I felt a raindrop fall against my skin, followed by several others, but I didn't have the heart to go back inside. I moved over and sat on the edge of the roof, crossing one leg over the other, leaning back on my palms to observe the remaining constellations uncovered from the clouds. The moon hung full and hazy beneath an eclipse of blazing stars, allowing me to see the rooftops of the identically bleak buildings surrounding my own.
My body was a fountain for the incoming rain, the water making my eyelids heavy. I closed my dull grey eyes, a rattled sigh passing through my parted lips as I did so, causing my breath to fog up in front of me, obscuring my vision, as I took in the feeling of wet, bruised skin.
I have twin track thoughts, they run parallel to one other, always onwards. One track keeps me safe in the culture of this era of money and materialism, keeps me in a home with food and safety. The other questions everything in this society and world, always asking how we could do better, love stronger, take care of nature.
In the pandemic the islands were arks in a flood. If media spreads fear then it spreads increased use of the primitive brain areas at the very time we most need the functions of the more highly evolved prefrontal cortex - it's tough to practice social medicine when they keep pouring out the poison. In this pandemic, dear media, "Think before you ink," because fear lowers immune responses and thus raises medical complications at the population level.
In this pandemic we keep a warm heart and a cool head, that's our way, that's British. In all of this trouble, let us remember to live well and show a little class. From the Victorian era, to the Spanish flu, where poverty walks, disease stalks... and soon comes to the attention of us all. The NHS is our British treasure, and it isn't the buildings or the machines, it's the people helping people.
I peer over at the house next door. Ever since coming out of the woods, Sam and his mum moved next door for moral support. However I believe it was because it was on sale, mum left to live with her boyfriend and to boast about Sams new girlfriend. My life was sweet like gingerbread but now there's a cookie cutter hole right in the centre. Sam walked out and the gap he left behind just can't be filled by another, by work or distractions.
The constant reminder of what he said in the woods kills my heart: “You only care about yourself. Self-centred!” I was self-centred! I waited all night for him, every night and all I got was disappointment. I was living a lie. But in return he asks me if I knew anything that was going on in his life? What was going on? I couldn’t understand, could I? I was too self-centred.
Burning rage hissed through my body like deathly poison, screeching a demanded release in the form of unwanted violence. It was like a volcano erupting; fury sweeping off me like ferocious waves. The wrath consumed like, engulfing my moralities and destroying the boundaries of loyalty.
The drone of the cars outside was as good as a lullaby to me. I wish myself luck once more and blow into the air, hoping the stars would carry it in their charm and sparkle. Placing my feet in the free slots of slates on the roof, I cautiously make my way through my bedroom window and rest for the night. God knows how much rest I needed.
When cleaning the house I try to bring my energy to the "Marie Kondo" vibe - perhaps not folding everything as she does, yet feeling a deep sense of peace in my home. As I drain the cleaning cloth, I take in the details of every smitten of dirt infusing in with the water.
From transparent, innocent and silky to grainy black. The water suddenly burns my hand as a wake up call; I move onto the window ledge, it faces directly opposite Mrs. Flavia’s and Sams house.
I should peek; it won’t do much harm… no, no. I am better than this. I wipe the smut off of the ledge and spray the window cleaner. Embracing my work, I open the window and sit on the side, phone in hand, I decide to talk to Nick.
“Hey Nick!” I shout across, I know how much he gets annoyed at me when I do that.
“Hey Jackie. How are you? And for Gods sake keep it down!” He frustratingly shouts across.
“Fine, I’m good how about you?” I reply.
“Bored. I wish I could meet you.” He replies.
“I know, I do to.” I reply.
“So any movement on Sam.” He says.
“Can we stop talking about him?” I reply.
“No. So…” He persistently asks.
“Stop it!” I snap. “I’m sorry, what have you been getting up to?”
“Oh well, you know the usuals.” He replies.
“You’re reading that boring book, aren’t you?” I grunt.
“You bet I am.” He replies.
We continue on our banter. I whole-heartedly laugh at his jokes and join in along with him.
“Alrighty. We’ll talk tomorrow.” I say as a voice calls along to me.
“Okay, bye.” He replies.
“Hi Mrs. Flavia. How are you today?” I ask.
“Very well dear. Do you have any caster sugar and eggs. I’m baking chocolate cake!” She informs me.
“That sounds lovely. I’ll bring them right over.” I reply and make my way down to the kitchen.
“Thanks dear!” She shouts after me.
“I’m baking chocolate cake!” I imitate her. “Tell the whole neighbourhood.”
“She’d better pay for it.” I mumble as I make my way to her house.
I ring the doorbell and wait for a few minutes until I hear feet scuffling from behind the door. “Hi Mrs. Flavia. Here’s your caster sugar and…” I look down in realisation. “I forgot the eggs. I’ll just go and grab them.”
“I’ll send Sam with you. It’ll save you the trip back. I insist.” She adds on adamantly.
“Sure.” I reply.
We walk in silence to my house, awkwardness standing between us. I would have expected him to stay on the doorstep but he let himself inside. Not only that but gave himself a tour of the house. I snatch the egg tray from its nest and call out, “I’ve got the eggs. Sam… Sam?”
He must have left.
I take the egg tray back to Mrs. Flavias house and carry on with my cleaning. Once done I take a seat in my bedroom and rake over my thoughts.
“Jackie.” A voice says as I turn around.
“Sam!” I splutter, “What are you doing here?”
“You don’t answer my calls or talk so this is the only way to get you to talk.” He replies innocently.
“Did your mum send you here?”
“What do you want me to say? Sorry?” I say through fuming tears.
“No. I want to mend things.” He says.
“I’m going, make your way out as well.” I say and stand up to leave. However as I turn the door nob, it is locked, I look across at his smug smile… wait… no smug smile?
Something pulls me forward, like a magnet. “What do you want to tell me?” I say.
He takes my hand cautiously and sits me down in front of him. He kneels in front of me and takes a gulp.
“This is going to be hard for you to hear but you have to listen.” He says.
Terrified and confused I nod.
“Your mum and dad advised me not to get close to you… or they would ban me completely from seeing you. They said for us to stay as friends. That’s why I never came for our dates.” He says.
“No, no.” I deny as I shake my head and take my hands away from him.
He reaches forward and grabs them again, “It hurt me every time, but then we would have lost all contact. I’m- I’m sorry.” He trembles.
His body shakes and the tears erupt from their sockets. He places his head in my lap and wraps his arm around my waist. The pity I feel for him washes over me and I wrap my arms around his body.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I cry out.
We lay in the same position for some time until the question bubbles up from inside me. “Why didn’t you tell me my mum was getting married again?”
He lifts his head up slowly, all I can see are his drenched eyelids which add weight to his face.
“I thought it would be too much for you to bear.” He tells me.
I don’t press further but nod; he’s had too much, spare him Jackie.
“What do you want to do now?” I ask him.
“What do you mean?” He replies. “I only came here to apologise and tell the truth.”
“Yes.” I reply but my heart drops.
“Oh!” He realises. “I thought…”
“That’s what everybody does. They think about what is good for me. They never ask me.” I interrupt him. “Go home Sam.”
I lower myself in bed and watch Sam walk slowly away. Out of my life.
I take to the garden and camp on the bench with my book in hand. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to publish this book, perhaps some day.
Perhaps some day, every colour in the crayon packet is preferred equally.