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Yes. Time to go back.

Posted Oct 19 2010 12:00am
I found myself on the old estate where we used to live. It was a grey day and I suppose my memories weren't helped by the rain. I watched a woman come out of her house and walk across the gardens. She looked at me, but didn't smile, not knowing of course that had I not moved away, we would have been next door neighbours. My stomach sank as I drove our car down the curved road. 'But they are just houses,' I said to myself. 'It wasn't that bad.'

The houses are not too bad. They've had a grant and been modernised. Compared to some places, like a few in North Manchester, this estate is a stroll in the park. I'm being sensitive.

I collected my post and spoke to another neighbour, she told me about the mother I'd worried about so much before, and that since I'd left she'd had two more babies (in the space of just over two years), two adopted out, and two in care. Then I headed off to the local shops where I dropped into the chemist.

As I stood at the counter a girl about as high as my hip piped up to the assistant
'Do you have pregnancy tests?'
'Yes,' said the assistant, grinning at the little girl who couldn't have been much more than seven years-old. I looked at the assistant, she continued to smile.
'How much is your cheapest one?'
'£5.10,' said the assistant.
'Thanks,' said the little girl, skipping to the door. 'It's not for me,' she giggled, 'it's for me mum.'

Outside the shop the little girl waited by the window, kicking her feet against the path. Outside the community learning centre a young mum and her daughters hung around some lads perched on BMX's, one with a pitbull at his side.

Little girls shouldn't be sent in search of pregnancy tests for their mums, I thought. Or maybe I'm getting prudish with age. Maybe the family has been waiting for a baby for years, and the little girl is simply excited.

I waited on the seats for my prescription to be prepared, through the window the sky was gloomier than before. More kids came to hang around the shops, dressed in only greys and blacks, kicking their feet against the floor and sucking on lollipops, boredom, frustration, tracksuits, nothing to do.

I watched them and felt nervous, not wanting to be judgemental but judging them all the same. This, I thought, is why my stomach sinks each time I drive my car around that curve, and why I didn't want this place to be called home.

Then Jack texted me, 'Hi Mom. in Dover'.
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