The old and creaky two person lift cranked and rumbled noisily into action, all four foot square of wooden floor space with eight foot tall mahogany walled interior. With a repetitive mechanical squeak and laboured grind it began the descent to the lower floors. Having only a concertina metal bar gate for safety, which closed noisily and all but properly, the internal off cream coloured wall of the lift shaft alternating with the external metal doors of the passing floors were uncomfortably on show as Mac moved away from what was at one time his ancestors top floor apartment of Burdett Hall. A flickering green glass directional navigator lens, positioned within the shiny brass baseplate of the selector attempted to tell of this downward travel.

He did not like this lift. As a child he had once visited the country house with his mother for some reason or another and had, as children do, in exploring his surroundings found the lift too inviting an opportunity to miss. Nothing like any modern elevator, its construction and workings enthralled him. The sound of the pulleys straining to complete their task and the smell of hot grease produced by them doing so introduced an element of question as to whether or not the chosen destination could be achieved. Combine that with the floor selector not being true to its purpose and the young age of his first solo outing within its closet all reminded him of why he still viewed the apparatus with apprehension and respect and if the truth be known, even at his mature age, a slight amount of trepidation and fear.

“Don’t be so silly,” he scolded himself on realising the effect the confined space was having on him once again.

It had taken him what seemed like an eternity to find his mother again all those many years past. Every floor he had chosen the lift seemed to disregard until every opening had seemed not to be the correct one. If it had not been for her racing down the accompanying sparse stairwell once used by the staff of the house, to find his location and hold open the lift door at the second floor he would certainly have endured the torment much longer. A shiver went through his body thinking back to it. So when the lowest floor was reached with a sudden stop that forced a bounce of the cubicle Mac collapsed the metal gate with some force and noise, then pushed at the sturdy, metal outer door to reveal the back parlour area of the old house, one still not taken over to general public use. That done he was more than happy to make a welcome exit giving the cables one more bounce as he jumped out to safety.

The very large kitchen table, a bleached oak affair, centrally placed within the room of wall cabinets and shelves full to the brim with every copper utensil imagined, once seated twenty people with ease, sadly now there only remained half a dozen of the sturdy chairs scattered here and there at the extremities of the once bustling workplace leaving the grand piece of worked wood looking somewhat forlorn with its lack of company.

He was taking the opportunity to explore the house again while Sal and Aunt Bessie caught up with the past few months of her pregnancy. Bessie had been away and wanted all the details. Did she travel to other dimensions like those dreams had told of Mac wondered. It all seemed too far fetched in the cold light of day, and what a cold light, the reflection of the grey sky from off the receding rainwater in the park out the parlour’s leaded lights held no cheer whatsoever. It had stopped raining now at least and the water level had began to retreat a little but why such a flood had occurred was quite worrying.

The dreams he had been having of late also worried him. What in the world were they all about. That farmstead on the hill he kept imagining, and the romance he was having with Margaret. Why did the dream feel so real. It seemed to be that it was the only dream he had of late. Perhaps because of Sal being pregnant and all the change happening and that to come, maybe sub consciously all of that was playing with his mind a little. It should not, but it did even though the two of them were organised and ready for parenthood, they, he really could not wait for the next weeks to pass. Maybe that was it, parenthood, perhaps he was more wary than he cared to consider.

Through the kitchen door and into a long vaulted corridor, a long case clock, lovingly polished mahogany shining back at him tick tocked the seconds away. Deep guttural ticks, of time counted for so many decades, centuries even, seconds observed and passed but none forgotten, recorded and remembered, each and every single one of them. Within the body of the timepiece the pendulum, a round brass circular weight with his family crest emblazoned on it in porcelain, hung at the end of an elaborate brass rod. It swung left then right then left then right again, slowly, surely as if any future depended upon its beat. Even out of sight its metronomic call echoed softly and deliberately through the dark panelled walls of every ground floor room, as much a part of the woodwork as the grain itself. Even the darkest of oak furniture seemed to revel in this recording of time, counted out as it was, regular, rhythmic almost hypnotic, played out as it had been day after day, month on month for all those many, many, many years gone by. Mac walked in time to the ticking, captured by its beat.

At the far end of the kitchen a connecting passage of historical busts, alabaster heads and shoulders, figures of his own ancestors standing sentry either side of the sandstone floor led on into the library of massive bookcases heaving to their brim with tomes old and new. Mac took to one of the many floral, purple patterned settees to wait for the two ladies to appear, this their prearranged meeting point.

The settee was a mass of comfort, the upholstery almost enveloping his thighs in a delight of cushion. Mac settled back to look out the bay window and wait. The water line had receded another foot or two down the park revealing one of the lower paths under the ash grove. It still had a long way to go.

Margaret came to mind once again. Who was this woman, this doppelgänger of his own wife. Why did she keep appearing in his dreams. Also Aunt Bessie. His own Aunt Bessie. She was the common factor in all of this, the connection between his dreaming and real life. She was a traveller in time in his dreams, should he tell her about the fact. Maybe not. She would no doubt find it all too far fetched. Still there would be no harm in testing the water. Testing the water! That was a laugh. Looking out the window he could barely keep his eyes open to look on it the settee was so comfortable.

As usual it was not easy to find a parking space that was free and required no charge, They had driven around for a good ten minutes now and Margaret was beginning to get exasperated with the town’s layout. Finally Mac saw a chance, a precinct actually free of vehicles, free of pedestrians too for that matter. The area was being repaved courtesy of a workforce in yellow high visibility jackets and white hard hats at the far end of the street. They were some fifty yards away and did not seem interested in who might be parking up. The entire area looked like a building site anyway so what would be the harm? The Landrover could be parked up against a whitewashed shop window out of sight from prying eyes and no one would be any the wiser.

The two of them got out and walked a few yards before Mac turned to look at the one and only obvious vehicle in the vicinity, then he turned to Margaret. She was doing the same.

“Better not eh!” she said, a worried look to match the concern, “don’t want clamping.”

“You’re right, c’mon. There’s plenty of time, we’ll find somewhere else.” Sheepishly they returned to open up the Land rover, start up the engine and turned the vehicle around. Not one of the workmen took any notice whatsoever. Maybe they would have been alright leaving it there after all.

As look would have it just around the next corner was space galore, a massive rectangular area free from yellow lines.

“That far corner,” Margaret quickly pointed out, “let’s take that.”

Mac drove across the tarmac precinct. Then the realisation dawned on him, on them both actually, and at exactly the same time.

“It’s a bus station!” Mac called out in annoyance. No buses, but the layout was obvious, given away actually by the faded white lines marking the kerbsides. If they had noticed these in the first place then the function would have been clear.

“There’s not going to be time,” Margaret whimpered disappointedly.

“There is love, I’ll drop you off here and go find somewhere, we’ll meet at that bank on the corner in an hour, yes?”

She smiled back at him sweetly. Needing to be off to her task she agreed and with a huge excited kiss on the lips left him to find a more suitable parking spot, a free one of course. Mac turned the Land-rover about again and headed out of the open space back into the traffic wondering exactly what Margaret was up to. Why did she need to be in town today? She was so adamant of coming, and at such a short notice but had not said why. The time of day was important too, and usually she was not really ruled by that, the hour of the day. Maybe she was buying his birthday present. What was she up to?

Fifteen minutes later he had found a lonely residential side street, parked up and was now aimlessly wandering from street to street still wondering over what Margaret was about. The town itself held no interest for him, no interest at all, shop after store,merchandising mediocre goods displayed haphazard and uncaringly, shoddily in some cases. Shabby outlets within an even more shabbier shopping centre, business after business apparently intent on gaining maximum capital for minimal outlay.

Then, on turning a corner he came across a pleasant surprise. A town square of all things. Tall trees at the far side with a dancing troupe rehearsing on a makeshift stage under long reaching branches. There was a crowd gathered to watch whatever was going on. Mac could not resist.

The participants were almost but not naked. Dressed in revealing leotards with bodies coloured with bright paint their appearance was captivating, tasteful, enchanting even. Mac found himself drawn closer to the performance, thirsty for knowledge of what it was. By the advertisement on the placards it was all in aid of some charity or other, a worldwide event aptly named Art across Area.

A charismatic and muscular director come dancer, not young but well toned was obviously in charge of the freshly painted faces and bodies, all of them trying to follow his instruction in order to perform as one, dancing about one an other in what could be described as a quite erotic fashion if it was not done so tasteful and matter of fact. His commands were whispered loudly as he swayed his own six foot stature left then right in time to the music playing out through several large speakers either side of the stage.

Mac was mesmerised, caught in the headlights, seduced by the beauty on offer, completely captivated and lost in the magic, that was until he caught the eye of someone. A woman, who looked like Margaret, at the very back of the stage. She was trying to keep out of sight. No, it could not possibly be her, could it? No, it was so not her, this kind of a thing, or was it? Sadly with all of the dancers coalescing into one visual extravaganza of paint and cloth he lost sight of her and the next time someone he thought was the same dancer showed up, at the front this time, it was obvious he was mistaken. Still he watched for another ten minutes and even though that face did not appear again the rhythms and choreography kept his imagination, even though he could not fathom the storyline that was no matter. The dance was the entertainment.

Time was moving on. He needed to find the place they were to meet, the bank in the town centre, he did not know how near it was.

Turning around he left the rest of the crowd to their entertainment and retraced his steps. A faster than normal pace for him as well. Why? He was still worried about if it was Margaret, on that stage. He could not shake it. Perhaps because of the male company she was keeping if it was her. Would she like any one of those handsome dancers, maybe go with them, be unfaithful? He knew her libido, and it was not one easily satisfied. Should he trust her? It was her, surely! It looked so much like her, she clearly wanted to hide though. Was it her?

“It’s my birthday soon.” he consoled himself. “Some present that would be if she was involved with some photo shoot or something, there was a bloke taking pics to capture it all. Maybe?”

A tap on the shoulder brought him away from his suspicions. It was Philip, in town to look at some jewellery for his mother’s silver wedding anniversary. The carrier bag gave away the place of purchase and Philip’s wife the item. Mac told them of the dance troupe, suggesting they should go see for themselves, maybe find out what it was all about for him. He had to meet up with Margaret he explained.

Philip had an idea. “There’s a live webcam to this event I think,” he said, taking out a handheld tablet from his woollen overcoat. “I heard about it yesterday. It’s an event to be staged across continents. They’re making much prized artwork worth lots of money as well as performing the dancing. These pictures of the dancers in body paint, body art and movement, the chemistry between all of ’em, taken in various locations by this artist could fetch thousands for charity they hope.”

The webcam came up, and after several seconds of watching Mac could not see anything of Margaret amongst the dancers, how could he? She was quietly stood behind him having spotted them all huddled over the ten inch screen in the middle of the pavement on her way to meet up with her lover.

The feel of someone secretively touching his behind brought Mac a moment of concerned pleasure mixed with frightful anticipation. He turned around slowly. Thankfully it was Margaret. She had his present in her other hand, and a long, long kiss for his lips. Had she been with those dancers? He was sure it was her face he had seen. Had she been with any of them? She looked ravishing, hungry, and her kiss said more than hello so most likely she had not strayed.

After a few words with Philip and his wife the two pairs split up to go about their separate day. Walking hand in hand and somewhat in a rush Margaret teased Mac over his present. It was in a purple box of velvet, and although it was not yet the actual day she insisted he open it up. At first he wanted to wait but she would have none of it, urging him, pleading with him to open it.

So reluctantly he took of the lid to find a plush velvet interior full of elaborate jewellery, theatrical jewellery actually. A bold purple flower, a necklace, long drop earrings. pirate like almost but more burlesque. One of the earring’s long joined pieces had come apart. Mac picked it up out the box.

“Is it meant to be like this?” he asked, totally confused now.

“Yes it makes up to different lengths babe,” she explained taking it off him to put it back together. “It’s all for you to wear to impress at that rehearsal you were just watching. I’ve managed to get through the audition and have asked if you can join. We can travel the world hun, please say yes, they’re all waiting to meet you.” She was jumping up and down like an excited child.

Also inside the box was an envelope which on opening held an invitation scribbled on a small business card headed ‘Dance the World’. It read ‘Please join us!’

“It was you then!” he asked, bewildered at the revelation.

“Yes it was, c’mon you must meet ’em, now,” she insisted, “there still in town. Impress ’em and we can travel the world hun. Quick put these on and I’ll get some face paint for ya.” She clipped on the earrings, one to each ear and placed the flower behind his jacket lapel. Then she tied the necklace around him and without much more of a chance to argue she had him running through an alleyway between two stores to the place of the rehearsal, the dancing now finished thank goodness. What was he going to do to impress them? He was no artist by any stretch of the imagination. It was an absurd idea. What was Margaret about. Had she lost her mind!

“I’ve never danced before in my life,” he reminded her as they neared the gathering, all stood now in front of the empty stage.

“Just go along with my lead,” she whispered, “trust me. Sylvian this is Mac, the one I told you about.”

Sylvian was still in face paint, a white mask and clown lips, happy at the eyes but sad around the mouth. His single shoulder strap black leotard left no one in any doubt about his musculature and manhood.

“Mac, dear boy,”he began. “I understand you can feed an army at the drop of a hat.”

“I told Sylvian the troupe could all come back to the farm for a barbecue hun.”

Mac felt bewildered but tried not to show it. Go along with her lead she had said. Well, here goes he decided.

“Yep no problem Sylvian. We have no charcoal lighters though, but I’ve plenty of mutton fat off the sheep carcasses to provide a light. It’ll be burning in no time. Sausage, burgers and chicken.” He hoped the answer was eccentric enough a reply.

There was an awkward silence. A pin dropping silence, one of those dig a hole and climb into it moments. What had he said, done, intimated? Margaret looked to him, her jaw open in amazement, no disappointment, utter and complete disappointment. What had he done to upset the conversation so much, the mutton fat? He used it back home. Surely not that.

Margaret’s face said it all. He had let her down, let himself down. There could be no climbing back up from this position. He would never be taken on now by the troupe of dancers. What was he to do, to try and redeem the situation?

“Mac!” Another tap on the shoulder. This time breaking him free of the idiotic situation. It was Sal. She and Aunt Bessie had finished there girly chat and had come to join him.

“Thank goodness,” he murmured, “I was just……” He rubbed the sleep from out if his eyes.

“What ya say hun?” Sal asked.

“Just a stupid daydream, nothing to worry about.”

“No go on love, dreams are to keep away the bad, what was yours?”

“Just a stupid dream about a dance competition you and me were auditioning for in the middle of town.”

“You! Dancing!”

“Yes I know. Goodness knows where it came from. Where’s Aunt Bessie?”

“She’s just gone to renew her bracelet she says, upstairs with the hierarchy. She’s off somewhere new next week.” Mac looked confused. Sal saw it in his face. “I know I didn’t understand what she was on about either.”

Mac did, unfortunately.

Aunt Bessie came to sit beside him. “Are you sure it was Sal, and not Margaret!” She had overheard the previous conversation on coming down the grand staircase.

Sal was the one now looking confused. “Whose Margaret?”

Mac looked at Bessie. “Dreaming again?”

Bessie nodded in agreement. But before any further discussion could take place Margaret’s voice came fro outbid nowhere.

“Mac! Mac! It’s breakfast time. Take a look at this hun. I’ve an email from Nigel.”

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