Home > All Good Things

All Good Things
Author: Amanda Prowse




Daisy Harrop stepped over the ‘Welcome’ mat in the hallway, with an ironic twist to her mouth. The mat, thick with dust, covered in clumps of mud and bald in places, was not really that welcoming. She picked up the hand-delivered letter addressed to her parents from the floor, admiring the official-looking council crest before placing it on top of the old cool box in the corner – that being the spot where mail was left for collection and recycling items nested until they were grabbed and plopped in the appropriate bins.

Popping her soft mustard-coloured beret on her head at a jaunty angle and tying her cotton scarf in a natty knot, she opened the front door. The sky was blue, even as the day crawled towards night.

‘See you later!’ she called out to whoever might be listening and wasn’t surprised to receive no response. She did this: found a jolly voice that wouldn’t be amiss in an advert or movie, as if saying things in this particular way might make her life more like an advert or movie. So far, as a strategy, it had proved unsuccessful. There was no bashful yet keen boyfriend on the scene, no lovely apartment with a balcony and a view, no spare cash, no happy ending where she got to laugh with her good-looking friends as catchy music played and she danced off into the sunset. Instead, the house remained silent. It was no surprise; she knew her mum would be napping on the sofa before supper, her dad would be napping in the chair post his shift at the sorting office and her older brother Jake would be in bed having an after-school nap. They napped a lot, the other three Harrops.

Wheeling her bike from the porch, she looked over the fence towards the Kelleways’ house, as was her habit. This she did just in case he might be visiting his grandparents – Cassian, the boy who filled her thoughts. Only this morning she had seen the local florist amble up their driveway with an armful of red roses.

‘It’s our anniversary!’ she had heard Mrs Kelleway, Cassian’s gran, exclaim, as she took the vast bunch of flowers into her arms. ‘Can you believe he still does this after forty years married?’ She laughed. ‘I am one lucky lady!’

Daisy couldn’t imagine her dad buying her mum flowers at any stage; maybe that was what was wrong with them. She pictured him arriving home with a handful of daffs and her mum busting out a happy dance before slipping into his arms . . .

‘Nope!’ She shook her head, knowing it would take more than a fancy bouquet to thaw out her frosty parents. They hadn’t always been this way. She could recall pockets of laughter coming from them on the sofa and had even caught them kissing one Sunday in the kitchen. She remembered the way they’d sprung apart, blushing and laughing like teens . . . It had made her feel inexplicably happy, safe. But for the last three or four years, this coolness had been the norm. It felt as if the cracks had appeared overnight, or maybe that was simply her awareness of them, like looking up one day to find it raining, realising only then that the roof was gone.

Not that the state of their marriage was the only thing at the front of her mind. Daisy worried deeply about her mother. Watching her hide from the world each day was, without trying to sound ironic, a little depressing. She knew enough biology to wonder if her decision to withdraw from life so suddenly might be connected to the peri-menopause – the age certainly fit. But surely their doctor would be aware of the possibility? Broaching it with her mum was a whole other thing, though. It felt too personal, invasive. Instead, she showed her kindness and did chores where and when she could. This, she felt, was the best way to help them all get through it. Because get through it they must – what was the alternative?

Not that it didn’t directly affect her. It did. First, it had altered her life, changed their once sunny home where music played and food was cooked from scratch and the garden was pretty, into one covered in a quiet shade, punctuated by the ping of the microwave. And second, she dreaded the same happening to her if this was her genes. It wasn’t easy living in a house where someone had depression. It threw its cloak over them all, and it was shocking how quickly their home life had disintegrated once one of the four pillars had crumbled, leaving her, Jake and their dad listing, tilted and clinging on, wary of the fall. So no, with so much to worry about, her parents’ less than convivial marriage didn’t upset her per se, not anymore. Like every other aspect of her life, it was just how it was.

She paused on the doorstep and studied the four oaks that stood at the top of the road and gave this area of town its name. These trees were markers – grand, wide-trunked sentinels – the sight of which, as she approached from any direction, meant home. If she lay at a particular angle and squinted through her bedroom window, she could see the tops of them from her bed. They stood in a perfect square, wide enough apart to allow their road to be built right through the middle. One thing was for sure, whoever had been around when they were no more than sprouting acorns wouldn’t recognise the place; they now had a Lidl and were within a short drive of a multiplex cinema.

She liked the fact that her gran would have navigated by the mighty oaks too, as had her mother. They were part of her history, part of all their histories. Solid, immovable things in a world that could at times feel a little fragile, a little flimsy. Privately, she called them Nan and Gramps, Papa and Nanny, as, having been without grandparents for the longest time now, she liked to think they watched over her, provided shelter in the same way her living kin would. How she loved these towering woody elder substitutes – aside from the fact she’d much prefer the real thing to be on hand to offer her out-of-date butterscotch sweets and buy her vouchers as birthday and Christmas gifts.

The street bore the after-effects of a warm day. There wasn’t much activity. Cats sat lazily on steps, windows were thrown open, the pavements were dry and pale. It looked to be quiet over at the Kelleways’. This she noted with equal measures of relief and disappointment. No sign of anyone in the uniform front garden where the gravel was raked, litter-free, neat, and dotted with pots that provided year-round colourful blooms to draw the eye. They certainly drew hers. Flowers were her absolute favourite! She vowed that when she had her own garden, outside space or window box, she would fill it with fragrant herbs and plants, tending to them like they were babies.

Not that she could see that happening anytime soon, what with house prices going so crazy. Even rental costs felt unattainable for someone like her who, instead of beavering away for a deposit, planned on being a student long after she finished school. The financial world for her generation was a harsh and daunting one and there was a lot to contend with: student debt, the soaring cost of living, interest rate hikes and competition for jobs, to name but a few. She swallowed the bitter thought that she might actually be living at home forever! Oh God, she’d never have sex! How could she if she was under her parents’ roof with her mum usually in the room next door?

‘Urgh!’ She shuddered at the thought.

With no sign of Cassian next door, she let her stomach relax, vowing to cut down on pasta and eat more salad, determined in that moment to get the kind of body that a boy like Cassian might desire. Lawrence, Cassian’s dad, often parked his shiny Mercedes in the driveway, next to his dad’s fancy electric Audi. The only other time she saw cars this pristine was in the window of the showrooms on the outskirts of town, but this was the Kelleways all over. Everything they owned and the way they did things was perfect and shiny.

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