I had been enjoying the hot Sunday afternoon, lazing in the sun. They were having a birthday party next door and Cheneice was over there and Jim was away on business for another week. It wasn’t often I get to sit and do nothing but today was a perfect day to do just that.
So far I had worked half way down a very weak jug of PIMS and I was had almost finished the Jackie Collins that had been sat on my bedside table for the last few months.
I had heard a few screams from over the fence but that was kids being kids. Besides Marjory was watching them all and she was far more capable than I ever would be. I think she had a couple of the other mums helping her and as long as that lush, Emma Marchbanks, wasn’t there they would all be sober.
‘Mummy, mummy.’ I heard a voice that changed in pitch as it called out. Knowing it was my Cheniece but praying it wasn’t, I closed my eyes.
‘Mummy, look at me.’ I slowly opened my eyes to see my daughter’s head appear over the top of the fence and then vanish behind it again. Seconds later she appeared again.
‘Cheniece, what are you doing?’ I called as I slowly rose from my sun lounger.
‘Daniel has a trampoline. He got it for his birthday.’ She called back, still appear above the fence every few seconds.
‘And where is everyone else?’ I asked, now standing on tiptoe to see over the fence and realising my daughter was alone.
‘They are playing pass the parcel but I lost in the first round, so I came out to play.’
‘Cheniece, those things can be dangerous. You need to have someone to watch you.’
‘Well you can watch me now, can’t you?’
At that point Marjory appeared and saw me staring over the fence. ‘Way to keep an eye on the kids Marjory. Should you not have a net around this thing?’
‘We ordered one,’ Marjory rushed down the garden steps to stand close to the trampoline and my still jumping daughter, ‘but it didn’t turn up in time and I couldn’t not let them use in today. Could I?’
‘Well keep an eye on her will you.’
‘Of course.’ Marjory turn to Cheniece. ‘Time to come in now, we are about to start the birthday tea.’
‘Fantastic,’ shouted Cheniece as she seemed to jump higher in the air one last time and land on the ground, not the trampoline.
I looked at Marjory and before either of us could move Cheniece had run off back inside the house.
The relaxation of my afternoon spoilt, I went into the house and decided to tidy round ready for Cheniece’s return.
Before I knew it the clock in the lounge chimed six o’ clock and I grabbed my keys and headed next door. I was four steps out of the front door before I realised that I had forgotten to put any shoes on. All afternoon lounging around the garden, followed by a few hours mooching around the house I had not bothered to put anything on my feet. I looked down, looked at the house and then looked at next door. It was a smooth concrete path right up until Marjory’s driveway which was made up of old fashioned cobbled stones. ‘Sod it,’ I thought, and continued towards next door and collecting my daughter.
A couple of sharp stones made me reconsider my rash decision but I was nearer Marjory’s than home by then so there was no point turning back.
I walked onto Marjory’s driveway and felt the cobbles under my feet. I walked four steps before I stopped dead in my tracks. I could hear the noise of an engine turning over and suddenly I was twelve again.
It was a day the same as any other and I had been out all day playing with my friends on our bikes, swimming in the canal. All things health and safety don’t let kids do these days. I had got home at six and was surprised Mum hadn’t been standing out on the front looking for me. My trainers were hanging round my neck tied together with their laces and I dumped my bike at the street end of the drive and started walking towards the house. As I walked up the drive I could hear an engine running but couldn’t see any cars in the street. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from.
I got to the front door and pushed the same as always. But the door didn’t move. I jangled the handle but nothing. I pushed the bell and still nothing. Where could Mum be? She was always here and she would never have gone out without me.
I walked passed the front of the garage towards the back gate and as I did the noise of the car engine got louder. I looked out into the street and there was still no sign of the car I could hear. I got to the back gate and pushed the latch down. The gate opened easily and I headed into the back garden. As I walked down the back passage I looked at the back door to the garage and realised the noise was coming from in there. I pushed the door and it swung open.
The smell was something I hadn’t ever smelt before and the garage was engulfed in a dark cloud. The engine noise was louder than anything I had ever heard. Why was the car engine running? What was the hose pipe doing? I slowly walked to the car and tried to open the door. Through the smoke and the haze, I could make out someone was sitting in the driver’s seat. I started coughing as I pulled at the car door. It was locked. I pulled and pulled and pulled. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I was coughing harder now and breathing seemed to be something I had to think about.
I suddenly realised I needed help and I tried to run towards the door. It was like running through treacle. The door to the garage was open and I could see the sun streaming through, but it didn’t seem to be getting and closer. My breath was getting heavier and I was coughing too much to take deep breaths.
As I collapsed on the floor, the light from the door clouded. As if a cloud had tracked across the sun at that precise moment. There were voices but no noise I could make sense of.
‘Mummy, Mummy,’ Cheniece was clinging to my neck and I was lying on the floor.
‘Are you okay?’ Marjory ran from the front door and bent down to be level with me. ‘What happened?’
‘Nothing I must have just had too much sun I guess,’ I said smiling at Marjory and kissing my daughter on the top of her head as I slowly picked myself up.
That night as I was tucking Cheneice into bed she lifted her little hand and stroked my cheek. ‘I love you mummy.’
‘I love you too my sweetheart.’ I smiled and lifting her hand kissed it carefully.
‘Daniel’s party was great and he had two grandma’s there. Why have I only got one Grandma?’
I looked at my daughter carefully. She was so insightful sometimes. ‘Shall we have a story before you go to sleep?’
‘Yes please. George and Dragon?’