Pausing in the doorway, Zoe looked round the room. With sunshine beating onto her back, she shivered at the contrast of the empty room. The house she had lived in for so long seemed forlorn and desolate without her furniture and decorations. Two objects remained in the centre of the room, the dull cardboard box blurring with the beige carpet that had proved such a mistake all those years ago. By contrast the crisp edges of the white envelope seemed to shout at her for attention.
Shaking her head, she pulled the door to and completed her final tour of the building that had been her home. Trailing her hand over the banisters she sighed as she remembered the many years of sliding down them. She remained in the doorways, avoiding the tug of the garden views she knew intimately. Her visual explorations of the trembling green space had only been outdone by her adventuring with Rollo, the teddy that waited on the passenger seat of her car.
Bare shelves cried out for her ornaments and as she padded round the corridors she felt tears welling in her eyes. So many happy memories were now relegated to boxes in storage. Taking a deep breath she forced herself to smile. She was going to a new home, an exciting home, with lots of opportunity. More work, fewer bills, more independence. She had been focusing on the excitement and prospects it offered for so long, that it was only now that she was hit with the feeling of loss.
Padding through the house she checked the cupboards, shelves, rooms and cabinets that had held her life, stroking the exposed timber in a final gesture of remembrance. Beeswax teased her nostrils, adding another layer of memories to store for later.
In the kitchen, she checked the door handle, refusing to step into the garden beckoning from beyond the glass. Once certain that there was nothing else to collect, Zoe returned to the front room to stare at the box and envelope. Once those were in the car it was final.
“Don’t be stupid. You chose this.” She grumbled to herself, crossing to open the door. “It’s too late to go back now.”
Letting the sunlight spill across the carpet, she returned to the box. Bending, she enfolded her arms round the cardboard and lifted it free.
Turning, she ignored the trail of cold tears slipping over her cheeks and eased through the door. Nestling the box on her hip she pulled the door to, hearing the lock thud into the latch behind her. She paused to watch the cars zipping past the heather that clung to the wall, oblivious to her suffering. Turning to the car, she sniffed, inhaling a deep breath of sweet honey that filled the air.
The car groaned as she eased the last box onto the back seat. Straightening, her fingers lingered on the envelope. Her heart raced as she thought about what it contained, the implications and the hope that had blossomed the moment she had set pen to paper. She had to post it, it was a last chance, but reaching the point of doing so was terrifying.
Wiping her cheeks clear, she took a deep breath and grabbed the corner. Striding round the car, she crossed to her neighbour’s door. The letter box crashed behind her deposit and she sighed. That was it. No going back now.
Turning for one last look at her house, she found herself lifting her hand to her lips and blowing a kiss to the honeysuckle clad stone cottage. The dark, closed windows seemed to watch her emotionlessly, unforgiving of her abandonment.
Easing his car to a halt, Richard smiled as the rumbling motor still with the turn of the key. He’d enjoyed the run from his boat back home. A chilled beer waited for him and he knew the patio would be in full sunshine. Slipping his sunglasses back up his nose, he glanced over to Zoe’s. Noticing the darkness behind the closed windows he frowned. It was unusual of Zoe to shut out the fresh air on such a glorious evening. Leaves on the neighbouring shrub danced in the wind, drawing his attention down the front garden. His gaze settled on the garish red and blue sign that stood immobile at the end of her drive. Then he remembered. His chest tightened as he remembered a fleeting conversation with Jo that Zoe moved house during his week’s holiday.
With a sigh, he pushed the door open and straightened into the sunshine. The patio wasn’t quite as tempting without Zoe’s singing drifting over the fence. He grimaced as the door slammed behind him. Fishing his rucksack from the boot, he swung it onto his shoulder and headed for the door.
“Evenin’.” Jo nodded over the fence. “Bad journey?”
“Hmm? Oh, no not particularly.” Richard paused with a shrug.
“Really?” Jo glanced at his car with a raised eyebrow.
“No, it was quite smooth really. Somehow I managed to avoid all the traffic.” Richard smiled. “Don’t know how that happened. How about you, did you get away for the weekend as anticipated?”
“Yes, got back about an hour ago. It was good to get away…”
Richard noted the paused in Jo’s answer as her eyes drifted over his shoulder to the empty cottage behind him. Sniffing, he rummaged in his pockets for his keys.
“We’re just going to get some chips for supper. Do you want to join us?” Jo offered.
“No, thank you. I need to get settled back in. I’m bound to have a frozen pizza or something I could pop in the oven.” Richard grinned. “ Thanks for the offer though.”
“Any time.” With a wave, Jo continued on her way down the path with her rocking gait as she slipped her extended waist past the end of her car and their shared wall.
Turning back to the door, Richard jabbed his keys into the opening. The lock clunked and he pushed against the timber. He could feel the push of letters fighting against him and groaned inwardly. No doubt there was a mountain of advertising leaflets to waste. As the opening reached a point he could fit his shoulders through, the alarm started beeping.
“What it is to be made so welcome.” He grumbled, dropping his bag down his arm and thrusting it through the gap.
Stepping over the papers waiting for collection, he dropped the bag with a thump and turned to silence the demanding beep. As peace descended, he pushed the door to and looked round the dark entry hall. The shadows from the small window cooled the room and he found his shoulders relaxing. Glancing down at the papers he sniffed.
“You can wait for later.”
Striding through the house, he took the stairs two at a time. Passing windows, he opened them to flush out the stale air that held a slight scent of must. In his bedroom, he undressed and reached for a towel. The sudden need to wash the drive and disappointment from his skin overwhelming.
Shuffling down the stairs, Richard smiled as a stray droplet rolled between his shoulder blades. Running his fingers through his damp hair, the chill calmed muscles he didn’t realised had tensed again. Passing the window, he spotted Jo returning with a paper bag clutched to her side. She gave him a thumbs up as she spotted him, her mouth turning into a wolf whistle as she continued to her front door. Shaking his head with a chuckle, he continued through to the kitchen, heading for the fridge. Mike had a lot of patience to put up with her light hearted flirting with other men. The cool air hit his bare chest and he shivered as he reached for the beer chilling in the far reaches of the fridge. Noting the lack of content he grimaced. He should have gone shopping on his way home.
Flicking the lid from the beer, he took a swig of the bitter liquid. It sliced a chill trail down his throat. Crossing to the back door, he twisted the key, stepping out into the evening air. A hint of smoke and meat drifted on the air and he glanced past the fence to see the grey cloud of a barbeque climbing to the sky. His stomach growled. Turning back, he eyed the freezer with a grimace. He needed to put a shirt on before rummaging. Leaving the beer on the side, he turned to weave his way back through the house. The pile of letters lurked a pale grey shadow before him and with a sigh, he diverted from his track and bent to scoop them up. As he did, a small envelope slipped from the pile of marketing leaflets and bills.
His heart leaped as he noted the handwriting swirling across the front. Dropping the other letters he reached for the note Zoe had left for him. Beyond the door he heard the rush of cars, but couldn’t focus past the white envelope. Why had she written to him? She had his email address, she had plenty of chances to talk to him before she left. Sirens blared through the door, and he jolted. Shaking his head as the ambulance screamed down the road he scooped the other letters back into his arm.
“Staring at it won’t get you answers you fool.” He growled, clutching Zoe’s letter.
Returning to the kitchen he deposited the letters in a heap on his dining table, before reaching for his beer. Leaning back on the counter, he took a swig as he stared at the blank envelope.
“Oh just open it you fool.” Growling, he thumped the beer on the counter, wiped the condensation from his hand onto his jeans and peeled the envelope open.
A little something I blasted out today… mainly to get it out of my head. More to follow shortly, but I need help with the title! Unedited, so I apologise for any errors – but it has been so long since I wrote and shared something I thought I needed to get this one out in the open!