Walter scurried to pull an old sheet over a metal contraption on the floor. Without so much as turning around, he listened to the voice of an American man who had entered the garage.
‘I think you need some help building a machine.’
‘I can fix these motorbikes myself, thank you,’ Walter said, squeezing a wrench tightly in his right hand.
‘I’m talking about the time machine.’
3 DAYS TO GO
1928, Walter’s Garage, 3pm
Betsy Grace Doolish was the master of entrances. ‘It’s all in the ankle,’ she’d quip to any fool she considered less graceful than herself.
Of course, it wasn’t really in the ankle at all. “Ankle” was the trendy new word for walk and Betsy would take great pleasure in measuring people by their attention to her ankles after indulging them with her generous wisp of enlightenment.
That said, when faced with the door to her estranged Father’s garage, especially after having received no smiling faces at the door, her entrance, she had concluded, was of the utmost importance.
She turned the handle and swung the door inward, all ready for her fabulous arrival. Except, before she even had time to get a single ankle in the door, it smashed into something on the opposite side and slammed back shut in her face.
Betsy recoiled in horror: that was her trademark move and this was utterly dreadful.
On taking a deep breath in, she gave the unfortunate incident a further fifteen more seconds, just long enough to deflect any wild connections between her own entrance and that of the idiot before her, and tried again.
‘It’s not that I expected you to meet me at the boat or anything,’ she declared. ‘But a welcome at the very least would have been nice.’
Her Father, Walter Doolish, who was crouched over some tools on the garage floor, froze to the spot.
In total, it had been fourteen years since Betsy’s Mother, Irene, had slammed the porch door on Walter’s face one summers afternoon in 1918. Taking with her an eleven-year-old Betsy and sauntering off to the South of France for a warmer, richer, more sophisticated life.
Irene the green, as she was so fondly nicknamed by all on the Isle, was never a stayer. Even at school, she ploughed through more boyfriends than coursework. Ever the optimist, ever the dreamer, her life’s motto could be comprised of one single sentence: the grass – or so it seemed – was always, always greener on the other side. As a young woman she had managed, quite successfully, to coincide as every gossips dream and every young woman’s nightmare. Should an option more rosy than her current exist then no amount of emotional carnage would ever stand in her way.
Eventually the limitations of a small Island would finally halt her quest and – much to the relief of young women Island wide – she would eventually settle for the best that the Isle of Man had to offer: Walter Doolish.
However, despite Irene’s ruthless and rather immoral disposition, as the delicate stained glass windows of the porch door rattled behind her that summers afternoon in 1918, Irene dragged a tearful Betsy into the waiting car knowing that she had made the gravest of mistakes in Walter Doolish.
As her car ambled down the road that day, that would be the last time Irene the green ever set eyes on, spoke to, or even so much as mentioned her perfect husband, Walter Doolish.
Back in the garage, the world stood still whilst both father and daughter stared at one another.
Of course, Betsy had intended to behave in a much more reserved manner. She’d waltz in, dazzle him with her film star looks, reel off her death-defying tales of how she rose to fame as the world’s first female motorcycle racing champion, bowl him over with her incredible tales of foreign adventures, mystify him with her impressive, eloquent grasp of the French language. They’d fall around laughing, he’d be terribly impressed, hanging off her every word, with his chin resting on the palm of his hand as he looked up at her, wondering why on earth he never moved mountains or fought like a superhero to see his little girl any sooner.
That never happened.
‘Father, I’ve missed you,’ she said as she ran over and flung her arms around him.
Walter never moved an inch, and Betsy was left hugging Walter at an awkward sideways angle, her arms crossing his chest and back and her head resting on the back of his left shoulder.
Walter lifted one arm up and gently tapped her arm in a slow “there, there” manner.
Betsy increased the hugging pressure. ‘Oh, I’ve had the most terrible time getting here. That boat, no seats, they lost my bags and I’ve had to walk the whole way back. In these shoes too. Can you believe it?’
Walter said nothing.
Betsy loosened her death-grip as her head, in the most disjointed of angles, lead her body away backwards as she looked Walter straight in the eye.
‘Yes, yes, that’s terrible,’ Walter mumbled as he looked back to the floor.
‘Anyway. You know it’s a lovely day for a walk and all that, so not so bad.’
Something caught her attention around the cluttered workshop. There was bike tyres, bike parts, bits and bobs, wall to wall but something very special was completely missing.
‘My bike, Father, my bike. Please tell me it’s arrived.’
‘Yes, don’t worry it’s here, it’s out for a test drive at the moment and one of the lads will be bringing it back later. Look, why don’t you rest up and all that. We’ll have supper later.’
Back in the house, Betsy dragged her feet up the wooden staircase as she made her way to her old bedroom.
Walter remained in the darkened hallway below. ‘I must make a phone call and then I have more work to do. Your room is made up. Tea will be at 7. I will find your luggage,’ Walter shouted, as he watched Betsy disappear at the top of the stairs.
On hearing Betsy’s bedroom door slam to a close, Walter lifted the telephone receiver.
As Walter listened to the person on the other end of the phone his eyes darted back up the stairs.
He lowered his voice and moved his mouth closer to the telephone. ‘The problem is Betsy is here… I don’t know how… No, she has no idea… Listen to me, nothing, she knows nothing… We can work that out later. Just come back. I can’t do this. I’ve told her that we’re going to have a meal together. She hugged me… Walter’s face turned to a scowl as he gripped the receiver even tighter. ‘Don’t make me angry. Come back. Do you hear me? I can’t do this.’
Upstairs Betsy squeezed the cold brass door handle to her old bedroom and gave the door an emotionally deflated shove, leaving it to creak open. Inside her once vibrant-chaos of a bedroom was now an empty, lonely space. One mahogany double bed, one mahogany dressing table, and one mahogany wardrobe.
Betsy slumped to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, staring out onto the sunny back garden. What a terrible day it had been, she thought to herself as she spotted two unfamiliar men in the garden making their way into the outhouse. Thinking nothing of it, as the outhouse was where her father’s staff lived, she simply shut the bright sun out, lay down on the bed, and was fast asleep in around two seconds flat.