Janice wriggled her toes and snuggled further beneath her duvet. She knew without even looking at her clock that it wasn’t yet 6am and there was no way she was ready to face the day yet.
Her older sister Sarah would be up and out for her daily 5K run, leaving her impossibly handsome husband to wake their impossibly beautiful twin girls. Her older brother John was probably doing something equally wholesome.
From downstairs, Janice could hear the middle class droning of Radio 4 as her mum set the table for breakfast. They’d always been an up and at ‘em early type of family, which Janice secretly loved. But as she lay in the single bed she’d last inhabited as a teenager, the last thing she felt like doing was getting up.
Just 48 hours ago she’d been in her flat in South London. It was nothing fancy and far from being considered a trendy area. Heck, it wasn’t even up and coming. But it was where she’d lived for the past 2 years.
Too poor to afford a place of her own, she’d rented rooms in flat shares for years before finally admitting she wasn’t really the Female Professional all the accommodation ads asked for. She’d tried to fit in, really tried. But nothing ever quite worked out the way she hoped. Damned expectations getting in the way again.
Her first flat share had been in Richmond, close to her first job in publishing and Janice had thought it had sounded ideal. She’d dreamt about running on a Sunday morning in Richmond Park, drinks by the river on Friday evenings and lazy Saturday morning breakfasts overlooking Richmond Green. The reality was an area full of yummy mummy types that went jogging with their Phil & Teds and did yoga in full make-up.
Then there was Wimbledon. This would be the place that Janice finally felt like a grown-up. With the common for fresh air and all that tennis action, surely her desire to be an active, successful young woman would blossom in Wimbledon?
Nope. School run by 4-by-4 hell. Putney? Full of public school types that never quite made the rowing team. Wandsworth? Marginally better than Richmond and a bit grittier, but still not quite right. Clapham? Smug couple central.
Which is why Janice found herself in Croydon of all places. Twenty minutes to London Bridge by train and an authentic London street market. That was about all you could say about Croydon really. Oh and it was reasonably close to Gatwick and the M25.
But now she was back in Speymouth. A tiny dot on the Moray Firth Coast that liked to pretend it was a Proper Town. Technically it was a city, due to the cathedral, but at heart, it was just a typical Scottish seaside town. A dull town full of dull people stuck in the last century.
Janice could hear the running of water next door. Her dad must be in the shower and was bound to knock on her bedroom door within the next 10 minutes with a cheery cry of “Jannie! Got to be early to catch that worm Jannie ma quine!”
Exactly what ‘worm’ he was referring to, Janice couldn’t care less. She loved her dad dearly, but he was one of those eternally positive people that let nothing bother him. Just once she wanted to hear him admit that sometimes life was a bit of a pain in the arse. Just once, just to know he was normal. He didn’t believe in worrying about stuff he couldn’t control, which meant he worried about nothing. He left the worrying over minute details to Janice’s mum, that was her department.
To be fair, her mum and dad didn’t really have much to worry about in the grand scheme of things. Both were lecturers at the local college (dad taught the foundation art course and some evening classes and mum taught computer science). They had no mortgage, no vices and holidays were spent constructively learning the Art of Italian Cooking or Exploring the Vineyards of Burgandy. A tasteful campervan just the right side of boho chic was kept for quick weekend trips over to the West Coast.
“What’s so wrong with that Janice? Has 6 years in London turned you into a cynic as well as a bitch?” Janice’s inner dialogue always reverted to defending Scotland whenever she came home. It would have her voting SNP if she wasn’t careful.
“Okay, okay, you’re right. To each their own.” Janice conceded to her subconscious. Christ, she was talking to herself already and she’d only been home 24 hours.
Home. Was this home? Surely home was Croydon. That was where she lived 358 days of the year, only coming back to Speymouth for a week at Christmas if she couldn’t avoid it. And yet, too often she caught herself thinking about Speymouth as home.
Janice rolled over onto her side and reluctantly opened her eyes. Sunlight streamed in through the thin curtains revealing a pretty floral, Cath Kidston décor. At least her mum had taste when it came to decorating. Janice shuddered at the thought of having to gaze at Wet Wet Wet or Deacon Blue posters at the ripe old age of 26. She’s been deeply wounded when her mum had redecorated her bedroom a week after she’d moved to London, but she’d done a good job.
The sound of running water from her parent’s en suite shower stopped and Janice knew her solitude was about to be invaded. That was the thing about coming ‘home’. You were never left alone. People had to be continually checking on you, or asking you questions.
“Still here then? Fed up of all those people in London yet?”
“Any boyfriends Janice?”
“So…how’s the love life? Are you courting yet?”
It was all people in Speymouth cared about. When you’d be moving back, when you’d be getting married and when your first child would be born. All these things made Janice even more determined to never come back.
“Maybe I should just get myself knocked up and be done with it though” thought Janice. “That’d shock them. Wee Janice finally went and did something.”
Reluctantly, Janice threw back the duvet and swung her legs over the side of the narrow bed. If she could make it into the bathroom before her dad decided to launch his daily positivity attack, she could hide in the shower until he was safely engrossed in The Guardian and marmalade on toast.
Slowly opening her bedroom door, Janice peeped out into the empty hallway and finding the coast was clear, made a dash for the bathroom and swiftly locked the door behind her. Glancing at the fancy oversized shower-head, she decided a long soak in the bath was just what she needed to ease her grumpy mood. It was going to be a long day and she needed to protect her solitude for just a wee bit longer.
The funeral would start at 11am, followed by tea and sympathy at The Spey View hotel. A wave of nostalgia washed over Janice. Auntie Dot had always taken her to the Spey View hotel for high tea. They’d gorge on hot tea and toast before tucking into huge portions of steak pie and chips. By the time the cakes arrived, Janice always felt a bit sick, but could never resist a slice of millionaires shortbread to push her over the edge into gluttony. Poor aunt Dot. She’d always had time for Janice and was the only member of the family that spoke to her like a grown up.
“India? What do you want to go to India for Janice? Now don’t be silly, get yourself on that career ladder and get cracking those glass ceilings. Plenty of time for travelling when you retire. Now stop making excuses and get out into the real world.” That had been Dot’s response to Janice’s plan to spend a year travelling post-graduation. Janice smiled at the memory. Aunt Dot knew what it was like to be the younger sister, but she never let Janice get away with using that as an excuse for anything.
“You make your own luck Janice. Nobody is going to hand you a golden ticket. You’ve got to go out and grab it yourself quine. With 2 hands.”