Open House.

I always like to think that anyone that comes to my home feels welcome, from friends of family popping in for a cuppa and a chat to an evenings entertaining ‘slash’ dinner party.  I’m a perfectionist and always make sure the house is tidy, and if it’s not I worry in case anyone should come round.

My friend Sally who comes round every Wednesday calls my house a show home, and jokes that I don’t sleep at night that I spend the nights cleaning the house from top to bottom.  We have been best friends since we were nine, meeting at church school then we worked together at the GP surgery for a couple of years and she also used to take the mick and say that because my desk was so tidy and organised it didn’t actually look like I did any work to do, which had amused me but I still didn’t like to people to think that I’m not doing anything.

Ironically when I met Richard he was cleaning his teeth, in a kitchen sink at an office where I had gone for a meeting.  I had turned up early and the receptionist told me to help myself to a cuppa in the kitchen and as I walked in he was spitting into the sink, which at the time I remember thinking how vile it was.

“Oh excuse me, sorry I thought I was on my own in here.”  He said once he’d rinsed and wiped his face with paper towel.

“That’s ok, I’m here for the LAC review and was told I could help myself to a cup of tea.”

I leant over and clicked the kettle as I could see it was full of water already, he pulled out two mugs from the cupboard and put them on the side and put a tea bag in each one.  He looked over and smiled at me and from then I knew he was the one, I’m not sure what it was maybe it was his piercing blue eyes, or his lovely white teeth and he looked very prestine in his dark grey suit oh and when he bent over to get the milk out of the fridge I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

He had felt the same way too because when I came out of the meeting one and a half hours later, the receptionist had handed me an envelope that had a note in.

Hi Carolyn Head

I don’t normally do that but after our encounter in the kitchen I wondered if you’d like to go for a coffee next time you’re here.

Richard Herridge

The rest as they say is history, we dated for 6 months until he proposed (in Venice) and after being engaged for a year we got married in the village church with a reception at the village hall.  It was the perfect wedding, traditional but close and because most of the guests lived close we partied in the village square till two in the morning.

I look out the kitchen window and see Sally pull up on the drive, she is obviously being optimistic wearing flip flops and a summer dress and I hadn’t yet seen the forecast for todays weather but so far it wasn’t looking that great.  I pick up the kettle and fill it up and switch it on and as she reaches the door I’m just filling up the cafeteria with a spoonful of Douwe Egberts, my favourite smells were lingering in the kitchen at the moment that and the fresh bread I’d made that was due to finish in the bread maker any minute now.

“Hey!”  She comes in (I always leave the door on the latch Wednesday mornings because I know she’s coming).

“Sally, it’s only just May, you’re very optimistic I’ll give you that.”  I say as she hugs me.

“You won’t believe what I’ve just seen Car.”  She pulls a piece of paper out of her handbag.

“What is it?”

“Your old house, it’s up for sale.”  As she hands it to me unfolding it at the same time, my stomach lurches.

Ok so that’s the bit I missed out, the bit I don’t like to talk about, my parents, I was an only child and by the time I was seventeen I moved in with my grandmother after what felt like seventeen years of hell.  I do like to paint a picture of how perfect my life is with my husband and house in the village, with my best friend not mentioning any of my family.  It was Sallys dad that gave me away at my wedding, Barry, he more of a father than my father ever was.  My mother was at the wedding, as I’d only seen her once in person for 8 years (and that was only because I had made the effort) but since I had been with Richard, his parents were my closest to having parents.

“I remember that house, it was a lovely house, just a shame about the memories.”  I sighed giving her back the piece of paper.

“Would you be upset if I go look at it?”  Sally said apprehensively.

“Of course not, why would I mind but Sally how on earth could you afford it?”  I knew what she was thinking, but I wouldn’t do it with this house.

The last few months, she has been obsessed with looking at houses so much so that she’s been dragging me along with her.  The last house was two hundred thousand over her price range but it was her ex boyfriends family home and she had wanted to see what it was like inside now, and I know she would love to look at my childhood home just to be nosey.  I quite enjoyed looking round houses, although it was a constant reminder that we would be in our little house forever and with the house prices rising made it even harder.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved our little house but one day when we have children we would need at least another bedroom, and a bigger garden.

“Come on Car, it will be a laugh and we’ll do the ‘she’s with me because my husband is out of town’ routine again?”

“I can’t Sally, isn’t it about time you looked at smaller places that are actually in your price range?”

“Yeah yeah, but this will be fun and it will be the last one I promise.”

“You said that last time.”  In fact she had said it for the last four houses we looked at, and at the time I said that I would never do it again.  I know I wasn’t keen on estate agents but they didn’t deserve this, it was time wasting for all parties.

“I don’t think I can face it to be honest, Sally you go have a look and tell me what it’s like.”

“But I can’t go on my own, it won’t be the same.”

“Those people that live there will get their hopes up, it won’t be fair on them.

Ok so maybe I gave in too soon, but she can be persuasive telling me that it would be research for decorating her new place when she finally gets it and that it would help towards giving me closure for what I went through.  I think I had felt the closure at my dads funeral, mum had closure long before that because she had moved to Spain by then.  I had blamed myself for all that had happened after hearing an argument one night.  I was eleven at the time, and was at Sallys until I discovered I didn’t have any clean underwear for the next day, I had come through the back door when I heard my dad telling my mum it was her fault for getting pregnant that he’d never a violent person before.  That had been the first time I’d heard them at each others throats, but according to the neighbours it had happened on a regular basis (I’d later bumped into them when I was shopping in Lidl a few years ago).

I have had eight years of counselling now, and still going but not as regularly as I feel so much better now and I stopped taking anti-depressants last year too.  My counsellor told me she was so impressed with how I’m managing now and had showed me a video of myself the first time I went, because I hadn’t believed how emotional I had been.

This time the estate agent has come to show us round, because the home owners are both at work.  As we walk into the hall I have to squint in anticipation trying to remember, I remember walls to be burgundy with the dark brown wooden bannister, well the bannister was all white and the walls were covered in a purple flower wallpaper.  As we walked round, the house looked completely different, the only place I recognised was the bathroom and that was because I spent most of my life in there.  That was either as a typical girl taking too much time in the bathroom or because I got sick of hearing my parents arguing, and the bathroom was the only room you couldn’t hear them.

 

Then we walked into my bedroom, now it was used as an office.  There stood an old fashioned bureau type desk topped with green leather, and it was covered with two boxes of paperwork.  There was over fifty books on shelves on the wall, I noticed that they were either about horticulture or cooking.

 

“The owner of the property is a writer.”  The estate agent said, I noticed he was looking borderline between impatient and agitated.

“Oh.”  I reply, maybe I was standing a bit too close to the books.

“Sorry about Carolyn, she’s only here to keep me company as my husband is away on business.”

“I see.”  The travel agent replied, walking into the next bedroom.

“Oh my Sally, he was not amused.  That’s it now, that’s the last one.”  I say as I pulled the seat belt around me.

“You say that…”

“No, Sally that’s it, never again.  He could tell you weren’t interested in buying that house, please no more.”

“Ok.”  She reluctantly replied.

“Promise?”  I persisted, “I will tell Mike what you’ve been doing if you even suggest it again.”

“Spoilsport.”  She spat, I knew she’d thank me later.

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