Chapter 38

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I had a feeling I'd spend the rest of my life agreeing to whatever they wanted. But not in the same way I had with Caroline. No, this home was definitely not to my ex wife's taste. And to be honest I was surprised when my kids picked this place out as a potential new home. The real estate agent met us on the driveway in her pale pink porsche. Real estate around here still brought in the big bucks, apparently. The girls insisted Syd came too, even though at first, she was resistant. I was curious about how they felt about her. Whether they were getting along with her for my sake, or whether they just clicked. I was left in the car by two overly eager girls and Sydney, who seemed just as in awe of the property.

It was different. And it was also miles from the city. Close enough for me to drive them to school, but not close enough that they could walk. Way out in the suburbs, an area named Oakfields, I had never been here before. I'd never even heard of the place, it was a little off my radar. It wasn't the outer beyonds, nor was it far enough away that skyscrapers didnt kiss the horizon, but it wasn't what we'd have chosen before. It didnt sit in a wealthy neighbourhood, and admittedly I'd thought heading back to where we started would be in a way, showing everyone I had known before, that I'd risen from the ashes. But then maybe I didn't have to prove anything to anyone.

Maybe this place was the fresh start we needed. A place the kids loved. A place Sydney loved. A place where I could relax at the end of the day. Somewhere warm, with infinite character, even though right now dilapidated was probably the most fitting word for it. Sitting at the end of a long street, the neighbouring houses mainly one storey abodes suited to the over sixties, this house sat back from the rest of the neighbours. To the right of the house, but still far enough away to give the impression of isolation, was a well kept home. Ablaze with flowers growing in an immaculate front lawn, I knew they took pride in their dwelling. To the left, was an unexpected sight. About an acre of overgrown land, meadow grass waist high, and abandoned articles of furniture strewn around. Beyond that, what looked like a trickling brook and as far as the eye could see, tree upon tree. The end of this long, straight suburban street, was surprisingly, what looked like a nature reserve.

My eyes flitted back to the house, where the agent unlocked the door, and the kids disappeared inside. I took a moment to stand on the driveway and look up, at the ageing, ramshackle building, tiles missing from the roof, windows in need of replacement. From what basic information I knew about architecture, the house pre dated any other on the street. Built around the 1930's, from pale grey stones that looked like they'd been sourced from a river bed, it had the kind of charm I wouldn't imagine a thirteen year old could appreciate. Syd whistled for Arlo, and she too entered the house. I found myself admiring the great skill that had gone into building this place, some eighty years ago. I thought about the families that had lived here, and about the fresh air that circulated here, still within touching distance from the heart of the city.

I remembered that sometimes, you don't realise what you need until its right in front of you. That sometimes, what think isn't your cup of tea, is actually everything you need. That first appearances are always worth a second glance.

Crossing the front lawn, I stepped into the hallway. To the left was a sizeable living room, to the right, another open plan room, and the musty scent of a long abandoned home. Light leaked in through foggy, smeared windows but everywhere it fell, I found new charm. Original fireplaces, and wooden floors that would look good as the day they were laid, with the right care. I'd never attempted a project like this before, but I found myself relishing the thought of cool lemonade, and the thrill of working with my own two hands. Callouses that came from pride in your own home. With Sydney and the girls somewhere upstairs, the agent joined me, clasping her clipboard to her chest. She was in her fifties, well groomed and manicured, but obviously not pleased to be getting dust on her Jimmy Choos.

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