QuirkyTales Banner






Home By The Sea

Janet stared out of the kitchen window, sighing despondently at the rows of neat brown fences marking the boundaries around each tiny little plot on the estate. The gardens were all too new for anything more than twig-like saplings and optimistically planted multi-hued pansies, hard landscaping assaulted the eye in all directions.

It was all so impossibly dreary: the fences, the washing in the postage stamp gardens, the kids kicking their footballs at the cars parked on the road, the crammed houses, built so close together you could shake hands with your neighbour without leaving your bedroom. Janet dreamed of something better. She dreamed of space, of fresh air, freedom.

And she knew just the place. They had seen it on their holiday on the south coast last summer, a tired, wisteria strewn cottage, sleeping in a sizeable garden that had largely reverted to wilderness, nestled in the marshes overlooking the sea. What could be more perfect? What better place to raise two children?

They'd talked of it, sat outside the ramshackle old static caravan they had rented for the week, as they sipped cheap wine and tried to forget about going home. They had imagined buying the old place for a song, slowly renovating it over the years as and when funds allowed. Perry had mentioned a hitherto unvoiced desire to set up business restoring old furniture and they had cuddled together as the evening turned to night, dreaming of setting up a workshop in the cottage's crumbling shed so he could work from home.

Then the holiday ended. Perry had returned to work, driving deliveries for a national builder's merchants, working long hours, too tired to speak at the end of them. The kids had gone back to school, their behaviour deteriorating daily under the influence of their more troublesome peers, and Janet had resigned herself to wrestling with the books for the small Italian restaurant at the top of the high street. The cottage was never mentioned again. But Janet could not forget it.

Perry came home one evening, long after Janet had strong-armed the kids into bed and finished the teetering stack of ironing. He was too exhausted to eat the reheated dinner she put before him, collapsing instead on the sofa, kicking off his socks and leaning his head back with a long groan. He was asleep before he'd even said hello.

Janet sat in the worn armchair by the door, staring at him, anger bubbling like a geyser. She was furious. With Perry, with the kids for leading her such a dance this evening, with the restaurant for constantly screwing around with her accounts, with this grotty little housing estate and the planners who allowed such crappy designs for people's 'homes'. But mostly she was spitting mad at the iniquities in life.

Why shouldn't they have something better? Gods knew, they worked hard enough for the little they had. She'd seen the programmes on TV where the self-satisfied business types spout off about how bloody marvellous they are, and how they deserve all their fabulous wealth because they've worked so hard. She often wondered just what the hell these people thought everyone else did. Not for folk like her and Perry were the nuclear powered luxury yacht, the home on each continent, the fleet of cars, each one more expensive than this entire stupid little house. No, for the likes of her and Perry it was relentless grind, a never-ending toil, making others rich while they stayed poor.

Her anger slowly ebbed, replaced by something so much more painful, so unattainable, so tauntingly irresistible. The cottage. The sea. The queues of people wanting to hand over cash for Perry's lovingly restored furniture. The children running in for dinner, seaweed dripping from delighted hands, buckets filled with tiny crabs, trousers soaked to the thigh from wading.

She could almost reach her hand out to brush the trailing wisteria aside so she could open the wind-warped, faded blue front door. How could it be she could see it so clearly, almost taste the salt, hear the bird song, the bees in the yellow flowers, feel the sweet dampness of the long grass? How could it be so real in her mind and yet be so impossible to achieve in real life?


© 2011 Kay Lawrence.


Leave a Comment

: (required)
: (required, but will not be published)