A red brick semi was home to Frank and his mum. All the curtains had netting on them. Some of the panes were broke. And the gate to the front garden was gone. Lorrie imagined Frank’s mum upstairs in bed like the sickly boy from The Secret Garden, scared of the light and of the outside world, but the front door was open and so she couldn’t be that scared Lorrie thought, and as she looked down at her feet, in the house where Frank grew up, she saw the word ‘Welcome’ covered in mud.
‘Will your mum mind me being here?’ Lorrie asked Frank.
‘She’ll be happy you’ve come’ Frank replied.
‘You make it sound like she already knows me’ Lorrie said.
‘She’ll know you’re a friend of mine and that’ll mean that she’ll like you’ said Frank.
Frank’s mum was in the kitchen, leaning against the worktop. She wore a knit top of canary yellow and had two lots of earrings in each year. She looked young Lorrie thought, and pretty. Her hair was dark blonde and she didn’t so much say hello to Lorrie as catch her by the shoulders and push her down into a chair by the dinner table.
‘Frank!’ His mum exclaimed, embracing him after pushing Lorrie down into a chair.
Frank hadn’t been home for more than two weeks. That wasn’t unusual. You could travel around in a car and camp and stay in b&b’s and hostels and still spend less than you would by staying put and looking forward only to the weekends, and sometimes Frank decided to do exactly that. He escaped.
‘You look good Frank!’ His mum beamed. ‘You look fit and healthy!’
‘I am mum. I’m good. I’m running still’ Frank told his mum.
‘And you look well for it! And you’re doing well out of it!’ Said his mother looking across at Lorrie as she did, with a wide smile on her face that paid great attention to the gap between her front teeth, something which looked good on an attractive woman, and Lorrie thought Frank’s mother was very much that, and not at all how she expected her to be.
‘This is Lorrie mum’ Said Frank
Lorrie and Frank’s mum said hello to each other in that late way people do when it’s clear they’ve already eyed each other up and decided they’ve already been acquainted. They had that kind of chemistry that comes about when there’s a great mutual appreciation laboured between two people, and in their instance, this was Frank.
‘She’s beautiful Frank’ His mum said, referring to Lorrie.
‘She’s beautiful Frank’ Thought Lorrie, referring to Frank’s mum, but never saying a word, not until they’d gone. 'She has a smile like Madonna'
There was a loaf in the bread bin and some ham in the fridge. Sandwiches were made and ate, tea was drank. There were walking aids dotted about the house, and handles for lifting out of the bath. There were photos of Frank on the wall by the stairs. There were letters unopened. Ten pounds stuck to the fridge with a magnet. A drawer filled only with plastic bags.
There was also a man asleep in a floral quilted double bed.
He smelt of construction. He breathed out dust.