For a time Hubbie, Ollie and I lived in a tiny cottage in Hungerford just off the main street. It was originally a 1 up 1 down cottage where the only bedroom had been split into 2 rooms with the smallest room not being able to fit in a single bed. However lovely it was we knew we wouldn’t be there too long because as soon as Ollie grew and needed a proper bed we would have to move so we just enjoyed our year there. The arrangement of gardens was so funny as our cottage had an ‘L’ shaped garden that clearly showed that a part of it had once belonged to the other cottage we were joined to, Hubbie and I always joked that it had been lost in a gambling night that had gone wrong many years ago. We’ve still no idea but it would have made a good story. The cottage was empty when we arrived but soon after a young girl who was pregnant moved in and although we never became best friends we did talk when we met out the front or put the bins out as our front doors were very close together. She was beautiful and very happy…
As she progressed through her pregnancy she would sit out in the tiny concrete yard with its high wooden fence whilst I would play with Ollie on the grass that she should have been using. I did feel guilty and mentioned it to her sometimes and I remember inviting her over for a coffee when she was free. She never came and I noticed that she didn’t have many visitors. Her mother lived across the road and this came in handy when the baby was on its way and off they went off to hospital to come back with a perfect little girl. We visited her with a present and her cottage was immaculate with the washing line full of little clothes. 1 small room downstairs with a lean too kitchen and 2 tiny rooms upstairs. The baby seemed so content and peaceful and she seemed to be in rapture of her.
We often met when we were out walking with our prams and pushchairs. I remember how clean the baby looked and how happy she looked. She was on her own and having problems as she had arthritis but in my everyday struggle for motherhood I envied her. She, at that moment, was everything I was desperate to be. Happy. She had all she needed and it was enough.
Ollie grew and we needed a larger house so we moved to Swindon and left the little cottage. I don’t remember if we saw her on our last day. I went to work and Hubbie oversaw the movers who, due to the size of the cottage, packed in about half a day. They all laughed and joked about how we had moved to a larger house and we had no furniture and Hubbie and I didn’t care, it was our family home and we would buy furniture when we could afford it. For us, this was enough. Hubbie had told me about the fox that had got into the house and was right at the top in Ollie’s room, on Ollie’s bed. It was one that was being fed by the lady at the sales office and after a few days we’d told everyone about the fox, the new house, and the lack of furniture and had totally forgotten about the old cottage and of the young girl who lived next door to us with her beautiful baby girl.
Until the day, a year or so later, my dad rang and told me that she had died.
I was shocked, we all were. Yes, she had arthritis but nothing life threatening so I asked how on earth she’d died and although it was still early in the investigation but everything pointed to a drugs overdose. A drugs overdose? Really? She was such a fabulous mum and clearly adored her baby I could not understand how she could have been taking drugs. It turned out she had 2 men back to the cottage one night and she was found dead the next day. An inquest was held after an investigation and although the 2 men were never suspected of anything she had indeed died of a drugs overdose but what really astounded me was that her daughter was in the house too at the time and couldn’t wake her mummy when the morning came.
I’m reading a frivolous book trilogy at the moment, the one that’s set tongue wagging, pulses racing and the feminists screaming. It’s about a damaged man whose early start in life was marred by his drug addicted mother. He remembers her comatose and remembers that day when she overdosed and had died. He tried to wake his Mummy, he noticed she was cold and got his blanket to put on her to make her warm again and this, not the rampant sex (which actually got in the way of the story I felt at times!) was the thing that really got to me. It reminded me of our old neighbour and her daughter. A few months after the girl’s death I was shopping in Hungerford and bumped into her mother. We recognised each other and I expressed my sincere sorrow at what had happened. She told me a little of the details and I said how out of character it seemed for her and she agreed and said they were all still finding it very difficult to come to terms with what had happened. Her friends were still in shock as were her and her father. I asked where the little girl was living and she told me with her, just across the road from the cottage. She also told me how L would walk past the cottage and say ‘that’s where mummy is’ and she would look through the window as if trying to find her. They realised that as adults they knew and understood what had happened but the little girl didn’t understand that her Mummy had died and that she wasn’t at the cottage anymore. The little girl had grown and was beautiful with her golden hair but the grandmother told me that she could remember the morning where she went into Mummy’s room and mummy didn’t wake up. She was talking through all that she could remember with a family therapist or councillor at that point we both looked at the little girl and were just lost in our thoughts’ how can you ever take that pain away?
So reading this book made me think of our neighbour and her beautiful little baby, of all the potential wasted and of all the pain for the future as a girl grows up without her mother all because of drugs. It seems one night the wrong choice was made that affected so many people’s lives. It shows that you may never really know anyone that they can still shock and surprise you and do things that are totally out of character for them. The path of life is definitely not just black and white and there are many more than 50 shades of grey…