Chapter Twenty Eight
He was a very happy Simon. Life had changed in so many ways and it had been scary at first. And it had been bad. And Simon didn’t want to move out of Great Gables. It was his home. And it was his people. And it was his room. And it was his desk with his stuff in it. But it had been a long time now and Simon was happy.
He had his own flat. He was very proud. To get into his flat he had his own key that he kept on a spring that attached to his pocket so that he couldn’t loose it. He had his own flat and his own front door. If somebody came to visit and he didn’t want to answer the door, he didn’t have to. He did that once when Cheryl, his social worker, called. He just wanted to see what it was like to not answer the door. He’d done answering the door before when people had come to visit and he liked that very much, but he’d never done not answering the door.
Cheryl knocked on the door and Simon sat on his red sofa with a big smile on his face. Cheryl knocked a lot and then she shouted through is letter box, ‘Simon? Simon, love? Are you in? Simon, its Cheryl. Are you all right in there?’ And Simon sat on his red sofa with a big smile on his face not answering the door. Simon heard Cheryl’s high heels clicking down the path and he decided that he didn’t like not answering the door. It wasn’t fun like answering the door was. He wanted to wonder who was there, that was the fun bit before you opened it. Cheryl was his friend and he wanted to see her, he wanted to tell her all about work and Jimmy and all the others. But now he had a big problem, Cheryl was going away and soon she’d get in her blue car and drive off. Simon had to stop her but he had his brown slippers on and you don’t wear your brown slippers outside, do you? Brown slippers are for in the house and shiny black shoes are for going outdoors. Outdoors is just another way of saying outside, but Simon likes saying outdoors because it sounds posh in his new flat. Simon had to run down the path in his brown slippers to stop Cheryl. He didn’t think he’d not answer the door again. He was out of puff when he ran down the path and grabbed Cheryl’s arm, he said, ‘How do you do,’ because that’s posh in his new flat, ‘Won’t you come in,’ and Cheryl laughed.
Simon was living in an Assisted Living Project. It was very grand. Mr and Mrs Pickering had the last flat on the row; they were wardens and looked after everybody. All the other flats were full of people just like Simon, but they didn’t all have brown hair, some of them had blonde hair. And Mr Wright didn’t have any hair at all; he was bald and didn’t even have any eyebrows. Simon lived at number six and his door was red like his sofa.
Mother didn’t visit Simon anymore. She came to his flat once and then said that he was a big man and didn’t need her to visit. Simon was glad. She still put money in his bank account though and Cheryl or Mrs Pickering would get money out of his account for him when he needed it. Mrs Pickering sat down with him every month when he paid his bills. Simon paid all of his bills himself, but Mrs Pickering had to sit down with him to make sure he did it right.
The other big change in Simon’s life was that he had a job. He worked at the Cosy Kitchen café on Bridge Street and had lots and lots of friend. Sometimes some of the customers teased him, Yestersunday Jimmy, he’s a workman and wears a yellow jacket, Put two salts on lots of tables and two peppers on lots of other tables. And then he said a big complaint to Annie, who is Simon’s boss. Simon likes having a boss called Annie. He loves her. And when Jimmy said the big complaint, and said that Simon had mixed them all up, Annie smacked him with her tea towel and said, ‘Get away with yer,’ and then she gave the tea-towel to Simon, but before Simon smacked Jimmy, Billy, that’s one of all the others, who wears a yellow jacket, he showed Simon how to twist up the tea towel first and flick it. Simon ran around the café chasing Jimmy and when he caught him he smacked him with the tea-towel and shouted, ‘Get away with yer.’ Jimmy laughed and gave Simon a pound coin and Simon put it in his tip jar. Simon has a lot of tips. And he can leave them at work until he wants to take them because the jar says Simon on it, and nobody touches it. Jimmy and Joey and Billy and Jack, they are Jimmy and all the others, tease him about his tip jar. They try to make Simon say that it’s his tits jar, but Simon won’t say that ‘cause it’s a bad word. Even if they say they’ll give him a pound if he does, ‘Cause Simon’s very clever and he knows that they are going to give him a pound anyway. Simon likes to tell people about all his friends but there’s an awful lot of them.
And then the new lady came. She’s called Connie. She came in the first day and sat at the table by the window. And then she came in every day and sat at the table in the window. She talks funny and is very pretty. Simon was scared of her at first ‘cause she was new and Simon is always scared of new customers. Annie said that he had to serve her just like she was Jimmy and all the others, but she doesn’t look like Jimmy and all the others. Simon got red. He carried her mug real careful and then went back again for her plate. Annie said Simon was a one-plate-at-a-time kinda guy.
‘Here’s your latte and your currant bum, be careful ‘cause it’s bery hot. Can I get you anything else please, thank you.’
The lady, ‘cause he didn’t know that she was called Connie then, smiled all big at him and said, ‘That’s perfect, thank you very much. It looks delicious.’
Every day she came in and every day she talked to Simon when he served her. Soon Connie was Simon’s friend, too just like Jimmy and all the others.
One day Simon was walking for the bus. He had his head all the way down because he didn’t look up when he was going for the bus. Sometimes people weren’t nice and scared him. He heard somebody shout his name but he kept his head all the way down and kept walking. He heard high heels clicking faster to catch up with him.
Sometimes girls, with clicky heels on, weren’t nice, too. It’s not just boys who are the horrible people. The voice sounded like Connie from the café, ‘cause Connie talks funny but Simon wasn’t taking any chances. Simon kept walking. Somebody grabbed his arm.
‘Simon, its Connie, aren’t you talking to me today?’
Simon stopped and turned around. ‘Hullo, Connie.’ Simon talked to Connie in the café when he served her. Simon did not talk to her on the street when he was going for his bus. Connie had an awful lot of shopping bags.
‘Simon, my car’s just around the corner. You couldn’t be a love and help me to carry some of this shopping?’ Simon didn’t know if Connie was asking him to help her or telling him that he wasn’t allowed to help her. Simon likes helping people. It makes people smile. But Simon likes getting his bus, too. He didn’t want to miss the bus and have to wait at the bus stop for another one in case the horrible people came and teased him. Simon didn’t know what to do. He didn’t say anything.
‘Please Simon; if you could help me it would be doing me a big favour.’
This was bad. ‘Miss bus,’ said Simon.
‘Oh, right, well I’ll tell you what, one good turn deserves another. If you can help me carry my bags, I’ll give you a lift home, afterwards.’
It was worse, it was even badder. Connie had taken some of her bags and passed them to Simon and his hands had taken them before his mouth said yes. ‘Not get in car. No lifts from strangers, not,’ Simon mumbled.
Connie laughed and it was a nice laugh,’ Oh, come on Simon, I thought we were friends; I’m not a stranger, am I? You’ll hurt my feelings in a minute.’
Simon didn’t want to hurt her feeling in a minute or even tomorrow so he walked along the street with Connie, worrying. He got into her Black car, worrying. Connie leaned across him and fastened his seatbelt. She smelled very nice. Like flowers. Simon sniffed her hair. He sat without talking nearly all the way home. Connie talked all the time she told him about a place called Spain, Simon thinks it must be a long way away. She says that’s why she talks funny and then she did the best thing. She winked at Simon and then she spoke to him just like a normal re’glur person. Just like Annie, or Shirley who comes in on a Thursday, after the shops. She didn’t speak from the Spain place anymore. Simon was so surprised that he forgot to worry. Connie said that it was a secret and he mustn’t tell anybody. She tapped the side of her nose. When she pulled up outside Simon’s house, she undid his seatbelt and leaned all the way over him to open his door. He sniffed her hair again ‘cause she still smelled good.
‘Bye Simon, see you tomorrow,’ she called after him.
Simon didn’t look round.
The next day Connie didn’t mention giving Simon a lift or about not talking funny. When he put her mug and her currant bum down carefully, she tapped her nose and winked at him.
Simon was walking for his bus. A car slowed down beside him and went very slow. Simon kept his head down. He saw an arm winding the window down and he was scared. ‘Simon, come on, get in,’ Connie said to him. He got into her black car. Connie told him that she went passed his house every night and she might as well give him a lift home to save him getting the bus. Simon was still awkward but after a few days he liked going home in Connie’s black car. It was even better than getting the bus and the horrible people didn’t tease him, or hurt him.
Soon Simon looked forward to going home with his friend Connie. And Annie knew about it, too, because Connie told her that it was on her way and Annie didn’t seem to mind Connie taking Simon home. She never told Annie that she could talk normal though, that bit was still the kind of secret that you tapped the side of your nose about. In the car they talked about all kinds of things. Connie gave Simon a money plant. But it wasn’t a real money plant, it was just a plant. Simon watered it every week just like Connie told him to and it grew big.
One day they were talking about High School Musical II Simon knows all the songs and does the dances just like on the DVD. Connie asked him if he’d like to go to the pictures to see it. Simon was very excited and put on his best blue jumper. He didn’t have dandruff because Mrs Pickering made him buy Head n Shoulders when they went shopping. Connie said that she’d pick him up at half-past seven. Connie didn’t come at half-past seven. Connie didn’t come until seven thirty-nine. Simon thought that she wasn’t coming and took his big coat off and hung it up in the cupboard. He was very sad, until Connie knocked on the door.
In the pictures Connie bought Simon some popcorn and some fizzy orange that made Simon burp, but she had to hold them when Simon needed to clap his hands to the songs. He knew all the words and sang along. Connie smiled big at him and sang some of the words too, but she didn’t know all the words like Simon does. On the way home Connie and Simon went to Pizza Hut and bought a big pizza and fries and then Simon had room left for ice cream. Connie said he was going to pop, but Simon hoped not. It was the bestest night of Simon’s life. Simon didn’t know that Wednesday’s could be good.
The next week Connie came round to Simon’s flat. She brought all the ingredients and she said that she’d teach Simon how to bake a chocolate cake. Simon didn’t sleep on Tuesday night because he was so excited. Jimmy and all the others teased him because they said that Connie was his girlfriend. They sang Connie and Simon sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Simon got red and went into the back room to wash up. Sarah Wallace at Great Gables was his girlfriend, but Simon thinks she might be deaded now ‘cause Simon hasn’t seen Sarah Wallace for a long time. Connie was his friend.
She didn’t come to the café as much anymore. She told Simon that she had a business to run and couldn’t come for coffee every single day. She still popped in once or twice a week though. And she was waiting to give him a lift home when he left work most nights. Simon knew that she was a real busy lady and that some nights she couldn’t pick him up. He had to get the bus then and he didn’t like it. But Annie and Connie told him that it was good for his independence to take the bus sometimes.
The chocolate cake was good. Simon had two slices and Connie said that he mustn’t eat too much or he’d be sick and then she wouldn’t be able to come and bake with him again because it wouldn’t be good for him.
‘Shimon not eat more until tomorrow,’ he told Connie, ‘Shimon be bery good.’ And even though it wasn’t a secret he tapped the side of his nose and tried to wink.
Connie came to see Simon every Wednesday night. It was their night together. Sometimes they baked cakes, sometimes they watched films and sometimes they went out somewhere. Connie took Simon to the pub. Simon liked the pub. Simon drank half a lager please and it made him burp, especially if he had three. Simon sang Elvis Presley’s Teddy Bear on the karaoke. It was his song. David, who was the karaoke man, said that Simon was better than Elvis Presley, and Simon swung his hips and got down on one knee to sing. Mostly somebody had to help him back up again though.
Simon took Connie to the Rainbow Club once a month. Cheryl always had to ring up to remind him when it was on, or he forgot. Simon had his own telephone and when he picked up the receiver he said, ‘Hello, Woods rebidenth. How may I help you?’ When it was Connie on the other end she always used to say. ‘It’s Connie in the bat mobile, you can get the kettle on.’ And he always laughed. Connie liked it at the Rainbow Club. She wore trousers so that she didn’t ladder her stockings and no high heels so that she could crawl on the floor. She always brought things for all the people there like Simon. But when they had a disco, Connie danced with everybody and Simon didn’t like that. Connie was his friend. He’d sulk in the car on the way home and she’d call him, ‘Sulky cods,’ but then she’d start singing a song and Simon would join in and then he wouldn’t be sulking anymore. Wednesday was the bestest day of the week.
One day Simon asked, ‘Connie, why Connie normal?’ She stopped with a jig-saw piece in her hand. They were working on the edges and Connie said that it was a piece of the chimney pot.
‘What do you mean, Cielo?’
Simon knows Spanish now. Cielo means honey in Spanish. The horrible people don’t know no Spanish and Connie wouldn’t call them Cielo at all, not. Simon couldn’t say it right, he became tongue tied. ‘Shimon is normal not, but Connie is normal.’
‘Simon you are a lot of things that other people aren’t. You’re kind and funny and sweet and a very good singer.’
‘Shimon good singer, yes, but normal, not. Connie, why Connie not get normal friend?’
The penny dropped Simon was asking why Connie had befriended him. She was always careful with Simon’s fragile and simple emotions. She was careful not to let him become too attached to her. He had spent many years gaining his independence and the last thing she wanted was to have him forming an unhealthy bond with her. ‘Cielo, I have lots of friends, all different kinds of people, you are just one of them.’
Simon thought about this. He couldn’t decide whether this was worthy of a sulk or not. He didn’t like Connie having lots of friends. ‘Shimon not like Connie have lots of friends, not.’
Connie laughed, ‘Well, that’s not very nice, is it?’
Simon had thought about it, and he was, definitely, sulking. ‘Connie likes normal friends, not like Shimon.’
‘Hey sulky cods, I like you lots, like jelly tots. Stop being silly. What if you weren’t allowed to see Annie, and Jimmy and Joey, and Billy and all of your friends at Great Gables, you’d be very lonely, wouldn’t you?’
Simon didn’t answer. He had turned his back on her and didn’t want to talk to her. So Connie talked to herself.
‘Oh dear, Connie, now we have a problem. See, there was me going to take Simon to the lake to buy an ice cream, but Simon’s not talking to me. Do I just buy one ice cream for me? That would be lonely, just like we were talking about, wouldn’t it Connie? But if Simon’s sulking and doesn’t want to come, I can’t bring his ice cream home for him because it will melt, and how on earth will I drive with only one hand. It’s a problem Connie.’
Simon had turned around with a big grin. He went to the cupboard to get his coat. It was sweltering outside but Simon never went out without his coat. Simon wasn’t sulking anymore. He was choosing ‘flabours,’ which was ‘bery ‘portent.’