Jim rubbed the window with his coat sleeve, trying to remove some of the accumulated
dust and grime. Then he pressed his face to the glass, his eyes shielded with his
cupped hands against the reflection.
He could see that the room was barren, completely empty except for a few abandoned
boxes and some old newspapers. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust,
and a quick check through other windows confirmed what was more than apparent; that
the house was empty and desolate.
With just one floor it wasn’t really a house, but neither would it be described as
a bungalow. It was more like a seaside shack, but without the sea. It had seen
better days, and Jim remembered that it had once been a home; and a happy one at
that. He should know for it had been his home, which he had shared with Sally his
bride. Now it was a sorry sight.
Memories of that happy day over ten years ago came into his mind. Memories that
he tried to shut out, but which returned like a bad penny whenever his soul was troubled.
He remembered that day like it was yesterday, as he had carried her over the threshold,
then quickly shutting the door, deftly shutting out a group of friends who had accompanied
them from their small reception, hoping for another drink, and probably hoping to
see the happy couple tucked up in bed.
The grin he had been wearing just then was etched into his memory, as, ignoring the
cat-calls from outside, but still leaning on the door, he and his wife embraced for
the first time as man and wife in their first home. Unintended, but soon unstoppable,
the embrace was to become something more as he slowly dropped her to the floor, and
hands and lips began to explore. One by one the garments fell and in no time their
marriage was consummated right there behind the door, just yards from their unsuspecting
friends, but encouraged by their chanting and singing.
A little later, there were cheers and jeers from outside when the bedroom light was
switched on. The choir renewed its serenading with enthusiasm and gusto, quite unaware
that it was too late.
The memory faded and the smile changed to a frown, and suddenly his eyes felt wet.
This tumbled down little shack, destined to collapse completely from lack of care,
had been so nice when they moved in. Six months of hard work then, had rescued it
from the fate it faced now, but they had turned it into a little palace, so that
on the happy day it was a joy. Creosote and paint, nails and screws, fall pipes
and gutters, walls and doors, inside and out, blood sweat and tears, everything had
been done. Even the grass had been cut.
Ten years ago.
And for five of those years they had lived in this little house. Years that had started
so happy, but which had changed as they saw their dreams turn into illusion, their
happiness to sadness, and their pleasure to pain.
They had followed the plan diligently. Two years making sure that there would be
no children, and as much cash in the bank as they could manage.
Their love life had been perfect, adventurous and exciting, hampered only by the
need to be careful. Then, when the conception brakes had been removed they went for
it like newlyweds again, enthusiastically engaging at every opportunity, impatient
to use their pleasure to generate new life.
What is it in life that decrees that there is no such thing as perfection? Even
natures most beautiful offerings are mutations, natural selection constantly changing,
ultimate flawlessness never reached. Perfection in this case was so near, and, they
thought, so easy to achieve, yet in spite of their perpetual attempts, the longed
for bump never showed.
Five years went by, and with them their dreams, and their love.
Everything had become routine, and gradually they lost their affection for their
home and for each other. The sparkle was gone, the house became untidy and run down,
revealing the same lack of tender loving care, that they now displayed for each other.
In its place was a weary acceptance of decay and apathy
Jim wiped some windswept hair from his eyes. He felt like crying, it so reminded
him of those unhappy times, but he could not find the tears.
Such was the depth of misery that they had sunk into he couldn’t remember what finally
brought it to an end. Some small incident probably, something that not long before
would have had them rolling in each others arms, yet this time it had been the blue
touch paper. Once it was alight there was no way to put it out.
Suddenly they were no longer a couple. It was over.
Oddly neither of then wanted the little house. Sally packed her bags, took a few
small things and moved out, and soon Jim would follow.
That was five years ago, and as far as he knew no one but Sally had set foot in the
place since. And indeed he had only come here in the first place because his mum
had nattered him; said she was worried about vandals.
So what he thought to himself. They can pull the place down if they want to, but
he had promised her that he would have a look. That had been a few months ago and
now he was back again.
Following the breakup he had not had another girlfriend; he had not wanted one,
neither had he looked for any casual relationships; not even a one night stand. He
had lived alone since that day, for a while in the little house, but was unable to
see any kind of future.
He often thought of Sally, but lacked the courage to contact her, and then it was
His mother would gently scold him, chiding and persuading, to try again.
She’s still on her own you know she would tell him occasionally, ever the romantic;
whose optimistic spirit never gave up. But since the split they had never met.
He suddenly felt very weary, and wanted to sit down. Almost without thinking he
was through the front door. It opened with little resistance, save a timely mutter
from Jim. He was soon inside, and as he pushed the door shut, he remembered his
wedding day and that encounter behind the door. He fancied too that he could her
the shouts of his friends. But no; more likely it was the wind, or some birds on
There was a upturned wooden box in the centre of the little lounge, covered, as was
the floor all around, with dust. Before sitting down he brushed his hand across
this makeshift seat, clearing away some of the accumulated grime, and saw the envelope
fall. He had seen it before on his last visit so he was not surprised when he picked
it up to find his name on it.
That was all it said.
He opened the envelope, anticipating its contents. Turning a little on the box,
so as to get more light, he started to read.
My dearest Jim,
I hope one day you will read this, before our little home
rots away completely, just like our love.
I come here each year on our wedding anniversary, just to
have a look and each time I cry.
We loved each other so much, but somehow neither of us
could hang on to it. When it was too late I realized
that I still loved you . . . but it was too
God Bless you; I hope you are happy.
This time it was not his hair getting into his eyes. This time it was the tears
that earlier he could not find. He had not wept like this for years, and, like that
same blue paper, once started he could not stop.
When he had visited the little house those few months ago, and had seen the letter,
he had not found a way to respond. Now he knew he must, and he knew how.
It was raining quite hard, and Sally’s mother called after her.
“Ee lass she said Its a pity to goin out in this lot.”
“Yes mother, I know. I do want to go, but maybe Ill leave it this time.”
“Ah well, p’raps it’ll be better if ya go . . . You’ll only be upset if ya don’t.”
Sally left the house with a heavy heart, but her mother was right; she would have
been upset to have broken her routine. Strange though, that she should be so keen
to push her off, as though she knew something that Sally didn’t.
It was eleven years to the day since she and Jim were married, and though they had
long gone their separate ways, she still felt a pull on their anniversary. They
were after all still married, and she had developed the habit of visiting their little
house on the anniversary. Two years ago when she had gone she was so appalled to
see how it had deteriorated, that she burst into tears.
She knew that Jim had stayed on in the little house for a while, but when she finally
found that he had gone, she had no idea what had happened to him.
She had planned to go back and clean it up, but somehow it seemed too much for her.
A brush and a wet rag just would not do it. The plan was abandoned, and when she
went last year it was even worse. She resigned herself to watch her little house
crumble to dust, and with it her dreams.
Ten minutes waiting for the bus in the rain, and then a forty minute journey out
of town, followed by another ten minutes walking, finally brought her to within sight
of the little house. It was still raining hard and she could not see too well, the
squally wind causing her to keep her umbrella quite low.
But what was that? She could see through the blur that there was a light on in her
She quickened her step, fearful of an intruder; perhaps a squatter. As she got closer
she could see that the gutter, which, at her last visit had fallen to the ground,
was now back in place, and all the other signs of dilapidation were gone, and yes,
the whole house had been painted.
She was just about at the gate, re-hung on new posts, when the door opened, and
there stood Jim. Sally gasped, hardly able to take it in. Jim was smiling and holding
out his arms, inviting her into that special place which once had been hers alone.
She stopped, but Jim’s arms and his smile stayed where they were. She moved forward
again, slowly, until she was close to him. One more step and she was in his arms,
held tight as he enfolded her.
Not a word had been said, and she offered no resistance when he picked her up and
carried her, once more, over the threshold, into their little house, fully restored
to its former glory.
History did not quite repeat itself that day for there was no hurried and frantic
encounter behind the door, but later, when the bedroom lights were turned on they
were glad that there was no chorus of well-wishers outside.
It was not a night of unending passion, though they were both happy to share their
hearts and bodies with each other; content with their closeness, love renewed, forever
When Sally woke up it was daylight, and she was surprised to find herself alone.
Having no nightclothes or dressing gown with her she got up and dressed quickly
except for her raincoat, which had not quite dried, and went outside.
Yesterdays rain had given way to a fine morning with just a gentle breeze and a pale
blue sky and Sally was able to see the garden clearly. The last time she was here
it was overgrown and abandoned, nature greedily taking back what was hers; but now
all the beds were resplendent with colour and the small lawn neatly cut.
In the far corner some wisps of smoke curled lazily into the sky, the remnants no
doubt of a small garden fire. Sally looked around expecting to find Jim busy tidying
up, collecting yet more rubbish to dispose of, but of him there was no sign. Curiously
she walked to the fire, and was surprised to see that there was nothing burning,
just a very thin wisp of smoke coming from the soil, next to a small cross set firmly
into the ground.
Suddenly her heart was pounding, as she bent down to read the inscription.
Jim Wilson 1968 - 1997.
Where once I was happy, and where now I always will be
Sally fled from the garden and the little house just as she was, without a backward
glance, while Jim stood in the widow amongst the ruin and the decay, and watched
her go, her coat over his arm. He hoped that she would come to realise that he too
had loved her to the end, when he had finally lost the battle with misery and anguish,
knowing that most of the blame was his, and with it, the will to carry on.
“If only I had known before; before I . . .”
He banished the thought from his mind. What’s the use anyway; its too late now, but
at least Sally can go forward; start to live again. As he began to fade he knew that
this would be his last visit to the little house, and he smiled a wry smile as another
tile slid off the roof and crashed to the ground.