I turn off what used to be the main road through the village but what now feel like an ancient trail. I remember it so clearly before the new by-pass. This road that led to Meg’s house.
To his house.
The rolling countryside that seemed so vast as child is now a few patchy fields and run-down farm houses. Overgrown and forgotten.
As her house approaches I get the same feeling of comfort and intense nostalgia. It is a safe place. The red brick. The paving stones that make up the path from the garden gate to her front door. I used to hop from one to the other. I still have a scar where I slid on an icy patch. Poor Meg was distraught.
“Oh my darling baby!”
She always maintained she would have been a terrible mother if she’d had her own children. Too over-protective. I disagree. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as loved by anyone as I did by her as a child. She loved me so hard.
When you are born to parents who can not verbalise their love, who struggle to even touch you, the cotton wool wrapping auntie who lives to serve is EVERYTHING.
I pull up at Brynwern Lodge, my aunt’s home. The big gate opens on the driveway to Brynwern Hall. His house. 500 yards of moss and cobbles. I see myself walking gingerly in my jelly shoes. On my own. Uneasy but wanting the sweets and money he offers. A knot in my tummy. A building anxiety but too young to understand my own instincts. His house, almost palatial in comparison to Meg’s, doesn’t impress me anymore. His wife greets me and shows me through to the study, past the green rocking horse, past the gong on the stairs. He will let me have a go at both after.
I have been coming here for years. I’ve seen his sweetie drawer. His bedroom full of cuddly toys (his car too). I’ve seen photos of myself in frames as a toddler. Sat on his tractor in a nappy. He makes me laugh, this weird old man who likes me to sit on lap before i can open the drawer of his fancy desk and chose my wares. I’m pretty special. He laughs and nods and is more interested in what i have to say than my mum or dad.
As I get older I become knowing. I still want the money, not the sweets so much.
It’s been 20 years since I walked that path. He’s there at the end of it still. Bed-ridden. Too old to be titillated by the discomfort of a young girl. That’s what I tell myself anyway. He was old when I was young. As soon as he started asking me to close my eyes before putting twenty pound notes down my top, I quit him. I didn’t know what grooming was when i was a kid but something inside me knew his enthusiasm for me wasn’t because I was extraordinary. Rather the opposite. I missed the money. I did not miss the weird feeling in my stomach.
I walk through his gate now but only to by-pass the wobbly paving stones and enter my lovely Meggie’s house from the side entrance.
He’ll be dead soon.