The big house appeared from behind conker trees on a quiet street by the common.
It’s late Victorian
These houses were built after the construction of the railway as they turned the farmland into the suburbs
They had come just the two of them, for one of the first times since the baby was born they were out together.
Richard opened the iron gate and stepped into the front garden. It was regrowing untidy with the spring.
He turned to his wife. We’ll get rid of this gravel. I could plant a ceanothus here by the path.
Isadora looked at him. Which is that?
It has those tiny flowers that fall like grey blue dust onto the floor. Richard spread his arms – Over time it can grow into a large bush.
She nodded. It is very nice that one.
Richard stood inside the carved brickwork arch at the front of the house. He looked at the front door. He looked at Isadora.
She touched the morose little bird depicted in the off-brown stained glass of the door.
She looked at Richard. We can get rid of this, no? He paused.
It’s depressing. I want bright yellow birds or soft orange squares or something.
He looked at the bird and then he looked at her. She laughed at him – I’m serious Richard.
Inside, he ran his hand along the ribbed wall of the corridor, taking slow strides towards the back of the house.
Isadora stood behind him in the corridor. She regretted its closed door presence. Unlike her husband, she felt no secret thrill at its twee Victorian geometries – the cracked diamond tile floor, the textured wallpaper, the high up faraway light fixtures.
To their left there was a large bay window living room facing the street, and behind that a dining room facing the garden. Richard gestured to the second door – We could turn this into a TV room, or a playroom or a library.
But – she called her husband’s name – but Richard, I don’t see the point of such a big house.
I like the little flat. We are just three after all. We don’t need a big house like this.
He turned to face her.
I like the little flat. She approached him and put her hand on his arm – What’s wrong with the little flat?
He frowned at her, and then he smiled. But what happens when your mum comes to stay, and your father? And don’t you want Ana Paula to have her own room and not sleep on the sofa and be woken up when we go to work?
Isadora was quiet.
And eventually the baby will want her own space. Isadora frowned.
It’s only down the road. It’s not a big change.
She put two arms around him. I know this. You are right. I just like the flat.
And then her husband said – Isadora this is a good house. Look.
They walked down the corridor to the dark kitchen that needed new units. On the back wall there was a door and a set of con- crete steps.
Richard opened the door. Look at this garden.
Isadora looked at it.
Hot sunlight crossed its long and low sunk rectangle through the alley gaps between the other houses. It was full of knee height nettles and other grass green plants she didn’t know the names of. At the back of the garden, by the fence, there was a row of lime trees.
Isadora was quiet.
Then she said – We could have a dog, Richard. Her husband frowned.
Just a small dog, Richard. Woof woofwoof. They were quiet.
Richard said – Where I grew up we had a huge garden. This is small but it’s good for London.
Isadora nodded. At her parents’ house Isadora had not had this sort of garden either.
Isadora chewed Richard’s house words in her cheeks –
skirting board mantel piece banister
hearth trellis chimney coving terracotta
wall paper paste
When she had thought of Europe, Isadora had always imagined herself walking into an open plan room with glass for walls.
This is an excerpt from the 2019 shortlisted book by Yara Rodrigues Fowler. Read more