So a little about this one. Its a bit more of an examination of my family life. I think I have a very odd family (But then who doesn't) and when I went back to England there was so much going on that I had to write about it.
yep this story is finished, so postings should be regular.
Submitted for your approval.
As usual Comments or questions direct to email@example.com. Feed back is welcome.
The sun never sets on the British Empire.
Charity shops. It seemed that Hailsham was made up with about half of those second hand stores that were miniature versions of the Salvation Army store. They put a logo of an illness research society on the door, collect junk and resold it to unsuspecting passers by as the best deal out there.
Scott huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of his face as he stood wearing a suit that was a size too large and put together somewhere back in nineteen ninety four. He swam in it, but his Gran was adamant that if he was to find a decent job, then he would need a decent suit. It didn't seem to matter what he thought, so he allowed himself to be dragged around, an over sized ken doll to be dressed and undressed on a whim.
Gran had been making steady additions to his wardrobe over the last few weeks; he would find she had left neatly folded shirts and trousers on the end of his bed whenever she went out shopping. Nothing fashionable, but all of it smart, she was making sure he had what he needed to be professional. He felt for certain it was her way of ensuring a young man of his class looked respectable.
"Ow!" he exclaimed as he was poked with a pushpin into a nether region. He glanced back at the overweight old clerk who tittered at him in apology and was taking entirely too long adjusting the lines of the suit.
Gran had insisted that the grey suit was perfect; everyone wore black of pin stripes she reasoned, so grey would make him stand out. His uncle, you see, had found a nice grey suit for a wedding in this very store and he had made an impression with it... He rolled his eyes back, bit his lip and endured.
She was right, and he knew it, it was really a nice gesture, but it was a little too much fuss, he could have bought a nice blazer, a couple of pairs of slacks and have been just fine, it was an awful lot of work for just one suit.
Gran brushed the lapels down and stood back, "Very nice, yes that will do nicely." She stated firmly, "we'll have that."
Scott looked at himself in the mirror; staring back at him was a man in a business suit. The sudden realization that he was no longer a kid hit him. Here he was getting ready to go to work for the first time in his life, the real world, not that sheltered existence of university or high school in the States. And it was sheltered; he had no idea what he was going to do next. He had skills, but wasn't educated to do anything specific. And he realized how totally unready he was for it.
He changed out of the suit, pulling his slacks back on and loosening the collar of his shirt. He wasn't even dressed like himself, he had figured to put a shirt on to give the proper affect when he tried on suits. He looked so much older, so like any other Brit. No jeans, no Henley's no jacket... Just a stranger staring back at him.
Gran was steering him through the town centre, essentially leaving him alone to his thoughts. It was a market day, and so town was bustling with the farmers from the various farms in the region, all stopping into town to buy and sell livestock. Hailsham was one of the oldest and last remaining open markets in Sussex, so the heavy transport trucks with livestock pathetically bleating or mooing in their containers in the back would occasionally rumble by with that distinctive smell of the farm.
"You're quiet today," Gran said eyeing him over her glasses as they angled towards the Boots pharmacy. Gran was a diabetic, and the regular trips to renew her prescriptions were a standard part of the week.
"I was just thinking," Scott admitted, stopping to let a pregnant woman wielding a pram like a deadly weapon go ahead of him.
"About work?" Gran asked him waiting for him to catch up.
He nodded, "Yeah, I'm not exactly sure what to do."
"What do you like doing?" she pointed to the shopping baskets by the door, "Grab one of those would you dear?"
Scott picked one up, holding onto it, used to his role as general baggage mule on these shopping trips, it was a way to pay her back for everything she was doing for him. "I don't know, I mean I just never gave it much thought."
Gran was picking up items she needed and loading the basket as they walked, Scott staring in fascination at the nylon stockings, a fresh pair for each day, it was almost extravagant.
"Well you're father got a job working at the glass cutters in the industrial park. Your Uncle Ron is in the garage, and your uncle Nigel worked in the printers down Diplocks way." She eyed him carefully, taking in his small stature, "But you're not really right for that kind of work. Have you though about working in a shop?"
"I could do that," Scott replied, "We could pop over to the Friday Ad store and ask Serena if they're hiring."
"The Friday Ad, of course." Gran exclaimed excitedly, "They advertise lots of positions in there, we'll pick one up on our way through."
The Friday Ad was a classified magazine; packed full of small ads selling everything from used sofa sets to cars. It was one of those staples of south coast life. When he was little he had always flipped through it dreaming about the really neat cars, he never thought he would now be looking through it for work.
"Do you need a new toothbrush?" she asked holding up one and distracting him from his thoughts.
He blinked, "I have one."
"Yes but it's a little old," Gran said already adding the item to the basket, "Don't worry, you'll figure out what you want to do, get settled and be back on your feet in no time." She gave him a reassuring smile, "You're a bright boy, you wouldn't have been accepted to University if you weren't. We just need to find you a nice job to get you started."
"Mmhmm," Scott nodded absently as his eyes wandered to a particularly nice looking young man who was bending down for a hair bleaching kit. He had to drag his eyes away before his Gran noticed, "Well I've got a good resume and with a little luck..."
Gran was oblivious, "That's good dear," she led the way up to the prescription counter, "You just need to have a little belief in yourself."
The blonde brushed past him, and Scott was certain he had felt fingers brush his hand, the Blonde nodded to him as he stood in front of the Aspirin display. Scott wasn't certain but he was sure that...
"Oh I do Gran," he responded to her comment over his shoulder, "It's only a matter of time."
"You're still young," she continued leaning in to hand her prescription across the counter, "You should take your time, and find something you like."
The blonde picked up a bottle of Aspirin and eyed it suspiciously before glancing to make sure Scott was still looking. When he saw that he was, he blushed a smile and looked away, dropping the bottle into his basket.
"I absolutely agree," Scott continued, breaking out into a grin as he endeavoured to play it cool, resting a hand on the edge of a display stand. Unfortunately it hadn't been clipped in correctly and he leapt as the whole stand came crashing down in an explosion of bottles and bouncing white pills. He stared at it in shock, standing amidst the total devastation he had just wrought with his carelessness.
"Scott!" Gran exclaimed holding a hand to her chest and trying to work off the shock he had just given her.
He held up his hands, "I didn't...I mean... It just..." he was thoroughly humiliated and just stood there embarrassed.
The Blonde was staring at him, grinning from ear to ear, laughing at him. Scott was half tempted to blame him, after all if he hadn't been so flirty he wouldn't have tried to act cool and the shelf wouldn't have fallen down.
"What were you doing?" Gran asked catching her wits and collecting back her composure.
"It's okay," the store manager stated rushing forward with a couple of assistants to begin picking up bottles, "It does that occasionally, I'm so sorry Mrs. Walker is your boy okay?"
"Aside from a case of frayed nerves," Gran said, "I should be fine. Scott?"
He looked down at the pile of rubble and up at her, "Something tells me I shouldn't work in a shop." He said with a grin.
Serena thought it was hilarious, laughing as he explained the story to her as she worked in the stationary store. She rested her elbows on the counter of the deserted store looking over at him. "Did you at least ask the guy out?"
"I couldn't," Scott said, "not with Gran standing right there, and after I made a complete ass out of myself..."
"Arse," she corrected, "If you're going to live here you're going to start pronouncing it properly."
He gave her a miffed look as he corrected himself, "arse then, if I am going to make a complete arse out of myself I am not about to try chatting up some complete stranger." He had left Gran to recover in the local teashop using the time to dart across the road into the stationary shop to get a Friday Ad. Serena had been glad of the company.
Serena grinned at him; "Oh I just think it would have been nice to see you snog him in the middle of Boots."
Scott screwed up his nose, "Did I mention my Gran was there?"
Serena straightened up and began to reorganize a display of pens, "At least it would be some excitement round here." She smiled at him, "I think you kissing a bloke would be interesting to see `cause I still don't believe you're gay."
Scott folded his arms, "that is only because you have the hots for me..." He replied rolling the Friday Ad and tucking it under his arm.
"Yeah, I want to shag you rotten," she said tossing back her mass of curls and leaning on the counter again and fixing him with a large smile, "But seriously though, there isn't exactly a gay pub in Hailsham, I know there is one in Eastbourne but we're right close to Brighton, there's like a million there."
He looked back at her, "Brighton?"
She grinned, "Want to go?"
"When?" he asked looking about him to see if anyone would over hear.
"Friday night, babe." She said, "I mean you come out with us, least we can do is go out with you one night to prove you're a poof."
"Don't call me that." Scott said, his dopey grin on his face, he knew she was just teasing him, but he still didn't like it, "alright we'll go if it will satisfy your curiosity."
"That's the badger!" she stated firmly.
Scott blinked, "What does a badger have to do with...?"
Serena stared at him, "You know, that's the dogs bollocks, that's the badger... It means its great." She shook her head, "Should I buy you one of those little pocket translators?"
"I don't think they are programmed to cope with English slang," he replied honestly, "I mean I think it would have a conniption after the first five minutes. I know I feel like that sometimes."
She shook her head at him, curls following the head a second or two later. He didn't know how she got it to do that, stay so tightly curled with so much volume, but it always made her look so exotic. He loved that about her, she was also so vibrant like that girl off of Trek, Deanna or something. He really hadn't watched enough of it to know anymore, but the woman off of it had always struck him as beautiful.
"Well I have Friday off, so we could go, buy you something to wear..." she had that `shopping' fever again, and she was always looking for an excuse to drag him with her.
"I don't know I..." he began cautiously.
"It's pay day, I'm going to buy you a real out fit as well. None of this nineteen fifties retro look you have on at the moment, I mean real clothes." The door clattered as a man walked in to buy some printer paper; he nodded to Scott before paying and walking out again.
"Wow so there are customers." Scott said in amazement.
She threw a pen lid at him, "Of course there are, they come to see me."
Scott caught the pen lid and set it back down on the counter, "Just teasing you, look I should be getting back before Gran start's to wonder where I went to."
"So we're going on Friday night?" She pressed.
"Yeah," he replied hand on the door handle, "it should be a lot of fun."
He picked at the shirt: Ben Sherman; apparently it was what all the well-dressed guys were wearing. To him it kinda looked like... well a normal shirt with a label. But Serena had insisted on buying it for him, pairing it with a beautiful pair of black slacks and his well-polished shoes; he actually felt stylish.
Though the argument to tuck or leave un-tucked still raged. He thought it looked better in, she thought it looked better out. Dickie, leaning forward from the back on the seats in front, agreed with Scott.
"In, definitely; looks sharper," he commented, turning his head as they passed over a roundabout. Scott held onto the dashboard as the small Metro bounced into the air and landed solidly. Serena always did that; instead of going around the white painted circles she generally drove right over them. If she had her way she would do the same with the gigantic ones lined with crash barriers...
"Steady on!" Dickie called, jostled around the back seat.
"Do you want to drive?" she asked, continuing their course along the A-27 to Brighton.
"Well, in the interests of actually making it there alive..." Dickie began... but changed his mind as she shot him a dirty look in the rearview mirror.
"Watch out for that..." Scott began, seeing the red stoplight zoom past them. He had come to accept the fact that Serena was the stereotypical woman driver, about as bad as they got; well, she was just worse. And she loved it. He was sure the glove compartment was filled with unpaid speeding tickets.
"Alright," Dickie said, deciding to focus on the adventure at hand, "What's our mission tonight?"
"To find Scott a bloke, so he can prove he's gay," Serena said firmly, overtaking a Morris Minor.
Scott watched the startled face of the other driver as this Metro cut him off, "I'm not a slut; I'm not just going to kiss the first guy I see."
"So," Dickie said nodding his head, "why exactly am I being dragged along on this man safari?"
"You owe him," Serena said with a grin as the Metro swung around one of those giant roundabouts, coming dangerously close to clipping the curb, "and it's a chance to get away from Hailsham for a night."
Dickie heaved a sigh, "Nice one," he conceded. "Alright then, Scott, mate, the sooner you kiss a bloke the sooner we get to go home."
"Well I doubt it will be that easy," Scott said as the Metro began to enter Brighton city limits; they were passing the illustrious Brighton University on the long road that would lead them to the very heart of the gay capital of Europe.
Brighton was synonymous with homosexuality, famous for it. More gay bars per capita than anywhere else in Europe, it didn't shy away from the stigma normal places associated with being gay. It was one big gay village. And from the way Serena had described it, it was a Mecca to gay people everywhere, especially on a Friday night.
They were naturally stuck in traffic.
Scott drummed his fingers on the dashboard and Dickie sat smugly in the back glancing out of the window every time a beautiful woman passed by, doing his damndest to keep all of them entertained. Serena just fumed, occasionally bellowing out insults to the other drivers as the car inched forward at an impossibly slow rate.
Scott chuckled, "Tell you what; we'll hop out and walk, the car will still be here when we're done..."
"Oh give over," Serena said looking at him, "we're nearly there and it's still early."
Dickie leaned forward again, "So, where are we going first? Serena's right, it's still early; maybe we want to catch a drink before hitting a club or something?" He waggled his eyebrows, "Nice pub, cold pint would really hit the spot."
"What about the pier?" Serena asked, her eyes lighting up at the prospect. "They have a big arcade on it, and the amusement park at the end."
Dickie rolled his eyes, "So much for a cold pint."
"We can split it," Scott said. "Let's go to the Pier and then find a pub to get sufficiently inebriated..."
"Sloshed, my old boy," Dickie said affecting a proper upper-class English accent, "I say, what, sounds like a spiffing idea to me."
Serena gave him a look, as she suddenly cut the car into a parking spot that someone had just vacated. "This looks like as close as we're going to get." She switched off the engine, "Unless you lads don't want to walk?"
Scott got out of the car and flipped the seat forward to let Dickie out who uncoiled his long legs and stretched; contrary to popular belief there was not that much room in the back of an Austin Metro. It felt good to just breathe in the fresh salt air of Brighton which was built on the seashore and had one of the best seasides in the country. So much so that Queen Victoria had kept the Brighton Pavilion there. The white palace always reminded Scott of the Taj Mahal, domes and columns, it was now used for theatre performances and as a historical tourist attraction.
Brighton was a lively place; cars, people and bristling with life. It was a little older than other cities he had been in, but the narrow tall houses and shops virtually built right on top of each other went back centuries. There was even a section of the city called `the lanes' that predated cars. Narrow shopping streets that instantly transported you back hundreds of years to a simpler time.
He immediately fell in love with the city all over again. He used to come with his father when he was small to watch the dolphins and stare at the aquarium that was right next to the Pier, but that attraction was gone now, considered too cruel on the dolphins. But it was one of his fondest memories of spending time with his father, sitting in the front row having dolphins sing happy birthday to him.
They walked along the street, under a laser sign that cast light down upon the pavement rotating the word `revenge' in bright white light onto the paving stones. Scott pointed to it curiously.
"What's that?" he asked, looking up at an unremarkable door.
"You'll see," Dickie said, firmly resting a hand on Scott's shoulder and propelling him past the doors towards the intersection and the magnificent Palace Pier.
"How come it says Brighton Pier?" Scott asked, staring up at the glowing sign, "I'm not crazy, right?"
Serena shrugged, "Some prats bought the pier a few years ago and renamed it; I guess they thought they were being bright." She led the way through the circle of take-out places and onto the wooden slats of the pier.
It extended a good 1700 feet out to sea; a great construct of steel and lights, it had been Brighton's crown jewel for over a century. It boasted everything a person could need; three bars, an amusement park, an arcade, dining. All on a massive man-made construct. It was like taking a trip to Vegas. The lights, the slot machines and one armed bandits, the bells ringing and the video games squawking musical notes at different levels. It was chaotic and the noise was thrilling.
Scott's eyes had to be as wide as a little kid's, staring at everything at once, remembering the last time he had been there, how happy he had been, before being torn away from everything he ever loved. It was all a little overwhelming and he just stood there with a stunned expression on his face.
"Are you ok?" Dickie rested a hand on his arm looking concerned as Serena was off getting change.
Scott nodded snapping out of his trip down memory lane, "I... it's odd to be back here, I guess," he said staring in wonder again, "it's changed a bit."
"Time'll do that," Dickie agreed, affixing him with that x-ray vision of his, seeing deep inside him, "feeling a bit out of place still?"
"A bit," Scott confessed, smiling at his friend. "I'll figure it out, it's still new, that's all." He grinned as Serena returned holding up a small bucket full of change and tokens.
"It's getting right expensive in here," she exclaimed, looking around her. "I suppose you lads want something violent with guns blood and guts, right?"
Dickie gave a friendly shrug, "House of the Living Dead?"
Scott suddenly brightened, they had that game at the local arcade back in Brooklyn, "You're on!"
He enjoyed the game where two heroes have to rescue a girl from a house possessed by demon creatures. It was one of the classic arcade shooters, complete with handheld guns. Suddenly, growing up in Brooklyn had a decided advantage over Hailsham's finest.
After a few minutes Dickie was shaking his head, "Wow, we're getting far; where'd you learn to shoot?"
Scott didn't take his eyes of the screen, the gun braced in two hands sweeping to and fro picking off vampire bats that rushed at him, occasionally clicking for a reload before returning to shooting the creatures. "Didn't," he said, keeping his breaths short, squeezing the trigger only when he exhaled because breathing-in caused the gun to drift upwards. "Dad used to take me hunting in Michigan; he always used to... bugger..." he lost a life and chuckling he bent down to reload tokens into the machine, "It's not perfect but, hey, whatever works."
Dickie shifted his grip to match Scott's, mimicking his motions and his aim steadied considerably. "Hey it works," he sounded surprised as he shot an axe-wielding psychopath.
Scott grinned, "One of the few useful things I learned from my Dad, how about you?"
Dickie stared intensely at the screen, swinging his gun to and fro, "My dad was a drunk; the only useful thing he ever did was fuck off." He swung the gun back and pulled the trigger again, "Right after my mom was in her accident..."
"The reason's she's..." Scott was suddenly uncomfortable delving too deeply into some one else's life.
"Yeah, she's paraplegic; Dad couldn't hack it and so he walked out and never looked back." Dickie was angry, but the game was working his frustration as he bit out his words, "I'm glad he's gone, frankly."
Scott nodded again, giving Dickie the occasional covering fire, but Dickie had suddenly become the one doing most of the work, and his score was starting to reflect it. "So how does your mom know my gran?"
Dickie glanced at him, wondering why Scott didn't know, "After Dad...left, your gran started showing up at the house, at first just to talk to Mom, then she started to help Mom, and it went from there. Don't take this the wrong way, but Rita's like a gran to my brothers and I."
Scott shrugged, "I figured as much; Gran's a determined woman who likes to fuss over people." Scott blinked as a larger creature charged him; two shots from Dickie soon ended its virtual existence, "Thanks," he added.
"So I heard you went to university; what did you study?" Dickie said, changing the subject as they continued on through the house.
"Nothing," Scott replied honestly, "took a few philosophy courses, nothing really interesting, how come you didn't go?"
"I did," Dickie reloaded by pointing the gun away from the screen and clicking the trigger. "Two years into my theology degree; I wanted to be a priest."
"Wow," Scott was shocked.
"Yeah," Dickie replied, "But after Fleur got pregnant..."
"Fleur's pregnant?" another shock.
Dickie nodded, "It wasn't supposed to happen, but it did... watch out for the..."
Scott emptied his clip into the un-dead zombie. "Sorry," he said. "Wasn't paying attention."
"I noticed," Dickie said as he reloaded again, "I was saying that Fleur and I were having some problems and next thing I know she's pregnant, and try explaining that to your mom." He shook his head, "So that was the end of my theology degree, anyway; I'll go back after Fleur has the baby, for now I just have some time on my hands."
On the screen they burst through a door, into a hoard of spiders that swarmed towards them. Scott went down first. He got back up and moved a bit faster but the creatures were swarming them too fast and they were both overwhelmed. Laughing and cursing the cheating game they left it to rejoin Serena who was happily playing a fruit machine.
"Boys have fun?" she asked as the machine swallowed another pound.
"Game cheated," Dickie responded. "Can we find a pub now?"
Serena eyed him suspiciously, "You only played one game and you already want to go to the pub?"
Dickie didn't seem apologetic, "I'm thirsty," he rationalized.
Scott nodded in agreement, "I could actually use a pint as well if you don't mind."
She looked at both of them and held back on her own protests, "Ok, let's find a pub, close though, ok?"
They all agreed and started off back across the road towards the collection of ragged-looking buildings tucked down narrow alleys. A couple of turns and Scott was lost, though Serena seemed to know exactly where they were going and pulled up short outside a pub that reminded Scott of something straight out of a pirate novel.
`The Queen's Head' was boldly painted on the sign under a picture of...
"Is that Freddy Mercury?" Scott asked incredulously, staring up at the gay icon looking royally pissed on his sign.
"You brought us to a gay pub?" Dickie stated; obviously he had been hoping for a last bastion of heterosexuality before they immersed themselves in Brighton's gay scene.
Serena didn't answer him, she just held the door open and indicated that he should just stop complaining and enter the bar.
It was the first time Scott had ever been into a gay bar anywhere. He was expecting pink...rainbows... guys kissing... instead he was faced with a pretty bulk standard pub. Not exactly how they had been painted on television, in fact he was surprised at the normalcy of the regulars tilting glasses of lager or bitter and chatting amongst themselves.
Something must have registered on his face, because Serena had gently laid a reassuring hand on his arm. And as a group they made their way to the bar, ordering a round of drinks. Conscientiously, Serena ordered lemonade; you never knew when the Sussex police would stop you and make you take a Breathalyzer test.
There was a bustle at the other end of the bar and a man emerged from behind the bar wearing a sequined shirt. Glittering in the lights, he lifted a microphone, "Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to the Queen's Head tonight. To kick things off tonight I want to go around and introduce everyone..."
Scott blinked, ok so that wouldn't happen in a straight pub. The man in the gaudy outfit walked around pressing the microphone up into peoples' faces and asked them their names loudly. He swept down the bar, eventually arriving and pressing it into Scott's nose, "And you are?" he asked in a haughty tone."
"Scott..." He replied.
"Oh and accent, where are you from Scott?"
"Brooklyn, New York," Scott responded, trying to pull back from the microphone that threatened insertion into his nose.
"Oh, a Yank! I love Americans, don't you? Everything's bigger in America." He gave a flirty wink and moved on, "And you, sir?"
"Dickie," Dickie said with about all the enthusiasm he could muster for this game.
"Is that a big Dickie or a little Dickie?" the gaudy man asked lecherously, leaning back to examine Dickie's crotch.
Dickie blushed, "That would be a little Dickie, I'm afraid." he said reluctantly.
"That's ok," the man patted him on the shoulder, "a little Dickie is better than none at all..." he brushed on completing his round of the bar's patrons.
Dickie shook his head into his glass, "I think I should have stayed home."
"No you don't," Serena stated with a broad smile, "you love the attention too much."
He was drunk; he knew he was drunk because he couldn't stay upright. The world kept tilting to one side and every time he tried to tilt with it, he fell down.
Dickie helped him upright, though he was in no better condition. They were standing on the street outside the nightclub `Revenge' under the rotating laser sign. Revenge had turned out to be a massive gay bar, two levels of music, drugs and alcohol... and more importantly to Scott, boys.
"Come on, stay with me old chap." Dickie said, keeping Scott from pitching over again.
Scott was giggling, "The drag queen..."
"Yeah, I remember," Dickie said, a note of annoyance entering his voice. `Lady Vickie'; a voluptuous Drag queen with an overly exaggerated bust had taken a particular liking to Dickie, so much so that the normally unflappable man had been all but chased into the bathroom to hide and await rescue.
Scott and Serena had found it hilarious. Dickie had not been so amused.
"Where'd Serena go?" Scott asked, turning around to see if she was standing behind him; she wasn't and he turned back to Dickie, puzzled.
"She's gone to get the car so we can take you home," Dickie explained patiently; he was also drunk, but held it well.
"Oh," Scott said as if remembering, "But she didn't see me kiss a guy."
"Because you were too scared to talk to any of them," Dickie replied, looking up the road to see if she was coming yet.
"Oh yes," Scott nodded as if the comment made all the sense in the world to him, which it didn't, but he simply didn't care by that point. "What about you?"
"You want to kiss me?" Dickie looked suddenly shocked.
"No... no." Scott shook his head trying to clear the fog, "You can't give me what I want anyway..." Dickie gave him a remarkably sober look, but in his drunken state Scott just ignored it, "Why didn't you kiss anyone..."
"There weren't any girls," Dickie replied, noting that Serena's Metro was drawing up.
"There was always Lady Vickie!" Scott exclaimed, giggling as he fell over again.
Dickie rolled his eyes as he piled the drunken Scott into the back of the car, looking entirely too happy the night was over.
A summer evening on Meadow Road was a strange step back in time. Fifty years ago, children playing on the green, while their parents watched from their gardens gossiping to each other while trimming the hedges that separated the houses, or watering the prize rose bushes would have been normal. In the new millennium it was a rare occurrence.
Scott, shirtsleeves rolled up, was wrestling with a rusty pair of hedge-clippers and having no luck with them. Jeans and t-shirts had given way to shirts and slacks; strangely they were cooler in the heat and weathered the garden work a lot better.
He shook the can of WD-40 and generously sprayed the shears, hoping that by some miracle the rust would magically disappear. As with the last twenty times he had tried the same trick, the rust stubbornly refused to budge.
Gran was in the front corner, resting an arm on the hedge talking to old Mister Roberts, the ancient specimen of humanity that had occupied Number Nineteen Meadow Road almost as long as Gran had lived in Number Seventeen. They were discussing the state of the Wealden district council, and from all the "Tut-ing" and "Tsk-ing" there would be a few votes going squarely to the opposition come election time.
Scott shook his head and banged the shears on the edge of the brick doorstep.
"Don't break them, Scotty dear," Gran admonished.
"Sorry," Scott replied sheepishly, setting them aside and pushing his back against the firm oak door, enjoying the onset of evening. The laughter of children at play and the hiss of hoses. It was all strangely relaxing, and he realized how much he had taken them for granted when he was young; now that he was on the verge of becoming an adult... no, now that he was an adult, he appreciated the quiet moment.
"Have you found a job yet, young Mister Walker?" Mister Roberts called to him rousing him from his thoughts. He looked over at the antiquated man who always reminded Scott of a tortoise without its shell. With those thick plastic glasses, and an Adam's apple that bounced up and down as he talked.
Scott scrubbed a hand through his hair, "Well, I've been submitting my resume..."
"He's been applying all over the place," Gran said, throwing him a proud smile that made him feel ten, "he's even been out to a couple of interviews."
He had been busy; over the past few weeks he had been to five interviews, scrubbed-up and hair combed, feeling uncomfortable stuffed into the grey suit waiting nervously for someone to grill him with the same set of questions over and over. Always ending with the same one, "I see here that you went to school in America; what made you move back?"
He had tried a number of different answers ranging from the truth through to creative excuses about a need to come home. Invariably they would stare at the resume after that question, scribble some notes, shake his hand and send him on his way with an empty promise to call him should they have a position for him.
It was growing ever more frustrating for him to land work, as much as he liked Gran and Hailsham, he was getting bored. The extended vacation was starting to look more and more like a permanent arrangement, set to drive him crazy with each passing day.
He didn't like it when, with just a look, they wrote him off as a foreigner, no matter how he tried to present himself. It was always the same message; we'll call you if there is no one else.
He would understand if they were educated positions, but data clerk? Bank teller? Shop assistant? They were all positions he could do, he looked smart, answered their questions correctly. It was just the same card being played against him every time. It was just the bitter fact that they saw an American sitting across from them. He wasn't one of them.
He wanted, just one time, for the interviewer to actually look at his skills and see him for who he was. But then what did he expect? It hadn't been an easy move so far, there were just so many stumbling blocks that he was starting to really doubt that he had made the right choice. But what other choice was there?
In Brooklyn he had been the British kid, an `Englishman in New York,' but in England he was the `American'. Was he just doomed never to fit in anywhere? No matter where he went, what he did, he would be an outsider trapped between two cultures and left to wonder if his father had never emigrated what kind of person would he have grown up to be?
"Well I know old Zulee is hiring over at the home," Mister Roberts said, resettling his glasses on his nose. "He's looking for someone to run the office and the like." He gave a meaningful look at Scott, "I could put in a word for you if you'd like."
"Oh, I couldn't ask that," Gran said, expressively gesturing with her hand that she was just being polite, "but Scott could use a hand."
Scott, still sitting on the step decided that although the discussion was about him he would really have no say in it. So, engrossed in their conversations the two pensioners would occasionally look at him for a nod of ascension, otherwise he was left pretty much out of it. He sat back knowing better than to even try.
"'Allo, `allo, `allo, what's all this, then?" came a suspicious-sounding voice from the other side of the hedge.
Scott glanced up at Luke walking along the footpath in uniform; he nodded to Scott with a tensing around his eyes as he stopped at the gate.
Gran immediately dropped her conversation with Mister Roberts to turn to him, "They moved your beat?" she asked sounding happy. "Your mother must be so pleased."
Luke nodded in reply, "No more nights in Town Farm, at least not for the next little while," he admitted. "Mum was threatening to haul the superintendent out of his office by his ear if he didn't change the rotation. I've never seen anyone do that to him before."
Gran chuckled, "Your mother has quite the tongue on her; your superintendent was lucky. There was this once, and I'll never forget, she got pulled over by this policeman outside of Lewis; we were going to an antiques fair, anyways, the policeman pulls her over and tells her she was going too fast, and she, bold as brass, asks him how fast. He replied that he was only giving her a warning and she said, she said," Gran always repeated `she said' in conversation; it was like her own particular oddity, "that she would give him a warning if he pulled her over again..."
Luke just nodded, his eyes flicking over to where Scott lounged, and still without cracking a smile, nodded to him, "Has this one being keeping out of trouble Mrs Walker? Or should I cart him off down to the station?"
Gran laughed looking down at Scott, "There was the other night, came home drunk as a skunk he was though I suspect your brother had a hand in it. Dirty rotten stop outs the pair of them." She had her hands on her hips again.
Scott got to his feet and brushed the dust off of his trousers, "It was nothing like that," he stated resolutely.
Luke looked back at Gran, "Well then, Mrs. Walker, I just stopped because I was passing."
"Oh," Gran's face fell slightly, "well you run along then; I'll catch you tomorrow night and have a sandwich waiting for you."
Luke's eyes softened again, "Thanks," he replied with genuine gratitude.
Scott walked to the gate, "Well, actually I wanted to go to the corner store, if you don't mind the company?"
Luke hesitated, a troubled look dancing in his eyes before he finally nodded. Scott checked his wallet and slipped out onto the road. As they both began to walk, Gran had already resumed her conversation with Mister Roberts about Scott's future.
They walked a little ways in silence before Scott started in on the conversation, "You must be glad of the new beat."
Luke just grunted, his eyes staring at the playing children as if expecting them to misbehave.
Scott fell silent again; Luke was one of those people who would take time to get to know. And out of everyone he'd met so far, or become reacquainted with, Luke seemed to be the most together, yet at the same time the most distant. It was strange, for someone so nasty as a kid when he used to torment and terrorise Scott, as an adult he was just...
"What is it now?" Luke asked catching Scott's goofy grin.
"I was just thinking that you remind me of a guy I knew in high school, he was always the meanest son of a bitch till you actually took the time to get to know him, then he was pretty cool." Scott rubbed his arms feeling the beginnings of a sunburn; he'd been in the garden too long.
"So you want to get to know me?" Luke asked sarcastically.
Scott sighed; Luke was determined to make the process as difficult as possible. "Look I'm not saying we're going to be friends like your brother and I are..."
"Yeah." That came out entirely too harshly for Scott's liking, it was almost cold.
"But the least I can do is try." Scott continued, falling silent again. They had turned down a short alley between the buildings coming out into a car park tucked in behind the houses. The sun was beginning its steady slide behind the horizon and the shadows were lengthening.
"Don't bother," Luke said finally breaking the awkward silence. "This may sound strange to you Scott, but maybe I just don't like you." He put so much sincerity behind the statement that Scott felt hurt. Luke's fists were balled at his side, and he refused to look at him.
Scott shook his head, "Look, whatever man; tell you what, when you finally get rid of that big chip on your shoulder..." he was actually angry, nobody ever made him angry, "maybe you'll realize that I was just trying to be nice. Fuck, you never fucking change." He was swearing now.
Luke turned to him, his head nodding as if confirming what he had known all along, "You're a prat, Scott, you were one when you were a kid and you're still one now. You always thought you were better than everyone else, but you aren't." He threw actual vehemence behind his words, an edge of hatred there that caused Scott to step backwards.
"What the hell did I do to deserve that?" Scott protested, suddenly feeling lost, small, and alone.
Luke closed his eyes; they had come to a stop in the middle of the car park, and all was quiet, still, and they were alone. Luke breathed hard releasing his fists and opening his eyes, "Look, I'm sorry, Scott..."
"No, you're not," Scott bit back. "You've been itching to do that since I offered to walk with you. Look, I'll tell you what, I'm going to the fucking store. I don't need this on top of everything else." He trust his hands into his pockets and stalked away, leaving PC Allston standing in the middle of an empty parking lot alone.
He was still seething when he came home, banging the backdoor closed behind him as he walked to the kettle and turned it on. Banging a mug down and tossing a teabag inside he pulled the fridge open with enough force to rock it on its legs. He pulled out the milk bottle and added it to his mug.
Things were just going from bad to worse. Here he was, just so different that he couldn't relate to anything. It was an old guilt that had been given a new dress and painted up to look younger, but he knew her for who she was. He had felt it much of his life, just that square peg that no matter how often you wailed on it would never fit into the round hole.
The limey jokes that had been thrown at him at school, even the adults who had thought it funny to call him it, unaware of how they sounded. Hell he was going through it all over again, and this time he only had himself to blame. His father hadn't dragged him home, he had come home of his own accord, and now he was facing the same situation all over again.
Sure there were those who were polite, even friendly towards him, but Serena's words rang in his ears, `if you're going to live here, you're going to have to pronounce it properly...'
Was that just it? He had to give up everything he was in order to just be accepted over here? Like he had done in the States. Allowed the little pieces of his culture to escape him until he had become an American.
The bubbling kettle had him pouring himself a mug of tea, and he walked to the breakfast bar, climbing into one of the stools as he stared out of the window at the gathering darkness.
He missed baseball on nights like this, tuning into the game on the radio, or the television, letting it play while he sat on the fire escape of his apartment listening to the sounds of the city. He had adapted well to life there, grown up in ways he couldn't begin to describe, but that was so far away from where he was now. He would have to adapt again, the street-hardened kid from Brooklyn had to start over and he would have to try to fit in as best he could.
His Gran walked in from the garden; seeing him sitting quietly in the dark she turned on the kitchen light, "Are you okay dear?" she asked sympathetically.
"I'm fine," Scott replied with a sigh, taking a drink of his tea and trying to ease the feeling of loneliness he felt. He had always felt it, it had been the main reason for him coming home in the first place, and yet it had become such a part of him that he had brought it with him.
Gran gave him one of her knowing looks as she set about making a cup of tea herself, "So why don't you come help your gran with a crossword puzzle; you used to love doing that when you were little."
He looked down into his mug, "I'm not little anymore," he said, releasing a long breath.
"Nonsense," Gran stated flatly, "You'll always be my little boy, no matter how big you get."
Scott looked up at her and he couldn't help but smile, she looked at him with such love that he had to give in to her. It was her way of telling him that he had come home, even though he felt displaced, she was there to stop him from floating away.
"Okay, I'll be right in," he said, standing up and setting his empty cup into the sink.