It’s time I was honest. I am haunted by dreams of the purple hills where I used to run with our Grace, hair flying behind us like kites. And the emerald woods where we shimmied up trees, getting splinters in our manky knees. Here, there are just concrete monstrosities looming over rows and rows of identical houses, the colour of the chopped liver you used to make for Tuesday tea. Mostly, I’m sick of the folk with nowt better to do but whisper in the post office queue, who never give me the time of day.
Forty-one years is a long time to be an outsider.
You brought me here right after we wed. Too good a job to jack it all in just now, you said. Give it a year we’d have some money under our belts. Then we had the boy and I didn’t have time to mither about it. We kept saving, ready for the day he would fly away, and we could flit off to some place with space for bright skies. So, I didn’t bother with them fluttering between each other’s houses.
And at my age you feel a bit daft making new pals.
Vince Thomas once asked me out. Remember him: the Ringtons tea man? I said no at first. Knew folk round here would have plenty to say about it. But I was fed up of soup in front of the telly by myself every night. And Vince was a canny bloke. So, we went out a couple of times. I don’t suppose you’d call them dates.
The first time we went for a cup of tea. Would you credit it? He buttered his scone thicker and thicker, as if he was rendering your ma’s old pebble-dashed walls smooth. Bit nervous he was. When he finally took a bite, the pastry crumbled and he sat there with bits clinging to his navy tie. Probably because of all the butter.
I suggested something a bit more informal next time, hoping he wouldn’t bother with the tie. You never used to. I took him to that salsa club our Grace likes. That scared him off good and proper. Even a couple of margaritas couldn’t get those skinny hips of his shifting. You were always such a good mover. Mind you, usually after eight pints at someone’s wedding. He spilt half a jug of sangria. The stain probably never came out of that beige tie. We called it a day then. Shame really. I have to get my Earl Grey from the supermarket now.
I didn’t bother with anyone after that.
I’ve got our Grace. She tells me to come back home and we can roam in the quiet, past the fields that smell of honeysuckle. But I tell her I have to stay here, near the thumping main road thick with fumes, that I cross every day, just to bring you these posies of heather, like the ones you always used to bring me.