At some point I knew I’d have to go into the loft. I couldn’t keep putting it off. Mum had nagged at me for months. If you don’t pick up your stuff I’m slinging it, she said. I normally scan calls, but she caught me bleary-eyed, keying through the sales figures on my laptop. The loft doesn’t tidy itself. I know. There’s no point it just sitting there, is there? My toenails dug into the carpet. You’ll feel better when it’s done.
‘I’ve told you I’ll sort it.’
‘I wish I believed it.’
The line crackled. I wondered how many other conversations like this, punctuated by awkward silences and unspoken grievances, were taking place right now. Mum sniffed. She’d be cradling the phone at her collar, blowing on the hall mirror and buffing it with her mohair cardigan till it squeaked.
I was tempted to let her bin the lot, but couldn’t help wondering what might be up there. The box was in the furthest corner of the loft among the spiders and dust and wonky boards where she’d been afraid to touch it.
‘You could always fetch it at Christmas,’ she said.
I’d be spending Christmas in London with Emma, so I wasn’t getting drawn into that one.
‘Sunday,’ I said, picking at my thumbnail.
‘Are you still off parsnips?’
I wasn’t sure if I’d ever eaten parsnips. It was a rumour from my childhood like the one about the doctor who’d said ‘keep him off penicillin’ but Mum could never remember when or why.
I said carrots and peas would be fine and hung up before she could tell me about Muriel’s ‘procedure’ or number 12’s ‘comings and goings.’ I snapped the laptop shut and stared out of the window.
Was it really worth a Sunday drive when I could be tucked up with the papers dozing off last night’s beer? It wasn’t as if there’d be much left. There’d be some Rupert annuals and maybe some scratched, paint-chipped Matchbox cars. There might be some of my old sketchbooks. But I was sure there’d be letters and photos and I didn’t want her going through those, thank you very much.