Linus wasn’t exactly looking forward to the task he had assigned himself for the day. At the same time, he knew that it was a necessity. Arthur said he was fine, but Linus hated the pained expression he saw on the man’s face whenever he walked into the room. That was going to change starting today. It had to start today; David was due to come to the house in two weeks' time.
Arthur was very aware of what Linus was up to when he told him to go on and order what they needed for the room. The village had everything they needed for a day-to-day basis but a special thing like a bed fit for a yeti was something that needed to be ordered in a larger town. There was a contractor coming to replace the heavy iron doors that led to the room soon, among other things, so they needed to pick out the new doors as well. Arthur bid Linus ado promising to be back before too late.
Zoe was covering lessons for the day giving Linus the free time to work. Throwing on his gardening clothes, the arduous task of cleaning the cellar began. Flipping on the light only instilled an overwhelming feeling in Linus. Things were better now. Things were going to continue to improve if he had any say in it. That didn’t change the past though. He tried not to dwell on it, but it made his blood boil. The thought of anyone stuck down here for 6 months would be deplorable but Arthur had been a child. It made Linus’ stomach turn.
“Come now old boy, time to work,” he whispered to himself. He’d use the anger to fuel him through the cleaning process.
Starting with the remains of a charred desk and cot Linus broke them down to toss them in the trash. As he did the desk half disintegrated in his hands. At least it made the job easier. After that it was time to scrub the walls. The bucket of warm soupy water was an inky black in no time. Linus figured he’d be making more than a few trips back to the hose to get fresh water when he heard footsteps outside the cellar.
“Linus?” Helen’s voice called. She must have come to visit Zoe.
“In here,” he called back. Helen stepped down into the room and whistled.
“You look like a piece of charcoal,” she said. Linus figured he was already covered in a thick layer of soot. He’d have to hose himself down before even thinking about going into the house to clean up.
He didn’t stop Helen from looking around as he continued to scrub but winced when he heard a sharp inhale of breath. Then he listened as she counted under her breath the tick marks on the other side of the room. In the year he had known the woman a word he would use to describe her was unflappable. Even if the first day in her shop with the children had been a mild shock she had quickly warmed up to Talia and then come to their aid in the ice cream shop. As steady as she was the realization of what had happened here caused a choking noise to come from her. She slipped out and after giving her a moment, Linus tossed the scrub brush into the bucket and followed out after her.
He needed some fresh air.
He found Helen staring at the claw marks in the iron doors. She wasn’t full out crying but there was a wetness to her eyes.
“I wish I had known,” she got out after a few moments.
Linus went to out a reassuring hand on her shoulder then remembered the soot. “You were a teenager when this was happening. Not much older than him. The only thing you could have done was report it to DICOMY...”
“I could have...I don’t know...smuggled him out?”
“The headmaster was apparently very nasty and very observant. I’m not sure if you would have been able to do anything. I often wish I could have done something too, but I was a child at the time who didn’t even know this place existed. There’s a lot of my past that’s filled with ‘I wishes’ and it troubles me at times. I try to not waste too much energy on that and focus on what I can do now.”
Helen nodded and wiped her eyes. “You’re very wise Linus.”
“Me? Wise? Well, I-I try at least,” Linus stammered. He still wasn’t the best at taking compliments.
“I’ll be back.” Helen said and practically ran off to her truck leaving Linus in the dust. He had no idea what she was up to, but he’d leave her too it. When she stuck her mind to something it was going to happen one way or another. God help Merle if he tried to give her any lip about the back and forth.
Half an hour later she returned tugging some sort of machine behind her.
“This will make much faster work of all this!” Linus stepped back as the machine rumbled to life. A stream of water left a hose at high speed and in under a minute the spot of stone Linus had been working on for over an hour was restored to its original dull grey color.
“Oh, yes this is much better.”
The two of them made quick work of the layers of soot. Then they drained the excess water and used a few fans to help dry out the room. Even though there was still a lot of work to do the room looked much better. However, the tick marks remained, carved lightly into the stone but Helen had a solution for that too.
“I’m sure I can get my hands on something to grind those away. Just give me until tomorrow.” She said. She was damp with smudges of soot on her clothing but had a smile on her face.
“We were going to cover the walls with some nice wood paneling...” Linus started.
“And I’m sure it’ll look nice, but I was thinking that Arthur might enjoy getting rid of them.”
“Getting rid of what?” Arthur’s voice caused both of them to jump. He had silently approached as they talked. Sometime Linus wanted to put a bell on the man. Arthur went in for a hug and then paused with a chuckle. Linus knew he must look a sight.
“You know I think Zoe has some spare clothing for me to change into. I’ll go clean up.” With that Helen walked away giving the couple some privacy.
“So, you told her?” Arthur asked. She hadn’t said a word but he always did just know things. His eyes were distant as he stared into the clean cellar.
“No. That wouldn’t be my place. However, she’s a smart woman and figured it out herself. It’s thanks to her I got all of this done it would have taken me days to scrub it all away.”
Arthur nodded. He stepped down into the cellar and ran a hand across the damp walls. “I didn’t realize I had scratched so deep.”
“Well Helen says she has something to grind the marks away.”
“Oddly enough that sounds like fun.” Arthur grinned. The smile didn’t quiet reach his eyes; Linus knew it would take some time.
It was going to take a lot more work but just like with the rest of house they were going to turn this room into a place of love. Arthur had started the work and Linus couldn’t imagine how hard it had to have been at first. Now he didn’t have to do it alone though. Linus would be with him every step of the way and every day going forward.
Zoe called from the back of the house. Dinner would be ready soon and Linus had better clean himself up before it was. No need for dinner to be covered in soot. The two of them chuckled. Linus delighted in the return of a true smile to his husband's face, and they walked to the house hand in hand.