He’ll be here any minute. Not long now. Any minute. Five minutes is not really late anyway. Or ten. Any minute he’ll be here. Maybe his watch is slow. It must be traffic or his car has broken down. The weather is bad – could be all those puddles. He’ll be here. Not long now.
Four steps to the left. I reach on to my Tiptoes. Nothing. The lane is very quiet. That net curtain is really in the way. Why does she have it? It looks weird, although everyone has them. Back to the right. More tiptoes. No sign. That privet is in the way – maybe he’s parked behind it and I can’t see him. There’s a bus; he could be just behind that. No. He will be here soon. Won’t be long.
It’s now fifteen minutes.
The silence is painful. She sits there saying nothing. I don’t turn around in case she sees this as an invitation to say what we are both thinking but I don’t want to hear. I know she doesn’t want me to be upset or disappointed but she must be dying to say something. She always has something to say. Always. Instead she smokes. One white and brown stick after another. The noise of the cup scrapping against the saucer is deafening. The tapping of the teaspoon against the side of the cup. Now the sound of the cellophane being removed from another pack of Woodbines. It’s like an orchestra tuning up – a familiar sound but not quite right.
I walk from side to side. Sometimes I stand in the middle of the bay window – it always felt like an upside down stage with the boards on the ceiling – and turn my head from side to side. In my head I count down from ten, slowing the pace towards the end hoping it will mean he will arrive just as I say zero. The counting is good lucky – just like avoiding the cracks on the paving stones outside. There’s Mrs Farron. She never smiles. Something gets mumbled behind me; I stay silent. Maybe he’s been in an accident. No, don’t be silly. Stay calm. He’ll be here. Won’t be long now. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, threeeeeee, t-w-o, one and a half, ooooonnnnnneeee.
Twenty minutes now.
I pace. She smokes. I pace. She takes a few months off her life with another ciggy. My Grandar sits in the back kitchen. He knows better than to get involved. He has seen it all before. I can hear the radio – its loud enough for him not to hear the door or any chat. I look at my watch again. It has only been two minutes since the last time I looked but it feels like two hours. At last, here he is; it’s his car. Just as the start of the word “he’s” is leaving my lips, I realise it’s not him. It’s next door but one. The tall brother – and his dog. I keep quiet. My heart is racing. Another quick glance left, then right, then left again. Where is he?! Won’t be long now.
Half an hour.
There’s that sickly feeling inside – same as last week. Maybe he’s forgotten – he wouldn’t have forgotten. Left. Right. Left. Right. Won’t be long now. Almost paralysed from embarrassment – from shame – so can’t turn around even though I know she is looking at me. I want a hug but don’t want to ask. If ask for a hug we’ll have to speak. I can’t bear it; I break the silence. “He will be here”. My voice drops at the end of the sentence and by the time I say “not long now” it’s almost a whisper. Maybe if I count forwards that will help…….one, two, three……Another bus, no two buses. No cars though; not the right car.
It’s over. I smile. I know what to do – I do it all the time. He waves. Relief. I can hug her now; it’s a big one, tight. I bury my head in her shoulder – she is sitting down and I can smell the cigarettes – I nearly put my hand in the ashtray on the arm of her chair. I knock the rolled up Echo to the ground but I don’t care. Neither does she. I am happy now. She can see that. We don’t speak. I rush out into the street. My day can start. My Sunday is underway. My regular Sunday. I am eight years old.