Filey, with its tiny population of five thousand It was minuscule in comparison to London, in every way possible: there would be no decent high-street shops and everything would be closed by 10pm. My thoughts churned as my anger grew, as we crossed the town’s boundary, gold letters flashing in our headlights declared:
Filey A Treasure To Discover.
Welcome to Filey.
And so began my time in what I thought would be the most boring place in England. I glanced at my Dad’s face painted red, by the sunset, as we drove into the sleepy town. I felt my anger rise again as I watched him smile slightly to buildings around us. He seemed happy to be coming here, whereas I on the other hand. Well I hated the sleepy little town, with it’s boring people and their small town ways. I couldn’t help it. I’d been apposed to this change from the start. This curve ball life threw at me, had begun four weeks earlier when my third period English class, where I’d been happily ignoring Mr Whistle at the front of the class, day-dreaming some sandy beach someplace abroad. The door opened and a hush fell over the room as we all stared at Mrs Grimsby’s small, wrinkled face as she leaned inside.
“Rosemary Wintergreen,” announced Mrs Grimsby, one of Hollbeck School's, three receptionists. “Come with me.” Every head swivelled in my direction as I hastily gathered all of my belongings and left the room. Mrs Grimsby’s grey bun bobbed on top of her head as I jogged to catch up. What now. I thought as we walked in silence through empty halls and down deserted stairwells, until we took a familiar pair of steps up and I found myself standing outside the principles office. Only one reason came to mind, that would send me here and that was Dad. Numbly I took one of the grey padded, plastic coated chairs and waited as Mrs Grimsby went inside.
How bad was it? I wondered, biting the nail on my index finger as I waited. After a few minutes the door to my right clicked open as Mrs Grimsby left and Mrs Bersby replaced her. “Come on in Rosemary.” Her voice was kind, but today it wobbled as she spoke and her blue eyes screamed her concern. With a hand on my shoulder she guided me inside, where two men stood facing me. Each wore a white shirt, black trousers and a black body warmer and heavy belts at their waist. It took my brain a couple of seconds to connect the dots. Police men stood before me, sharing a look of calm, professionalism. Really bad then! My mind said sarcastically as I took a seat before them.
They all waited patiently for me to get comfortable before the blond haired police officer stepped forward and bent down, until I looked him in his grey/green eyes.. “Hello Rosemary..”
“It’s just Rose.” I broke in, interrupting his carefully practised speach.
“Ok, Rose, my name is Inspector Derek and this is my partner John. We have some troubling news regarding your dad.” My face must have betrayed a hint of my fear as he suddenly waved his hands. “He’s safe Rose, don’t worry, we have him at the station.” His voice was calm, reassuring, as though he dealt with situations like this on a regular basis, he probably did and worse. I thought as his words washed over me. “One of our patrols found him ranting and raving in the middle of Perking Park this morning.”
He waited for a response from myself. “He was drunk and became violent when they spoke to him.” Derek paused again waiting for any response. “How long has he been drinking Rose?” He asked suddenly bringing me into the conversation directly.
“A few years now.” I whispered as I gave up the secret I’d hidden so well for the last five years. “Since…” I broke off still unable to say those words. Derek’s face broke into a sympathetic expression as I spoke and his mouth opened to speak, just as Mrs Bersby interrupted.
“Oh Rose.” I could hear the unspoken thoughts in her sad voice.
Derek brought my attention back to him and his next five words speared my heart, “Has he ever hurt you?” His voice was small but firm as he voiced what the others were thinking.
“No, Never!” I screamed at them. Mortified that they would even ask me that. He might have ignored that I existed, for the last five years, but he’d never hit me. Tears grew unbidden in my eyes as Stared at a corner of the desk, just hoping they would leave me alone. I was trapped in a nightmare, that was all it was just a dream, I tried to comfort myself. As they discussed something in hushed whispers.
I’d foolishly thought that it would be enough to keep the house clean and myself tidy, attend school and keep my grades up. If nothing changed then, no-one would notice that he never came to parents evening, or any school event. I made excuses to my teachers, about him working. I hid the empty bottles until recycling day, all in an effort to keep things the same. Dad’s drinking had been getting steadily worse for years, but I’d been too scared to ask for help. He was my problem and mine alone. But now he’d gone and done it. He’d gone and wrecked everything. He’d been caught.
“We have some concerns about his recent behaviour.” His drinking I remarked silently in my head. Derek spoke down to the top of my head, then waited a few minutes before going on. “We don’t think he can look after himself, let alone you as he should.” My head snapped up as his words quickly sunk in. They were going to take me away, split us up. Then what would I have in this world?
Just focus on what’s going to happen next? The practical side of my brain patiently told me, forestalling another bout of panic. “Oh.” I muttered in a small voice, already retreating into myself as they spoke, preparing myself for the bad news that was coming. As bad news couldn’t hurt as much when you’re prepared.
“We’re concerned for your safety Rose.” A different male voice this time. It must be John my brain supplied as I tried to ignore it. I knew that they were trying to keep me engaging in the conversation. But I no longer wanted to participate. No I just didn’t have the strength anymore. So I remained silent and on he went.“One of our colleagues has spoken to your Granddad, he has agreed to travel to London and take care of you both. He should be here in a couple of hours.” He was trying to reassure me but his words scared me more. I didn’t know him, I could hardly remember the older man…
London was far behind us now as we drove through the sleepy little town. Small orange lights edged the footpaths to either side of the road, as we passed unnoticed, just another car passing through, in the early hours of evening. I stared taking it all in, the empty pavements and roads. Ghost Town, I thought in a snide whisper as our tyres bumped over the metal railway tracks. Turning a slight bend, we passed a small shopping area that consisted of; a Frozen food shop, newsagent, bakery, green grocer and Butchers. Then passed a hair dresser’s shop and the entrance to the train station and finally a small Tesco as we turned left at the roundabout. There were a few more shops further into the small Town, dad explained as we drove, finally breaking the silence that had held between us since I’d been told the we’d be coming to live here.
I’d spent the whole five hour drive staring out the window, trapped in remembering that day, Granddad had indeed come down to London that very day. The policemen gradually got bored or frustrated with my lack of answers and left me alone with Mrs Bersby. I heard them talking at the door and the soft snick as it closed. Who was Granddad Richard? A distant memory floated to the surface. A tall man walked towards me as I struggled against strong arms, then he was leaning down and looking at me with familiar blue eyes, like Dad’s, as I smiled back. “Hello, little Rose.” His voice was kind as he reached out for me, but just as I felt his warm hands on my small waist, Mum’s voice floated across and I shoved the memory away, stuffing it down deep.
“Would you like to speak with Lorraine?” Mrs Bersby’s kind voice broke the last of the memory apart. I couldn’t swallow let alone speak, as emotions I’d long ago buried tried to break free. But no, I didn’t want to talk with Lorraine, the schools resident councillor, I’d worked hard to be rid of our monthly sessions. “No.” I finally stammered when I felt that I wouldn’t cry. “I just want to go home.” I said sullenly, speaking the thought aloud.
“But no-one’s there.” She patiently reminded me.
“So what, I can take care of myself.” I stated clearly, meeting her shocked expression.
“That is beyond the point, I can not let you off school premises without knowing a responsible adult is looking after you.”
“I said No, Rose.” I heard the conviction in her voice, it was the same tone she used on bullies or misbehaving pupils, arguing would get me no-where so I said nothing instead. She escorted me down to reception and placed me under the watch of Mrs Grimsby, while she went to find someone that could watch me. It would be lunch time soon, my life had changed in less than sixty minutes.
Staring at the clock ticking away on the wall, as it began to close in on me I was suddenly back in that moment from five years ago, I’d been summoned from Math by Mr Small another receptionist, with another piece of white paper, with my name on it. Instead of the principle’s office though he’d brought me here to reception and to the broken man that was my Dad. His dark curls were messy and his eyes were red rimmed as he looked at me and cried.
“Dad?” I heard myself ask again as I looked down on him, meeting his eyes, but he said nothing as my panic rose. “Dad!” I screamed at him as he sat there. Some of my terror broke through to him, as he tried to choke back his sobs to answer. I waited.
“Rosemary…” was all he said before he broke down again, burying his head back in hands.
“Rose, you should sit.” Mrs Bersby had spoken in the same voice as she had today. “There has been a horrible accident…” I closed myself off from remembering.
I looked from the receptionist, chattering on the phone to the front door, the blue sky beckoning me outside and then back again. As my breathing spiked, trying to keep up with my racing pulse, as my heart broke. Keeping my panic at bay was becoming harder with each passing second as I glanced around reception, the light was too bright and sweat broke out across my forehead as I slowly reached down and felt my bag strap. It was now 1pm and I couldn’t stand waiting any longer. I swung my bag on to my back, snatched my coat from the next chair and was off, I strode to the automatic door and stepped through as it was still sliding open. I ignored the frantic calls from reception as I broke out into a run, tears streaming down my face as I sobbed with each footfall. Until I stared at the front of our home.
I’d barley seen the fields change colour or the small places that we passed through on the drive. Over the last four weeks Granddad had staid with us while we packed, cleaned and got ready to move. He’d kept my Dad from the booze and organised my transfer to Filey Secondary school, so that I could do my G.C.S.E exams in June. He’d even managed to organise our belongings and have them drove down separately, as Dad stared off into space and I pouted and fumed, around the house. I was pulled out of school, the day after he arrived in our small home and laid down his decree.
I’d been waiting for them in our small front room, covered with Mum’s favourite blanket, in darkness when they both came through the door. The tv had switched itself off hours before and I hadn’t bothered turning it back on. “Now come on Richard,” I listened to a voice I hardly remembered, as my Granddad coaxed my Dad into the house. “You have done enough arguing and drinking to last a lifetime.” I could hear the anger in his voice and shrank away from it as they entered. “Now where is the damn light switch.” He muttered.
Flicking the small switch on the lamp next to me, I bathed the room in a small yellow glow as I stared at the old man who gripped my dad’s arm, with wide eyes. “Ah there you are Rosemary.” He was brisk as he analysed me and then deposited Dad into the other armchair. “You should have stayed at school, young lady.”
Anger built up at his dismissive tone, as he rummaged around our home, “What are you looking for?” I couldn’t hide the anger from him as he moved stacks that had stood still for years.
“Slippers.” His one word answer was clipped as I ignited his anger in turn.
“He doesn’t have any.” I spoke as I moved to my dad’s feet and took off his battered shoes, only when I tugged did he open his eyes and look at me. I met his bloodshot eyes determinedly as I asked. “Why?” My voice broke on the word and tears slide down my cheeks as I waited for an answer.
But it was Granddad that answered, “because you both clearly need help Rosemary.” His words sounded harsh against my ears and I spun to confront him.
“No we don’t,” I screamed, “we were doing fine, I can look after us both…”
“No, you can’t Rosemary.” He interrupted, in a calm voice without the angry edge as he tried to be rational. “That’s why you will both move in with me.”
“Yes I can, I’ve been looking after him for years, without help.” I was being stubborn but I didn’t care. Then his last words broke through to the forefront, move in with him. “Why! When! Where! Why?” I screamed, each word getting louder.Who was this stranger to come into my life and change everything?
Filey was a peaceful little town, on the east-coast of England, it was everything that London was not. Where London had been busy and bustling, this small place was deserted, where London had a starbucks on every corner this had none. As we drove the winding streets, dread settled into my stomach, like I’d swallowed a lead ball. The final road we drove was long and straight as I closed my eyes and wished myself away. A glance in the window showed me a stranger as I took in all the changes I’d undergone; my black hair hung in a limp mess, across pale, sunken cheeks. My normally bright blue eyes had dulled to a colour similar to muddy pond water, ringed with dark shadows that made them look huge in my small oval face, flipping down the mirror, I stared in horror at the stranger I saw reflected.
I’d not eaten properly in a while and my sleep had been broken at best. I’d spent most of our time packing, crying or arguing with my Granddad.
“No!” I exploded, jumping up and standing between them. “Why can’t you move here? Why do we have to move!” I screamed at my Granddad as he towered over me. “Why can’t you just stay sober!” I screamed at my Dad, where he slumped. I felt betrayed by everyone as I watched them. My Dad went pale white and began to cry while my Granddad had turned red and looked ready to scream at me. I pushed on as my anger built up inside me.
“I’ve looked after us all this time. I’m the one who has taken care of you! And now you…” I jabbed my finger at him, “…barge in to our lives with your demands and we have to jump! I don’t think so, what about school and my friends? Don’t I get a say in this?” My anger lay boiling, waiting for the next opportunity to explode.
“P..P…poppet?” Dad stammered, as Granddad said “No you do not! Now go to your room.” I was stunned as Dad lapsed back into silence and let this total stranger take control. Speechless I’d stormed off to my room, leaving them to their own company as I thought about how many ways my life could change in a day. I could hear snatches of their voice drift up the stairs to me. Over the last few weeks we’d all argued, until Granddad had returned to Wintergreen Manor and left us to finish off packing up the house.
“A fresh start is what we need, Poppet.” Dad’s voice broke into my thoughts and dragged me back. “A new town in a new place.” Had been his repeated phrase of comfort to me over the last four weeks. “You’ll find new friends, soon.” Another of his stored pick up rosemary lines, I thought as I watched the car turn from smooth tarmac, onto a bumpy country track. “Almost there Poppet, you’ll see Wintergreen Manor in a fews seconds.” He reminded me as I shivered.
I didn’t remember much about wintergreen but what I did made my shudder, each time it was mentioned, and the memories I did have terrified me more; we’d last visited when I was four. When one night a couple of days into our visit, I’d woken in the night. Confused I glanced around the massive room, as voice floated up to me from below. Laying down I heard them rise and fall, tucking my head under my blankets, made it quieter for a time. And then Mum was bending over me, with tears in her eyes as she untangled my and sat me in her lap. Smoothing my hair from face she’d spoken to the empty room. “Now Rosie, we’re leaving, hush, don’t be scared, I’m here and your safe.”
Then I was sat on a bed watching her race around the room, stuffing things into a small bag, then we were moving from the dark room to the bright hallway and closer to the shouting. Holding me tightly to her warm chest, mum walked down the stairs. Her thumb moving in circles on my back. Smiling down at me she’d whispered. “Don’t worry Poppet.” Calming me down as the shouting grew steadily louder. I’d clasped my hands over ears as they entered the entrance hall. I watched as my Granddad advanced on my dad shouting at him. I watched as my Dad shouted back. Then mum was taking us out the front door, down the steps and tucking me into the backseat of our car.
I’d looked out of my window as the car turned around. Staring at my grandfather crying before we drove away into the night.
It was three years later that Wintergreen was mentioned in yet another argument; I’d gone to bed as normal, after being read Jack and the beanstalk again, Mum had just turned out my light and gone downstairs, my eyes on the brink of closing when the argument reached me.
“…he needs me!” Dad shouted, clearly frustrated.
“Then let him after the way he…”
“No Lisa! He’s my Father, I have to go no matter what.” My dad interrupted.
Slowly I’d inched my way out of bed, across the room and down each step, until I sat at the door watching them shout at each other, over something I didn’t understand. “No, you don’t Richard, stop being stubborn and leave that man alone in his manor.”
“Lisa you know that I can’t, he’s my Dad, I can’t leave him alone at wintergreen.” His voice had changed, it was softer than before, he’d given up fighting and I watched as my mum saw that the fight was over and fell into a chair as she watched my dad move around the room.
“Richard!” Mum ‘s voice cut of as I shuffled my feet on the carpet and knocked over the vase next to the stairs. Mum had came flying out of the front room, tears still wet on her cheeks and whisked me away up the stairs. Tutting and shaking her head. Dad had left that very night for two weeks. Neither my Granddad or Wintergreen Manor had been mentioned since.
“We’re here Poppet.” Dad announced with a smile, as I looked ahead with dread. There ahead of us loomed Wintergreen Manor and my new home. A full-moon crested the roof top of an immense building, it’s light bounced off the slate tiles in a white glow. My gaze dropped down as I took in the dark building, windows sat like dark eyes across the facade and something wiggled, making the building look alive. Ivy I saw was the cause when our headlights bounced across the green waxy leaves. Four turrets rose into the sky. I looked at my Dad again as the car stopped, he let out a breath and smiled again.
“Home.” He whispered to me.
A Brief cold wind brushed past me as I reluctantly got out of the car and followed Dad. But the closer I got the more the wind blew against me, pushing me away. My hair lifted away from my shoulders with every step, allowing cold fingers to twist themselves on my neck. Shivering deeply I glanced up at what would be my home for the next three years, at least. Looking up I saw the flash of light in the second floor window and for just a brief second I glanced a shadowy figure. I stopped and stared at the outline of a man, standing in the darkened room and thought myself far enough behind to mutter, “so, he’s home then.” I
“What did you say Poppet?” Dad asked stopping and waiting for me to catch up.
“Granddad’s home.” I repeated louder.
“No, he’s at some important meeting in Scarborough, he won’t be back till later on.”
“Then whose that?” I asked pointing to the now dark window on the second floor.
“Whose who, poppet?” He asked me back, slightly distracted by climbing the small set of steps.
My blood ran cold as I stared at the now dark and empty window. Who was inside? I wondered as dad asked, “so what do you think?”
Shaking my head, I pushed away all thoughts of what I’d thought I’d seen and looked over at Dad. He really wanted me to like it or at least show a little enthusiasm, but I had neither the energy, nor the wits to pretend anymore, so I shrugged and pushed on until I was staring up at two oak doors. On closer inspection I saw the black lace-like pattern of vines and roses, done in iron that spread across the dark wood, from the floor up it spread.
“Beautiful.” I whispered, running my fingers across it, feeling the cold bite of the iron, I knew Dad had heard me when he smiled to himself. I scowled. I didn’t want to like any part of this place, I’d already decided that, but the iron work was lovely as its pattern covered most of the doors. Scowling further, I thought of living here and shivered. There was something about this place that frightened me and always had I realised as I watched Dad remove a key from his pocket.