Thank heavens Martin isn’t around and is working late. He took on some project 2 years ago got to do with oil in the middle east, and has to do all of the hard work himself now. Now that he doesn’t have a son around to take on the responsibilities.
I think about Richard all the time. I think about how his face might look now, what he looks like when he laughs. What a hug from him might feel like.
This week has been so busy with the car. Tommy spends every minute that he can right up until dinner time with me fixing it up and getting it all ready. Yesterday we worked on replacing the bonnet and the side panels from where it struck the oak tree. Today we are replacing the tires and starting on the paintwork. Everything is coming together so beautifully, its almost like it was just meant to be. Just this memory sitting there waiting to be reborn and relived. I am so glad that I have decided to do this. It has bred new life into me and even yesterday Martin remarked about whats gotten into me, that I look 10 years younger.
I feel 10 years younger; almost like I am turning back the clock on these last 10 years.
I grab two glasses of fresh lemonade from the kitchen counter and make my way to the garage. The sun is shining on me and the juke box is playing songs I haven’t heard in a long long time. I don’t think I could feel any happier. Tommy takes the cold drink out of my hand and we sit on the sun chairs just outside the garage.
“Do you think we’ll be much longer fixing up Daisy, Tommy?”
“Jeez no Carol, about another 2 days work and she’ll be ready for the road. Why? You takin’ her out some place nice for a spin? Or are you giving it to Martin as a surprise?”
“Tell you the truth Tommy….I have no clue what the hell I’m doin’. I come back here most evenings when I feel lonely or I miss my Richard. It’s like parts of my life have been locked away here in this dusty garage. I just thought it was time that I set one of them free…I dunno. That probably sounds crazy to you”.
“That doesn’t sound crazy at all Carol. If anything I think thats probably the best thing to do. Do you think Richard will ever come home?”
I hide my face from this question that lands on my chest like a block of concrete, by drinking deep into my glass of lemonade. You can hear the gulp when I swallow.
“I’m sorry if I upset you Carol”.
“No Tommy it’s alright. I ask myself that question every single day. The truth is I don’t know if Richard will ever come home. I mean, what kid would want to come home to parents who signed him over to people who didn’t know him? At a time in his life when he was frightened and scared and alone”.
“Carol, you can’t blame yourself for all that. Richard needed that help and that was the best thing that you could have done for him. If anything he is probably thankful for you and Martin giving him that chance”.
I laugh at the innocence in Tommy’s eyes, the sun has crinkled them now.
“Tommy, Richard left the facility after 2 weeks. Ran off. Hasn’t been in contact since. He probably thought that we were too embarrassed about him. The rich parents, too ashamed to have their problem child around”.
I can’t help myself and the tears start to fall as I put my head in my hands. Tommy puts one arm around me and tries to comfort me.
I look up at the roses in the garden and I see Richard and the old man pruning them together, Richard in his tiny dungarees holding on to his Grandfathers leg. He isn’t much older than 5. The sun gets stronger and stronger through the trees and bleaches out the memory that I see in front of me.
Tommy is shaking me gently by my shoulder, a worried look across his brow as I come to.
“Sorry Tommy, I get lost in my own memories here sometimes. We better get cracking on here or we’ll be behind. Come to think of it, its Martins birthday in two days and I’ve not been able to find anything decent for a gift. Would you think he’d be happy if I gifted him the car Tommy?”
Tommy scratches the back of his head with a spanner, not wanting to get car grease on the back of his already greasy head.
“I think that’d be a great gift Carol” he smiles at me and he gets back down underneath the car while I get the paint ready for him.
“Carol, have you seen the keys to the garage? I thought I left them here in the kitchen in the top drawer but they’re not here?”
A hot, humongous knot develops somewhere between my chest and my throat and I can feel my neck and my face go bright red. I try to clear my throat without sounding like I’m hiding something.
“Did you try the dish beside the fridge Martin? Why would you want those? You haven’t been in there in years?” I am standing in the kitchen watching him as he pulls at every drawer and every possible place they could have been. If he finds out what I’ve been doing it will spoil his birthday surprise, but I’m afraid it’ll also make him mad. Martin thinks that no one ever goes in there. He thinks its been locked up since Richard went away 10 years ago. He hasn’t spoken to me about it since. Martin hasn’t let the word Richard leave his lips. Not even once.
“I have a couple of albums in there from years ago that the old man kept, Amanda rang and said she wants some old childhood pics of us for her Dads birthday. She wants to put together a slideshow or something”. Amanda is our niece, her Father Brendan is Martins twin brother and I cringe as I realise that there is no way of getting out of this one.
“Martin you’re late for your meeting, you go and I’ll have a look for the keys and I’ll pull those albums for you. I’ll leave them here on the counter for when you get back”.
He looks at me and then he smiles, the frustration leaving his face. He comes over closer to me and wraps his two arms around me.
“I didn’t want to go down there anyways Carol. You know how I feel about everything down there”. I don’t know what way to take that.
The moment passes between us and Martin leaves for work, while I wipe the sweat from my brow and breath a sigh of relief. That was way too close.
I hear Tommy pull up at the side of the house, and I make my way to the garage.
“Hey Carol, I met Martin at the bottom of the drive. He looked confused so I told him that I was just over to service the lawnmower. Bit of a close call!!”
“Haha, you think? He was in the kitchen all morning looking for the keys of the garage. I took his attention off it though, I told him I’d get the family albums myself. I don’t think I can hold onto control of this any longer Tommy, the car needs to be finished today. It’s his birthday tomorrow”.
We spend all morning spraying the car and letting it dry, cleaning out the interior, replacing the radio and fine tuning the engine. I am exhausted by the time it is finished, and there still has to be a coat of gloss sprayed over it. We call it a day and agree to spray the final coat in the morning. And thats when the fun starts.
My phone rings and it’s Amanda. She is hysterical on the phone, barely able to form sentences through her sobs and her large, dramatic intakes of breath. From what I can grasp, it’s about a caterer and an event planner letting her down and double booking Brendan’s surprise party with a wedding.
“Amanda sweetie, please don’t be so upset. We’ll sort something out. We had no plans for a celebration for Martin, but I’m sure we could organise a barbecue and some drinks and do the garden up real nice and you can invite everyone here. Martin hasn’t seen Brendan in weeks and it’ll be nice to get the family together. What do you say?”
“But Aunt Carol, there hasn’t been a party at your house since Granddad passed away. Martin would be angry. I don’t want to cause hassle for you”.
“You haven’t Amanda, its about time we broke the sadness that hangs over this house and breath new life into it. After all, your Granddad threw some pretty sweet parties here in his day”.
The sobbing changed to sounds of laughter and delight and shrieks of joy and excitement as Amanda started talking about plans for this and that and we agreed on a time to get everything organised at the house. She would come over at 4pm and we would all chip in and get everything ready for the party at 7pm. Right when Martin gets in from work.
I hang up the phone and I start to feel really afraid. How are Tommy and I supposed to get the car sprayed in the morning, get it dried and ready and covered up again until that evening?
I go to bed with a very stressed and worried mind while Martin clicks on his laptop sending emails back and forth to far away places. He doesn’t even know that there is going to be a party in his house tomorrow.
I put my hand under my pillow and I thumb the polaroid picture that I’ve hidden underneath it. I pray to the old man, and I pray to Richard that everything will work out alright. All I can do is hope.