As I put the key in the lock and turn it one last time I notice the rings on my finger glint in the afternoon light. God they need a clean I think absentmindedly. I can hear the boys in the car all strapped in and ready to excited for the new adventure and looking from the car back to the house I take a step back from the locked door and look up at the empty house that was our home for the past 3 years. So many memories of one kind or another flood my mind, the brilliant sunshine of the summer’s day that we arrived the excitement of the boys choosing (did I say choosing?, I think I mean arguing) over their new bedrooms, running through the cottage laughing and joking down through the kitchen and out the back door –which I still think should have been a stable door but we never got round to making it one. I loved the garden or was it the beams? Either way it was a perfect idyll and I hate to sound twee in a ‘we moved to the country and it was fab’ kind of twee but really we did and really, it was fab.
Three years of accumulated clutter is a heck of a job to pack. I’ve been at it for weeks as not only was there the cottage to sort through and pack but we have a habit of filling every space available, thank God we didn’t board the loft out as that would more junk to rediscover, enthuse about and eventually skip. The garage was quite easy as it turned out as the mice had nibbled lots and weed on more so we couldn’t re-home, reuse or freecycle. I found it very cathartic to just chuck it all out and in any case where we’re off to is much smaller so we can’t take everything. The outhouse was full of toys the boys hadn’t used for a while and the cellar was full of camping stuff that I know we’ll use again. It’s all in the removal van now the blue one that’s manned by Stan and Alex the 2 lovely movers who came in, packed and sorted us out. I remembered to make them tea and fed them doughnuts so they smiled a lot at me.
The truth is I don’t want to go. I love this house but we don’t really have much choice. Yes we could carry on paying the mortgage but there isn’t any money left over to run it and the one thing I’ve learned is that a big old house eats money very fast. We re-wired, remodelled the upstairs, re-painted and then sat back exhausted but happy as this was the dream but then, one day, my gorgeous husband didn’t come home. He didn’t answer his phone when I called him frantically over and over as the evening darkness came. I made calls to friends, family and no-one had seen him and as the night time came I sat in the sitting room watching TV with my eyes flickering as the anxiety overtook me. About 11pm the police car came up the lane slowly as I think they weren’t sure where to go. They stopped outside the cottage and came to the front door which in itself unnerved me as no-one uses the front door. As I nervously pushed away fabric and other stuff cluttering the door way in readiness to open it I was greeted by 2 sombre faced police men asking if I was Mrs Eliza Jones. When I replied yes they asked to come in as they had some news for me. I lead them into the kitchen and the sat at the table they asked if I had any relatives’ near that could come over. After this I knew it was bad and I actually just wanted them to tell me…
The words ‘Car crash…’ and ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘Can I make you a cup of tea..?’ blurred through my conscious. I don’t remember when the tears started or when I started to breathe again. The policeman were telling me of a drunk driver being on the wrong side of the road, the impact being full on and that my husband wouldn’t have felt anything. I’m sure all things said to make these times feel better but believe me nothing makes these times better. I made a couple of phone calls and my sister came over and after the policemen left I remember her arms round me and the sound of us both crying filled the kitchen.
We’ve come so far from that night considering it was only a few months ago and now we’re leaving, off to a new cottage smaller and many miles away. New schools, new friends and a new life which isn’t what was on my plan for this year. I can’t stay here, I can’t afford too for one thing. I slowly walk up the driveway, get into the car with the boys put on my best chirpy voice and back out onto the lane. As I reverse to the right and then pull forwards I began to pick up speed and drive past the front garden but I don’t look back. For me this isn’t a new beginning that I’ve sold to the boys it’s the end of the start of my marriage. I take deep breaths turn the music up so the boys start to sing as I don’t trust my voice to talk to them.