The door was unlocked so we let ourselves in. We left it open just in case. Used pots were piled up on the kitchen sink and cheap dirty lino stuck to my feet.
“Are you there Muriel?” Dad said.
A man coughed in the living room.
“It’s just him,” I said. “Good.”
It was my grandmother’s house. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. Sandy’s dog basket was made up in the kitchen corner. He had been dead for years and wouldn’t be back to lie down.
I was first into the living room. Dad stood behind me just inside the door. It was painted in the same purple and pink paint as before. There hadn’t been enough of either to do all the walls.
The room stank of smoke and dusty old curtains, but there was another smell, like rancid meat that had been left in the shade.
Geoff was slumped in an armchair opposite the living room door. A cigarette hung from his bony fingers. He stared at the corner where the television used to be.
“Alright, Geoff?” I said.
“Bloody hell, to what do we owe this honour?” he said, “The last time I saw you was — “
“Is Muriel in?” Dad said.
“No. I don’t suppose that you brought my Sister with you?”
“Mam’s at home,” I said.
“No, I didn’t think that lady muck would come to see me,” Geoff said.
He took one last drag on his cigarette and stubbed it out in the full ashtray next to his feet. The carpet around it was covered in ash.
“Where’s my Gran?” I said.
“She’s nipped down the shops, should be back any minute. Do you want a drink?”
He gripped both arms of the chair and tried to heave himself forward. The backs of his knuckles were white as he tried to stand, but I walked over and stood right in front of him.
“No, you sit right there,” I said. “It’s you I came to see.”
He was half stood up but forced to sit back down in the chair. He turned and looked at my Dad.
“What’s going on, Jim?” he said.
Dad leaned against the wall and rested his weight against one hand.
“I want a word with you,” I said. “That’s what.”
Geoff didn’t take his eyes off my Dad.
“What about?” he said.
“You know what about,” I said. “We’re going to have a little talk, Geoff. Or to be exact, I am going to talk and you are going to listen.”
That got his attention. He looked at me then. The corners of his mouth were yellow like his nicotine stained fingers. He continued to grip the chair like he was trying to hold up his own weight and there was nothing underneath to support him.
“Do you remember when you used to baby-sit for me and my brother?” I said.
“Do you remember when you used to baby-sit for me and my brother?”
“Good, because I remember too.”
His head snapped straight back to my Dad.
“I didn’t do anything Jim, I swear,” he said.
“Don’t you dare look at him when I am talking to you,” I said. “It’s me who is talking to you, not him. You look at me. Look at me. I said look at me.”
His hands started to shake.
“That’s better,” I said. “That’s right. I want you to remember this.”