The Smiths were fairly new to Wills worth Park and were unaccustomed to living so close to their neighbors. The Smiths valued their privacy… that is until the lights went out.
The scene is a communal garden, somewhere in London; a beautiful, well kept garden, it is a haven from the noise and traffic outside.
It all begins with the full moon outside.
Charlie Smith, owner of Flat 15 is looking out of the window. He is transfixed on how close it is; like a brilliant shiny jewel in the sky. No stars, just a stretch of blackness.
Zoe, his partner, comes in and stands next to him in the dark kitchen. The flashlight is in her hands.
“Everyone is outside”.
Charlie makes a noise in his throat. “So this is what people in South East London do during a power outage”.
“Camping in a park. Otherwise they would be camping in their back yards”
“We do not have a backyard. But we have a park”.
“It could be fun like camping. We’ll pretend we are camping”.
“I strongly dislike camping. You know I do”.
He slumps his shoulders and leans into her. She smells like earth and coffee.
“I am not asking you to camp with bears. I just thought now is a good opportunity”.
Everyone was outside. The full moon, the only light in within this dark oasis; the Smiths could see people with their sleeping bags, setting up their tents.
Charlie Smith didn’t have any “pet names” for his wife; the words “sweetie”, “lovely”, “honey”, “baby-girl” were lost on her, and she thought they were childish and sexist. The word “babe” was ok… sometimes. Not tonight.
Zoe Smith gives a low growl underneath her breath as she surveys the park.
Charlie Smith sticks his lip out and gives a little nod. Tonight is good actually.
“Mom, dad, where are we going to sit?”
Charlie and Zoe Smith turned around to see their two children: Robbie and Olive, both 13 years old, and both with fair skin, long-limbed, with eyes the color of sand.
“Here, I guess”. Charlie pointed to the ground under them.
“Aren’t we going to get a tent? You know proper camping”.
“Robbie, we’re not going to be out here all night”. Charlie feels tired; it creeps upon his bones the moment his body came in contact with the ground. His family, above him, looks at him like he was crazy for just sitting on a tablecloth.
“The power is going to come back soon”
“Yeah, but what if it doesn’t?” Olive is hugging her teddy bear (Bear), which she swears she only carries around so he will not be lonely. Zoe Smith fights the compulsion to put her arms around her. She insists on loving but firm parenting, she wants her children to grow up feeling independent and free. Not mollycoddled.
“You come from a cuddly family, don’t you?” She asked Charlie once. She was in her 30s when they met, in a bar. It was a clichéd, but true meeting.
“Yes, but also loving family” He beams, proud, and Zoe’s heart warms.
“What about you, Zoe?”
“Oh, more of a…” The words were there, she just had trouble letting them bubble to the surface. “In your face, annoying, disrespectful, protective, controlling, insane mob”.
She makes a face, the words stings in her throat. She steals a look at Charlie Smith. He just shrugs, and invites Zoe to meet his parents.
Now, sitting on the ground, huddled together even though the park is sprawling with hills and corners, Zoe catches her two children sniggering.
“Out with it”.
“Is it true that you married dad for his last name?”
And then comes the stereotypical exclamations of every parent who strive to raise well-behaved children: “Hey!” “Mind your manners!” or “Excuse you!”
But as Zoe turns her head towards the others in the middle of the park, some of whom have noticed them, while others are sitting and chatting about the full moon, trying to find some sort of mystical explanation for this power outage, she realizes there is some truth to that.
Music floats in the park. Zoe imagines someone from the outside, in their flat with their lights on, listening to their favorite song. A slight breeze catches the air and Zoe wishes she brought with her a light jacket. She catches Charlie looking at her and she sticks her tongue out. In this particular moment she feels strange; a disembodied being among a sea of faceless dark figures illuminated by only a pale moon in the sky. She rubs her temples as a high cackle from the group 6 feet away, pierces her eardrums. The Morgan family with their six children, all girls.
“Fun”. Zoe mutters under her breath. Their two children our lying on their backs now, and for a brief moment, Zoe forgets the others and concentrates on their little directed towards the moon above them.
“I remember a full moon like this. I was about 22 and I was in Thessaloniki. I was heading down the street from where I lived and was about to turn the corner, and there it was…” Zoe lowers her voice a bit in a theatrical. She looks over at Robbie and Olive, their attention not deflected.
“They are happy”.
The sit like for a moment facing each other. Zoe’s hand is in his hair, but then stops and breaks away.
“I need to ask you something?”
Zoe looks at him, the words again bubbling to the surface. She tries to recollect her memories. She in the car in the rain, waiting for the traffic light to change color, Charlie walking down the street, his arms wrapped around another woman.
“Did you get a good look at her?” She had confided in Kate Morgan. She didn’t want to. But she did.
Zoe closed her eyes. “Her lipstick. The reddest I have ever seen”.
Someone screams with happiness when the lights come on again. Zoe shields her eyes, as if caught in the headlights of a passing car. And she’s in the middle.
“Charlie, do you think I should start wearing red lipstick?”