She watches the removal van gurn and growl down the road containing a whole load of something and nothing.
She turns back to the house and smiles at her watch that tells her she has an hour or two before he arrives to take her on her new journey of memories, the ones at the end, precious in their brevity - their last time quality.
She begins to shuffle her way up the path; static tickling her thighs attracted to her warm wool skirt and thick tights, designed to ward off old bone chills.
For now her pleasures are backward not forwards as she catches a glimpse of one peeking out behind the curtains upstairs in their room. The front door remains ajar, as she left it a few moments before.
She pauses at the threshold, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath. Her step lightens as she crosses into the hall and she twirls once then twice.
She can hear low mumurs and giggles from up stairs and she claps her hands in delight and holds them just under her chin to stop herself from rushing up too fast - too soon. Memories reassemble.
After a few agonising moments she begins the ascent, and tenderly makes her way to their bedroom door, which is closed tight. She rests her hand on the handle for a few moments - it feels flushed and intimate. Then slowly and carefully she turns the handle and steps into the room.
On the bedside cabinet; two wine glasses bear the sticky traces of late night wishes, next to crumpled sheets of passionate embraces, scattered with Sunday papers reporting time well wasted ' bathed in diffused laughter through half closed shutters, illuminating particles of future dreams floating in the air; weightless in uncomplicated love.
She laughs in delight at the sheer joy and intimate abandon so proudly evident in the room. A room of lovers; rejoicing in life and future plans that they were in no hurry to fulfil. Time stretching ahead of them so far - it felt like eternity. For a moment she feels it too and she luxuriates in its warm and endless embrace, but - time is ticking and so she turns to leave - no regrets.
She gently closes their bedroom door, and turns to cross the landing, running her fragile papery hand along the banister's deep dark mahogany surface that holds the warmth of hands now gone - of hands now grown ' each one imprinted on her palm.
She is drawn to the bathroom and on entering spies three yellow ducks who giggle and chatter, alongside the shiny taps that reflect little hands and dirty faces and the laundry basket overflowing with joy and fatigue. Over the bath the alphabet letters slide down the tiles into splashes and bubbles next to the solid white radiator that cradles warm towels of cuddles.
She lingers awhile amid the steam and chatter, her knees and back ache with familiarity; as she leans over the bath and swirls the bubbles with hands that are itching to tickle and caress. She hears voices downstairs and gets up slowly, reluctant to the leave the bathroom of childhood that had at times felt like it would last forever ' one, two, three.
Retracing her steps across the landing, she reaches out her hand to steady herself on the wall with its paper of finger-marks growing higher and higher. On reaching the stairs she carefully tackles each one at a time, stopping to catch her breath halfway - a thunder of feet roll behind her and she moves to one side to make way for the passage of time.
The voices are louder now as she pendulates down the hallway - papered in chips and scuffs, footballs and bikes. The kitchen door is pulled to and as she pushes it open the aroma of rich chaos reaches her nostrils.
The table is laid with friends and laughter; the fridge magnets are busy with appointments and dates, holidays and parties, shopping lists and pictures. Whilst on the stove a saucepan of shared times simmer, above which, soft smiles reflect in the steamy tiles as the kettle whistles a purposeful tune.
She turns to look out of the long windows, and catches a glimpse of racing shadows playing in the grass - flashes of tails and paws and balls and bones. The lawn is lush with announcements and celebrations, bordered by beds of bright loud flowers grown tall and leggy, jostling for space in their outgrown place.
The conservatory reflected in the glass comes into focus; she turns her back to the garden and feels the warmth from the fire send a blush to her cheeks.
Two cosy chairs of grown up love nestle by the hearth, served by a smooth coffee table of reclaimed time. The bookshelves groan under the weight of faraway places, atlases and dreams, whilst the flames dance in sensual rhythms of lover's in tune.
She sighs and smiles a lover's smile, gently tracing her fingers across her lips as she sways and twirls across the tiled floor, patterned in well worn steps in perfect time - her body for a moment free from age, lithe and supple, soft and firm. She crouches down beside the hearth and runs her hands across the rug soft with whispers of love, the colour of blushes.
She straightens her stiff back as time returns heavy on her shoulders ' ticking and tocking in her knees and hips. She hears his gentle voice call her from the lounge; the room at the end ' of the house -
Of their life.
The air of the lounge is thick, temperate and musty. It ripples slowly in the dusky light. The chairs stare patiently at the television, their cushions dented with diminished frames. The desk by the window gleams with the polish of letters of love - of congratulations -
She seats herself quietly in his chair, which wraps around her body in a familiar way; she leans back enveloped in his warm embrace and closes her eyes. Goodbye my love the walls seem to whisper, goodbye my love she silently replies. She tugs the blanket from the back of the chair and swathes it around her shoulders; his smell woven into the fibres cradle her.
She stays that way, immersed in his presence, as the memories seep into her bones strengthening and sustaining her.
As the room begins to darken she stirs and checks her watch, time now short. She shrugs off the blanket of the past and it falls at her feet ' hanging around her legs as if it were a reluctant child. She pulls her cardigan tight around her chest ' her breath almost visible in the cooling air and walks towards the hall.
The blanket begins to follow then loses its grasp and resignedly disappears into the empty room that surrounds her. Her footsteps echo loudly on the bare floorboards - tip tapping the march of time. She hears an engine purring outside, and takes one last look back down the hall and the empty kitchen beyond. But she doesn't go back ' time to go forwards.
She smile's a lover's smile, and a blush reaches her cheeks ' she opens the front door clicking the double lock effortlessly with one hand, her other resting gently on her hip which juts out in a practised movement ' a seat for a little one. She slips on her coat, and pulls it tight around her fragile bones.
She can see him in the car, patience etched on his skin in deep lines, his white hair parted neatly down one side ' she has an overwhelming desire to run to the car and mess it up with her hands. He sees her and smiles a lover's smile. She nods to him and blushes once more.
She firmly closes the front door and briefly rests her hand on its blue surface which hides red, which hides green, each layer a marker of time moved on - of time ' repeated. She looks forward down the path '
no need to look back.
He climbs out of the car slowly, unfolding his back like a paperclip - kinked. She reaches him and runs her hand through his hair as he gently kisses her on the lips. She slides into the passenger seat, as he carefully shuts her door and returns to his side. She looks forward '
no need to look back.
The house stands empty for just a little while, just long enough for it to cement all the good times into its mortar and bricks, as the sun sets; shadows chase the last lingering memories into to the walls.
The front door swings open and three little ducks waddle into the hall ' bouncing echoes up the staircase. A mother steps over the threshold, placing her hand on the blue paintwork that in her eyes is already a deep lush green.
She twirls once then twice in the hallway as her senses fill with the rich aroma of home. She lightly brushes her smooth young hand over the banister's deep dark mahogany surface, and her palm is warmed by the hands of others ' now grown ' now gone - and the walls seem to whisper welcome home.