Copyright©August 2016 Suzy Stewart Dubot
An Anglo/American who has been living in France for over 30 years, she began writing as soon as she retired. It is a passion discovered late in life, but lived to its fullest. With her daughters, she is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She uses words when she’s not protesting in the street.
Her website :
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Book cover design: Suzy Stewart Dubot
Kelly wasn’t just tired. She was broken.
The final blow that had knocked her legs from under her had been Justin’s betrayal. He had sold their story to the press and she’d found herself on centre spreads, half-naked.
Her agent, Fiona, had tried to laugh away the hurt by quoting Oscar Wilde — “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
It hadn’t helped — at all. Kelly was now beyond resilience. She was shattered into tiny, brittle pieces.
Never again could she appear before an audience without thinking they were seeing her half naked. The popular songs she sang and the spectacles she gave left her fans imagining she was a rebel, a young version of Madonna, who would go to extremes for the sake of entertainment, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. She was basically shy. Her performing persona only took over on stage because she loved to sing and dance; she had been surprised people paid to hear and see her. If there were to be extremes, it was off stage where she reverted to an unassuming twenty-two-year-old vegetarian orphan, who worried about animals. Makeup less and wearing unremarkable clothes, she was seldom recognised.
Fiona had taken over from her first agent, Phil, who had only been an amateur. Fiona had had what it took to get Kelly’s talent noticed. In under a year Kelly had reached heady heights and was much in demand on stage and television—until Justin had seen what their relationship was worth to him in his bank account. The unexpected publicity in the gossip columns had her besieged from every direction wanting her to expose her soul. She was unreachable.
Sitting quietly at her kitchen table, Kelly tapped the tip of her pen on her bank statement. Even after taxes, she was still a wealthy woman. It was time for her to break away and recreate herself.
The large craft envelope on the table next to her bank papers held her latest contract with Fiona. She would not be signing it. Understandably, her first contract had been for a year as Fiona hadn’t wanted to commit to Kelly for longer, until she’d tested her capabilities. There was, however, a clause included that said Fiona would have priority on her next contract. Although Kelly had been disappointed in Fiona’s lack of confidence in her at the beginning, now she was grateful for it. She had been left an opening to escape. These last days, Fiona had been pushing her to sign in the nicest, most charming way, but they both knew it was because she had proven her market value beyond expectations. She was a gold mine which had Fiona’s eyes shining in anticipation of the earnings she would make as Kelly’s agent. Of course, she’d gilded her encouragement for signing with words she thought Kelly wanted to hear, like… travelling overseas, concerts and encounters with world-famous entertainers.
Fiona had not taken into account the seriousness of the betrayal. For her, it happened all the time to people in all walks of life. It was something you sucked up before moving on. Hadn’t she been through two divorces?
Kelly decided she would disappear first before telling Fiona that she’d opted out of the showbiz world. Her decision was final, so she might as well avoid the confrontation that would ensue once Fiona realised she wouldn’t change her mind.
“But, Sweetie, don’t you realise that what’s his name did you a favour. You are the most sought-after star of the moment, but that won’t last if you don’t show your face.”
“Haven’t I shown enough to last me a lifetime?” Kelly answered Fiona on the phone.
“God, Kelly. Boobs are boobs. There have been more shocking things exposed about others in the meantime. Nobody cares about your boobs today.”
“I care!” Kelly practically shouted into the phone.
“I thought you cared about singing,” Fiona switched back to business but was surprised to hear Kelly’s heart-felt response.
“I’ve turned the page. Been there, done that and got lots of money. I’ve transcended to more peaceful activities that will be good for my soul.”
“Don’t tell me you’re in the clutches of some kind of Hari Krishna sect—pleeaassse.”
Kelly laughed. “I’m on my own living each day as it comes. I’m enjoying the lack of pressure, to be honest. Good-bye nerve-tingling adrenalin. I can now appreciate birds chirping.”
“You’ll soon tire of that, Kelly, dear. When you do, you’ll know where to find me, only, don’t leave it too long. The public are a fickle lot that shift from one star to another as easily as breathing, quickly forgetting favourite faces… and boobs.”
“Thank you for taking me to the heights, Fiona. I’ll remember you fondly in my memoirs,” Kelly told her.
“Take care of yourself, Kelly. You have a whole life ahead of you with lots of bumps in it.”
“I’m already a little less naïve, thanks to Justin,” Kelly answered. “I wish you the best, Fiona. You’re a fabulous agent and I’ll say it to whomever listens.”
Fiona hung up with a tear in her eye. At that instant, it was for the loss of a sweet young girl who had been served a joker. Later tears would be from frustration at losing that brilliant star and the money she represented.
Life in St Albans, Hertfordshire, was pleasant. Not far from London, it still retained its country town atmosphere, untainted by that great looming metropolis.
Properties, however, were expensive and much sought after. The town indeed benefited from its country status, but it took no time at all to commute to London, which drew the wealthier into its folds. No bad thing for St Albans because the rich also injected their money into local businesses.
Kelly had invested a good portion of her savings into buying a cottage just outside of St Albans town. She really was in the depths of the countryside with several acres of land (as yet unexplored) attached to the quaint rambling house. She didn’t have to worry about incoming money as the interest on her investments was plenty to live on, if in a reasonable manner. The only extravagance that she’d accorded herself was the acquisition of a shelter dog, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a labrador. His acquisition was just what she had needed to release the pent up love she had to offer. The fact he would return it unconditionally was a bonus. Along the way, a stray cat had made its home in the shed, so she’d taken the cat in as well, happy to pay for her to be spayed. Her home environment was becoming a cosy place to be, which lifted her spirits. She was not pestered by the locals, who, if they knew who she was, never mentioned it or took advantage of her, although it was obvious knowing the expensive property she had bought.
Kelly had chosen the region because of its history steeped in the occupation by the Romans. It was a part of British history that had fascinated her from the time that an old uncle had given her a Roman coin and told her that it was still possible to see roads the Romans had built two thousand years before. Years before, she had visited the Verulamium museum in St Albans, which had cemented her appreciation of the area.
The name of her house was recognition of the Romans’ presence in the area too, because ‘Castrum’ in Latin translated as land used for a fortified military camp. It didn’t really mean that it had been the site of a Roman camp, but those giving it its name had hinted at the possibility.
Kelly filled her days with gardening, painting and going on long walks with her dog, Raza. She had begun to explore her land, which also boasted a small wood. Raza liked the wood best because the squirrels excited him. He also spent time digging in the damp leafy undergrowth, perhaps hunting for rabbits, old bones or truffles; none of which he ever found.
One Saturday afternoon, Kelly had taken him through a part of the woodland she had yet to explore. Raza had run ahead and then back and then ahead with the excitement of breaking new ground. Kelly was expecting him to return yet again, but he didn’t. She began to fret after five minutes when he still hadn’t reappeared. She called him while continuing in the direction he’d taken and finally heard him yipping when he knew she was near.
A large boulder that was higher than her head sat squat, surrounded by trees of all sizes. By following Raza’s yelps, she worked her way through the trees that held the stone snug with their trunks. Half-way around, she spied what looked like a small sinkhole, making her more cautious of where she was stepping. Looking around she found a slender branch half hanging off a tree. With the idea of using it to test the ground, she twisted it until it stripped away from the tree. Raza didn’t seem distressed, which calmed her, making her less hasty when deciding the path to take to reach him.
After a good deal of tapping the ground ahead of her, she found her way to the edge of the hole. In fact, she was surprised to see that large stones lined the interior, telling her that it wasn’t the typical sinkhole caused by underground water. It was probably an old ice house or reserve for storing things. Nonetheless, it was too deep for Raza to scramble up the sides, so she began gathering branches to throw down, hoping to make a pile high enough for him to escape.
In ten minutes, he was out, jumping at her and licking her face. She hadn’t felt this contented in a long time. She hugged Raza to her.
As a last minute thought before leaving the place, she used her phone to take pictures of the hole. She would come back well-equipped the next time to examine the place, but first she wanted to make inquiries. She’d ask in St Albans’ library if there was an historical society or an archaeological group in town. They might be able to tell her something about it and its use.
The librarian and been chatty and helpful.
“Sometimes we have a man called Joe Abbott who comes in and gives talks on local history,” she told Kelly. “I’m afraid it’s not my cup of tea, so I couldn’t tell you how good he is. A lot of people turn up for his talks, though. I don’t think he has anything planned in the near future, but you can find his information over there on the bulletin board. He’s pinned his card there.” She pointed Kelly in the right direction.
Kelly got out her phone and took a picture of his card so she might phone him in the evening. No point in bothering him during the day if he was at work.
“Joe Abbott speaking.”
“Hello, my name’s Kelly. I hope I’m not disturbing you?”
“No, I’m free for five minutes. How can I help you?”
“I live out of town in a house called ‘Castrum.’”
“Yes, I know it. I’ve often admired it when driving by. I like the way it’s situated with the drive leading up to it. Picturesque.”
“I’m calling you because I made a discovery in the woods adjoining the house and your name came up as someone knowing about local history.”
“If it’s treasure, you’re going to have to declare it, you know?”
“No, I mean, I don’t know. It’s some sort of underground hole or cave, but I haven’t inspected it yet. My dog fell in it but I managed to get him out without going in myself.”
“If it’s a sinkhole, don’t attempt anything on your own. It may drop down farther than you think.”
“No, it’s not a sinkhole because the part I could see was lined with stones. I was wondering if people used to use underground spaces for storage?”
“I’d have to come out and look. Can it wait until the weekend or is your curiosity eating away at you?”
“I reckon I can wait until Saturday. Could you come out then?”
“I’ll have to see about someone looking after my daughter, unless you don’t mind me bringing her with me? She’s five.”
“Please, do bring her. You’ll be going out of your way to help me and I like children.”
“That’s great. What time do you want us?”
“Is two o’clock too early in the day for you? I just think the light will be best then.”
“Two is fine. I’ll be bringing a strong spotlight with me, in any case.”
“There are all sorts of ladders in my garage if we need them…”
“Good to know. See you at two on Saturday.”
“Thank you. Bye.”
The knocker on the door resounded in the hallway.
Kelly came out of the kitchen to open the door and welcome in her guests. At a guess, she would say that Joe was about forty and, of course, his daughter was five.
“Hi, I’m Kelly, please come in.”
“It’s a lovely house,” the little girl said immediately. “We live in a flat,” she explained.
“This is my talkative daughter, Emma,” Joe told Kelly with a smile. “She loves meeting new people because it gives her a new audience to talk to.
Kelly estimated that Joe was just under six foot. His brown hair was cropped to look unkempt — or perhaps he didn’t realise that was the effect he gave — and he was fairly slim without the beer belly men begin to get in their thirties.
It would make it easier for getting in and out of the hole, Kelly thought.
“You look like someone I’ve seen on television,” Emma said as she scrutinised Kelly.
“You aren’t the first one to tell me that, Emma. I must have a face that looks like it’s been on the telly,” Kelly replied laughing.
The little girl seemed bright for her age. She was her dad’s girl all right, even down to the brown, cropped hair.
At that moment Raza rushed into the hallway to greet the little girl, who was thrilled by the dog’s overt affection.
“Ohh, he’s lovely,” Emma said, not the least bit intimidated by his big black presence. “What’s his name?” she wanted to know.
“Raza,” Kelly told her.
Saying his name had him sidling over to her.
“Well I can see by your clothes you’re both ready for exploring,” Kelly commented to Joe. “Shall we go?”
“I’ll just nip out to the car and get my spotlight,” said Joe.
“I’ve already got out a light-weight ladder from the garage, so I’ll come out with you,” Kelly said.
Off a chair she grabbed up a cloth bag, putting the strap over her head in bandolier fashion.
The fold-up ladder was made from aluminium and easy to carry. Joe offered to take it, but Kelly was comfortable carrying it. She led them around the house and out the back gate where woods could be seen on the skyline.
“It’s over that way, only about five minutes,” Kelly explained as she pointed to the woods.
Emma ran ahead and back with Raza, giving Kelly an opportunity to ask Joe about his liking for historical studies. When he told her he was a history and geography teacher in an upper school, things fell into place.
“History has always fascinated me,” he told her. “One thing has led to another and I find I’m keen on archaeology as well, don’t ask me why.”
They had reached the edge of the woods, so Joe called his daughter back.
“We don’t want you disappearing or getting lost,” he told her. “Kelly, or rather Raza, found a hole in these woods, and we don’t want you falling into one, now do we? Okay, sweetheart?”
“Alice fell down a hole,” Emma stated. “She had fun.”
“She was dreaming she fell down a hole. That’s a bit different.”
Kelly could now catch glimpses of the boulder through the trees. She was holding the ladder upright to make it easier to pass between trees.
“That’s the boulder in front of the hole,” she said stopping to point at it.
A massive stone was partially hidden by the trees. Upon approaching it, one could see splotches of lichen in some of the stone’s pockmarks. It wouldn’t be easy to scale such a boulder, because the elements had streamlined it, not leaving any flat surfaces. I might represent a challenge for rock climbers.
They circumvented it until coming to the hole, which was the size of a child’s plastic swimming pool.
Kelly began unfolding the ladder while Emma sat with her back against a tree with Raza at her side. The tree was an oak which had acorns to keep Emma busy as she looked for one still wearing its cap.
Joe approached the cave-in cautiously, but once on the lip of the hole, could see that the stone lining was, in fact, a wall holding back the earth.
“It’s your hole, do you want to go down first, or would you like me to go? From what I can see, it is pretty shallow,” Joe said getting up off his knees.
“It might be better if I go. I’d be easier to pull out, if necessary.”
They lowered the ladder whose tips were still above ground, and Kelly began to climb down. With her shoulders still visible, Joe handed her the spotlight.
Avoiding the branches she had thrown down for Raza, she placed her feet gingerly on the surrounding soil, only to find that it was imbedded with stones. She switched the light on and the chamber jumped into focus.
The large boulder was an integral part of the room because part of it had been worn away leaving an overhang. Kelly had to stoop to see how far back the boulder’s hollow went. She thought that the space created was probably not more than the size of a double bed.
“Everything all right?” Joe asked.
“Yes, I think it’s quite safe. It’s not large in here.”
She crouched down to go towards the back of the hollow and found a natural indent in the stone with something sitting in it. She put the light down facing the back wall and made sure she was steady on her feet before reaching for the object.
It was a sealed jar. The dust covering it prevented her from seeing if it was ceramic or glass, but in either case, she was very careful. Her imagination saw the thing crumbling into dust as she held it, but it was, in fact, quite solid. She backed out slowly until she could stand again and turned to look up at Joe.
“What did you find?” he questioned.
“I’m not sure. It’s a sealed jar.”
She went up two rungs of the ladder to hand it to him.
“Please take it. It’s breakable, so I don’t want to take any chances. I have to go and get your light, too.”
With two hands, Joe took it from her, and then watched as she returned into the hollow.
Instead of leaving immediately, she examined the space carefully from left to right. She couldn’t see anything else, but perhaps Joe might spot something that she’d missed from ignorance. She switched the light off and climbed the ladder leaving it on the ground once she’d emerged.
“Do you want to go down and see if I’ve missed anything?” she asked.
“I certainly would like to go down. I doubt you’ve missed anything, but I’d like to take a look around anyway.”
“Any idea what that could be?” she wondered, tilting her head towards the jar in his hands.
“Well… if I were to hazard a guess off the top of my head, I’d say it’s a Roman glass jar. Roman because of the Latin on the lid as well as the blown glass and its shape.”
“Roman! You’re kidding?” Kelly was enthralled at the idea.
“Roman!” she repeated, hardly believing it was possible.
“Let me go down and look around. I may be able to garner more information. Here, take this back.”
He offered her the jar.
“Hang on a minute,” she said as she reached into her bag and brought out a cloth.
She’d thought they might need it to wipe their hands. Joe place the jar in it in her hands, and Kelly wrapped it before replacing it in her bag.
“Daddy, can I go down too?”
They’d forgotten Emma.
Joe looked at Kelly.
“There’s nothing dangerous down there?”
“No, she’ll be all right,” Kelly reassured him.
“I’ll go first so I can catch you if you fall, Emma. Okay?”
She nodded enthusiastically.
Kelly found she enjoyed watching Joe’s rapport with Emma. Kelly had not had a dad to care for her and her mother had never been well enough to do more than the barest mothering. She’d died when Kelly was sixteen.
She laughed as she heard Emma’s squeals of delight rising from underground. It sounded like Joe was playing tricks with the light.
When they reappeared, Emma was still laughing. She was such a good-natured child that Kelly wanted to hug her, but she refrained and simply helped her off the ladder.
“I liked it down there,” she volunteered. “We didn’t find any treasure.”
“I sort of think the jar I have in my bag is a treasure.”
“Do you think it is full of jewels?” Emma asked.
“No. It doesn’t rattle, which I think it would if it had treasure in it. But as it is very old, that makes it an antique, and antiques are thought to be treasures.”
Emma nodded her agreement.
“Are you going to look inside?”
“Yes, I’d like to, but I think I need your dad’s help. I don’t want to break it. He may tell me if there’s a special way to open it.”
Joe came to them with the ladder in one hand.
There was one other thing of interest down there,” he told Kelly.
“Oh, yes?” she riposted.
“The ground is indeed covered in stones, but they are, in fact, a type of mosaic of pebbles. The design is not easy to see because of dust and dirt, but I’m sure by sweeping or brushing, or whatever archaeologists do on a site, will reveal it all. You do need to declare your find,” he informed her.
“I suppose they’ll want to keep this jar then?” she questioned.
“There is a good chance they will, but let’s try and get as many photos of it before we hand it over,” he suggested. “It would be a good idea to take a rubbing of the lid, too. I have special wax crayons that won’t damage it.”
“Well, let’s go back to the house. I did get in a variety of goodies for teatime. I’m sure there’ll be something Emma will like,” said Kelly.
“Oooh, I like teatimes,” enthused Emma.
“Me too,” Kelly told her. “Especially when I have guests with me to enjoy them.”
Afternoon teatime had slipped into early evening. Joe and Emma had left at seven. A good time was had by all with Emma’s enthusiasm for everything, reminding Kelly of Anne in Anne of Green Gables.
Emma had let out the secret that she had caught lice from somewhere, so her dad had cut her hair short, and then cut his short too so she wouldn’t feel bad. That had explained their rough hair styles Kelly had thought.
Because it was late on a Saturday, she and Joe agreed that contacting the authorities on Monday was reasonable. Besides, who was to say she had made the discovery on Saturday and not Sunday?
“Let me know what happens in the end, won’t you, Kelly?” Joe had asked as he and Emma were leaving.
“Of course,” she had agreed. “You’ll both have to come back and look at the place once they’ve cleaned it up. I know Raza would like to play some more with Emma. She has more energy than I have.”
“If you ever fancy going out for a drink, please give me a ring,” he said with a quizzical smile.
“I could say the same,” she replied with a smile.
“In that case, how about next Friday evening?” He jumped on the occasion. “ I’m free of any obligations.”.
“Emma?” Kelly queried.
“She’s with her mother next weekend. We’re divorced.”
He didn’t add more.
“Great for Friday,” Kelly said enthusiastically. “Seven-ish?”
“Okay. I’ll come by here and pick you up.”
“It’s a date,” Kelly agreed with a laugh. “Bye, Emma. Come back whenever you like. I was happy to meet you.”
Kelly bent and held out her hand to shake Emma’s, but Emma threw her arms around Kelly’s neck.
“Thank you for a wonderfullllll time,” she said without any prompting from her father.
She then headed to the car.
Joe looked at Kelly with a sideways smile. “She’s precocious.”
“You have a lovely girl, Joe,” Kelly told him without guile. “Have a pleasant day tomorrow. See you Friday. In case you need to reach me, my telephone number is under the name Kelly Konstant, with a ‘K’
Joe’s expression changed slightly. “The performer?”
“Not anymore,” she said with a shrug.
She was a little sorry to see how her name had affected him. He seemed withdrawn.
“I’ll understand if you’ve changed your mind,” she told him.
She imagined that some people might shy away from contact with subjects they feared were news-worthy.
“No, it’s not that. I was just thinking back to Emma’s remark when we first met. She thought you looked familiar. The penny didn’t drop for me. She’s pretty observant that kid.”
His expression had brightened.
“I’ll see you on Friday, Kelly.”
He leaned towards her and gave her a peck on the cheek and then quickly turned to join Emma who was already half into the car.
Mea Uxor ∞ Meus Amor in Aeternum ∞
The words around the edge of the ceramic lid had translated into ‘My Wife ∞ My Love Forever ∞’ with infinity signs separating the text. The glass jar had been what the Romans called a cinerary jar or a funeral urn holding ashes. It had taken an expert to reveal to Kelly the purpose of the jar and its location, which would have been equivalent to a mausoleum. There was nothing to tell who the wife was or who the husband had been, but did it matter?
Kelly had been profoundly touched by the find. It had, in its way, reconciled her to the possibility of loving again. Wasn’t the glass jar a tangible proof of a man’s devotion to his mate? She spent many hours thinking about the Roman who had lost his wife, but who had not wanted her death to go unmarked. Here she was, nearly 200 centuries later, thinking of them both.
Joe had been fascinated to learn more of the details concerning the jar and hole. He, too, had been touched by the unknown man’s gesture. It was not on the same level as that of the Taj Mahal but, the romantic he was, put the sentiment on an equal par.
Seeing that Kelly had been affected by the find, he had encouraged her to come with him on archaeological ‘digs.’ It would never be as exciting or as heart-warming as discovering one’s own treasure, but it gave them a chance to discover each other while uncovering history.
Emma was the first to hug Kelly when she heard that she was going to be a permanent part of her life. Joe had found a depth and seriousness to Kelly that he hadn’t imagined finding in such a young woman, especially one who had been in show business. He wanted the pleasure of uncovering other layers to her character, so had asked her to marry him.
“You’re our treasure,” Emma told Kelly.
How amazing that the Roman love story would have repercussions two thousand years later.
The glass jar had, indeed, been a treasure, or as the Romans would have called it — ‘thēsaurus.’
At twenty-two, Kelly is a much sought-after international performer. She has made it to the top with help from Fiona, her manager and encouragement from her boyfriend, Justin. When Justin betrays her, she shatters - only to pick up the pieces and to begin again. An unexpected discovery from 2000 years ago, helps her to mend.