There are parts of this house that feel like strangers to me.
Plans. We had grand plans when we moved in, excited as children. This room, we would gut completely and start again. That room we would conserve the picture rail, the cornicing, the ceiling rose. Our list was exhilarating and endless.
Then – we stopped. Half-completed spaces spoke to us in resentful tones, crying out for attention. The bathroom screamed at the yawning gap under the sink and the recurring damp blooming on the unsealed plaster. The bedroom whimpered its need for underlay and carpet, whistling drafts whispering between the naked floorboards. The lounge belched its complaint in the form of years of soot, clumps depositing themselves on the cracked hearth. The kitchen – well that was my domain and I just made do.
We failed the house.
Vision lost out to fear, lost out to – something else.
I kept on thinking – if only. But I couldn’t admit to what that ‘if only’ meant. If I voiced it, either out loud or just formed the words in my head, that would be the end.
Oh the irony, it was the end anyway. I know that now and it is so obvious, but not then. Blinkers, that’s what I wore.
Can you believe it? I forgot about this room. I wonder if it ever haunted your thoughts. I forgot, and yet it was my favourite space back then. Sometimes, I would stand in the light flooding through the sash window and look down at the wilderness of our garden, eventually lifting my gaze to the countryside beyond. I would let the warmth loosen my shoulders and then close my eyes, my face rising like a flower towards the sun.
I pictured this room painted white, floorboards as well, colourful rag rugs dotted around and a wooden rocking chair set at an angle to the window, just so. My sanctuary. How did I manage to forget, when it was once the focus of my dreams?
Now, I know that if you want something, you have to fight for it and make it happen. Just being nice and accepting and putting up with yet more demands in the hopes that you’ll be rewarded one day for all that accommodation – it just drives you into the ground.
Whilst I was busy letting you do ‘your thing’, giving you ‘your space’, accepting, accepting, accepting, your attention was turned elsewhere. Magnetism. It’s an irresistible force. Apparently.
I woke up. I made it my business to find out. True, listening at doors, rifling through pockets, checking text messages isn’t a road paved with happiness. But I did learn what was necessary. I decided to make my dream happen.
You thought I was stupid. Right? Yes – for a while. But tell me, which of us is really enjoying this home now? Which of us has achieved their dream? Certainly not you, in that cramped little box with no room to swing a cat.
I stand in my patch of warmth, curling my toes on the rag rug, watching the sun set on the far horizon. It is quiet here. Peaceful. I turn my attention to the garden, admiring the flowers, the bushes, the lawn and the tiny patio – a last-minute whim on my part. It was all my own work, every inch drenched in blood, sweat and tears.
Your blood under the patio, my sweat laying each blessed slab, tears of relief when the final piece of mortar was smoothed into place.
I love this place so much now, I’m never going to leave.