into a fine china teapot. ‘Oh, and little Odelia is beside herself with excitement. You should go and see to her.’

In the nursery, the little five-year-old was eager to see her father and couldn’t keep still. Once they were summoned to the library, where a CD with piano music played in the background, Odelia leaped up to give the man a hug and a peck on the cheek.

‘Look, Miss Julia! Daddy’s here!’
With their reunion settled, she curled up in his lap, leaving Julia to finally get a good look at her employer.
He had rid himself of the leather suit in favour of a black v-neck and trousers, but it was him, nonetheless. The biker.
‘Good evening, sir.’
Mr. Harrington raised an eyebrow.
‘Oh, it’s “sir” now, is it? You were a lot less formal an hour ago.’
‘An hour ago, I didn’t know you were my employer,’ said Julia, and quickly added, ‘sir,’ for good measure. If he owned this house and paid to have her there to look after his daughter then he must be rich, seriously rich, maybe even some kind of lord. Surely that meant she was expected to be as formal as she could be? Not easy if you’re just a common Swedish girl.
‘Acutely observed, Miss … what’s your name again?’
‘Julia. Julia Ljung.’

 

‘Jung? You’re not German, are you?’
‘No sir, I’m Swedish.’
‘Oh really.’ Mr. Harrington arched an eyebrow again, leaving her to wonder why everyone seemed to think her nationality somehow amusing. ‘You speak very good English.’
‘I do my best.’
Odelia, not happy with being ignored, looked up at her father.
‘Did you bring me back a present?’
‘I have.’
‘Can I see it?’
‘When my luggage gets here.’
‘Did you bring a present for Miss Julia also?’
‘I wasn’t aware I was obliged to bring your au pair a gift. – Did you expect a present, Miss Young?’
Having decided it was too much to ask of any Brit to pronounce her surname correctly, Julia ignored the mispronunciation and shook her head.
‘No sir. I have no reason to expect a present. I’ve never met you before today.’
‘Do you like presents?’
‘Doesn’t everyone?’
‘My daughter lives and breathes for presents; don’t you, little one?’
Odelia nodded. As there was no prospect of getting her present straight away, she slid from her father’s lap and occupied herself with dancing to the music.
‘Just like her mother,’ he said grimly. Darkness had fallen over his countenance, but as soon as it had settled, it was gone again. ‘Never mind.’ He forced himself to smile and changed subject, averting his eyes from the tiny dancer. ‘So, how do you find Moorland? Dreadful place that it is.’
‘I like it, sir.’
‘Do you?’ The surprised look on his face faded as he shook his head. ‘I suppose it has its moments. Mrs. Deacon hasn’t driven you from your senses?’
‘No sir.’
‘Tell me, do you always speak so abruptly?’
‘No sir.’
He laughed at her response, short as it was.
‘I won’t bite you, you know. – Ah, there, she smiles! Finally!’
‘I don’t know what to say to you, sir. Where I come from, there is no “sir”; we use first names. I don’t even know yours and if I did, I don’t want to offend you.’
‘Using my first name would offend, but only because I have the misfortune of being named Ethelred. See? Ethel.’ Ethelred Harrington gave a bitter laugh before glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece. ‘Odelia should be in bed by now, Miss Young. What are you about, keeping her up at this hour?’
Puzzled by the abrupt change, Julia took Odelia and left for the nursery. 
Suit yourself, Ethel, she thought. If you can’t be civil, I don’t see why I should be.

~*~

I don’t really like the flashback thing, but it was part of the instructions for the task, so it had to be there. When I write it properly, without constraints, I think I’ll give it a miss… and a lot of other things as well. :/

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