The street was littered with the refuse of an abandoned summer. The beginnings of fallen blossoms and the musky scent of autumn filling the breeze. Those few who ambled through the once prosperous area gave no indication of the bustle that once surrounded the derelict department store and restaurants. Stygian shades of a former age, wandering through tarmacked Styx as Persephone gazed sadly from flaking posterboard. An Asphodel meadow of Georgian folly, tall elegant buildings half left to rot staring down onto silent and unkempt roads. The hope and aspiration that had filled here just a shadow in retrospective gloom. Those few shops that remained seemed to survive through sheer willpower amoungst the fallen.
A neon supermarket glaring through the emptiness, shadow workers standing sentinel for those few who shuffle into the angler’s lantern. Even in the bright evening standing apart from the darkness, illuminating limbo within. A symbol, everywhere, all stamp of individuality removed. Clone of brothers and sisters in every neighbourhood; slowly leeching the life from its surroundings with fluorescence and artificial hope. Temptation on the road to Parnassus, brazen plastic teasing and playing at the shoal with little sympathy for stragglers. Despite this it stands a haven, of sorts.
A few derelicts down, a chip shop, awaiting it’s inevitable late night trade, single bored looking worker just leaning outside the door, chain-smoking whilst the heat radiated from the doorway, not really expecting much but still prepared. More glaring neon, advertisements without the decency to even try to entice their prey. The banquet was not for the faint hearted, but the intoxicated mass would pass as ever through the area, although not until much later. There were more troops for that though, the lone smoker simply had to watch, look busy and prepare for the onslaught.
The corner held that most precious of commodities, the local, sprayed a faded gastro-pub green. This was flaking and fading badly, as if one of the passing landlords that spent their brief tenure making another unsuccessful attempt to brighten up the place and improve their clientèle. The same old locals sat outside as for the last eternity, or so it seemed, when one disappeared another of the same ilk took their place, even the staff looked the same as forty years before. The barmaid strutted round in total control, an echo of her post war counterpart. The fierce matriarch with her sullen and despondent troops, radiating a certain allure and power over her fortress, daring all who would come against them.
Down a side street, colour warred with mahogany, a little antiques dealer faced a bright yet faded florist, brass and wood juxtaposed with nature in force. The antiques shop was of the sort that never really looks open, ancient dusty furniture, cuckoo clocks that stopped at some unspecified point long ago. One old grandfather stood amongst them, glaring power over the fading oak panels and still-boxed children’s toys. That which once stood proud in so many houses again just a reflection of a past long gone, but still ticking, the only one left now. A symbol of age and power, outliving it’s children and compatriots. Eyes would always glance at a small teddy-bear in the centre though, eyes still bright and glaring defiance from the display. Other toys around it looked never touched, but this one had been loved, once, and had borne the brunt of it’s anguish. It sat on a never-opened playset marked “Airstrip one”, a loved toy surrounded by those that had never served their purpose.
A battered sign above read “Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford, Quality Antiques and Jewellers” although how one would gain entrance was unclear, the door seemed blocked from the inside, and whether any secret plots were hatched within would never be known to a passer by. Through the barely visible break in the mass of furnishings inside, a colourful jukebox visible, a broken screen topped with a nodding bulldog, although still sparkling the only real sign of life within. This place was full of ghosts, to enter would be an intrusion. Sacrilegious to the delicately preserved memory of the dead.
Then, there was the florist. Flashes of fading colour, reflecting autumnal silence. It, alone of all the street, reflected life, yet raged with the grief of Demeter betrayed. A fading sign swung from above the entrance, adorned with a single sprig of rosemary. The windows decorated with delicate paintings of vines, intertwined with pansies, columbine and rose thorns. The window displays and great brash sign declaring “Elaine Shalott, Florist” leering above. Predominated by daisies and swashes of spring colour, the small shop seemed apart from the rest of the world. Exuding growth and future life.
She was majestic, overlooking her forest. Broad arms and an easy smile, hair as wild as the arrangements she created. She was a part of her flowers as a dryad is bound to a tree. Her clothes reflected this, bright floral patterns and long flowing skirts. A perfect white lily sitting in the curve of her purple hair, belonging there, as natural as if it was alive. She was an affectionate power, approachable but fierce, her eyes glinting with the joy of spring despite the coming winter.
Tucked away beside the mass of greenery, a sheltered, forgotten gap of alleyway. An afterthought, hidden from prying eyes. Great bins concealed by a rusting gate, majestic Victorian arch looking distinctly alien, dominating the cramped side street. The floor littered with petals, fallen from the florist, borne through the air intermittently by the autumnal breeze, shivering ethereal beauty. Standing out, a small door, a few steps leading up to it and keeping it apart from the alley. Turquoise and worn, intercom shining, names replaced so many times that now only one faded surname was visible, the others never replaced, shadows of tenants long gone.
Within, a narrow corridor, piles of mail pushed to the side, unprepossessing landscape portraits hanging from yellowy-beige wallpaper. A steep stairwell, to another door, with another above, but halfway up, that was our door. Beyond, two rooms hastily stuck together, with bathroom, kitchen the size of a cupboard and all our life. That’s ours though. Home, safe, the scent of fresh blossom carrying up to the bedroom window.
This is Home.
This was Us.