by Leo Gillard
‘Ready?’ Arthur asked, his eyes fixed on the building in front of them. It was… small. The garden was covered in weeds, the grass overgrown, leaves still on the ground from autumn. The house itself was built of red brick, a squat-looking bungalow with shuttered windows, the blue paint of the door thoroughly chipped away by the weather. Looking around, he could see four of the grey roof tiles sitting in the grass.
‘Ready,’ Sasha replied from his left. To his right, Zach just nodded. Without looking back, Arthur pushed the gate in front of him. It stuck for a moment, and made an alarming noise, but it gave without too much extra effort, catching on the grass after he’d pushed it half way.
‘This place is something else,’ he said with a laugh. ‘You’re sure we got the right place?’ he asked, glancing over to Zach. Zach looked down at the map and nodded again. ‘Huh, okay. I’d expected it to be…’
‘Touched at some point in the last century?’ Sasha suggested. Arthur only made a slightly disgruntled noise of agreement. Sure, the property had been cheap, so he couldn’t really complain as such, but it wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
‘Well, there’s no point standing about here looking at it,’ he said with a sigh. ‘Let’s get all this stuff inside.’ Their too-small car was small enough when it held the three of them and got even smaller when they’d packed everything they could fit inside of it.
Getting everything inside was fairly easy, given how little they had, but once it was all inside, Arthur felt distinctly awkward. ‘I, uh, what now?’
‘I think we need to do some cleaning,’ Sasha said, looking around the small room they’d put all their belongings down in. The floorboards were bare, with a square patch where the wood was a darker colour. Arthur tried not to think about how long a rug must have been there, and why it was now gone.
‘It’s fine in here,’ Zach said. ‘It just needs to be vacuumed before we set any furniture down properly.’
‘That would require having a vacuum cleaner,’ Sasha said with a laugh, and Zach pulled a face. ‘Or furniture, for that matter.’
‘Are you sure that this–’
‘Yes,’ Arthur said firmly, before Zach could say any more. ‘Yes, this was worth it. Even if we, uh, have no money or furniture and we should probably avoid turning on the heating even if it is still cold.’
‘I could just–’
‘No.’ It was Sasha’s turn to interrupt. ‘I get it, Zach, but you don’t have to go to your parents for any money. I know you don’t want to, and we don’t need to. Besides, I think the house has, I don’t know, charm?’
‘I think it’s great,’ Arthur said. ‘Sure, it needs a bit of work, but we can do that. Better than a boxy little flat with a no pet rule, anyway. We have a garden, and three whole bedrooms, and a bath.’
The three of them looked between each other, and without a moment’s notice, Zach sprinted up the stairs. ‘Dibs on the best bedroom!’ he called down, leaving the two of them complaining at the bottom of the rickety stairs neither of them were particularly keen on putting too much weight on.
‘I think he’ll be okay,’ Sasha murmured. ‘We just have to give him a bit of time to settle in.’ Arthur nodded. With any luck, everything would be totally fine soon enough. Maybe it would even turn out great.
The first few days were spent pretty much exactly as Arthur had envisioned them; getting Zach an appointment at the local school to discuss enrolment for the next year, attempting to find some kind of job, scraping together meals based on their collective (limited) cooking skills. But they were fine. Not groundbreaking days full of drama, but not disasters either. Everything was going to plan.
Sat on the floor on cushions in the early afternoon sunlight, any observer who looked through the window would probably think they were hippies of some kind. They didn’t have much, sure, and everything was really sparse for now, but that would change. Things could change, and even their being there showed that.
Sasha came in from the garden, her nose pink and her coat pulled tight around her. ‘I might actually be able to mow the lawn once the grass dries out now,’ she said. For the last few days, she’d been hacking at the tall grass with hedge trimmers from next door, of all things. At some point soon, they might actually be able to see the ground rather than hoping they weren’t stepping on something every time they went out there.
‘Great,’ Arthur said, shifting over to the left and pulling a blanket from the pile next to the radiator. ‘Still think this place is a dump?’ he asked Zach, referencing his words from two days before (words that had, to be fair, been prompted by Zach accidentally putting his foot through a rotted floorboard in Sasha’s bedroom).
Zach frowned slightly. ‘Well, yes,’ he said. ‘Because it is.’
Sasha snorted with laughter, and Arthur shot her a Look. ‘Don’t act like that, Arthur!’ she objected, pointedly pulling the blanket tighter around herself. ‘It is a bit of a dump.’
‘But only a bit,’ Arthur said firmly. ‘I like it. And it isn’t that bad. And it’ll only get better.’
‘You can’t force us to like it by saying it’s good, you know,’ she said, poking him in the ribs. Immediately, Zach started laughing, and Arthur had to shoot him a firm look too. The only response was Sasha jabbing him again.
‘I’m being ganged up on here,’ he complained. ‘I just think it’s charming!’
‘I do too,’ Zach said. ‘I think…I think it’s beautiful.’
‘You do?’ Arthur asked. That was new. Zach definitely hadn’t been shy in sharing all the things he didn’t like about their new home, and he’d definitely never said it was beautiful.
‘I do,’ he said. ‘I mean, it’s really ugly. But it’s more… it’s new. And a fresh start. So it’s beautiful like that, and I’m glad we’re here.’
‘I’m glad too,’ he said, and Zach shot him a small smile before returning his eyes to his book. Ugly but beautiful. Sure, Arthur could get behind that idea.