The Estate Agent’s name was Darren. He looked twelve and acted forty-something. Was I looking for somewhere just for myself, he wanted to know. I didn’t want to get into why I was looking so I just said yes I was.
We stood in the hall and I was surprised at how small it seemed compared to my last memory of it. There used to be a small table just inside the front door, where my mother used to put the post for my father to pick up when he arrived home from work, once she had extracted the rare items addressed to her and the even rarer ones for us children. The telephone had also lived on this table, I remembered. An old-fashioned trimphone with a dial, not buttons. No table there now, of course, but a sort of wicker stand with shelves.
He led the way into the living room. The furniture was a different style and colour than when we were there. Darren was saying that the vendors were leaving most of the large items as they wanted to buy everything new. I didn’t care – I was picturing my sister lying on her tummy in front of the television with her head propped on her hands, and Peter, my big brother sprawled on the sofa with one leg draped over the arm. I felt a pang of regret that we siblings had not stayed close as adults. My sister had never been much interested in keeping in touch, but Peter had been a good brother to me when I was small. He lived overseas now and it was a case of exchanged Christmas and birthday cards and a visit every few years, during which we were over-polite to each other.
There was no sense of Katy in this room, of course, nor in any of the other downstairs rooms he showed me. But then there wouldn’t be.
Darren stood aside, politely gesturing for me to lead the way up the stairs. He was now prattling on about the number of bedrooms, the soundness of the structure and the well maintained décor, but I was too distracted to listen. . I felt the way I always had when it was bedtime. As soon as I had said goodnight to my parents I would go straight to the attic, so that I could be with Katy. Sometimes we talked. Little-girl things like school and friends, parties and dolls, until I got older and she didn’t. She seemed to know that I was less interested in those things and we’d just sit in silence, happy in each other’s company. Sometimes I fell asleep up there, and sneaked back down to my room in the early morning. I felt no fear, nothing like that. I always looked forward to seeing Katy.
I was feeling that way now. I almost resented the presence of this smart-suited young man with his estate agent's patter.
He took me on a quick tour of the bedrooms and the bathroom. He must have been surprised that I didn’t ask any questions as most house-viewers did. He was gesturing to me to go back downstairs again when I asked to see the attic.
‘’Not a lot to see up there really.’’ he said with a surreptitious glance at his watch. ‘’The vendors use it as a storeroom. Full of junk.’’ And went to the top of the stairs.
‘’I really would like to look, though.’’ I said.
He looked annoyed, but led the way to the stairs. I had my foot on the first stair, with a buzz of anticipation and excitement in my stomach when his mobile phone played a tinny classical tune, and with a muttered ‘’Excuse me.’’ he stopped and answered it, turning his back and going back to the landing.
I carried on up the attic stairs, glad that he was gone.
The room was dim and very dusty, full of empty appliance boxes, no doubt put up there just after things had been purchased, in case they needed to be returned, then immediately forgotten. There was a dusty old guitar in a case, and outgrown nursery items: a cot, an old car seat and many baby and toddler toys strewn around on the floor, and an artificial Christmas tree, next to a box which presumably contained decorations.
My eyes went to the window.
‘’Hello Katy.’’ I breathed. She turned round.
''You've come back. I knew you would.''