“That’s the last of them, Jesse” I huff out, dropping the moving box to the floor before straightening up and putting my hands on hips.
“If you can get your room sorted before dinner, I’ll take you into town tomorrow and buy you any toy you want!”. I know using bribes to get your child to do things is wrong, but sometimes, it’s the only way. Jesse’s head lifted off the bed, his shoulder length blonde wavy hair flopping. His blue eyes widened with intrigue looking at me before replying
“Promise” I reply smiling and walking out of his room, making my way back down the staircase. I can already hear him scuttering around, finding a home for all his belongings.
We’d moved into the house almost ten days ago and between us we had re-decorated, assembled furniture and sorted out most of our belongings. Jesse was the only five-year-old I knew who thought assembling flat pack furniture was fun, luckily for me. Tomorrow is Sunday, the last day we have together before Jesse starts kindergarten on Monday, so I want us to spend it exploring our new home, River Creek. We moved here from the UK, on a total whim, looking to start fresh somewhere new and exciting. When I’d asked Jesse if it was what he wanted, he practically jumped for joy, asking if he could choose where we went, so I thought Why not?. After all, this is his life too.
Moving to Virginia, USA from the UK wasn’t as big of a deal as some might think, not for us anyway. I fell pregnant with Jesse at only twenty years old and his father wasn’t in the picture pretty much from day one.
“I’m too young to have a kid, Ella. I still have a lot of partying left in me” he’d said to me when I had told him I was pregnant.
From that day on, it was me, Jesse and my father. The three musketeers. I had been to the USA quite a lot throughout my childhood, my father was born here, but met my mother when he was in London on business. They had settled in the UK when my mother was expecting me, but she passed away when I was only six, so me and my father lived in England, spending every holiday in Oregon, at my Aunt Bea’s house. When father passed away last fall after suffering from a heart attack, it was just me and Jesse. I received the inheritance in March, enough to buy a house in River Creek and live comfortably for at least a year without having to worry about finding a job to support us. So here we are. Jesse chose River Creek when we were watching the discovery channel one evening, a show that detailed the most beautiful lakes in Northern America. He was in awe of Emerald Lagoon and its surroundings. Looking up to me, with his crystal blue eyes, he pointed at the television screen and said with a smile
“That’s it mum, that’s where we’re going to live”.
The very next day, I got in touch with some realtors and seven weeks later I’d bought a house. It’s a beautiful three-bedroom home with a porch wrapping its way around the whole house, painted white with deep green widows and railings. It even came complete with a fully functioning porch swing and from the back of the house, the most beautiful view of Emerald Lake. The house needed some love as it hadn’t been lived in since the nineties, but somehow, it was still clean, not a speck of dust to be found. I kept the original beech wood floors, painting the walls white and adding house plants in every room. There are some features in the house I couldn’t bear to get rid of, such as a child’s height marked on the doorframe of the downstairs bathroom, stopping at nine years old or the white wallpaper in the entrance hall of the house, dotted with beautiful pale pink roses. It looked as though it has only just been hung, and I loved the vintage flair it gave the house. I had the kitchen at the back of the house completely ripped out and replaced, knocking a wall through to the dining room. This allowed for a large island with breakfast stools, a six-person dining table and floor to ceiling glass doors so I can sip my morning tea looking out onto the lake.
Walking into the kitchen to start dinner, I look out of the windows over Emerald Lake, the sun slowly setting, casting pink and orange hews into the cool blue water, serene and calming. Good choice, Jesse I think to myself, smiling as I pull the pots out of the cupboard.
Its Monday morning, and of course, I’m running late. I’ve made sure that Jesse is ready to go, but I’m leaving the house without having brushed my teeth, my long blonde hair piled into a messy mum bun on the top of my head wearing my denim dungarees from yesterday and the oversized ACDC t-shirt that I slept in.
“Mum, why didn’t you set an alarm?” Jesse moans as we’re jumping into the truck on the driveway.
Truth is, after yesterday’s adventure exploring the town and spending the afternoon down at the lake, watching locals fishing and paddling in the shore of the lake, I had one glass of wine to many once Jesse was down for the night, but he doesn’t need to know that.
“I did, Jess. My phone died in the night. I’m sorry, mouse” I reply, telling a little white lie. “We’ll be there on time; it just means we have to drive there and not walk”. Satisfied with my answer, we hop into the truck and make for the kindergarten.
8:32am. We made it. I pull up on the side of the road and we hop out of the truck, walking towards Mrs Lane, the headteacher who is waiting for us patiently, smiling and greeting other children and their parents. Jesse and I met with Mrs Lane last week to enrol Jesse and make sure he had a spot for the start of the new school year. She’s a classy, beautiful woman, her brown hair pulled into a low, neat bun. She looks to be in her mid-fifties, wearing a navy pantsuit and a bright smile
“Good Morning, Ella, Jesse. Are you looking forward to your first day?”. Jesse nods, suddenly shy, hiding behind my legs.
“Thank you again, Mrs Lane, for accepting Jesse’s place” I say. “He’s been so excited to start school”.
Mrs Lane smiles and nods, waving it off like it was nothing, even though I know the school was already full and she had to pull a few strings to get Jesse’s place confirmed. We continue to discuss pick up times, three o clock, I mustn’t forget I say to myself, and I give Jesse a hug and kiss, and he walks into the school building with Mrs Lane as the first bell sounds, his mop of blonde curls bouncing against his shoulders. I’m glad he got his hair from me I think to myself, smiling before turning around and heading for truck. I really need to brush my teeth.
I returned home to shower and brush my teeth, slipping into a pair of old faded cut off Levi’s shorts, a plain white tee and a pair of white converse. I decided to let my hair dry naturally for a change, waving like id come straight from the beach. Its early September but the sun is still hot, once it has burnt off the morning fog that creeps into town from the lake. I take the truck into town and spend the morning doing the weekly food shop, before stopping off at coffee shop, located on the town green. Poppy’s Place is a quaint little bistro, on the corner of Marigold Avenue. I walk in, jumping slightly at the bell that rings above the door, signalling my arrival. Most of the seats inside are taken, so once I have ordered my latte and handed over the cash, I opt to sit outside on one the many bistro sets under the veranda. After finally getting comfortable on the iron seat, I take sip of my coffee, taking in the views of well-maintained town square. It’s filled with flowers, benches and a large fountain, a band stand sat right in the centre. The square is busy, people meeting for coffee dates, a group of mums pushing their strollers, wearing yoga pants and chatting away. Kid chose well I think to myself, mentally thanking Jesse for picking this idyllic part of the world for us to set our roots.
“D’ya mind if I sit, doll?” I’m pulled from my thoughts to a short plump woman standing in front of me, gesturing to the chair next to me.
She’s got white hair, styled into a short bob, wearing a blush pink blouse and cropped denim jeans. Her cheeks are rosy, and her lips and nails are painted a vibrant red. She must be in her seventies I think to myself before smiling up at her.
“Absolutely” I say holding my hand out “I’m Ella”.
She takes my hand in hers, but rather than shaking it, she pulls me into a hug, which takes me by surprise.
“Poppy” she says as she sits down, “Poppy Parker, owner of this here establishment. Not that I have much to do any more” she explains “I leave it to the young’uns nowadays. More time for me to spend with my great-granddaughter”.
I smile at this vibrant woman, for some reason, she makes me feel warm inside, like I’ve lived here all of my life.
“You really should try the poppy seed muffins” she says gesturing to the cake display on the other side of the window. “I make em’ myself. Every mornin’, only a dozen or so. You need to be here early to get’um”.
“I’ll go get myself one, would you like anything?” I reply, bewildered, about to stand from my chair.
As if by magic, the girl that served me inside walks out, holding a plate with two poppy seed muffins and a tall glass of iced tea. She places them on the table before us, Poppy thanking her before she walks back inside.
“Now, Ella” she says, handing me a muffin and I thank her. “This here is a small town, and with you living here, you’re one of us now. We all look out for each other”. I’m confused, how does she know I live here? I could just be passing through.
She must see the confusion on my face, so she continues.
“Ruby Lane tells me you have a son, same age as my great-granddaughter, Gabrielle. She tells me you enrolled him at the school. In fact, I seen you dropping him off this mornin’, I was taking Gab’s, it’s her first day too. Thought I’s introduce myself but you got away. Must be fate I found you here”.
“Must be”, I say smiling. This woman sure does know a lot I think to myself.
“Tell me about yourself, Ella. I’ll be your first friend here in River Creek”. Her wide smile is contagious.
Poppy and I sit there, for what feels like a couple of minutes, but an hour has passed by the time I check my watch. I introduced myself, giving a bit of a back story, not too much. She told me about her grandson and how he owns the ‘only tattoo parlour in the county’ and he has a daughter, Gabrielle. Poppy told me the best stores to go to and which to avoid, gave me the contact details of ‘handy’ people in town and we swapped phone numbers. We arranged a playdate for Jesse and Gabrielle, or ‘Gabs’ as she calls her, for this Friday at my house. She explained how Mexican food is her favourite, so I’m cooking dinner for them, enchiladas, and we planned to walk back to my house together on Friday after picking up the kids from kindergarten.
I left Poppy’s Place with a slight buzz, smiling all the way back to my truck. I’ve made my first friend.
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