I’m standing to one side, just out of sight, watching her and her children cross the road. I can see them but they can’t see me.
The kids, girl, boy, middle-sized baby are better than i thought, cleaner, neater and then it hits me,. they are dressed up, ready for afternoon tea. This is a girl with some social skills.
Her children are fussing around her, trying to grab at the large white box she is carrying in one hand, while she balances the baby against her shoulder.
I see the glance she gives my car, interested but not too nosey, I can feel that she wants to look in, but instead she continues up the little path. I step back to make sure that I am still out of sight.
There is a pause and then the banging, lots and lots of banging. I feel Troy stiffen beside me, move even closer, absently, i move my hand downwards, pat his head.
The banging stops and for a moment, i consider, seriously consider, simply not answering the door. I wonder if it would be more interesting to stay here, silent, hidden and watch her and her children trail home.
But I’m bored and I’ve got time to kill, lots and lots of time to kill, so I go and open the door and let them in.
They stand and look around and I’m glad that I had the moving box, the magic box with me. It easy to magic a room, fabrics, candles and lots and lots of fairy lights. It’s almost a verb, to Imelda a room – cover up the ugliness, keep the light out,disguise the smells of poverty, damp and the lingering aroma of loneliness. I’ve had a lot pf practise now and the magic never fails.
She hands me the box, it’s a huge chocolate cake and for a moment I am puzzled, but then I look at my hand next to the icing and I see what she has seen.
I want to ask if she has dipped her finger in the icing, if she has considered whether my skin has the same sweetness, but I look into her face & I don’t need to – I know the answer. I wonder if this is all going to be simply too easy.
I get plates from the kitchen, chipped, mismatched, ugly. I don’t ask her to help.The kitchen is beyond the magic box, cupboards hang off the wall, the window is cracked, a hole punched or gouged out of one of the walls. there is far too much reality there for me to stage manage.
We’re eating now and I’m watching her and listening, listening really carefully and there’s something wrong. this girl is not what she seems.
It’s not just the way she talks,although that’s wrong, all over the place. she’s trying for some inner-city gangsta talk, all vowels and missing words and she’s good, but I’m better and I can hear when it slips. Its how she talks,how she talks to her kids, gentle, respectful,listening to them. Like she’s been talked to when she was a kid.
I wonder what her real name is.
Troy stays close to me, watches them, the baby sleeps.
I need to see her again, see her on her own turf, its easy to arrange, but I am careful to be vague, I don’t give her a definite time to meet .I will let her wait a while.
I watch as they walk across the road,hidden at the window, I go on watching, even when they are out of sight.