King’s Square has been repaved and refurbished since I wrote this scene, but you can still see the raised platform with the grave slabs.
Where jugglers, fire-eaters and other pavement artists now entertain the crowds at the weekends, there was once a church called Holy Trinity or Christ Church. It had a strange shape, like a stubby triangle and was finally demolished in 1937. This photo is from an article in The Press about York’s lost buildings and you can see how different the square looks today.
Holy Trinity King’s Square was rebuilt almost entirely in 1861, so this is not, in fact, the church Roz glimpses as she heads in for her first day of work at Holmwood House although the church Jane knew stood on the same spot …
The greyness had lifted the next morning when Roz set off for Micklegate. The brighter light through the blinds she’d forgotten to close had woken her early and in spite of her broken night, she showered in a positive mood. It felt as if she had passed some kind of test. Determined to make up for her hysteria over the necklace, Roz had dressed carefully in her best suit, the one she had hidden from Nick when she took it home from the sales the year before. Her money was her own, but still, she felt sick when she thought about how much it had cost, and she’d known Nick wouldn’t have thought it was worth it. It did wonders for Roz’s confidence, though, and if ever she needed a boost it was that morning. She smoothed down the skirt before she left, and had an incongruous flash of memory, of nervously smoothing her new red gown while she waited for the Holmwoods to arrive.
Roz shook it aside, irritated. Dreams were supposed to fade in the morning, not stay crystal-clear in your mind. Besides, she had no time for dreaming today. She was going to impress everyone at the Holmwood Foundation with her professionalism.
She pulled the door behind her with a snap and stepped out into a bright morning. The dampness that had clung oppressively to everything the day before had vanished, blown away by a wind that pushed billowing clouds busily across a pale September sky and shadows swooping across the street in a flicker of light and shade. The air was cooler, sharper, with the unmistakable damp bark and dead leaf smell of autumn. For a moment Roz could swear she smelt woodsmoke, and she looked along St Andrewgate, half expecting to see smoke drifting up from the tenements before she shook herself in exasperation.
There were no tenements. There were no jettied houses leaning in across the street, no morning fires being stoked. There were apartment blocks and Georgian buildings, all no doubt centrally heated.
Reluctant to lose her good mood, Roz turned determinedly and walked along the street. She was already regretting wearing her favourite polka dot heels. They looked good with the suit, but they weren’t the most practical for walking across a city, especially not one with as many cobbles as York. But she didn’t want to go back and change. She wanted to get to Holmwood House early and spend some time getting a feel for the place on her own before the meeting she had arranged with Adrian Holmwood and the rest of the team. Pinched toes were a small price to pay for looking professional and appearing in charge.
At the end of the street, vans were queuing behind a truck parked half on, half off the pavement, its back doors open. For most of the day the city centre was pedestrianized, Adrian had told Roz, which meant that all deliveries had to be done first thing in the morning, but the streets were so narrow that one wide lorry could bring the rest of the traffic to a standstill.
Hesitating before she crossed the road into King’s Square, Roz smiled in recognition of the church she could glimpse between the vans. It was good to see the familiar squat stone tower of Holy Trinity again, illuminated in a brief burst of light before the sun was blotted out by another cloud racing by. She glanced at her watch. She had plenty of time. She would step into the church on her way past and breathe in the long-remembered smell of the nave with its worn floor, she decided as she dodged between the vehicles, but when she reached the other side she faltered, looking around in disbelief. For the church had gone. In its place were benches and litter bins and pigeons clustering in the hope of crumbs. Disquiet prickled over Roz’s skin, raising the tiny hairs on her arms and at the back of her neck.
She had been so sure there was a church here. She could picture it exactly, with the stubby tower and the odd, assymetrical walls. She had seen it, just now.
And she remembered it, remembered the smell of new wood when the pews were put in, and the drone of Sir Thomas’s sermons which went on and on while Juliana shifted restlessly and whispered her discontent no matter how firmly Jane tried to shush her. She remembered the carvings on the rood screen, and the window her grandfather’s father had paid for, with St Lawrence and his gridiron and Christ and St Cuthbert. That had been a long time ago, of course, when everyone had belonged to the old religion –
‘No,’ said Roz out loud, her voice shaky, and an elderly women tugging a tartan shopping trolley cast her a curious glance as she passed.
Ignoring her, Roz stumbled over to one of the benches and dropped onto it. Her pulse was roaring in her ears and she dropped her head onto her knees. She wasn’t dreaming now. She was wide awake and fear tumbled queasily in her stomach. What was happening to her? There was no way she should be able to remember what she remembered so clearly.
Breathing carefully, she lifted her head and made herself look around. The space was called King’s Square, she knew that much, but it wasn’t a square so much as a roughly triangular space. It was completely the wrong shape for a church. Which meant her imagination was working overtime. There was no church here, and never had been.
Shakily, she got to her feet, and it was only then that she noticed the raised platform area at one end of the space. When she went over, she found some grave slabs laid into amongst the paving stones.
Grave slabs from a church.
Gnawing at her bottom lip, Roz stared down at them.
Perhaps she had come here as a small child? Had she seen the church then? This could all be some weird recovered memory from her past. But it didn’t look as if anything had been demolished recently. The grave slabs were worn and the paving well established.
Which meant … what?
Nothing, Roz told herself fiercely. It meant nothing.
Excerpt from The Edge of Dark © Pamela Hartshorne 2014.