Isabelle Threlfall has the skills to hold the house together one stitch at a time but, besieged by personal choices and bitter consequences, she feels like the loose thread in the family.
Walk home with Isabelle through the town she loves…
Isabelle stepped onto the platform, lifting her head to catch the breeze as her hand trailed from the rough plastic handle, a newspaper clutched in her hand. 21st March 2012. Trying to adjust to the date. To the weather. She’d been away since November. Blue eyes searched the horizon, hair falling away from her face as she looked upwards. The church clock was not striking, the station was quiet, and even the air felt lazy as it brought the mid-week, mid-morning lull toward her. Nothing momentous stirred on its listless currents.
She hitched the bag onto her shoulder with its patched and stitched handles and pulled the trundling case onto the platform, its tired wheels grimacing and sticking. Glancing up at the church, tall and preening atop the hill. It was a long walk up to the house and she resented the religious smugness of the stone gargoyles leering down at her. She dumped the abandoned newspaper she’d rescued in the bin. She’d only wanted to catch up on news, but it had been uncomfortable reading. War, politics, sport, abortion. That last was America, she reminded herself, where another clinic had been bombed. Finding a crumb of comfort from the detail.
Pushing open the door on the miniscule station house she tugged her case behind her up the ramp. The stationmaster was a stranger, replaced during the last four months of her absence, and bemused by her request to leave her case behind for collection later.
‘It’s not the usual,’ he told her with such absence of tone in his voice that Isabelle wondered if he meant the abandonment or the case itself.
‘That’ll make a nice change then,’ she suggested.
He made no response, looking from her to the case with a scowl. Covered in bright stickers and glued-on patches of fabric, shining beads and tassels, its original skin long buried, it was a case easily found at airports. She could see him reading the destinations, her name hidden amongst them, Isabelle Threlfall. Her thirty-two years of life effaced by the exotic roll call. The case far outshone her crumpled travel-worn layers of beige linen. Her weary face shaded out by the dull blond mess of heavy chin length hair. She pushed it back, tried to be more convincing.
‘I’m walking, and it’s heavy,’ she encouraged him. ‘James Threlfall will collect it later.’
‘Your husband, is it?’
Isabelle resisted the urge to embarrass the over-curious and indifferent keeper of cases with a potted history of her and James’ confusion about that point. To explain that for eighteen years they too had been trying to label their relationship. To claim, by being able to answer with a clear and understandable statement, some vibrant validity and outshine the patchwork history of her case.