The two children were on their way to the allotment, Nisha carefully tucking the cross and chain into her coat pocket and Matthew carrying his skateboard beside her. He didn’t say much as they walked but Nisha had a burning question in her mind.
“D’you look after your Granmum, then?” she asked, turning to him a little shyly.
“Yep,” he nodded, giving her a cheeky smile. “Since me pop died and me mum went off, I’ve bin livin’ with ‘er. Good to me, she is.”
They continued in silence for a little while, Nisha trying to digest this startling news. She didn’t know anyone else without a mum or dad.
“Down here,” was the next comment, as Matthew directed her down a steep hill and into the allotment. “There’s me Granmum now. Diggin’ away, like.”
Matthew’s Granmum turned out to be very friendly and soon had Nisha feeling at ease. She was happy to oblige with their request for some plants and proudly showed them several colourful specimens from the greenhouse.
“Can you manage these on your own, Nisha?” asked Matthew. “I think Granmum could do wi’ some help here....tell you, what, I’ll put these in a box for you.”
As he and his granmum busied around, Nisha noticed several clumps of primroses growing by the path.
“These are nice,” she called to Matthew, kneeling down and smelling their fragrant perfume.
“Aye, them’s me mam’s flowers,” came the reply. “Her favourites, they were, and they’re from her garden. “Loved them, she did.”
Primroses would be nice in their Easter garden, reflected Nisha as she made her way home with a boxful of flowers. She had never noticed any in the churchyard, and she had been too shy to ask for some just now. She came to some pedestrian lights and stopped at the red man to let the traffic pass. As she waited she looked around. This wasn’t the crossing she remembered. And she had never seen that group of shops before. Continuing to look around, in growing bewilderment, she suddenly realised. She had no idea where she was. She was completely lost.
“Oh, no,” she thought in dismay, still standing at the lights, as they turned from red to green and back again. “I should have noticed on our way here, I just followed Matthew and now I don’t know how to get home!”
But she couldn’t stay where she was.
“We walked down a steep hill,” she remembered, speaking out loud to herself. Saying it made her feel more certain. “I’ll go uphill and see what happens.”
Walking uphill proved to be hard going with a cumbersome box of plants and when she arrived at the top she slumped onto the bench. As she got her breath back she was passed by a group of young parents and toddlers. Nisha watched as they crossed the road and disappeared into a large park opposite. Slowly she sat up. That park looked familiar. She had been through those gates a few times herself, when she and Mum had been visiting Auntie Spardha. Did Auntie Spardha live near here, she wondered.
She crossed the road and ventured into the park. There were a few families on the playground and as she walked some things became clear to her. There was the bandstand, the lake, and after a while, the ornate gates that opened the way to a different part of town. Nisha passed through these and stopped. Now what? A flash of red caught her eye as it swung in the wind. Auntie Spardha’s gate? She would have to investigate.
More confidently now she approached the house. It was indeed Aunt Spardha’s house! She recognised the big tree in the garden and the bird feeders in the branches. She felt the cross and chain in her pocket, the purpose made her feel less nervous. But as she neared the front door she stopped. Something was wrong. Far from being bolted the door was open; Aunt Spardha’s full shopping bag lay spilled out on the hall floor and there was an eerie quiet.