Pippa opens the door to her bedroom, noting how it remains untouched despite her absence. Her homecoming transported her back to her secondary school days. The pink carpet she had begged her parents to get, after she finally moved into a bedroom she wouldn’t have to share, was still there and felt soft under her bare feet. The butterfly, star, and love-heart patterned wall art hanging above the length of the single bed was also present, ensuring the interior did not deviate from the rosy palette of her childhood.
Wiping away the condensation with her forearm, and glancing out of the window, she noted that the old Seabrook Crisps factory had been torn down. In its place lay a deserted crane and construction framework, which undoubtedly would be full of contractors on days where the sky was not weeping. She would have to remember to ask what was usurping the former factory over dinner.
Distracting her line of thought, a light tapping sounded at her bedroom door. Not waiting for an answer, in came her mother. She knocks, thinks Pippa, as if I’m entitled to privacy while I’m at home, and then completely disregards it by opening the door before I allow it. She thought back to her teenage years; her mother having the open door policy talk with her and her boyfriend. Reminiscing ensures the colour of the carpet matches Pippa’s cheeks. It seemed convenient that once she had moved back home, the door hinge had become unhinged and did not shut fully. As if the childhood photos were not off putting enough in the first place.
‘It’s nice to have you back, Pip,’ says her mother, while making herself comfortable on the partially sequined bedspread, ‘We’ve missed having you around.’
‘I’ve missed you too, mum,’ adding, ‘It feels so weird, I just didn’t see myself coming back, I thought I’d have a job by now,’ says Pippa.
Her mother smiles and says, ‘If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have let you leave in the first place.’ Pippa supposes she is intending to be reassuring, but feels uneasy at the prospect of not having the chance to experience University nor living independently.
She adds, ‘Don’t forget to sort out your Jobseeker’s Allowance, you’ll have to set up an appointment to get paid.’ The tension rises, Pippa would soon get a job, and she does not need handouts. Why does her mum think otherwise? Anyway, she was adamant not to call, not to pick up the phone and admit that her 2:1 was not good enough, nor make the inevitable decision to sign on and walk shamefully into the building.
A yawn erupted from Pippa’s chest, interrupting the taunt atmosphere, the fatigue from a long day of moving back home unleashed itself on her body; a sign that the espressos were wearing off.
‘Oh you must be tired! I should have realised, I’ll let you get to bed,’ she says, while opening up the duvet and plumping the pillows.
‘No no, I’m fine,’ she retorts, rubbing her eyes fiercely as if to wipe them away, and with them, their weakness.
‘Nighty night Pip, sleep tight my princess,’ finalises the mother, and helps her into the bed. The tucking in routine turns from comforting to claustrophobic in Pippa’s mind. She sees the blanket no longer acting as a safety mechanism, but as a straitjacket, restraining her every move.
As the mother creeps out of the bedroom she ignores the breathy and slight voice say, ‘It’s Pippa, and I’m too old to be a princess.’
Natural daylight penetrates the pastel pink curtains and illuminates the box room. With ever sensitive eyes, Pippa wakes with the blanket still snuggly securing her stationary form to the single bed. She uses her body strength to tug herself free, breathing a sigh of relief once the objective is achieved.
In a world of thrushes, she was a swallow; swallowed up by the myth of independence after University, in an expensive world full of competition. Returning to her old nest seemed like the only viable option once her student loan ceased to exist, and the bank of parents was needed.
Pippa avoids breakfast, the smell of pancakes seeping in through the door gap, makes her feel sickly, or perhaps the anxiety of looking for a job is the real case for her lack of appetite.
She logs onto the laptop downstairs to check her emails, surprised that they are already open on screen. She reads the lone five letter word in the subject box over and over, before she admits defeat and closes the lid.
Behind it is a wall mounted photo, with a more naïve version of her staring back, one that thought when they were older they could be whatever they wanted, and one that never assumed money would be a problem for their post education selves. Pippa takes it down, for she cannot bear the sight.
She returns to the sanctuary of the bedroom, and calls her friend, feigning excitement that she has found a job and wants to meet for drinks to celebrate. Drinks, Pippa thought, that she could not afford, with people, who would no doubt ask how the job hunt was going. She passed on the event, pretending she had an interview that day.
‘You have to eat something, it’ll make you feel better,’ argues the mother, ‘Tell her Andrew, she’s missed the most important meal of the day, and thinks she can go without dinner too. How she coped without us is a mystery!’
‘Just humour your mum and have a couple of bites,’ Pippa’s ever reasonable father whispers, winking at her, ‘She’ll think something’s wrong with her cooking otherwise.’
Chicken dippers, potato smiles, and alphabet spaghetti were on the menu, with jelly and ice cream for afters. A childhood favourite, which makes the graduate feel patronised beyond belief. She observes that the photo is back up, the graduation one from before. While struggling to control her temper, she forks the smiles into her famished mouth.
She changes the subject to the construction work her bedroom window overlooks, feeling noticeably better.
‘It’s going to be a supermarket by the end of this autumn, Pip, and only around the corner too,’ answers her father, adding, ‘You’ll be able to get a job there,’ his face lights up at the thought.
The words, ‘be able,’ ring in Pippa’s head. She has not had any job offers so far, since graduating, and feels disheartened.
‘I didn’t spend three years at university to stack shelves, Dad. I’ll have a proper career by then and I’ll be back in the city.’
His face drops, ‘But this is your home Pip… That’s why you came back,’ he adds, ‘Don’t you like spending time with your mother and I? Haven’t you missed us?’
The guilt tripping seems out of control to Pippa, who chugs her summer fruits cordial as if it were rosé wine, and says, ‘I need some air.’
Her mother calls out after her, ‘Where do you think you’re going young lady? It’s dangerous for a young girl out on her own!’ adding, ‘You’re not at University now.’
She pretends not to hear, and blissfully watches the hedges, as she walks away. The blossoms from the tree cover the street and roads, suffocating them and granting no room to breathe. The song thrushes move freely in their nests, knowing once they raise their broods, they will make a new nest and seldom visit that one. It seems it is only Pippa who returns.
The blinds twitch and the front door opens as Pippa approaches the house. She hears choruses from her parents of ‘Where have you been, Pip,’ and ‘What time do you call this?’ She wonders why they ask, as they already know full well she has been at her grandparents, since she overheard a phone number being dialled the instant she left. She is surprised that they did not run over straight away, living on the same road it would have probably been quicker than waiting for the dial tone to stop and someone to answer.
Whilst visiting, she observed the tropical fish, thinking it morally wrong that they were plucked from the sea, their natural habitat where they flourished, and placed into a 60L capacity tank. She wants to rescue them, carefully send them back to the deep blue of the ocean, to live out their days as they deem necessary. This is a far-fetched dream, she understands their only escape is via the sewage system.
The interrogation from her parents’ stops, and a change of topic ensues. Pippa feels grateful, as she is not used to having someone to answer to, not after three years of independent living.
Her mother says, ‘Your dad said you’d want to apply to the new supermarket, so I just filled in the form for you and sent it off before you moved back.’ She continues, ‘I wanted it to be a surprise. Did you hear back?’
I hope you enjoyed the short story I wrote for my Creative Writing module. I’d be extremely grateful for you to comment any feedback on Homecoming, good or bad.