Shit. Five years. It's 2014 today. Five years ago. It's been five years. She kept the tickets. She remembered. 2008 wasn't the clue. It's 2009. The last one's coming. But they've all been a couple of months off. In June there were ones from April. August they were from June, and in November it was September. Was there a reason for that or did she just pick random times and random tickets? No the tickets are sequential. Aren't they? Paignton, Torquey, Exeter, Plymouth. Yeah. That's the right order. Shit. She's back. And she remembered. So where was it after Plymouth? Penzance. Of course. She's about to give it away anyway. When was Penzance? Not for a while. Her Christmas break. Penzance was freezing. That's why they suggested spring. Go back to Penzance in spring to see it in warmer weather. Take her to Penzance instead of watching the Pirates of Penzance. That was a good deal. Even if it was freezing.
So, two months until the next tickets. Thank god. Two months to forget about it. No need to wonder if she's really remembered everything. But if she's sending the tickets, she must. She promised a hint. She's fucking doing that.
Shit. Alice. There's no question now. Maybe before. Nine months ago, maybe. Maybe then it would have been something to consider. But now it's different. Now there's Alice. Not just Angie. There's Alice. No, there's no question now. Gotta keep going, just the way it is.
Wish sleep was just as easy for everyone, as it is for you Alice. But it's not when you realise something shocking. When you realise you've made your own future and the choice you gave yourself years ago is no longer relevant. Even if you wanted it to be. It's really been five years? Of course it has.
What's she been up to in that time? Same house? No. She'd have moved after she finished university anyway. Where to? Somewhere else in the west? Would she even have stayed in England? That was the whole point anyway. Five years to live it up and then see what life had brought. Well she must be back now. If she's putting these tickets through the door. Back in Newton Abbott. Living at home? She said she'd never live with her parents again. But why come back? Why bother with the tickets? Why remember? Why think about it now?
Babies should sleep in cots, not in car seats. There's business at hand. There's plenty to be done here, now. No point in thinking about the past or something that's not even going to happen. Babies should sleep in cots. But how do you move a sleeping baby?
Scrape, click, flutter and nothing. Was that the post? At night? No way. Drop the baby. Don't drop. Just quickly, gently put it back in place. Run to the door and yes. There it is. Orange and punched. And what does it say? January 2009. She's caught up! Wait. Where is she? Latch and slide the door, out to the freezing dark. Fuck. Where'd she go? Left? Right? Baby. Can't leave the baby. Just lean out; one step out. Nothing. Not a glimpse of swishing hair or a shadow of the evidence of her being here or even running away. Nothing. How did she do it? Where did she go? Could find out in the spring. If you want. Four months from now. It doesn't mean abandoning Alice. Or even Angie. It's just finishing what was started a long time ago. Angie would get it. No. No she wouldn't. Definitely not this. She'd never accept this. But, then girls are strange and there are still tickets coming through the door. Implying she's forgotten, or forgiven, or is willing to accept.
Baby. The baby needs moved now. Oh. No. Now she's awake. Was it the blast of cold air from the door? Was it the bang of it closing again? Anyway, she must be hungry by now. Definitely hungry, as the rhythm of clashes and clangs aren't keeping her quiet anymore. Mixing to the exact recipe and heating precisely as directed by the nurses, let's hope it does the trick, doesn't burn, and doesn't poison. There's so much chance and risk with a baby. How do people do it? It's not a mystery why. Once the little thing comes along there's something about it that makes you want to do anything for it. Once it's here. But planning to do it all is not just as fathomable. Five years ago, this is not the future imagined by those young ones in love with freedom, adventure, life; and each other. Five years ago they imagined that would never change. That's why they planned to go back to Penzance in the spring. To be pirates in better weather. But that was five years ago. Five years is a long time. Longer than they imagined. But now it feels like yesterday. It's easy to jump back there in your mind. To see it all, feel it all. Smell it all. The coconut lip balm, the salt and vinegar breath, the floral perfume down the neck. Inviting. Exciting. Familiar. Like the tickets hold that lingering scent to tempt and taunt. Calling back to those moments. A second chance to go, play, rest.
But that brings all the failings, all the inadequacies, all the reasons why it is five years later and in no way the same, or possible to go back. This hungry baby needs to be fed and her sick mother needs to be cared for. With money earned and attention offered, and affection. Not forced, but willingly given. Keep giving it. Like always. When it's accepted; and just keep giving it when it's not. It's funny how some people aren't as affectionate as others. Aren't as touchy feely. It's funny how you get used to it and even begin to enjoy it. To rely on it, and become one of those doting, petting, people. It's easy to get used to. To adapt to. Not so easy to strip it away again and grow accustomed to the rejection and the chill of the ones who find it awkward and irritating. But people are different.
And different people bring out different things in others. It's comfortable to go with the easy, unexpecting life. Not to expect much of yourself or be expected to do more. Just a comfortable life with no surprises or anticipations. Oh, well that's not true, is it, Alice! Some surprises happen no matter what you do. No matter how safe you think you are. But they don't always turn out so bad. "Are you happy now, with your milk? And your chubby cheeks sucking away. You don't mind me touching you, do you?"
In fact, she likes it. She leans in to it. She begs for it. She holds on to it, like the big man's finger she's grasped gently with her tiny tiny fingers. She needs the affection. And she'll get it. Always. No. A comfortable, undemanding, unexpecting life is fine. Just fine. With the right people. The right little person.