This part is a little shorter, as I’m coming to the end. In total, the story is around 7,800 words (I expect it will just reach 10,000).
The last parts are harder to write, as I am trying to research and recall some of the true stories of his life, and for that I need to ask those who were closer to him than I was, and indeed those that knew him before I did to talk about the ‘prime’ of his life.
But I think such research will be important. Important to honour a memory truthfully, albeit in a slightly alternate yet parallel setting.
As always, thanks for reading.
“Help yourselves to the nibbles. It’s all organic and local. I never buy anything that isn’t nowadays.” Jane was mostly saying that to appease her own conscience, but I imagine my mother would’ve nodded appreciatively while Jon, myself and Chuck would feel world-weary, thinking about cost and convenience.
“Where are the two of you living now?” Jane asked, bringing through a casserole dish containing a nut roast and slightly burning herself on the ceramic as she had forgotten the hole in the oven glove she was using.
I looked at Chuck, as if giving him permission to reply on our behalf. “Wapping. East London,” he said.
“Oh yes I know Wapping,” Jon said. “Whitechapel way.”
“You used to live there, didn’t you?” Jane followed up.
“Yeah, Mile End Road, by the hospital. That was a horrible flat,” I nodded at Chuck.
“The new one’s so much nicer, so quiet,” he added. “Except for that guy with the dog.”
We laughed at each other. “Yeah, there’s this guy who walks his dog in the park outside our flat, except he doesn’t so much walk it as smoke, check his phone, watch the dog and shout at the poor thing when it stops moving. Sometimes very aggressively.”
“You get all sorts of people around there,” said Jane, putting a dish down on the table. “I hope you like sprouts by the way Chuck, because we’ve got loads of them. I get them from the grocers down the road.”
“I used to have a lot of work in East London. Still go up there sometimes for my acting.”
“Oh yes, they do a lot of filming around there, you know. I’m surprised you don’t see film crews in Wapping.”
“They probably do it at night, or times when they know people won’t be there. I’ve seen one or two though.”
“You have? I’ve not.”
“There was one when we went to the Prospect of Whitby…”
“But other than that, you’re enjoying London?” Jon asked.
“Yeah. I mean, our apartment is tiny.”
“I don’t think I could stand living in London anymore, though of course Jon and I used to do it, you know.”
“How long has it been since you moved down here?”
“Oh decades ago. We’ve lived here for over fifty years, before your mother was born.”
“What made you choose this?”
“Well I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your grandmother is a people person,” said Jon.
“That’s his way of telling me I’m a busybody,” Jane remarked, giving Jon an eye. “He means to say I like the village feel. It’s a real community here. People help each other and everyone knows everybody else. You would never find that in London.”
“Sacré bleu,” Jon said by way of rebuttal. “London wasn’t that bad.”
“Of course, Jon and I came from very different worlds, so I suppose we always had different ideas on that. You know it’s so important to have different ideas, a few friends and activities who are just yours and not each other’s.”
Jane had paused her bustling to drop these pearls, though she was mostly looking affectionately at Jon as she said them. Jon was staring into the middle distance, half here, half somewhere else.
“Isn’t that right, dear?” Jane went over and gave Jon a vigorous rub on both shoulders.
“Yes, dear,” he replied without a beat.
The exchange between timeless lovers was interrupted by the sound of water bubbling out of a pan and landing on hot metal. “Oh lordie, the broccoli.”