Dahla had been through Martin’s fitness craze, the antique toys and his rock’n’roll dream—the custom Fender now gathering dust, next to his carbon fibre bicycle. For a decade she’d ridden the wild ride of Martin’s aspirations. But building a house.

Not just any house, of course. Straw-bale walls were just the beginning. On flat land near the old family farmhouse his imagination ran wild. Geothermal heating, green roof, black-water system—it sounded fantastic. But Martin had never built anything more complex than Lego.

Dahla suggested he try something less ambitious. Martin found her lack of support disappointing. It made him wonder.

He threw himself at the work, but not with any plan that Dahla could see. She could have told him there was too much moisture in the bales after the drenching storm the previous week. But he insisted on rendering anyway. Then he put the roof up and proclaimed his success.

The walls of Martin’s house of straw rotted from the inside. Dahla wished him well the day the north wing collapsed. Within weeks he’d left it all to the elements. He had a new obsession by then. Miranda. She would trust him. She was such a positive person.

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