Treintiseis

30th August; late

My room, Angel College

Dear Diary,

I could only snatch a weekend back in the city of my birth. I wish I could’ve stayed longer.

Today I spent my morning shopping, while it was quiet, as I was still in fear of meeting my sister Dianna on my travels.

Why do I not want to meet her? Because she is my link to my past of rejection in my own home. I have long forgiven her for what she did to me, and her wicked crime against me; I don’t pretend to hold a grudge. But Dianna Mountain gives me despair – and Dominick Cardington gives me hope.

That is why I decided to visit the Cardington family, the dear people, whom I have not seen since a month ago, and scarcely for a few hours, even then.

I did not know their new address, but I decided to wander the way I had once wandered – that lonely morning when I first met a short hungry grey-eyed boy. His name was Dominick Cardington, and I have loved him ever since those first words: “Are you alright?” He was hungry, and I offered him a pound coin for an answered query – and he refused the money. I loved him for his brave proud favour, and his brave proud face. I loved him for his childlike voice and his tiny stature. And now his voice is deep and his body is tall, I love him even more.

So I snatched a cappuccino-based lunch with a small green salad and a honey-oat flapjack, and set out in the direction of Cotton Way.

I knew my way even from the very centre of town where it was bright and busy and distracting, and there was a labyrinth of streets leading every which way, and four or five years after that final visit. The people began to dwindle just a few streets into my journey, and when I began to perceive the old rusty brick buildings and the stench of garbage, I knew I was nearing the slummy flats of Harrington City.

Windows were shattered and walls were smoked to black and drainpipes were even more ripped than I remembered. ‘Cotton Way’, said the graffiti-ed plaque at the head of the deserted road, and I felt a queer sense of unpleasing nostalgia. Cotton mills, orange chimneys, black smoke, iron gates.

As I progressed along the street, the rolling rubbish bins and black-gummed pavements nagged at my memory. Such was the intense silence that I would not have been surprised if some magical transformation had come over me, and I would shrink to the green size of an eleven-year-old girl with dark hair in a high ponytail and bright green eyes, and I would be wearing a crimson cotton T-shirt and jeans, mittens and wellies.

Oh, for mittens and wellies! When I was young and innocent; when I did not shirk at wearing such items of garmenture (I made that word up!) out with no justification! How I miss those dear times! – and yet there is no returning to what once was without undue comment and gossip.

I shall cease to ramble. I’m beginning to get poetic, and it’s not very becoming to my mind. Or not at this moment when I should be recounting my adventure.

I found the old flat in the basement. Empty, with sooty walls and yellowish lino – coloured like urine, I couldn’t help but think – the flat was dark and smelly and chilling in its layer of memories – just beyond the physical world, there were figures to be seen, ghosts in the present day.

Each one of the Cardingtons about their daily business were clear to my imagination: busy Marisa, upright Dominick Senior, distant Danica, sharp Aleks, affectionate Liljana, and the phantoms of Marisa’s unborn baby, victim of her miscarriage, and little Soffie, her age unplaced, her smile unbegun.

And then there was my Dominick dearest – what can I say?

Oh, for another life!

I made my way home through the sunset-lathered streets, brooding over the ghosts of the basement flat of long ago.

I would have to take the train later, back to Melif, back to university, back to Dominick. And behind me I would leave the old life, my childhood, my friends and my family.

Yes, my family.

Because that was when I ran into Mrs Junoire, my old head teacher’s wife.

It grows late, and so I shan’t recount the conversation. I will merely relive it in my mind. Here’s how it begins – “Gabrielle!”

Indeed; goodnight, Diary –

Gabrielle

The End

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