The Apartment - K. L. Slater Page 0,1
got a screw loose.’ He chuckles. ‘But money isn’t my priority. Adder House is a very special place and that comes from the unique mix of residents. That’s what makes it a special place, not their bank balances.’
‘Oh!’ She’s flustered now. ‘Sorry, I didn’t realise it was you . . . that you’re the landlord, I mean. I—’
‘No offence taken.’ He waves away her apology. ‘Do you live locally yourself?’
‘I did. The house has just been sold after – well, let’s just say we have no choice but to move.’
But of course, he knows all about that. The whole sorry tale.
‘I’ll probably end up crashing with a friend for a short time.’ She hesitates. ‘Just until I can get something sorted. It’s not easy when you have a little one.’
‘You have a child?’
‘A daughter. She’s five.’ A brief bloom lights up her face.
‘How charming,’ he says, thinking of the sweet girl he’s watched Freya collect from school most days for the last couple of weeks. ‘Sounds like you’ve got it tough at the moment. I don’t suppose—’ He laughs and shakes his head, as if embarrassed at himself. ‘Ignore me, it doesn’t matter.’
‘What is it?’ She sits up a little straighter. ‘I don’t suppose . . . you were going to say what?’
‘I was going to ask if you’d like to view the apartment at Adder House? If you were interested, that is.’
She stares at him and he bumps his forehead with the heel of his hand.
‘Of course, I understand entirely. Take no notice of me blubbering on. You must think my offer bizarre, under the circumstances.’
‘No!’ She clears her throat. ‘No, I don’t think that at all.’
He produces his card and slides it across the table to her. His ticket of immediate trust.
‘Dr Michael Marsden,’ she reads out slowly. ‘You’re a doctor?’
‘Not any more.’ He smiles.
‘A new house?’ Skye screeches at the top of her voice, her face lighting up and then dimming just as fast. I don’t have to ask why. She’s thinking about Lewis.
I turn the radio down but Skye has already stopped dancing to the music.
She’s thoughtful for a moment or two, her dark-blonde eyebrows knitting together as I clear away her tea plate and mug. ‘And we’re going to the new house now, Mummy?’
‘Yes, we’re going to view Adder House now to see if we like it. That’s if you want to come?’ I help her slide her arms into her little red jacket without waiting for her to answer. ‘I waited until I picked you up from school because I thought it would be nice for us to go together.’
‘Hmm . . .’ I can almost hear the cogs turning in her smart little head. ‘But if we do go to live somewhere new, how will Daddy know where to find us?’
And there it is in plain sight. The enormous shadow that constantly nibbles away at the edges of her happiness.
I pause in my attempt to help her get her coat on and kiss the top of her head.
‘Your daddy always knows where you are, remember?’ I say softly. ‘Everywhere you go, he’s with you, poppet.’
Lewis’s death is still so raw. For both of us. It’s only natural she’s worrying.
It’s hard to explain the terrible truth of what happened to Lewis to a five-year-old who simply can’t be told all the details. The school counsellor said the first and most important thing at this young age is initially for her to understand and accept that her father isn’t here any more.
I think we’re getting there at last. I see the clues peppered between her normal everyday activities.
My heart squeezes in on itself every time I catch her staring into space when she’s meant to be watching her favourite TV show. When she leaves a spare seat on the floor for her daddy at one of her soft-toy tea parties, or squeezes her hands into little fists when her friends’ daddies pick them up at the end of the day. Just like Lewis would often do.
The counsellor said it shows she understands he’s gone now and she’s dealing with it.
In her own way.
It’s more problematic for me. I’m still alternating between the extremes of emotion, caught in no-man’s-land, usually somewhere between grief and fury.
I’ve read countless articles online advising how to discuss difficult matters with very young kids, but really, it all comes down to one thing. I’m the person who knows my daughter best, and I have to find the right way to break