"Trespassing? No, I was just..."
"Breaking the law?" The man finished for me gruffly. This wasn't looking good; this guy seemed to be convinced I was some kind of adolescent yobbo. Fair enough I was a teenager, but did that automatically mean I was up to no good? I glanced past him, looking to see if I had any escape options. The man shook his head, guessing immediately what I was up to. "Oh no, don't even think about scarpering, I'd have the police after you so fast you wouldn't even make it past the main house." I felt physically sick. My parents were going to kill me. No, first they would give me a lecture then kill me. If I arrived back at the hotel in the back of a police car, I'd probably be on the first plane to an American boot camp for troubled teens.
Why did I have to go and look at that blasted flower?
"L-Look, I'm really sorry, I just wanted to look at the Orchid." He snorted at my explanation, sounding a bit like a wild hog snoring.
"Right, you wanted to look at the orchid, of course. Do you think I'm stupid?"
"Was that a rhetorical question?" I said it before I even had time to think.
"I've had enough of this," He snarled, "Follow me; I'm calling your parents." I felt my body go limp, as I trudged after him like a prisoner sentenced to death. Hah! So much for a pleasant country stroll. As we walked through the grounds to the converted outbuildings where the groundskeeper's- I assumed this man was the groundskeeper- office lay, I couldn't but notice that Whipstead's gardens weren't what they used to be- the pictures on the tourist leaflet I'd looked at must have been ancient. The bearded man came to a halt outside a door which read:
Richard Forrester: Head Groundskeeper
Ah so I had assumed correctly, this was the bloke in charge of the estate. To be honest though, from the state of the rose bushes, he was really wasn't doing a great job.
"Sit down." He barked as I stepped into his messy office, sweeping a pile of papers off a wooden bench beside his desk. "What's yer' telephone number?"
"That's very flattering, but I think you're a bit old for me." I quipped, raising an eyebrow. Well, I was already in trouble, why not have some fun with it? The groundkeeper let out a noise similar to a growl.
"Stop mucking about, you know what I meant, girl."
"You won't get them at home, we're staying at a hotel and I couldn't tell you their mobile numbers." I shrugged, glancing around the jumbled office. My eye was caught by a rusted silver trophy in the corner.
Britain's Best Stately Grounds 1995
"What happened?" I pondered aloud, nodding my head in the trophies direction.
"What's the hotel call...what was that?" I pointed at the trophy, getting up to inspect it closer.
"You used to win awards for the grounds, what happened?" The man put down the receiver and stroked his beard thoughtfully.
"If you're just trying to distract me from contacting your parents, it's not going to-"
"I'm not trying to distract you, I'm genuinely interested." I retorted, wiping dust off another trophy with my sleeve. "Hey, you won a gold Gardeners Design award for the Japanese garden. I love that magazine." Oh dear, I really wasn't making an effort to hide my geeky love for all things horticultural.
"You read Gardeners Design?" A voice I was certain wasn't the grumpy groundkeeper's asked from behind me. I spun around and nearly dropped the trophy I was holding. Leaning casually against the doorframe was a rather buff boy of whom I guessed was around twenty. Although he had the whole scruffy chic look going on with his rumpled dark hair and wrinkled shirt, he looked as if he had just finished a photo shoot for GQ.
"Yeah," I replied, adopting a defensive stance, "What's it to you?" The guy's/male model's lips twitched with what appeared to be amusement. He was laughing at me because of my- admittedly- dorky reading choices. What a cheeky git!
"Oh it's nothing to do with me," He grinned, stepping into the office and fixing me with his blueberry-hued gaze, "It's just I've never met anyone under sixty who reads that magazine."
"Well now you have." I smiled back at him sweetly, turning away to sit back down on the bench beside the desk. "They're staying at Lauriston Country Hotel, the surnames Twiner." I told Groundskeeper Grump, wanting to get this over with a quickly as possible. The old man shrugged, reaching down to pick up a Yellow Pages lying at his feet. As he flicked through in search of the hotel's phone number, behind me, I heard the GQ guy clear his throat.
"Richard, what is this gardening enthusiast doing in your office exactly?" Richard looked up from the phonebook appearing somewhat peeved.
"She was trespassing in the Japanese garden, apparently just wanted to look at the Orchid. Load of tosh I say-"
"Well, I believe her. There's no need to take this any further."
"But-" The groundskeeper spluttered.
"No, Richard, I strongly doubt that anyone would willingly admit to reading such a tedious publication if they otherwise didn't."
Why that irritating twonk!
"And just who are you to let me go?" Who did this guy think he was marching in and ordering about the groundskeeper like that? He was probably just some bloke who worked in the gift shop having a laugh at my expense when I thought he could actually convince Richard not to inform my parents I had committed a minor crime. The guy stuck out his hand for me to shake.
"I'm Will, Will Coleridge-Hart. I live here."
"What, in this office?" I snorted, though my blood ran cold as it struck me what he meant.
"Nope, a bit too cramped in here for me and Richard. I own the estate, or I will do in the near future," He looked greatly amused by my dazed expression as a dumbly shook his hand, "And you are?"