80. Looking For My Life

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Had no idea that I was heading
Toward a state of emergency
I had no fear where I was treading
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees
Looking for my life

It must be fate. The bus is bound for Liverpool, and the route takes it straight through Penny Lane. The coins in my pocket cover the bus fare, one way. I haven't got any more money, but that's the last thing on my mind right now.

I get off the bus just before we reach Penny Lane, at the stop next to Calderstones Park entrance. As I walk around the perimetre of the park, I don't see a single person. The sun is already shining brightly, but it's cooler than it was in the night. It had been humid, hot and airless, but now there is a breeze shaking the leaves of the tree branches which overhang the park fence. They sway gently, creating dappled pattern shadows over the pavement. The sunshine and shadows pick my path back through Liverpool, through Allerton, back towards home.

It's stupidly early and I probably shouldn't be doing this, but I don't even hesitate when I reach the front door. I reach up, take a deep breath and hold it as if I'm about to dive into deep water, and knock.

It's not answered immediately, but I hear movement inside. I knock again, more insistently, before my courage abandons me. A few minutes later, I see a figure come down the stairs through the mottled, distorted glass of the door. There is still a long crack in one of the glass panels.

A woman with short, white hair opens the door to me. I have to pause, wondering if I've got the wrong house. Could he have moved? She wears a dressing gown and her hair is uncombed, I've clearly gotten her out of bed. She peers at me through round spectacles, bleary eyed, half asleep. 'Yes? Can I help you?'

'Charles James?'

It's the first time I've said his name in years. Minnie and I never said his name. He was only ever him. He. That man. To name him made him too human. He was a monster, and monster's don't have human names.

'Is he here?' I add.

She stares blankly at me for a moment, blinking, thoughts whirring through her head. 'You're Hannah,' she says eventually and I nod.

She opens the door for me to step inside as she goes to the foot of the stairs and shouts up, her voice wavering. 'Charlie? Charlie?! Your daughter's here!'

Inside, the house isn't very different. It's like stepping back in time. Almost ten years have passed since I stood here, but it could have been yesterday. The rose patterned wallpaper is the same, but yellowy now with age. The furniture is the same too, more or less. There has been the addition of a hat stand and a chair, but the doormat beneath my feet, the circular rug at the foot of the stairs, the long sideboard which makes the corridor between the staircase and the kitchen at the back too narrow - all the same, all strangely familiar.

There's no reply to the woman's calls but noise comes from upstairs; heavy footsteps and a drawer opening and closing. The woman and I stand facing each other, awkwardly, as we wait. She rests her hand on the stairs bannister and I try to keep myself neat and compact, hands folded in front of me, feet together, standing up straight on the doormat. I feel safe here, I don't want to step inside any further.

Neither of us seem to be able to think of anything to say. She's small and a little rotund, with a round face and glowing, rosy cheeks, although that pinkness may have been created by my appearance. She's in her pyjamas and dressing gown. She plainly lives here, but I've no idea who she is. I'm not going to ask.

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