Sophie almost had a breakdown as we got out of school and saw the sudden heavy downpour.
“My hair is going to be ruined!” she screeched as she attempted to cover her hair with her hands.
“Why didn’t you bring an umbrella then?” I asked her.
She looked at me as if I’m crazy. “Um, because it’s almost June.”
“Um, hello, we live in England,” I said. “Our summer consists of a slightly warm week right at the end of August.”
I tried to block out her complaints as we trundled the rest of the way home in the pouring rain. Sophie turned to me as we got to my house.
“Want to come round to mine for a bit?” she asked.
“I can’t, I’m seeing dad tonight,” I reminded her.
“Oh yeah, I forgot.” She gave me an encouraging smile before carrying on down the street to head her own way home.
She was constantly asking me how I felt about my parents’ divorce. She thought I was bottling everything up because I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t see the point in talking about it. They stopped loving each other; there was nothing I could do about it. So now I had to move on with life. I guess from the moment my parents started arguing, I stopped believing in the fairy-tale type of love that Sophie read about all the time in romance novels.
When I walked through the door, I automatically knew that my dad was already there because I could hear mum bustling about in the kitchen, pretending she had stuff to do, when she was actually just avoiding an awkward conversation. I walked into the sitting room and saw my dad sitting tensely on the sofa. He looked out of place in front of the pale yellow walls in his dark blue shirt and black pants. He looked relieved when he spotted me.
“There she is!” He jumped up, eager to leave. “You ready to go?”
I looked down at the uniform I was still wearing. “Five minutes,” I told him before heading towards the stairs.
“I’ll start the car!” He practically ran out the front door.
It was amazing how two people can go from love and marriage to not wanting to be in the same room as each other so quickly.
I threw some clothes on and headed outside after saying a quick goodbye to mum.
After dinner, I decided to tell dad about our mysterious sailor guy.
“How fascinating,” he said, pushing his straw coloured hair out of his eyes. “How can you find out more about the house in five minutes than I have in three years?”
I laughed. “It’s called Google, dad.”
“You’re going to have to get some proper research, though, if you have to do a presentation on it,” he told me before pondering for a moment. “Have you tried the Maritime museum?”
“The one in town?” I asked.
He nodded. “You might be able to get more information about the accident.”
The Maritime museum was a quite the tourist attraction in our town, mainly because of the docks. The docks were built in the 1800s and have seen many ships come and go. It seemed to be all about the water with our town, with the beach, the old lighthouse and the local fisherman. Everything was water related, so obviously, we had a Maritime museum.
I thought about it for a second. “You’re right; I might go check it out tomorrow.”
Dad drove me back home later that evening. As I got out of the car he shouted, “Let me know if you find anything else.”
I told him that I’d keep him updated and headed towards the house. I wondered exactly how many families had lived here before us. It was strange to think that these old walls and doors that we’d spent so much time fixing up, had seen such sadness, and hopefully a lot of happiness as well.
I founded mum curled up on the sofa with ice cream. She gave me a tired smile as I walked into the room.
“Did you have a nice time?” she asked.
I nodded in reply before heading to the kitchen. I grabbed a spoon and went to join mum. We gave each other a knowing look. Although she tried not talk about it, I knew how much the divorce had affected to her. She might have stopped loving my dad, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t going to miss him. I hated seeing either of them get upset.
We sat eating ice cream in silence for a while before I headed upstairs. I put my camera onto charge before getting in to bed, ready for my trip to the museum after school tomorrow.
“Oh come on, Sophie,” I pleaded after classes the next day. “Just come with me, please? I won’t take long.” I clung to her arm dramatically and gave her my best pouty face.
“I have much better things to be doing after school than hanging out in a museum,” she replied as she carried on walking out of the school gates.
“Like what?” I asked. “Reading an article in a magazine about how to get any guy to fall for you?”
She glared at me. I had her there. I knew all about the girly gossip magazine stash she had under her bed.
“I have work of my own to do, Liv.” I could tell she wasn’t going to break.
With one last pout, I said a begrudging goodbye before heading in the opposite direction, towards our town centre. Of course, it started raining again and I didn’t have an umbrella.
Twenty minutes later, I found myself outside the museum. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the giant windows and immediately wished I hadn’t. My dark brown hair looked black from all of the rain, making my face appear even paler. I looked like I’d just washed up on a shore.
I pulled my school tie off before going inside. The bald security man by the entrance watched me as I stood around, not knowing where to look first. God, I wished Sophie had just come with me so I didn’t have to look so pathetic on my own.
I spotted some stairs and decided to go to the first floor. I walked through the double glass doors at the top of the staircase and the first thing I saw was a gigantic model of a ship. I had no idea what ship it was, but it looked impressive.
Not knowing where to start, I walked over to the displays and skimmed a glance at them. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for or where I would find it. I must have awkwardly wandered around for about ten minutes before I got distracted by an exhibit about Titanic.
I carried on walking around for a bit until I found a small corridor leading to a different part of the museum. I pondered for a moment before deciding to go and see where it led to. There were pictures and a few paragraphs of writing on the corridor walls; something about emigrants.
At the end of the corridor, I came out into a darkened room. The place seemed deserted. I looked around and saw someone sitting at a wooden table in the dark. It took me a few seconds to realise that it was a waxwork figure.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the dim light, I looked around and noticed more waxwork figures, all dressed in rags and cloth. There were barrels and wooden benches placed around the dark room. Great. Wax models of people that looked absolutely terrifying. Just what I needed.
I wandered through an archway into another room that was designed like an old alleyway. There was a small cave built into one of the walls with a figure of a boy standing just inside it. There was this black, fluffy thing by his feet but I couldn’t see what it was because of the dark, so I leaned in closer.
“It’s a dog,” a voice came from behind me.
I must have jumped about a mile into the air and put my foot down on something that wasn’t the floor.
“And that,” the guy said, “was my foot.”
“What on earth are you doing sneaking up on me like that?” I asked shrilly, spinning around to face the source of the voice. I was still recovering from almost dying of fright.
“You looked curious, so I thought I’d tell you what it is,” he replied.
I took a proper look at the guy standing just a few steps in front of me. He was young, definitely around my age. His eyes stood out in the darkness of the room. I thought he was just a visitor, like me, but then I noticed the museum tag hanging down from around his neck.
I simply said, “Oh.”
“Sorry if I scared you.” I could tell he was trying hard not to laugh.
“This place is creepy enough without being snuck up on,” I told him. “What even is all this anyway?”
“It’s one of our permanent exhibits,” he told me as he glanced around. “It’s about emigrants who left the country via the docks here in the 1920s.”
I wasn’t exaggerating, the place definitely was creepy. The waxwork models looked like something you’d find in a horror film. I looked away from the models and saw that the museum guy was still standing there, watching me.
“So,” I looked down at his museum tag, “do you work here?” He saw what I was looking at and lifted the tag, bringing it closer.
“Volunteer, actually,” he said as pointed at his tag. I saw ‘VOLUNTEER’ printed in small writing. He took a few steps towards the glass display on the wall near to us. “My uncle is one of the security guys here so he put in a good word for me.”
I stood awkwardly for a moment, not really knowing what to do. I focused my attention onto another model, this time of an old man sitting at the table that I’d first seen when I walked in. He was dressed in rags and had dirty, grey strands of hair failing over his wrinkled face.
“That’s Mr Charlie,” the guy told me, seeing the direction of my gaze. “He’s the most popular model to take pictures with.”
Why would anyone want to go near that thing, let alone take pictures with it?
“Well, he is handsome,” I joked.
The guy smiled, looking over at Mr Charlie. Now that he was standing closer to one of the few lights in the place, I could see that his tousled hair was actually a lighter brown than how it had first looked. His eyes looked blue, though I couldn’t tell properly in the light. He was good looking. The type of good looking that would have girls swooning in Sophie’s favourite romance reads. Looking away from the cute guy, I remembered why I was actually here.
“You don’t think you could help me find something in the museum, could you?” I asked him.
His eyes gleamed. “What is it you need to find?” he asked enthusiastically.
“Some information about a boat accident that happened years ago,” I began as I rummaged around in my bag and pulled out my pages that I’d printed.
He took hold of the pages and I watched his eyes sweep over them. He looked up a minute later, a grin on his face.
“The April Star, huh?” he asked.
I nodded. “I’m doing a research project about it.”
“Well you’re in luck,” he told me as he passed back the papers. “We have a whole display dedicated to it. I’ll show you.”
There was a whole display on it? Well I hadn’t been expecting that. Maybe my history project wasn’t going to be as difficult as I’d thought. The guy took a few enthusiastic steps and then motioned for me to follow. I wondered what someone like him was doing volunteering in a museum. He just didn’t look like the type. I instantly scolded myself for judging someone without knowing a thing about them.
He glanced at me whilst we walked, causing me to highly regret the decision to go straight to the museum without going home first. The school uniform look was not my best.
“So this research project,” he spoke up. “Is it a school thing?”
“Yeah,” I told him. “Well, sixth form actually.”
“Oh, you’re in sixth form?” he asked, raising his eyebrows slightly. “Me too,” he added.
I couldn’t blame him for being surprised. My sixth form was one of the very few in our town that required students to continue wearing the school’s uniforms. I was seventeen, eighteen in a few months, yet in my uniform, with a baby face like mine, I still looked very much like a high school girl. God help me at university in September.
“Are you in your last year?” I asked him. I figured he must have been.
“Yep, I have my final deadlines in a few weeks.”
“Same here,” I told him.
We approached a set of double doors. He led me through them into a large room, full of huge display cases. It was at the far wall, at the back of the room, where we stopped. Behind the glass there was a sailor’s hat along with a few other items. There were also photographs and a small booklet, the words faded and the pages yellowing from age.
“That’s from the memorial service,” he told me, pointing at the booklet.
I stepped towards the display to look at some of the pictures. I found one with two men standing together in front of the boat. The caption underneath read:
Sailors George Alfred and Richard W. Thompson, both were lost.
“That’s him!” I squealed as I pointed excitedly at the picture. I looked over my shoulder and realised that the poor guy didn’t have a clue what I was so excited about. “This sailor used to own my house,” I explained as I pulled my camera from my bag and started snapping a few photos.
“Really?” he asked, looking intrigued.
“Apparently so,” I told him. “When I was doing research for my project, I typed in my address and found all these stories about this boat.”
“Well,” he pondered for a second, “I could probably find out a few more things for you, if you want? We have some archive materials stored. I could have a look through them for you.”
“That’d be brilliant,” I said gratefully. I realised I didn’t even know this guy’s name. “I’m Olivia, by the way,” I told him.
He held his hand out. “I’m Ash, nice to meet you Olivia.”
Ash. I’d never met an Ash before. It was a nice name, the type of name you’d expect a guy who looked like that to have. Cute name for a cute guy.
“What happened to meeting me outside?”
Ash looked over the top of my head and smiled. I turned around to see who the voice had come from. Standing behind me was a Goddess. She was tall, flawless and dressed in a little floral skirt that showed off her long, tanned legs. Ash stepped around me and reached in to kiss her lightly on the mouth. Of course a guy like him would have a gorgeous girlfriend like her, wasn’t that how it always was?
They complimented each other perfectly; she was just slightly shorter than him with blonde hair that fell way past her shoulders. And it wasn’t the kind of blonde you get out of a bottle, either. It was a golden blonde, natural. I instantly disliked her. I had no real reason to dislike her, but I did anyway.
“Sorry,” he said, smiling at her sheepishly. “I completely forgot the time. I was busy being a good little helper. This is Olivia; she’s doing some research and needed help finding some stuff out.”
“Hi, Olivia,” the girl said cheerfully, giving me a little wave. “I’m Annabel.”
She genuinely seemed pleased to meet me. No fake niceties. It made me dislike her even more. I mumbled hello to her before making my excuses to leave.
“I’m in here until four thirty most weekdays and sometimes I’m in for a bit on Saturdays if you want to come by,” Ash called after me. “I’ll see what else I can find out for you.”
“Thanks,” I replied before heading towards the doors.
I took a glance back at the pair before walking out and saw Annabel link her arm through Ash’s as they began to walk off.