The noise was deafening. Dust rose into the air, huge clouds as if suspended by invisible string, gradually dispersing high above the trees and houses dotted sparsely along the road.
The area was cordoned off with steel mesh fences but you could still peer through the gaps - enough to see what was going on.
She had parked her car across the other side of the road to watch the building being taken apart by the demolition crew. She knew it would take more than a day to tear down the monstrosity – fifteen stories to be exact.
Workmen in fluorescent vests scurried around, some issuing orders and others just taking them. High up in the bulldozer sat the destroyer, his bright orange jacket visible from where Maisie sat looking through her window.
“I wonder if this was his dream job as a boy” she said aloud, remembering how her own brother would knock everything down that he could with his trucks, sticks and even just his hands sometimes.
Running around wearing a cape, either batman or superman or one of those other super heroes, off he would go, whacking anything within reach. She remembers when he knocked the bowl of beetroot from off the counter in the kitchen and was banned from wearing his capes for a week. He walked around as if his best friend had died!
Her little brother said to her one day as they lay on the grass in the back garden, him exhausted from scurrying around and fighting the enemy, “When I grow up I want to knock things down, like a bulldozer driver. Can I do that Maisie?”
“Why not?” she said to him “You can do anything you like!”
He actually ended up as an engineer and could tell other people how to knock buildings down. This seemed to satisfy him because he did very well at his chosen career. He told her that sometimes he would go to the site of a demolition watching the workmen dismantle a structure, marvelling at the size of the bulldozers and cranes tearing down a building that he had sanctioned – reliving his childhood!
Maisie sat in her car for quite a while watching the workmen, the buckets of the machinery cleaning up the rubble as it collected on the ground all around. There seemed to be a lot of shouting going on but it must have been really difficult for the men to be heard above the noise of the machinery – as they lifted one side of their ear muffs off when someone was yelling at them.
Looking at her watch she realised it was getting late and after a last glance at the building site, she started her engine to continue her drive home.
“Hello love, you’re a bit late” her husband said to her giving her a kiss on the cheek. She could smell the dinner and thought how handy it was that he could cook as good as, or even better than she could.
“Yes, I’m so busy at work at the moment. I’m sorry love – I should have rung you”
“I was just worried that’s all” he told her “Now are you ready for dinner?”
“I am so lucky to be married to you” Maisie said out of the blue and reached over to touch her husband’s hand.
“What’s brought this on then?” he asked “Have I done something good that I don’t know about?” and he laughed.
“Of course not!” she said back. “I’m allowed to tell my husband that I appreciate him, aren’t I?”
“Well taste your curry before you say anything nice about me!”
Johnny was working night shift this fortnight so as soon as dinner was finished he went upstairs to change into his firefighting uniform and drive to work. He came down the stairs in his uniform, hard hat in hand and put it on top of Maisie’s head. “You know I’m the luckiest man in the world don’t you?”
Maisie took off the hat and put her arms around his neck “I think you might be” and putting the hat in his hand told him she would see him in the morning.
As she lay on the couch reading, Oswald the dog, an old, slow Labrador wandered over and lay down on the rug in front of her, looking up every now and then at Masie with love in his rheumy old eyes.
She leant down and rubbed the dog’s head gently almost sending him to sleep. “You’re a good old faithful aren’t you Oswald? What would I do without you boy”.
Maisie and Johnny didn’t have children. She did have a little boy once but he was no longer here.
Liam was buried in the tiny graveyard about a half hour’s drive from where Maisie lived. It said on his gravestone above the tiny cement angel ‘This little angel, Liam Thomas has flown up to heaven, waiting with open arms for his mummy Maisie to one day join him’.
Whenever she thought of her little boy she would try and picture what he would look like now, eight years later.
“Well Oscar, the little boy next door is ten years of age so I guess Liam would be about that height, with big blue eyes and those two dimples either side of his mouth”. Oswald watched her while she talked, not taking his eyes off her for a second, and when she had finished he put his head back down on the rug and closed his eyes.
It was getting late and Maisie was feeling tired. She was in two minds about going out. Part of her thought it wouldn’t be good for her, that the memories would upset her too much. Seeing just how dark it was outside and feeling the cold, she knew she ought to just get her pyjamas on and get into a warm bed to read…But the other part of her wanted, and even needed to go out. That part won, as it often did and she changed into warm clothes and locked the front door behind her.
Just as she was pulling slowly out of the driveway the old man from across the road saw her and waved. He often walked his dog late at night. Maisie thought he probably had insomnia as sometimes when she couldn’t sleep and looked through her curtains, his light were on too.
“You’re going out late tonight” Fred yelled at her, and waited for an explanation. It wasn’t that he was nosey, but he seemed to like Maisie a lot and often compared her to his late daughter.
“Yes, I forgot to get milk today and I can’t do without my cuppa” she lied
“I’ve got some spare if you would like it, save you going out in the cold” he kindly told her.
“That is really thoughtful of you Fred but Johnny will want loads of milk on his cornflakes as soon as he gets home in the morning. It won’t take me long at the petrol station”.
“Alright then Maisie, I’ll go in now. Goodnight”.
“Night Fred” she told the old man with the dog.
She really disliked lying to anyone but he wouldn’t understand. She didn’t think anyone would understand.
The streets were quiet and she drove along in silence, not even putting the radio on. Most of the streets were dark except for the odd house or two with their lights still on. ‘Maybe they have a baby and its feed time’ she thought remembering when she would quite often be up for most of the night with Liam.
The little park was still there, all these years later even though some of the equipment that she had taken Liam on had been replaced. She recalled his little chubby face lighting up with delight as she pushed him on a swing and he would tell her “Higher Mummy, higher”.
The old metal slide had been removed and now there was a much bigger plastic one for the children and the grass had been dug out and replaced with rubber matting – so much softer for the heavy landings.
She could remember the autumn day when they had come to the park, the floor was littered with orange, brown and yellow leaves and Liam wanted to roll in them and of course kick them. But as he lay rolling around on the ground a huge dog bolted in through the opened gate and ran towards Liam. He closed his big mouth of the sleeve of Liam’s jacket but fortunately he didn’t get his arm with it. “Get off him” she had called, looking around for the owner. The dog wouldn’t let go and by now Liam was crying and pulling away. Maisie has swung her backpack at the dog’s head and it connected, he opened his jaws and let go of Liam’s sleeve and she scooped her little boy up.
The dog had run back out through the gate - there didn’t appear to be anyone with him. Another young mother came over to her to see if she and Liam were alright. “I’ve seen that dog here a couple of times but it’s never with anyone. I have reported him” she continued “But I’ve not seen a ranger anywhere around. I’ll ring them again and we’ll sort this out. It’s so dangerous with a dog that big”.
“Oh thank you so much – we’re fine” said Maisie to the other girl. “Aren’t we Liam?” and Liam, who had already stopped crying, just answered with “Naughty dog, Mummy”.
That was the last time she had taken Liam to that park – the final time of seeing her son’s bright blue eyes sparkle and hearing the loud, happy giggles come from deep within him as she pushed him on the swing.
Maisie realised that she had automatically driven from the park to the demolition site without even thinking about where she was going. As she parked in the same spot as the day before she turned off the car and opened her window a little bit.
Of course it was quiet at this time of night. No workmen or machinery, or dust floating around but there were security lights on lighting up a lot of the area - shining on the bottom half of the block. There were a couple of dark corners and it seemed to be here that a crane and some other big machine were housed for the night, looking like black monsters in the shadows.
“I really think that is the floor we lived on” she said aloud and started to count from the ground up. “Six, seven, eight, yes that’s it” and she got out of her car to get as close as she legally could to the abandoned building.
‘Tomorrow two years of my life will be raised to the ground’ she thought…’I don’t want to see that’.
The cool wind had picked up so Maisie got back into her car and locked the door. Out of her black purse she took a photo out and studied it, sighing once or twice.
She could never forget that fateful night but it was always buried way back in the recess of her mind until something happened that made her think about it, just like the building they once lived in being torn down.
She had always blamed herself for going to work that night and leaving her little boy with a young babysitter, albeit her regular one. That was until she realised it wasn’t her fault it happened. She learnt and eventually believed that catastrophes, events, things that happen unexpectedly, do occur and we may never get to know why and as terribly hard as it is, we have to accept it.
“Of course you will never ever forget your beautiful little boy but if you always know in your heart that he felt your love and care for those two years of his life it will gradually help you to heal Maisie” is what she remembered her psychologist telling her, and it did sort of help.
For a long time she couldn’t forgive the girl who was looking after Liam that night either – forgive her for not putting the side rail of his bed up when she put him to sleep, or when she didn’t seem to receive any punishment.
“How can you call it an accidental death” she had yelled out uncontrollably in court “When ‘she’ (and Maisie pointed at the crying seventeen year old student) didn’t look after my son properly. She let him fall out of his bed onto a metal toy truck. She didn’t even put his toys away”….By now Maisie’s shouting was getting out of control and one of the court clerks had to take her outside to calm her down.
She could remember that time in court so clearly but couldn’t tell you what she did for the rest of that day.
The babysitter had written a letter to Maisie asking for her forgiveness and saying how sorry she was that Liam had died because of her carelessness, but it was never acknowledged by Maisie. Only when she could forgive herself, could she do the same for the babysitter.
One day about three years after the accident they bumped into each other in London.
Maisie had gone there for the weekend with some friends and as she walked into the foyer of a theatre one evening, the girl from her past almost collided with her.
“Oh sorry” the girl started to say and then realised who it was and just stared, her pretty face turning pale.
“I’m not sure what to say to you three years on” Maisie began. “But I know I’m the one who should be saying sorry. You reached out to me asking for my forgiveness and I didn’t answer you. That was a brave thing to do at the time”.
“I didn’t expect you to forgive me. But I wanted you to. You lost your little boy because of me. It was my responsibility to protect him that night and I didn’t. I’ll never forgive myself, ever” and to Maisie and her friend’s surprise the girl began to cry.
“Please don’t cry” said Maisie as he put an arm around her shoulder and gave her a tissue. “Liam was a very happy little boy wasn’t he?” she asked the girl
“Oh yes he really was” she said wiping her eyes and trying to control her emotions “He was always laughing and playing, that’s how I remember Liam”.
“Well that’s how you must always think of him and because he was always laughing and smiling, his two years on this earth were good ones. There are some children who never ever have one good year, but he did. Please remember that Joanne”. And Maisie held out her arms to her.
They embraced, a tight hug, of forgiveness.
Maisie and Joanne didn’t bump into each other again after that which was neither a good nor a bad thing. It was tragedy that had happened in the past, but Maisie knew that if she ever did see Joanne again she could say hello to her without feeling angry.
She was getting cold sitting in the car and sat up straight looking at her watch. “What?” she yelled out loud “2am? Oh my goodness I’ll never get up in the morning!”
Starting up the car she turned it around to face the road home, taking a last look at the flat she and Liam once lived in.
“That won’t be there after tomorrow” she said to the photo still in her
hand “But that’s alright my little darling it’s just a building. I have all my memories and photos and I will always have you in my heart”.
The next morning as Maisie sat with her husband having breakfast he asked how her night had been.
“Oh good” she told him “I got a few things sorted out and today is a new day”.