I was twenty-seven when I moved to Moorchurch.
More than anything, I didn’t want it to feel like time was slipping through my fingers without leaving me much to show for it.
I felt like I needed a new start where nobody knew me.
I fancied a new challenge. I had spent most of my adult life either as a receptionist or an office assistant for a multitude of different types of businesses. Retail, hospitality, distribution, construction; it was all similar domains of mediocrity. It’s hard for me to believe that I treaded water for as long as I did.
I found an advertisement for a senior sales representative.
For starters, it was over an hour away from my hometown where I had spent all of my life until that point, so commuting would be impractical and almost problematic. Besides, aside from the odd slice of patter I picked up from the years in sales-oriented environments, I doubted I’d be qualified for an entry-level sales job, let alone a senior one.
You miss all of the shots you don’t take, or something like that, and I needed to tidy my C.V. up anyway, so what harm could spending half an hour putting together a duplicate do? I enjoyed it; I liked finding out the level of nonsense I could produce without telling a single lie.
One fabricated list of experience and transferable skills later, and I got invited to interview. To say I was pleasantly very surprised would be a great understatement. I arrived in the reception area and clocked that I was the only female interviewee; to say that I prepared for the best but expected the worst would be an even greater one.
I got the job and I threw myself head-first into my new life. I found a little apartment near the centre of town that was a nice distance from work; near enough to walk to in summer and the later months of spring, but far enough that my work life and home life wouldn’t become one and the same. Something about not mixing business and pleasure?
That was the plan, at least.
Thomas interviewed for the same job that I did. I didn’t know it at the time, I didn’t even know it after we started talking at work; I was a loosely-tied bag of nerves that day so my memory of everything pre-interview is hazy at best. I didn’t know it until we went on what turned out to be the first in a lifetime’s supply of dates. He teased me about how I was selected for the job he missed out on, but he was quick to tell me he was joking, and about how it was such a close shave that the company created a similar position solely so they could keep him.
Right from the start, there was something there. I don’t know what, but there was something. We worked so closely that, naturally, we spent a lot of time together. When it reached the point that I was spending over half of my waking hours with him and I wasn’t anywhere close to tiring of his company, I knew a committed relationship with him was probably something to be pursued.
I had a feeling that I was expecting; a suspicion that was confirmed with finality just seven weeks before our big day. I felt I was really lucky with the timing of everything because if I’d been any further along, the dress probably wouldn’t have fitted me.
Circumstances dictated a belated honeymoon. Baby on the way, this biggest project of each of our careers happening at work, a house to finish decorating, and a marriage to finish consummating. I felt it wouldn’t be long before total darkness would be the only working aphrodisiac for Thomas, so I wanted to take full advantage of what precious little nights we had left this side of parenthood.
We brought Elson into the world and, as cliché as it is, it was one of the happiest moments any person could ask for. I spent my days at home looking after him, and Thomas became the sole breadwinner. It was the 1950’s, minus the music and milkshakes.
Elson has Thomas’s eyes. And his smile. And his laugh. He was his father’s double; cloned at birth and sent forward in time. It was nice because when Thomas was at work, it felt like he was still at home with us. The two loves of my life wrapped into one tiny human.
We continued to live as comfortably as we ever did. I missed having a solid structure to my days but I couldn’t complain much. Every emotional and psychological box was ticked and Thomas was content with how things had worked out.
The nearest seaside became our go-to place for a quick getaway. The sun would beam down and we’d look out to the horizon, and I’d look out the corner of my eye at my little family and think about how lucky I am to have them by my side. I’d think about the future. The past was in the past.
The attention of our noses would be caught by the smell of fish and chips; a smell that can only be found at the British seaside. Travel the country, travel the world, visit every chip-selling shop you can seek out, and you’ll never find the same smell. I think it’s the tepid and salty air.
We’d spend hours in the amusement arcades. Elson would enter a trance with the barrage of sounds and colourful lights. We’d spend hours on the smaller rides; the teacups were a thrilling favourite of his. We’d spend hours seeing just about every other attraction; the mini-golf course became a favourite of mine.
Things couldn’t have been better. Every so often, Elson spent Friday nights with Thomas’s parents. Happy to have the house to ourselves, there was one night when we decided against forcing ourselves to go out for the sake of it, and instead opted for a night in; a night of a delicious meal courtesy of Thomas, a few films, and a bottle of wine or two. Once the wine was flowing, our conversation moved onto things we hadn’t previously discussed, mainly because it had been an awfully long time since we got the chance to have a proper conversation.
It was bubbling in the back of both of our minds to maybe turn three into four.
We had enough home space and we both felt we were in a good enough place in life to do so. I don’t remember what led to it or even who first made the suggestion, but we decided that we wanted to adopt. I don’t know exactly why; maybe we both realised there are too many children in the world that aren’t fortunate enough to have a parent in their life. To be honest, one is too many.
It didn’t matter whether it was to be a boy or a girl; neither of us had a preference. We gave the idea a couple of years to breathe. Some might say that we were giving it far too much thought, but it isn’t something that should be entered into with anything less than complete confidence and assurance.
Elson was four when we told him. Thomas took a half-day at work and picked him up from school. They arrived home and we all sat down around the kitchen table. It couldn’t have been any more perfect; just as my lips parted and I was about to tell him that he had a little baby brother, a giggle came from the room next door. He looked me straight in the eyes. We didn’t have to say much else. He knew.
He ran through to the living room and his face was the purest personification of elation in the history of the world. A thousand mornings of Christmas presents couldn’t begin to dream of having the same effect.
Elson was still too young to really understand the concept of conception, or to wonder why he went to school an only child and came home to a new member of his family.
Luke. That was what he was known as and it didn’t feel right to change it.
Everything fitted together nicely.
For the majority of my life, my glass has always been half-full. But it felt like everything fitted together a little too nicely.
With the exception of his tendency to overcook eggs, Thomas really was the man of my dreams. We couldn’t have asked for a better child than Elson. We couldn’t have asked for a better child than Luke. We couldn’t have asked for a better family than ours. We couldn’t have asked for a better life than the one we lived.
The trips to the seaside continued. The family evenings out continued. The family evenings in continued. Life continued, and the wheels on the bus went round and round.
No matter what happened, there was a feeling in the back of my mind that I couldn’t shake. I always tried to fight it by telling myself that everything was objectively good and things will stay objectively good forever; there was no reason for them not to. Who was telling me that total contentment doesn’t exist, and that something was alarmingly wrong?
We went on our first overseas holiday as a team of four about a year after we had Luke. We’d normally favour a more cultured trip; one with plans to see all the sights and do all the activities. But creating and caring for a family is hard work, so we felt we deserved to remove ourselves from everything, if only for a week or two.
Lying on the beach under the sun, looking out to sea whilst sipping mojitos and margaritas. Another point where it almost felt like everything was too perfect.
There was half of my mind, there was a lot more than half of my mind, trying to keep hold of me and my thoughts under control. It kept showing me how good I had everything. It reminded me about how different life was ten years ago. How different things were even five years ago, when me and Thomas had just started dating.
When we first started spending days together and going on adventures, it was usually as sunny as the majority of that holiday was.
At first, I thought it was the excessive sun and heat that got to me.
It wasn’t the excessive heat that made me wake up in a pool of sweat on our seventh night.
Luke woke Elson. Not by crying, or screaming, but by holding Elson’s duvet and pulling himself up. He gave him a knife he had taken from the kitchen downstairs. He’d taken two; one for himself and one for Elson.
Elson got out of bed.
Luke couldn’t walk and followed Elson across the floor by crawling by his side.
Luke unintentionally but repeatedly sliced the hand that held the knife. Most cuts were on his palm; a few were at the base of his thumb; one was at the end of his middle finger. He stopped, and he pulled on Elson’s pyjama leg so he’d stop, too. He knelt up and looked at the incision that had made its way through most of his fingertip. As he inspected it with curiosity from all angles, he looked up at Elson.
Elson smiled back at him.
Luke looked back at his bleeding finger, before tearing the tip off with his teeth. He chewed and swallowed the flesh and the wound left blood around his mouth. He tried to wipe it away with his wounded hand, but the amount of blood on his face only increased.
Elson smiled when he saw the blood around Luke’s mouth. Looking like he never gave the idea a second thought, he sliced each corner of his mouth and blood flooded down his chin. As he widened his smile, his smile widened.
Luke leant forward and continued to crawl using his sliced-up hand as if nothing had happened. Elson followed.
They stopped at the side of my bed. We hadn’t seen Luke stand or walk. With minimal effort, he stood beside Elson. The silhouette of a third child rose and stood on the other side; they lifted their knives in unison.
My body refused to move; there was nothing I could do. I lay and watched.
As all three knives fell towards my throat, I jolted awake and was brought back to reality.
I looked around the room; I was unsure of the exact time, but it was dark. I could make out the outlines of everybody and I could hear that they were all fast asleep.
The past came back.
I did what I thought I knew was best.
I wasn’t as fortunate a second time.
Time is slipping through my fingers without leaving me much to show for it.