“This is perfect”
And it was. He had been searching for a home for him and his family for a long time, and they finally had somewhere on the outskirts of Dublin. Well, I SAY perfect, it was huge, with plenty of room for everyone, but there were a couple of teething problems too. The loo was out of action so they were temporarily using their new neighbours’ outdoor toilet. The neighbours were happy to share, as long as their kids were allowed play in his own rather sizable new back garden.
The family were happy with the new place. Not a family of his own, mind. It was his two brothers, two sisters, his mam, and even his invalided dad was moving back in with them. He’d never gotten to have a family of his own. Not even wanted one in a long time. Not since THAT ex. The Redhead.
He hadn’t seen her in years, but only twigged shortly after the move that he was now living not far from where she used to, and he decided to take a wander round the local streets, in a state of self-inflicted melancholy that was now his only way of thinking. And life, being life, threw him one of those moments. He had popped into what was now to be his local newsagent, to get smokes. ‘Gotta give these damn things up,’ he muttered for the 1000th time while handing over his last tenner. He fumbled for a light on his way back out of the shop.
“Hey, Mister, you got one of those to spare?”
He looked up to see the smiling face of The Redhead. His heart skipped for a second
“So, this is the new place, you remember my ma, and everyone else?”
She waved an embarrassed hi to all the family, while he looked on at her. ‘God’ he thought ‘she’s still beautiful’. It had been twenty years since they’d been an item, but he knew he was over her, because he wasn’t shaking anymore. Even ten years ago, if he’d spotted her walking through town, from his passing bus, he’d start shaking. But now it was all cool. He was glad to have bumped into her, and even more glad she didn’t hate him, and that she was happy to talk. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to her properly since they’d ended with each other. In fact, the only time he’d ever gotten to say what he wanted to her, was her occasionally resurfacing in his dreams, and it always ended up in sadness and disappointment every time he woke up.
But now she was here. And she was listening to him.
“C’mon out and I’ll show you my own room”
He had a separate building all to himself, down the very back of the long garden. It was exactly what he’d always wanted, its own self-contained unit, with lots of nooks, crannies, and plenty of shelf space for all his stuff. He’d only just moved, so everything was still in a mess on the floor. As they both walked in, she immediately picked up a spilled cup of his colouring pencils, and put them back. He smiled at her.
“You know what’s really funny about this place?” he asked her. “It’s almost too perfect, and usually the more perfect your surroundings are, you know it won’t be long before you realise it’s all actually a dream!” They both laughed. The first time he’d heard that laugh in a long time.
“Hey, Mister!”, a child’s voice cried from the back garden. It was one of next doors’ kids. Even though they’d only been there two days, the kids had been throwing a million questions at him, constantly, whenever he went out to his room. Silly questions. There were four little girls, ranging from 4 to 7 years of age. This particular instance it was the youngest, though why she was outside after dark puzzled him slightly.
“Why do YOU not have to get an adult’s permission to walk on the wall, and I do?”, she asked him, genuinely waiting for an answer. Then the other three kids came out to join her. He was starting to get a bit annoyed. Not that he couldn’t talk back to a child on a child’s terms (he’d learned that much from watching Doctor Who), it was just that he didn’t know how long he had left to talk to The Redhead, it might even be the last time. She had a family and kids of her own now, of course, and this was a moment he could only ever have previously dreamed about, and he really wanted to show her something he’d made on the computer.
“It’s ok” The Redhead said “You sort out what you need to here, and I’ll go out and keep the kids busy”
He turned his attention to the computer, occasionally glancing out at The Redhead playing with the girls. ‘God’ he thought, ‘so much to say and now I can’.
He started to shake.
He did still think it was strange that all four kids were out playing at…it must be what, eleven at night? He looked at his watch. But he couldn’t make out the numbers.
Then he woke up.