Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
As per my diet sheet, I backed off from having a massive supper as I wasn't training hard but my family decided that tonight, New Year's Eve, they would try and match me fork-full by fork-full! They lost, I won!!
There was no way any of them could manage what I considered to be a reasonable meal so what remained would be fed to next doors dog just before I left for my morning run.
: Note to self: Find out if the stupid dog got ill on stacks of garlic prawns. (I hate the damn mutt anyway and she hates me!)
The evening was great! We watched a DVD about comedy through the 1970's and '80's which had me in pleats! Some of the names I recognised, Benny Hill, The Two Ronny's, Eric Morecombe and Ernie Wise and the weird but soooo funny Monty Python to name but a few, then after supper we saw in the New Year and headed to our beds. I'd missed a call from Lucas but he'd left voice mail telling me not to call him back or I might wake his little cousins but wishing me a happy New Year and that he'd see me tomorrow or should that read 'today'? Ahhhhh! Who cares anyway!
I didn't wake until gone seven o'clock but I knew that the rest of the family wouldn't be up and about for at least another couple of hours so I dressed, fed next doors pooch with the left-overs and went for a run.
I really loved these early mornings, just me, the milkman and the occasional paperboy out and about, uncrowded pavements and very little traffic to spoil the peace and quiet but all that would change in an hour or so when the New Year sales began enticing droves of people into the city centre in order that they could grab a bargain so I hastened on and got back home just as the phone rang.
"Yes hello and a happy New Year to you, my name is Alan Johnson from Johnson and Parks Estate Agents. Is there any possibility I could speak to Mr Roy Pope please?"
"Hang on, I'll go and see if he's awake."
I trotted upstairs just as my Dad walked out of his bedroom.
"Did you pick up that call son?"
"Yes Dad. It's a Mr Johnson from the estate agents. He's holding for you."
Dad made his way downstairs and picked up the phone while I went into the kitchen to make a pot of tea. The conversation was short and sweet as my Dad appeared in the doorway.
"Oh well done! Tea, just what I need. Well Andy? It looks as if we've just bought a house! Our offer has been accepted so all that's left to do is draw up contracts, have a survey carried out, arrange a small mortgage and we're in business!"
"Oh wow! I know it'll take a while but how long do you think Dad?"
"I don't envisage any problem with the mortgage so long as the survey is favourable and even if it does flag up a few issues, we'll have so much equity in the property it probably wouldn't matter. I'm back in the office tomorrow which will give me the opportunity to discuss it with my MD then so long as our agreement still holds good, I'll get our company's solicitors to draw up contracts which will just leave the vendors to do their bit. A realistic timetable? A couple of months I would've thought."
"We can get our end squared away pretty quickly but we can't guarantee whether or not the vendors will act as fast but given the property has been on the market for a while now, they'll probably want to see the sale completed just as much as we do so yes, it could happen before then but like I said, we have to be realistic. You boys will have to sit down and make a list of everything you'll need to furnish and equip the flat. The kitchen for instance. It has a hob and oven but no refrigerator. You'll need a microwave, washing machine plus all the cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery. Likewise the bedroom. A bed you already have as you do a bedside cabinet and desk. There's a built in wardrobe but the room is far bigger than the one here so think about what else you might like. The lounge / dining area. You'll have to start from scratch with this but don't go being silly. Any thoughts about a 72 inch wide screen plasma TV will be vetoed!"
"We wouldn't want one. We hardly ever watch telly so it's not necessary."
"Yes I know but that was just by way of an example Andy. Just be sensible because it isn't a bottomless pit of money sitting in my bank account!"
"I promise. Get the essentials and we can add to them as we go along. Can we get the keys again so I can show Lucas around?"
"Yes by all means. Tell me when you'd like to pop round and I'll phone Mr Johnson and tell him you're coming to collect them. Now what happened to that tea?"
After I'd showered and changed, I sat at the desk and began to put together a list like Dad had suggested starting with the kitchen. Essential or otherwise, if something occurred to me it got added working on the principal that we could thin it out at a later date.
The bedroom was pretty straight forward. Another bedside cabinet and a pair of table lamps and a chest of drawers. I decided that we wouldn't need desks, at least not in the bedroom as we'd most likely do our homework downstairs as the family wouldn't be around to disturb us.
The lounge / diner was a totally different proposition as we needed everything from tables and chairs to lamp shades so my list comprised of two words, 'the lot'.
I was just thinking it must be about time for lunch when I had a call from Lucas.
"Hey Andy! We've just got home! Did you miss me?"
"You bloody well know I did you idiot! Have you had lunch yet?"
"No, Mum's just getting it on the table as we speak."
"Okay. What are you doing this afternoon? Any chance you could come round because I've got some news and also there's something I need to show you."
"Sure thing. Give me like forty-five minutes okay?"
"Alright. See you in a bit!"
My dear Father had beaten me to it.
"I've already told Mr Johnson that you'd be coming to collect the keys at some point so when Lucas gets here you can wander down and pick them up but when you do, tell him that I'll drop them back in sometime tomorrow as we want to show Gregg and Julie."
"Why don't we all do it this afternoon?"
"Well I just thought you and Lucas might like to be on your own being as it's your first real private space and that you might like to share it with him without us hanging around."
"That's really nice of you! Thanks!"
Once Lucas arrived we grabbed our bikes and headed off into town all the while fending off his questions.
"Where are we going? What's all this about news and what is it you need to show me?"
"You'll find out soon enough! Just try and be patient!"
I left Lucas to wait outside when I collected the keys. Mr Johnson seemed a nice guy but wanted to know if we had elderly relatives moving into the flat. I told him no we didn't but then almost told him that Lucas and I would be living there but stopped myself just in time!
I left the shop to see Lucas looking seriously perplexed.
"What's going down here? Why did you need to go in there?"
"Okay. Stick with it cos you're about to find out."
We arrived outside 212 Cressingham Road where I got off my bike and lodged it up against the fence. Lucas was still none the wiser!
"So an empty house? A big empty house and?"
I dangled the keys in front of his face.
"Keys to said big empty house you dummy! Come on then?"
I let us in through the front door having not even mentioned the flat then gave him the guided tour and once completed I asked him what he thought.
"It's nice, I mean really lovely and spacious. Need a lick of paint and some TLC but all in all I can see why your Mum and Dad are buying it. Which of the bedrooms will be ours?"
"None of them."
"What do you mean by none of them? We've got to sleep somewhere and there's so much space so where's the problem?"
"There isn't a problem so just follow me."
We walked back down the long hallway towards the front door when Lucas spotted the door which gave internal access to the flat.
"What's behind that door? You haven't shown me that bit? Hey……..? What the fuck is a letterbox doing there? A freaking doorbell too! Shouldn't those be on the outside?"
"Normally yes but not in this instance! Come on, let me put you out of your misery!"
I closed the front door behind us then lead him round to the side of the house. For a kid who is normally quite intelligent, he really didn't see what was right under his nose!
"Now I'm going to amaze you. Are you ready to be totally stunned?"
"You're weird Andy. Go on then, stun me!"
I opened the outside door that lead into the little kitchen, Lucas stopped dead in his tracks as finally the penny dropped.
"You have to be shitting me right? Am I really seeing what I think I see?"
"Come on, I'll show you the rest and then you can make up your own mind!"
We walked through into the lounge / diner with one large picture window overlooking the front garden and driveway and at the opposite end, patio doors which lead out into the rear garden.
"It's like an apartment Andy! This is one fantastic room!"
"Yes but the best is yet to come. Follow me."
I took him up the stairs and showed him first the shower room and toilet then took him through into the bedroom.
"It's for us Lucas. Our very own space where we can be together at all times, entertain our friends without being a pest to the others and really live together as partners. What do you reckon then?"
He was beyond being coherent as tears were streaming down his face. He flung his arms around my neck as he continued to cry but then slowly he calmed down.
"It's like a dream come true……..are you sure it's for us? Maybe it's for Jo and Simon."
"No it's definitely ours. Mum and Dad saw it and decided it was ideal for us. That door you noticed in the hallway leads into the lounge but we can keep it locked although I expect Mum and Dad will insist on having a pass key in case of an emergency but I know they wouldn't go using it otherwise. They recognise our need for privacy and this way we get it. Needs redecorating big time but that we can do easily enough. I've started making lists of everything we'll need and I'd appreciate your help with it. Dad's already told me not to go being too extravagant!"
"When could we move in do you think?"
"Dad thinks about two months, maybe sooner depending on stuff but about half that time we'll be in Guam so it'll fly by."
"If we could move in right now, I'd trade it for Guam any day!"
"I feel the same way but we can't so no point in thinking about it. Anyway, the electricity has been cut off and I'm not about to stay here without lighting! Are you sleeping at mine tonight?"
"No I'd better not and in any case, the way I feel right now, I don't think we'd get a lot of sleep! Three whole nights away from you is just too much. I'll move back in tomorrow if that's okay?"
"Yeah I understand. Probably best to get some sleep! My folks want to show yours the house come tomorrow morning. I could come with them, we could have another gander at the place then I could help you back with your gear. Sound like a plan?"
"Yeah! That rocks Andy! I never did get to see the garden?"
"It's very big and very overgrown. Guess who's been volunteered to do all the graft?"
"You and I maybe??"
"Give the boy a fucking coconut!"
"I'd rather you gave the boy a fucking!"
"Tomorrow night. I promise you!"
The following morning dawned bright and sunny and with today being our last chance to sleep in, Dad had already left for his office by the time I got downstairs. Mum and Jo followed me shortly after.
"Your father will be back as soon as he's had a chance to speak to Mr Ripley and set things in motion regarding contracts so he shouldn't be too long. What are you going to do with your day Andy?"
"I'll come up to the house with you if that's okay. Yesterday was a bit dull and overcast so it would be nice to see it on a day like today. Then I'll help Lucas back with his kit then play it by ear I suppose. Do you have to go in to work Jo?"
"Yep but it's only like a half day. I want to see the house again and I need the money. University tuition fees don't get paid by themselves you know?"
"Oh right! I had completely forgotten about you going to Uni come the autumn?"
"Well I haven't and I'll need to put in some serious overtime if I'm to afford it."
Mum winked at me!
"How much have you already managed to save Jo?"
"Just under £4000 at the last count but I'll need £10.000 for the complete course over three years so I've a lot still to do."
"Well……..we were going to tell you later but I don't suppose there's any harm in doing so now. When we arrange the mortgage, we'd planned on taking an extra £12.000 over and above the purchase cost. £10.000 to cover your University fees and £2.000 to cover re-equipping Andy and Lucas' flat. We don't want you leaving Uni saddled with debt plus we can easily afford the increased mortgage payment but we're doing this on one proviso Jo. Keep on saving then invest it in a high interest account so you'll have a deposit to enable you to buy a little house for when you and Simon marry. Deal?"
Jo doesn't often cry but she did this morning!
"But Mum……..that's an awful lot of money! I mean thank you so much but I'd feel guilty accepting it!"
"Nonsense girl! Look upon it as us investing in your future! You're a very clever girl and you should get a good degree then hopefully a good career will result from it. We're investing in Andy's future with the flat so why not you? Pay us back by working hard at University, marry that lovely man Simon and give us grand children!"
"I think I can promise you that! I'll go and get a coat ready for when Dad gets back."
Half an hour later saw us walking up towards what was going to be our new home. I have to admit I liked it more with each visit and I'm not just referring to our flat. The whole house was beautifully laid out and the gardens, once sorted out would also be magnificent. Gregg and Julie Carmichael were equally as impressed.
"Got your work cut out Roy but it'll be fantastic once you've finished it and no mistake! I love the gardens although I'm not so sure I'd appreciate tending them! I'd have to employ a gardener so I could just play at being slothful and spend my time relaxing in it!"
"My thoughts exactly but I've got two gardeners in Lucas and Andrew. Payback for the flat!!"
I poked my tongue out at him.
"So say you! You asked me if I'd help, you said nothing about being responsible for the whole damn shooting match?"
"I know what I said but think of the sense of achievement you'll feel as you look out from your lounge over neatly mown lawns and beautiful flower beds!"
"Yes but think of the sense of relief you'll feel when you realise you don't have to touch it ever!"
"They do say that payback's a bitch Andy! Anyway of course we don't mean for you to do all of it, just……..most of it! Anyway moving on swiftly, let's go and show you the jewel in the crown!"
Our flat, or as Lucas insisted on calling it, our apartment got better every time I saw it. True, the kitchen could've been bigger but then some other room, notably the lounge would have had to sacrifice space and anyway, I'd been on a tour of HMS Belfast and seen the galley where they had to cater for over three hundred sailors twenty-four hours a day and that wasn't that much bigger than our kitchen? How much space did we need?
Lucas' parents were naturally very impressed and offered us the chance to look through all the furniture they'd brought back with them from America given their house over there was much bigger than the one in Gloucester. Also they had an over-supply of crockery which we were also welcome to and told us that as soon as contracts were exchanged they'd take us to the storage unit so we could take a look. Lucas took a closer look at the shower, grinned at me but said nothing, he didn't have to, I knew what he was thinking!
Silly some of the detail you miss. It was Julie Carmichael that pointed out that all the carpets and curtains in the flat had been left and given the fact that they were neutral colours and would more or less go with any décor, they could stay and especially as they all looked fairly new.
After we all left, Dad went back to work while our mothers went into town on the bus to catch the sales. Jo also took herself off to work which left us to collect Lucas' stuff and head back to my house. For what remained of the morning, we both wrote lists of necessities although we avoided the lounge and diner completely. Later we did a comparison and when we were happy enough we merged the files into one then set about ticking off what we already had and where we might possibly source what we didn't.
"Such a shame we're not on 110 volts cuz my folks have just about every electrical kitchen appliance known to man but they're useless over here. I don't even know why they bothered shipping them back. They've got a redundant wide screen TV but its 405 line not 625 like here, where's the point in bringing it back? The one thing we might get some use out of is their old sound system. It's in good enough condition and the quality is fab and I seem to remember that it's dual voltage like 110 / 240."
"Why don't they use it if it's that good?"
"Moving back to a much smaller place, they bought an all-singing-all-dancing Bose system. Given its tiny, the sound quality is second to none so the Technics system is in storage like so much other stuff. Such a waste when you come to think about it."
"Not if we can persuade them to let us have it! I can only play my CD's through my laptop and even with headphones the quality is rubbish!"
"I think they'll let us have it if only on loan. It was furiously expensive when the bought it so they might not let us have it outright. Come on, we've got to bite the bullet and think about the living room."
We ploughed on with it, our lists were enormous but again we'd duplicated so much that by the time we'd got to the point of having a workable draft, it didn't appear so bad after all.
Most of the procurement seemed to come from the things Mr and Mrs Carmichael had brought back from the States but couldn't use. This concerned Lucas just in case I thought he was taking over but I assured him this wasn't a problem for me, all that was necessary was to get a working and comfortable living space together as soon as possible.
A dining table, very modern which when extended would seat six together with matching chairs although we thought that two of these would have to live up in our bedroom and brought back down as necessary.
We had my desk which again I thought might stay upstairs as we could do our homework on the table. My chest of drawers needed a twin or similar for Lucas' clothes but he thought that also could be something to look for in the storage unit.
He could also source two nice easy chairs but we also needed a sofa and preferably one that could fold down making a double bed in case we had visitors wanting to stay over. That he didn't think they had or rather he couldn't recall seeing one. Our first serious expense perhaps. Table lamps? They had plenty of them but we'd have to change the bulb holders and plugs but that's no big deal.
I then looked at the list again and the word 'picture' jumped off the page at me.
"What's this picture then?"
"Oh that. Well it was something my art teacher in Constance painted for me when the news about my abuse all kicked off. You see he was one of very few people who sympathised with me, was kind to me and understood what I had gone through. He gave it to me just before we moved to San Antonio and hoped that when I looked at it, I'd try and remember that not everyone in Constance was bad, good people lived there as well. It's a very modern painting and I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean but I love it for all that."
"So how come it's not up in your house?"
"Too big! I'd love it if we could find space for it in the apartment though."
"We'll find space for it. It obviously means a lot to you so definitely we'll find somewhere suitable."
"I seem to be filling the place with my memories, isn't there something really special or personal you want to have there?"
"I'll be sleeping with him every night, that's enough for me."
"Likewise but you know what I mean?"
"Two things. No three actually and all of them photos. The first one was taken when we were on holiday in Cornwall. I was only eight I think but I remember it as being the most magical holiday ever. We gelled as a family as I was old enough to stay up late and enjoy trips down to the harbour to watch the fishing boats go out then we'd go and have a few drinks at the harbour-side pub before waking back to our chalet. The sun was always shining although it probably wasn't but that's how I'll always remember it. Some guy took the picture of all of us down on the beach one afternoon. It's a happy photo. The second one is of us doing our swallow dive during that demonstration. I've no idea who took it but it arrived in an envelope a few days ago. It's a fab photo! The third is the one taken with the medallists at that gala. We didn't deserve a medal, we knew that but they still included us. All of these photos I'd have buried with me when I die."
"Then we have them framed and hang them up but given the time, we really should be thinking about lunch as I never did have any breakfast."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]