It was an Edwardian Semi on the outskirts of town. It was the biggest house but by far the easiest to do on her books. Didn’t even need to take the hoover or the polishes in. Just a feather duster.
That said there was a lot of bending. Climbing up on things. And unlike other houses where the owners made themselves scarce. He followed her. Watched like a hawk.
She’d finished, smoothed her white frilly apron.
(These little touches set her apart.)
“Same time tomorrow then?” he asked
She smiled. Slipped some trousers on and went out to her car.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at Chris Hemsworth in his swimming trunks. On my phone not live obviously. Someone had tweeted a picture.But God! Just imagine.
A cry of ‘I can’t find any clean pants’ breaks my concentration.
‘Hall radiator. Five pairs.’ I reply. (It’s that sort of glossy mag glam house as you’d imagine.)
The cat nudges the door open then. Sits a while watching me, then realising she’s not going to get fed tries to get up on my lap.
Not ideal when you’re sat on the loo. But. It’s that kind of house.
In a matches strike it started and a slow lick of flame over cedar lit them.
Naked and goosebumped. Together at last, they didn’t notice the dark cold room, their sanctuary. Couldn’t see the wrong in what they did. Led by desire, rather than logic.
And as their eyes met so too did their lips; in a rush of heat as the flames leapt higher beside them. Kindling dried over a long hot summer.
It burnt to almost nothing.
A mess of ash the next day in the fireplace.
Easily swept away although of course dust floats and clings forever.
Patricia stood under a strip-light’s glare waiting for the coats while Sylv went for chips.
“Mmm, That smells good!” Said Michael as he passed them through the hatch.
“Evening in Paris.” She blushed, putting hers on.
“Ever bin?” She shook her curls as a reply. “Shall we go?”
“Paris. Me and you?”
She looked at him then. Thought he’d do. And said
“How about Tuesday week? Take us to the flicks?”
The Guns of Navarone.
A year later they wed. Within five years had a houseful.
Neither of them ever made it to Paris.
It was unexpected. As it always was.
Took us all by surprise. As it always did.
No logic to when.
A darkness that swept us up, followed by almost an upturning although none of us ever fell.
A shake rocked our world.
Frozen in time the snow flurried round us, drifted, stopped the traffic although even the elders could never remember it moving.
Almost as soon as it began the quaking stopped. As if we were on solid ground again. A stability as the snow swirled down rebounding against a solid sky.
Rested over our scene.
And calm was restored.
It was always the last thing he did before sleep. Always had been, from boarding school to today at Elms View Retirement Home.
It was usually done in bed, teetering on his left hip (new in 1992)
Watch wound before lights out. Funny how things from youth return to us later. He found comfort ending the day with those five swift twists.
Arthur’d felt a bit queer and had gone to bed early. Had even missed pudding. (Jam roly poly with custard.)
He thought about the watch, but then lay back on his bed.
Just for a moment.
He’d worked alone since father died unexpectedly in 1988. The calendar still there, his mother bought and father hung.
Some traditions are buried with their owners. Others continue. Like the pendulums on the grandfather clock.
His grandfather’s grandfather had begun. When the fashion was for fobs. A recent revival for well made wristwatches after a dishearteningly digital trend meant he could hardly keep pace.
He looked then at what he made this time without winder.
A face, quite like his.
And his grandads too.
His son took the 1988 calendar down and put 2017 up in its place.
As Takumer worked his first creation stared down at him. Bent fork arms, an Elastoplast-tin head and teddies eyes, stuck in bottle caps, on the end of corks.
He remembered his sister, Qiánxī’s screams when she found her beloved soft toy enucleated as his fingers clicked over keys finalising the coding.
A couple more tests and they’d be ready to head into the world together. He’d already passed every Turing test. Takumer wondered if he should introduce his Adam to Qiánxī. Maybe try and instigate a relationship between them.
Or if this was pushing things a bit too far.
The whole store really was a relic to times past, even back then and in the middle by the sized glove display sat the old escalator.
The black looping rubber handrail ran over sides of polished oak. Sturdy art deco curves buffed to a high shine from years of waxing. Its symmetry made it like an instrument, a mammoth cello or maybe a double bass.
It shook as we stood tentative on the rickety wooden slats then screeched as it climbed. Struggling on its way. Groaning as it lifted us through the floors, heading to the top, to Santa’s grotto.
He watched. From an upstairs window. Scuttling clouds reflected on his specs. A step back from the pane. So not obvious, that he was there.
But I knew.
There was talk. Small village so speculation spread quicker than fire. It’s easy to judge isn’t it?
It was odd. The way he watched. The way he was always there. I wondered could he just be lonely? The older children shouted things.
When he’d gone it was stranger. No figure lurking. And the rumours spread quicker still.
I tried to ignore, not judge but I wondered.
He made me shudder.
Burgers for breakfast, much to the children’s delight, not because they’re the cornerstone to every nutritious Breakfast but because the freezer’s fucked.
I came down early for a quiet cuppa and secret smoke in the garden and went to get the meat out that I’d forgotten to do before bed. I’d been out. Couldn’t remember my name, never mind think about what was for tea.
The shelves (crammed with unlabeled stuff) had shrunk with furred ice and from the back I swear I heard a muffled shout of ‘I may be some time’.
It’s fish, faggot and pea surprise later.
Geoff always woke promptly without an alarm clock and immediately mourned for the one he married. He rose and she stared up at him. Smiling. Not a care in the world. From their wedding photo, taken exactly forty years ago to the day.
He washed, dressed. Thinking that they could be celebrating today. A big family party in a balloon filled hall.
After a lifetime of shared bliss.
He sighed and took her up a cup of tea in bed. Hoping today would be a reasonable day for her. And that she’d at least recognise who he was.