by Sylvia Horner
I can’t fink what made mum and dad believe this would be a good idea, moving out of London to this boring scenario. For a start, there’s nuffing here man – I mean nuffing except of course nice big houses. Oh and lots of trees. And fields. How am I supposed to relate to trees or fields? To me they’re scary fings because bad people can hide behind and in them. At our flat in Kilburn (the part that’s getting nice, mum always says) we had a few trees. But no one could hide behind them see, ‘cos there’s lights in London. You could see where you was going and all that. But here it’s pitch black and scary. I like to look out and can’t see what I’m looking at. And man – these Surrey people are nosy. Always checking you out, wanting to suss out where you going, it isn’t none of their damn business. Lucky for me I got my smart phone and Skype so I can keep in touch with my mates in civilisation. Especially Verona. She’s my best friend and she’ll be coming over soon and boy are we going to catch up on what’s what.
Mum and dad keep giving me anxious looks, wondering when I’m going to settle in. Settle in? In this dump that calls itself a village? Are you crazy? I ain’t settling down in no primitive place and soon as I got my exams under my belt I’m going back to live in London. Verona says I can doss at hers till I get myself settled.
Nosy? These folks are nosy. I told you that right? There’s an old woman and a couple who live right opposite us – and she’s always staring. Perhaps it’s because me and my mum are a different colour to everyone else in this dump. Dad’s o.k. ‘cos he’s white. Anyway, he commutes to London every day so he’s doing just fine thank you very much. Then when he comes home he goes straight to the fridge and pours hisself a drink and calls out to mum asking if she’d like one. Then they sit in the garden and sip drinks and they keep laughing. They’re always laughing these days.
The school’s not too bad. Because there’s a lot of space there’s lots of equipment for sports and that’s great. I beat everybody in the sprint and in the long jump. Next, I’m thinking of trying tennis. They got nice courts here. Funny that. I always fancied myself to be a tennis girl. I guess it was watching them two Williams’s sisters beating the arse off all those girls. But you got to practice. Mum and dad bought me a nice racket. I got to thank them for that. The PE teacher came up to me and mentioned representing the school in tournaments. Well yea, I said. No question, I’d love to do that. Give me something to do apart from schoolwork.
The girls, most of them are quite friendly actually. They may look snooty but they o.k. and I’d be telling a lie if I wasn’t honest about that factor. And they try to help me, bless them. Like take for instance food. They cook a different kind of stuff here, with lots of greens and tasteless stuff like that. Amanda saw me at lunch one time and she said “Try the risotto with mushrooms Angela; it’s tasty and filling especially if you have it with some of that nice salmon.” So I did. And she was right. So the next day I asked the dinner lady what she would suggest for being ‘filling and good for you and nice.’ And she said, “Try the roast dinner, roast chicken. It’s good and those roast potatoes are to die for.” Know what? She was right! So it looks as if the food is sorted or getting to be sorted. ‘Cos that was a big worry for me – ‘cos guess what, there ain’t definitely no burgher bars ‘round here. There are a couple of restaurants though and Mum and dad have frequented those and ‘were very pleased both with the quality of the food and of the service.’ The food must have been good – they’re even ‘talking proper’ now.
Verona, my best pal is coming for the weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be good to see her. And her visit will give me a chance to be doing something for the weekend and then talk about it later. The girls in my class, well they always do something at the weekend and when everyone comes in on the Monday they stand about talking about where they’d been, what they’d done and stuff. Like horse-riding, or going to see their grandparents or going to another house that the family owned. At least I’ll be able to say I had a visitor from London!
When I told Amanda about my plans, she said: “If you find yourself at a loose end pop ‘round to my house. There’s a tennis court so bring your racket. Does your friend play?”
“No – but I’m sure she can pick it up. She also used to be good at sports.”
“See you on Saturday then. If we have a couple of games my mother will fix us a lovely tea.”
“Sounds great,” I said.
I told mum and dad about it and dad especially was very pleased.
“They live in that big white house on the outskirts,” he said. “They’re very rich. I think the father has his own business, computer games I think. I’m glad you seem to be settling down Angie.”
“There’s nothing else to do,” I said. “And the girls have been nice – all except Rose, who for some reason seems to have taken against me.”
“You’ll be fine,” my dad said. “You’re made of stern stuff.”
On Saturday my dad and I went to the station to pick up Verona. What a sight for sore eyes. We hugged each other and jumped about and said how happy we were to see each other.
“You have got to tell me EVERYTHING,” Verona said
So I did. We said hi to mum then headed straight to my room so we could converse in private – know what I mean?
Verona looked round my spacious well-furnished bedroom.
“This is cool man – you got all this to yourself? It’s fantastic.”
She opened cupboards and drawers, looked out of the window, looked on the landing – everything.
“You got a tennis racket,” she said. “How’re you getting on with that?”
“Not too bad. We’ve been invited to my friend’s house for a couple of games this afternoon. What you think? Want to go?”
At first Verona scrunched up her nose, then she said, “Yea – why not?” That’s what I like about her. She always looks on the positive side.
“Good. ‘Cos there ain’t no burgher bars or coffee bars to spend the time,” I explained.
“What? No burgher bars. Any fish and chips shops?”
“Still you got a nice view Sis. Really nice. I wouldn’t mind getting up of a morning and looking at that. I’d do a nice run.”
“I thought you liked running in the parks,” I said.
“I do – but it’s getting even more crowded. This here – it’s just you and nature.”
Well what a surprise. I never thought my best buddy would react like that – as if she could see the good points of the country side.
“Wait till you see the dark night,” I said.
We had an early lunch then went across to Amanda’s house. Of course, I called her first. I didn’t want to just turn up on her doorstep – ‘cos I had my friend with me, so that’s two black girls.
“Oh, don’t be so silly Angie,” Amanda said. “And you’re not black,” she went on. “You’re a lovely coffee colour.”
If you thought I lived in a big house now, you should have seen where Amanda resided. It was nothing short of a mansion- like something you’d see on TV. It had its own huge grounds. They had horses, a swimming pool, and tennis courts – the lot.
They also had some servants – people who helped her mum look after the place. Angie and me played it cool. Like we was used to mixing with people who had pots of dosh.
We had four games and then we went in and had a lovely meal, buffet style so we could choose and we didn’t have to know which knives and forks to use. That was always a worry for me – and I think Rosie enjoyed watching me get confused sometimes. I caught her once or twice eyeing me in the dining room when I wasn’t quite sure about etiquette.
Verona and me said our goodbyes to Amanda and her mum and waited for mum to collect us. We had a fantastic time – but then right in the middle of us saying good-bye I had a terrible thought. We’re supposed to bring a gift when you’re invited to someone’s home. Right? So I apologised to Amanda and said I’d bring something on Monday.
“Don’t you dare,” she said. “I invited you over because I enjoy your company, not to receive gifts. Besides, I can see you’re going to be a worthy tennis opponent. The other girls can’t play worth a dime.”
“By the way, pay no mind to Rosie. She’s just got a personality problem. Everyone knows about her, so don’t be put off if she starts saying nasty things.”
“Oh, she has,” I said, “but I was playing it down.”
“Good,” Amanda said. “That’s the spirit.”
Just at that moment my mobile went off. It was mum coming round to pick us up! Clever mum. I bet she just wanted to suss out the mansion and all it contained. Of course when she got there, she had to meet Amanda’s mum, have a cuppa, look round the joint etc. Which is just how she planned it!
When we were driving back, we had a good old laugh at mum’s nosiness, but she said:
“Laugh all you want but me and your dad are going to dinner there week after next.”
“Blimey,” I said.
Mum had a treat in store for us. Fish and chips for supper, followed by ice-cream. What a great day we had.
After supper we went up to my room to talk everything through – and me to show Verona how dark it was – although I have to say, I’m getting used to it and I can appreciate the stars and what people who complain about light pollution mean.
“You better watch yourself girl,” Verona said, “You’ll be turning into a country bumpkin soon.” We both screeched with laughter.
As we stood gazing up at the heavens I thought I could smell smoke. It was coming from the house across the way.
“Hey, let’s go across to that house,” I said. “An old woman lives there. She could be trapped.” We ran across.
“Mum can you call the fire brigade,” I shouted. We managed to help the old lady and her dog out of the building and the firemen put the fire out.
After that we seemed to be friends with the old lady. She’s not so bad really. Mum says she’s just lonely – so it’s a good thing my Gran on my mum’s side is coming to live with us. Mum said it’s necessary because she can’t manage on her own anymore – especially in London. One thing about the countryside: It’s a good place for young and elderly but you must remember not to try and live as if you’re on an island. You need to help one another because services are a long way away.
So, I’ve got my life in the countryside sorted out now. I study, play a lot of tennis, go for runs, visit with the old lady. Verona visits often and I’ve become good friends with Amanda. The old lady has become my friend now. Turns out she’s partially blind from having diabetes. She loves Raymond Chandler – so do I, so it’s no hardship. My Gran will be here in two weeks’ time. I hope she and Mrs Williamson, the old lady, get on – which I think they will.
Sylvia Horner was born in Zimbabwe but lives in London where she works as a tutor in English. She's been writing since 2002 when she completed her MA in Creative Writing.