A very strange dream just now. My parents, two of my daughters, and me at a tube station, waiting. I wander off somewhere when the unexpected announcement comes that the next train will join the Jubilee Line at Bond Street. I see my daughters jumping onto the train carriages down from where I’m standing, so I jump in where I am, stick my foot out to stop the door closing, and call to my mother to bring me my bags (they turn into yellow plastic carrier bags when she brings them), and then my leather-bound journal (which is still on the ground next to my immobile father), which she duly rushes off and gets for me. I give her a quick kiss, and let go of the doors, which don’t close before some angry woman gets in and berates me for holding up the train. I tell her I’m sorry, and that I’ve not seen my parents for ages, and that I really wanted to get on the same train as my daughters. She starts crying and forgives me, then laughs at me in a posh voice when it turns out I don’t live in a huge house in Surrey. Fast forward (in the dream) to me saying bye to C & K in their London flat and apologising for not having walked through the train to sit with them after getting on. End of dream and waking.
My father has been dead for almost 30 years, and my mother for almost 10. I dream of Tube trains and their connections a lot. Not so much about my children. The interpretations of my dreams would fill a life-time of novels (read and written).
A lorry went down our usually quiet street yesterday sounding like it was full of screaming pigs. Village flashbacks. The screaming was its engine, not the load of pigs it wasn’t carrying. I don’t miss living on a main road. I don’t miss the screaming pigs. I miss the people and the possibility of a surprise visit from any of them. I miss wandering slowly round the roads and paths and bumping into people I know. I don’t miss being in the middle of nowhere and a long drive from a decent bookshop, from any bookshop. There are new possibilities here, in the city. I have always said it will take me at least a year to settle, and we’re just over nine months in.
I tied the fence to the tree twice. The first time, the twine snapped and the flower basket hinge ripped from the fence. The second time, I’d been to the local DIY shop to buy metal eyes and a strong rope. Let’s see if that holds through what the forecasters say will be chaos.
That was my yesterday. Those were my yesterdays. Now is today.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 6
Aggie looks at the phone, her long fingers still wrapped around it, takes a step back from it, extending one of her unnaturally long arms, and shakes the white earpiece, irrationally, she knows. He? Who is he? Sir? Or someone else? And don’t let whoever do what? Take the suitcase? Come into the house? Talk to her? She’s confused, so confused she drops the phone and leaves it to dangle just a few inches above the floor. She rips open the kitchen door and runs downstairs, taking the steps two and three at her time, thankful now for her height, for this disproportionate body her dead parents left her with, runs along the expensive carpet to the front door and pulls all five locks shut, checks and double-checks that they have clicked closed, pushes herself up against the door with her back, and breathes again at last.
Calmer now, she wipes her nose with the back of one of her hands, and walks into each of the high reception rooms, checks the windows are locked, too, that even the wind can’t come in through any cracks there may have been. She ignores the paintings and the antique furniture, all the riches Sir and Madam have assembled here in the however many years they have been living here. She walks past the Monets and Manets she knows are originals, rare, forgotten and sought-after originals, without seeing them, closes one door after another behind her, and locks them, too, so that even if someone broke in through the windows, they would have to break down the doors to get into the house proper. She walks to the cellar door, opens it briefly, inhales the cellar’s dry smell, closes the door again, and locks it, too. Then she climbs the stairs, again two or three steps at a time, checks the dining room with its long gleaming table, its curtains already drawn. Being a floor up, she doesn’t lock its door, nor any of the others on this floor.
As she takes the next flight of stairs, she realises all her irrationality has gone now, that what she feels now is not fear but urgency. She can work out the riddle of Madam’s voice (was it Madam’s voice?) later, but first she must make sure the house is secure. And it’s not only because it’s not her house but their house, it’s because this is her sanctuary, has always been her sanctuary since she first set foot in it, since she first set down her bag full of her meagre belongings on the floor of the room upstairs, since she first sat down on the bed in that room, gazed out of the window and looked across at the spire that defines this city, that makes this such a special unleavable place, that makes this place her home, a home for the young woman who felt she never had a home until Sir and Madam, Madam and Sir, opened the house to her.
Aggie isn’t out of breath when she reaches the top of the stairs. She has never been out of breath, not from exertion, because her body seems to allow her to be limitlessly energetic, and even when her bones ache, her lungs don’t. It is quiet up here. The storm can’t reach into this space. She looks along the wide hallway and stops. The four doors are always closed, to the three bedrooms and the bathroom, Two of the bedrooms and the bathroom she cleans every day. The fourth door is never open, always locked. Their bedroom. Except, today, now, it’s wide open.