Lorn; lost, ruined or undone.
The stairs looked forbidding, so Caleb and Beth climbed up slowly and gingerly. Beth had left the books on the doorstep, ready to collect when they left. Some of the stairs railings looked like they had been gnawed by rodents, making the banister unstable.
They found the rooms in better shape up here. The bathroom, four beds and the en-suit hadn’t been touched by the flood but the vandals and squatters had been here. The bath, toilet and sink had been smashed up; cream porcelain chucks covered a chequered lino floor and water stains dotted the wall like a painting.
The first bedroom – possibly Grandpa’s room was mess of clothes, bedding and bits of furniture. The wooden bed was broken, the remains against the wall. Two double mattress were on the floor, blankets draping over. Someone had patched the broken windows with newspaper and old fabric.
‘Let’s spend time looking for things,’ Beth said.
Not giving voice to his disappointment, Caleb nodded and warned her, ‘look out for glass and needles. Who knows what was going on here.’
‘I’ll be careful,’ Beth answered.
The searched the room and found some coins, empty beer cans, food wrappers and a few photographs. The clothes weren’t worth going through. It seemed the house had really been robbed out.
‘Recognise anyone?’ Beth asked, sharing the photos with Caleb.
He shook his head, ‘no. Maybe they were Grandpa’s but I don’t know.’
‘Do you want them or not?’
‘No,’ Caleb answered and turned away.
He went into the next room which was a smaller bedroom. There were three single beds squished in, clothes heaped on the floor, rubbish in the corners and the smashed window letting all the elements in. On a bedside table, was a pile of used cigarettes, ash scattered about.
Caleb went in, just to check but there was nothing of Grandpa here. He meet Beth in the doorway and they moved on to the next two bedrooms. At some time, they had been children’s rooms going off the old wallpaper which was mostly torn away. Like the first two rooms, people had been sleeping in here but Grandpa had been using them as storage and there were a few boxes to look through, though they weren’t the first to do so.
‘More books,’ Beth said about the first box.
‘Any be saved?’ Caleb called.
‘Possible. Let’s take them. What’s in that one?’
‘A tea set…Some of it anyway. Few bits of smashed. Next one…’ Caleb trailed as he looked through another box, ‘videos.’
‘Same in this one too,’ Beth laughed, ‘and some music tapes….Your Grandpa liked sixties rock and country. Irish ballads?’
‘No idea,’ Caleb spoke, ‘there’s some photo albums here. They look okay and a school year book….Let’s take this box.’
‘Finally one,’ Beth pointed out, she moved over and opened it, ‘things wrapped in news paper…..oh, it’s horse!’
Beth held up a porcelain horse and Caleb crossed the room to look. Removing the rest of the yellowed newspaper, Beth passed him the brown and white horse. Then she picked up another wrapped form and peeled back the newspaper.
‘This one’s a shire horse. Look at the leather stuff, he’s ready to pull a cart!’
‘Do you want them?’ Caleb asked, running a finger over the cold, smooth face of the horse.
‘Sure,’ Beth said.
‘Let’s check theses drawers and wardrobe.’
There was only a few items of clothes, shoes and children’s toys. Caleb pulled a teddy dog out and turned it over in his hands. He didn’t recognise it, so put it back.
In the next room, they found more books and children’s toys. They saved the books and got ready to leave.
‘I forgot about about the attic,’ Caleb said soon after they had brought all the boxes they were taken down to the front door.
‘Where is it?’ Beth asked, looking back up the darkening staircase.
Caleb went back up and stood on the landing. He looked along the ceiling for a few moments the pointed out the almost hairline rim of the attic door, ‘there!’ he said.
‘Can you get up?’ Beth asked.
‘I’ll need a ladder….Maybe a neighbours got one,’ Caleb wondered, he came back downstairs, ‘you load the car and I’ll go and ask around.’
‘Okay…but don’t take too long, it’s getting late.’
They kissed, Caleb give her the car keys then headed out. Beth began moving the boxes and loading them into the back of the car. Soon after she had finished, Caleb appeared with a ladder and a middle aged man in tow. He had a grey, balding head, a rough covering of beard and worry lines on his face. His hands and body showed the lifestyle of a construction worker. He was wearing dirty jeans and an old blue t-shirt.
‘This is, Reggie,’ Caleb said.
‘Hi,’ Beth greeted the man.
‘We’ll go up. Why don’t you wait out here?’
‘No, it’s okay. I might be able to help.’
They went back inside. Reggie helped with the ladder then Caleb lifted the attic door and shone the torch from his phone inside.
‘Oh wow, it’s packed up here!’ Caleb called down, ‘looks untouched too. I guess no one was able to get up here. Okay, I’m going in.’
‘Be careful!’ Beth called.
‘I shall be. Here, let me pass stuff down.’
Together, the three of them emptied the attic. There were cardboard and plastic boxes filled with books, photos, film, bric-a-bric antiques, papers, two landscape oil paintings, old toys, including a collection of metal cars, a small stuff rocking horse that had seen better days, a sixties recorder player and some other things.
‘There were treasures in this house after all,’ Beth cried.
‘Some of this stuff could be worth a bit,’ Reggie stated as he inspected one of the paintings which showed a river going though a forest with a herd of deer coming for a drink.
‘Beth! Look at this!’ Caleb yelled.
‘What is it?’
‘My grandparents wedding stuff! Their clothes and photos. Wow! This is amazing. Here, I’m going to pass it all down.’
Excitedly, Caleb passed Beth and Reggie a huge white box and another that was black. Then a battered cardboard box, over flowing with dusty fake flowers, photo albums and other things.
Beth took the lid off the white box and couldn’t believe her eyes. Folded inside was a lacy white wedding dress from the fifties with a huge veil laying on top.
‘I can’t believe this survived,’ Beth uttered.
‘The old man probably wanted to forgot all about it,’ Reggie cut in, ‘from what I remember, she died young.’
Reggie handed her a loose photo which showed a veiled bride sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce.
‘What happened?’ Beth asked.
‘Some disease. She was only like in her thirties.’
Reggie nodded then Caleb yelled there were some more boxes and they got back to work.
The attic was soon empty and Caleb climbed back down, ‘thanks for your help, Reggie.’
‘No probs. Be nice to see this place fixed up and lived in again. Those yobs made a right mess,’ Reggie said.
‘Yeah. The builders are coming tomorrow and hopefully, things will be better,’ Caleb explained.
‘I can’t believe all of this was still up there!’ Beth gasped, she had been looking through some of the boxes, ‘how are we going to fit it all in the car?’
‘I’ll give you a hand,’ Reggie said.
They loaded the car up, just about fitting everything in. They said goodbye to Reggie and watched him taking his ladder back across the road to his house.
Caleb then turned and looked at his Grandpa’s house.
‘You okay?’ Beth asked.
Caleb nodded, ‘just feeling bit tried.’
‘Same. Let’s get back to the apartment, unload all of this and get take out for dinner.’
‘Then tomorrow, we’ll be back to see the start of things.’
‘I’m sure it’s what your Grandpa wanted,’ Beth said and put her hand on Caleb’s shoulder, ‘he wouldn’t have left everything to you otherwise. I’m sure he was proud of you, despite everything. But none of that was your fault.’
‘I know,’ Caleb said quietly, ‘it was my drug addict teenage mum.’
Beth squeezed his shoulder but didn’t say anything else.
Caleb started the car and they drove away into the evening light.