A short Story
By Jane

Liz has grown used to her husband cluttering their small house with 
antiques; that is, until Phoebe comes to live with them.



 Liz marked the final exercise book and joined it to the pile of thirty three others before packing them all into her brief case and pouring herself a drink. Where was he? Sighs of exasperation as she walked to the window and looked down the street. Nothing. What was the point of being married if your partner was never around? Liz glanced at the clock. Half past seven. A bottle of wine, dinner prepared, and no husband.

     ‘Where have you been?’ she called when she finally heard his key in the lock.

     He marched into the sitting room grinning all over his face. ‘I had to have her, Liz.’

     ‘Dear God! You sound like some randy lover.’

     ‘Let me bring her in.’  

     ‘Her? Don’t tell me you’ve picked up a woman en route. We’ve got to eat.’

    ‘Please Liz! When you see her you’ll love her.’

    Minutes later and staggering under the weight, he bore her in his arms: a large classical styled bust of a young woman.

     Liz stared open mouthed. ‘But it’s huge!’

     ‘Isn’t she beautiful, Lizzie? The dealer sold her to me for a song. He wants to get rid of his stock. Nice chap. Gong to live abroad.’

    ‘What’s it made of, David?’

    ‘White bonded marble, Italian. Repro of course. But pretty good, eh?’

    ‘How much?’

    ‘Never mind.’

    ‘Not from our joint bank account, I hope.’


     ‘Ah well, it’s your money not mine. And where are you going to put her? Look around you, David. Clutter everywhere. This house reminds me of your parent’s antique shop in York.’

      He gazed at Liz wide-eyed; a look she had once found appealing before this obsession for collecting antiques had kicked in. Ah well! Like father like son.

      Liz opened the sitting room door wide. ‘Put her on the floor. She can be a door stopper. Make herself useful.’

     But David was having none of it and within twenty minutes had moved various pieces to accommodate his latest acquisition whom he named Phoebe after the Goddess of intellect and prophecy. The French clock was lifted from the mantle shelf and deposited in a cupboard crammed with old books, pots, spoons and a Turkish rug. He stood back and applauded his handiwork. In her new setting over the fireplace she looked splendid, if a little incongruous within such a small room, within such a small house. Never mind. She was magnificent and needed to be seen by any friend who might drop by.

     Liz asked David if he planned on eventually selling |Phoebe but he announced that he’d no intention of parting with such an exquisite piece of art. That calm, untroubled face, the aquiline nose, the gracious line of her neck; the Grecian effect was, he said, nothing short of a masterpiece and worth every penny he’d paid. 

   Each morning before going to school where they both worked, Liz would catch him lovingly dusting the sculpture, but the day she discovered him talking to it she grew worried.

     ‘David! What do you think you’re doing?’

     He spun round. ‘Nothing.’

    ‘You were talking to Phoebe. Admit it.’

     ‘No, no. I was simply reminding myself to fill up at the petrol station.

     She sighed and bit her lip so as not to nag as her mother had nagged her. In moments of pure desperation she almost wished that David would find a mistress. At least she wouldn’t take up space, unless, of course, she came to live with them like Phoebe.

     It was the summer holidays and Liz and David decided to spend a few days away in Sidmouth, Devon, They wanted to visit the Folk Festival. Liz suggested setting up a stall and selling some of their stuff although she knew deep down that it was only a matter of time before the house was groaning with more junk. Junk was a word she never voiced to David who insisted that all his buys were at least over a hundred years old and worth a bit. He finally agreed to go as long as Phoebe stayed put. He would not part with her under any circumstances.

     They had an enjoyable trip and along with other vendors set up a colourful stall on the sea front. On their return home David announced that they’d made more than enough money to buy a smart full length podium for Phoebe, She would have her own spot; become their piece de resistance. It was agreed to display her in the far corner of their narrow hall and David fixed a spotlight over her head the better to see her, the better to admire her. 

     One morning, Liz’s friend Sue, paid her a visit accompanied by her Springer Spaniel, Rusty. Straining on his lead and before Sue could stop him, he rushed into their hall, bumped into the stand and knocked poor Phoebe onto the tiled floor. She, alas now suffered the same fate as three of Henry the eighths wives. Effusive apologies from Rusty’s owner did little to appease David who stomped out of the house in a fury banging the door as he went, and leaving poor Liz to pick up the two pieces which she tentatively placed on the dining table. Later, after her friend’s abject apologies and leave taking, Liz took David aside to calm him down and tentatively suggested a stone repair specialist. The curious thing was that the longer Phoebe lay there the less inclined David was to do anything about her. Now reduced to virtual silence he spent much time sighing and shaking his head. On the third day he had made his decision.

     ‘We’ll bury her. That’s what we’ll do.’

     ‘Bury Phoebe! What on earth for, David? Why don’t you get her repaired?’

     ‘She’ll never be the same. Phoebe was perfect in every way: features, form, colour, translucency. Now she’s imperfect: dislodged, desecrated, physically abused by that devil of a dog. I can’t bear to look at her any more, Liz. Not like this. It’s a tragedy. Tomorrow, as I said, I shall bury her in our back garden. You don’t mind do you? There’ll still be room for our cabbages.’ And before Liz could answer, ‘I would like to plant a small bush of remembrance : Rosemary would be appropriate.' He turned his back and walked away. Liz came after him but nothing that she said would change his mind.

     The next day with Liz carrying Phoebe’s decapitated head and David the rest of her, processed down the small back garden path. He dug a deep hole next to the cabbage patch into which the two parts were gently lowered.

     ‘You won’t say a prayer, will you?’ pleaded Liz, who by now thought her husband capable of anything.

     The burial complete, David returned the spade to the tool shed. With shoulders stooped he wandered back to the house closing the back door gently behind him. Liz stared at the newly dug grave. Why couldn’t he move on from all of this: a piece of carved marble? It was absurd. It didn’t make sense. Why had he been so against having Phoebe repaired? What was the real reason? It was then that she remembered something he had told her about his childhood. His mother apparently would sit for hours in the back room of their shop mending antique dolls: sticking back onto their bodies, broken limbs, repairing tattered clothes, cleaning and renovating so that they might be saleable. During these times, David, a small boy, an only child, would sit and watch with enduring patience in the hope that once finished she might, as promised, read to him, or play with him, or even sit and talk to him. But his mother’s fatigue, coupled with the necessity to survive their small business, repeatedly won the day.

     A few days following the burial and by way of a diversion, Liz suggested they visit the Portobello Road market. David showed little interest choosing instead to sit in gloomy light reading a pile of back dated antiques magazines.

     All right if he didn’t want to go then she would. Perhaps amidst all the paraphernalia there might be one small item she could buy that might lift his mood.

     It was amongst the silks, vintage clothes and object d’art that Liz found it. At first she couldn’t believe her eyes. Surely not! But no, there it was, positioned between two faded watercolour pictures: a replica bust of Phoebe. The price was surprisingly reasonable and after knocking the vendor down a few more pounds. Phoebe Two was hers. So excited was she that she almost dropped her whilst getting into the car. Once home, Liz unwrapped the bust from sheet after sheet of newspaper and placed her on the pedestal now standing bare in the hall. She switched on the spotlight, stood back to admire her handy work. Splendid!

       At last. Key in lock. David!  He saw. He stopped. He paled.

      ‘What's the matter? She’s perfect in every way, David. An identical likeness. I thought you’d be pleased.’

     Silence. Icy. Why didn't he speak? 

     He now ran his hands over the head, the face, the shoulders then back to the face; his eyes taking in every inch of her fine lined features.

     ‘A flaw!’ He said finally.

     'A flaw, David?’


     ‘But I inspected her closely before buying. There was no flaw.’

     ‘A flaw, I tell you.’


     ‘On her forehead.’


    ‘She’s frowning.’



     Liz pushed him aside to see.  And sure enough, she was.


                                                                                               c: Jane Lockyer Willis

See also by Jane:

ON THE FIDDLE or The misadventures of two small time crooks.

A novel available in book or electronic form: TSL Books and Amazon

Jane’s website: