Surrounded by bills, paperwork and builder’s estimates, Elizabeth wondered if she had done the right thing. Only yesterday, she had to call the plumbers in to sort out a leak in the ceiling and their estimate, in its thousands, prompted her to organise insurance straight away.
It was yet another monthly outgoing she couldn’t afford.
‘What have I done?’ She asked herself, as she reached for her third cup of coffee that evening.
She hadn’t even considered the issues of buying a property, which had damp patches in the corner of the rooms, and all the problems that would bring. There would probably be enough money, to get the flat up to living standards, but the renovations in the shop would tip her over the edge.
Money was spent at every turn.
Solicitors were like vultures. Every time she telephoned them, there was something else to pay for. The £35,000 profit she made from the sale of her house, evaporated into nothing, like it was being boiled dry in a saucepan.
An estimate for an industrial sized oven was picked up. One of them cost over £3000. One wouldn’t be enough. She would probably need at least three. In addition to this, she didn’t know what horrors were to be found when she eventually started cleaning the shop downstairs.
It was too late now for regrets, but she couldn’t do anything without a productive night’s sleep. ‘Come on old girl,’ Elizabeth said, and heaved her body into a standing position. Her limbs stretched as far as they would go, Elizabeth studied her new home. One door was off its hinges, and the mould patch seemed to have spread. Yet, as she crept over the frayed carpet, it had never felt more like home.
Gone was the cabinet full of ornaments, to be replaced with tins of half used paint and rolls of wallpaper. She had never hung anything other than a picture at home. The job was an insurmountable climb for a professional.
The next morning, she sorted everything into piles. Elizabeth had a clearer sense of what needed to happen. She would focus on the flat for now – there was no real rush to get the bakery up and running. If it meant she had to save up to do the renovations, then it was just something she had to do.
She strolled to the solicitors to pay off the last of her fee. Her visit with Martha was next on her list. There was a woman she could aspire to. With everything going on in her life, she could always find the time to laugh.
Prison visits were looked forward to now and today was no different.
Martha sat in her usual seat. With a genuine smile, and a cheery wave, she was called over. They were unlikely friends. Others may think it strange, but she didn’t.
‘I was beginning to think something held you up,’ Martha said.
Elizabeth took the weight off her feet and sank into the chair. ‘I didn’t realise the time. I forgot I had to go to the solicitor this morning. Something went wrong with the bank transfer.’
‘Is that all paid for now?’
‘Yes, for the solicitor at least.’
‘They cost an arm and a leg, don’t they?’
‘I wish it stopped there, but at least the place is all mine now.’
‘How are you finding living in the flat?’
‘I’m getting there.’
‘How’s the appeal going?’
‘Same as you getting there, but nothing is going to happen overnight.’ Martha looked up to the officers. ‘I hate Laura coming here, we aren’t even allowed any contact. Do you know how difficult it is having her so close and not being able to hug her.’
‘It must be horrible.’
‘Sometimes it’s more than I can stand, but Sheila seems to think I’ll win, and the solicitor has high hopes too. It’s just I’m so nervous about giving evidence again.’
‘It will be different this time. We’re both going to be brutally honest. I agree with Laura, it won’t be long before you’re out of here.’
‘I wish I had your confidence.’
‘You’re just feeling a little low that’s all. I know how that feels but look how far you’ve come.’
‘I know, just an old woman being foolish,’ Martha said. ‘Let’s talk about something more exciting. When are you opening your bakery?’
‘It might not happen for a while, I’ve been doing the accounts, and I’ll have enough money to get my flat sorted, but the shop might have to wait a while.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Not enough money. I was looking into how much industrial ovens will cost, just in case the one’s in the shop don’t work. They’ve probably been there since the 1950’s. They are just over £3000 each, and one won’t be enough. Then there are the freezers, electrics, and the plumbing. One thing the flat has taught me is that surveys don’t include everything. Renovations will cost money I just don’t have.’
‘How much would you need?’
Was Martha implying what she thought? To be friends was one thing, but business partners. Wasn’t that too quick a step? What if they fell out? Their relationship was too fragile to add money into the mix.
‘For the shop to open, how much for the renovations?’
‘What are you saying?’
‘It’s simple, how much do you need to get the bakery up and running?’ Martha moved forward in her seat.
‘You need your money for your appeal, somewhere to live.’
‘The solicitor isn’t an issue, not really. I’ve sold my house too remember. I want to do this and besides, I love the idea of being a silent partner in your bakery. It will give me something else to think about rather than the appeal.’
‘I’m looking at least £9,000 for the ovens, and then I don’t even know what monsters I’ll find once the place has been cleaned up. You could be looking at least double that, probably a little more.’
‘That’s fine, I’ll talk to Laura, get her to send the £20,000 over to your bank. Just send her the details.’
Elizabeth tried to think of a sufficient reason for Martha to not invest in her business. There was so much that could go wrong. It was bad enough she was going to lose her own money, but the responsibility for someone else’s was a difficult bridge to cross.
If things went wrong, there was no coming back.
‘It’s a kind offer, but I’ve no experience in all of this.’
‘Honestly, the solicitor isn’t going to cost as much as you think. Sheila’s solicitor friend has been really good.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘I do, I want to do this. I’ve spent too long in my life not taking chances, and even if, by some small chance, the business ends up failing – I still won’t have wasted my money. I’m helping out a friend. You would do the same for me if you could.’
‘Okay I accept then, but I’m going to get a solicitor to draw up a proper contract, make this legal and above board. If, and it’s a very big if, I make a profit some of it will go to you.’
‘You don’t have to do that.’
‘Yes, I do, you’re going to give me £20,000 and I’m not going to take that money without there being something legal in between. Silent partner or not so silent partner, Martha Shaw, I want to do right by you.’
‘Silent partner that sounds good, but it will have to be in Laura’s name for now.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Officially, the money isn’t mine, but if I win my appeal, I can change the names over.’
‘We’ll do that then partner.’