The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane

By: Emily Harvale

Part Two_ Summer Secrets

Chapter One

‘How is it even possible?’ Mia scrolled through the photos on her laptop, once again, one elbow balanced on the edge of the kitchen table as she slumped forward and rested her head in her hand. Not one photograph contained an image of great-aunt Matilda. Hettie Burnstall had spent the last three hours going through them all with Mia, Ella and Garrick and had confirmed that fact.

Ella’s blonde curls danced around her shoulders as she shook her head. ‘Mattie obviously didn’t want her photo taken. Even Hettie said that every time someone pointed a camera in Mattie’s direction, Mattie turned away. I’m convinced she was in hiding, no matter what you and Garrick say.’

Garrick held up a faded photograph. ‘At least we know she had light-brown hair when she came to live here. Freda assured me when she took this off the wall of photos in the pub, that this is definitely a photo of the back of Mattie’s head, and Hettie thought so too.’ He grinned and flipped the photo over. ‘Not that it’s much help. But it says on the reverse, ‘Christmas 1993’. Unless my maths is wrong, according to Hettie, that was the year Mattie came to live here.’

Ella took the photo and peered at it before smiling across at Mia. ‘Yeah, and we now know you and Mattie had at least one thing in common. You’ve both got golden-brown hair.’

Garrick tutted. ‘Mattie must’ve been seventy-four when that was taken, so her hair was obviously dyed.

Ella laughed. ‘So’s Mia’s. Did you think Mother Nature gave her those gorgeous highlights?’

Garrick furrowed his brows as if he wasn’t sure how to answer that, but Mia came to his rescue.

‘Spooky that we should pick similar colours though. And similar hairstyles, if what Hettie said was true. That Mattie always had her hair cut into a shoulder-length bob.’

Ella winked at her. ‘I’m not sure I’d happily tell people I’ve got the same haircut as my ancient, now dead, great-aunt. It doesn’t exactly scream, “young, hip, independent woman,” does it? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your hairstyle. Just don’t mention the resemblance to Mattie’s, that’s all.’

‘Good point.’ Mia nodded, leant back in her chair and stretched her arms in the air, tipping her head from side to side. ‘I need more coffee and I’m guessing you do too. I hadn’t realised how mind-numbingly boring, looking at hundreds and hundreds of other people’s photos can be, nor how spending three hours with Hettie clucking and cooing over them can make me lose the will to live.’

Ella and Garrick both nodded and grinned as Mia got up to make the drinks.

‘We now know what Hettie’s husband, Hector looked like,’ Ella said. ‘I know this is mean but after spending all morning with her I’m beginning to wonder if Hector didn’t throw himself into the path of that car and his death had nothing at all to do with the curse of Frog’s Hollow.’

Mia gasped. ‘That is mean, Ella.’ She tried to stop the grin but failed. ‘Possibly true though.’

‘But it was kind of Hettie to look at them,’ Garrick pointed out, frowning. ‘As we had no idea what Mattie looked like, it would’ve been like searching for an invisible needle in a haystack without her help. And it was good of so many of the villagers to let you have access to their photos. Freda making that announcement certainly did the trick.’

‘Also true.’ Mia rinsed the mugs under the tap and gave them a quick once over with a tea towel. Since Freda had told everyone in The Frog and Lily on Monday night that Mia wanted to see any photos anyone had which might contain Mattie’s image, several of the villagers had handed over photographs, USB sticks with photos on, and even CDs on which they’d downloaded copies. They had all been given to Freda who had passed them on to Garrick in the pub on Tuesday night. ‘But I think Hettie being a nosey old biddy, had more to do with her offer than kindness. She wanted to get a peek at everyone else’s photos. And I got the feeling that Justin merely wanted us to see photos of his dance slash stripper troupe. Not that I’m complaining. Seeing three half-naked men with rippling muscles covered in oil was the highlight of this morning.’