And the next morning, she was gone.
I was up at 5 – usual start to my day – Saskia doesn’t sleep much, so I’m standing at the window, still half asleep, face pressed against the glass, eyes almost closed and i hear a door slam. Bang. Its her front door closing and in 2 seconds, she & her kids are in the car and she’s away.
All through the day, i found myself at the window, just checking, seeing if her car was back. I invented reasons to walk down the street, return a bowl to no 24, drag the kids to the local shop and all the time, i was looking, checking, willing her car to come zooming around the corner.
It was a horrible, grey, sticky summers day, not a breath of air, the air solid, everything felt heavy, weighed down. Everything was too much effort, but i couldn’t stay still. I flitted from room to room, task to task.
Of course, the kids picked up on my mood, my restlessness. they fell out with each other and then with me. The day ended with everyone in tears. the kids crying when i sent them stupidly, stupidly early to bed and me when i sat, exhausted on the sofa. Not even sure why I was crying, only aware of this terrible weight on my chest.
Days went by and she didn’t return. Every morning I would wake up, convinced that today would be the day and every evening i would lie in bed, wrapped in misery.
A week went by and i pulled myself together. Looked around the bedroom and started stuffing dirty clothes into a bin liner, did my usual 1 or 2 machine calculation, loaded up the buggy and off we went. The kids relaxed, didn’t even ask for sweets at the laundrette.
And that’s why i missed her return, too busy watching the washing going round and round and stopping Saskia eating fluff off the floor.
The moment I get back to Cloverhill, I know somethings changed. Her car is parked outside the house, every window is open and loud and I mean loud music – dubstep – is making the window frames rattle.
i stop, cos I’m not really sure what to do, dont know whether to walk on by, knock on the door, what – i just stand there and then the decision is made for me, cos the front door opens and she steps outside and looks at me.
Her face is a mess. a real mess, black eye, spit lip, nose swollen,maybe broken and I just stand and stare, I can’t stop staring.
“i’m back ” she says and smiles and i can see that one of her front teeth is chipped, her smile is different, guarded and I know its important, really important, that I dont say anything, ask anything
“alright?” i ask, she nods and I’m impressed cos she doesn’t even touch her face, she nods again
“yeah – you know…………”
and this time, its my turn to nod, to try to act as if i do know what all this is about.
There’s a pause,
“you doing anything tomorrow?” she ask
I shrug, i want to scream – yes , I’m going to make you feel better, stroke your hair, make what ever all this has been about go away
“cos, I thought, I might come and do that decorating stuff for you, you know with the lights and all”
So, its arranged, tomorrow, Imelda , who left here 7 days ago, perfect, beautiful and now is something else, is coming to my house to make it into fairyland.