Later that night, Martin sat in the study staring at the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter. The previous attempt to change things had backfired. Vanessa hadn’t remembered anything, and he had chosen not to remind her. By physically changing Melanie, he had apparently created a mother who was also like that, and he had no idea why or how that happened. Other than the physical changes, there were few differences. The Fiat 500 had gone, as Melanie could no longer drive. Vanessa was very much the same, as he had found out when she had led him off to the bedroom for her required siesta session. Although her physical changes might normally have repulsed him, he was very surprised just how much he had enjoyed it. Perhaps the constant alteration of events was also affecting his outlook, and innate prejudices? Could it be that he was managing to write himself into being a better person?
With both the women sleeping soundly, he thought long and hard before hitting a single key on the machine. He still had the money. The house and lifestyle were no less enviable, and so what if Vanessa was twice the size? Trying to change her back was likely to set something unexpected in motion once again, something he was gradually losing control of. Maybe leave well enough alone, and try to make a life for himself as it was. There was a great deal to be said for having a loving partner, lots of money, and a beautiful house in the sun. He leaned forward, beginning to type, knowing exactly what to write.
“Martin was finally settled. He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure.
Life was very comfortable indeed, and no man could really have asked for more”.
He was happy with that, at least for now. Just confirming his thoughts, and hopefully sealing his life in Spain as it was. Leaving the page in the roller, he went into the chilly bedroom and climbed in next to the gently snoring Vanessa. He wrapped his arms around her new cuddly figure, and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.
It was something bouncing on the bed that woke him. The mattress was leaping under his body, and he just knew he wouldn’t sleep through that disturbance. When he opened his eyes, he saw a young girl jumping up and down, using the bed like a trampoline. Her hair was in bunches to the sides, and she was wearing what looked like a school uniform. She gave him a toothy grin, and stopped bouncing. “Daddy, get up. You have to take me to school”. He stared at her, trying to find some recognition in his brain. The room was cold, outside of the warm duvet, and the light coming through a window to his left was dull, the sky a battleship grey. Another voice came from the doorway. “No shoes on the bed, Daisy. How many times do I have to tell you?” He looked in the direction of the voice, and a woman walked into the room. She stopped and leaned against the door frame, holding a shoe in her hand that she slipped onto her left foot.
She was smartly dressed in a business suit, a shoulder bag dangling precariously as she leaned forward. Her hair was cut in a short bob, with attractive streaks in several colours. He was still staring at her when she spoke again, her voice sounding stressed. “Come on, Martin love. I told you I have that interview this morning. You have to take Daisy to school in your van before you go to work. You can’t have forgotten. Please get up, it’s getting late”. He knew her immediately, as if he had only just see her recently. But of course he had. It was Pamela Murray, and the girl was Daisy, the one she had shown him in the photograph, claiming that he was the father. Daisy started jumping again. “Get up Daddy. Get up, get up”. Pamela turned, talking as she walked. “I have to go. Wish me luck, I will see you tonight love”.
If only to stop Daisy’s jumping and shouting, Martin rolled out of bed. He opened a fitted wardrobe, and found some folded jeans and t-shirts on a shelf. He pulled on one of each, and some thick socks. No time to even think about washing, or more importantly, orientating himself to yet another day one. Daisy was off, running down the stairs shouting, “Come on Daddy. Come on!” By the front door, he spotted trainers in his size, and shoved his feet into them. Daisy pushed a padded coat into his hands, and he found some keys and a mobile phone in the right-hand pocket. On the short driveway outside the small house, a new-looking van was parked. It was sign-written, and he took in the words all along the side.
M. Harwood Plasterer
Mouldings Cornices Detail Work
07703 222 6677
In the front of the van, Daisy pulled her seat-belt across, and tapped the back of her shoes against the seat frame. “We’re going to be late, Daddy. Turn the van on”. As he turned the ignition key, he looked around at her and smiled. “Tell you what, Daisy. Let’s play a game. Pretend I don’t know where your school is, and you tell me exactly how to get there from here. How does that sound?” She grinned, liking the idea. “What, like a Satnav?” He nodded. “Exactly, just like a Satnav”. She thought for a second, and asked, “Shall I do a funny voice then?” He took off the handbrake, and slipped the van into first gear. “You do that, any voice you like honey”. She tried to sound like a robot as she spoke again. “Turn right, at the end of your driveway”. They both laughed as Martin turned the wheel.
After dropping the girl at the school, Martin drove into the car park of a big supermarket at the end of the road. He found a quiet place right at the far end, away from the shop. In an inside pocket of the warm coat, he found a wallet. It contained a driving licence with his name and photograph on it. Two bank cards still from his old bank, and a credit card in the name of the business painted on the van. There were numerous paper business cards, and a photo of him with Pamela and Daisy in front of a huge model dinosaur. In the note section, he saw just eighty pounds. Three twenties, and two tens. In the coat pocket was a handful of change, and a packet of mints. Taking the keys out, he walked around to the back, and opened the large doors.
Bags of plaster in different grades were piled on the floor. Various tools were scattered around, some hanging from racks bolted to the sides. A collapsible telescopic platform was neatly folded against the bulkhead, and a petrol-driven stirrer sat in its mounting next to that. The thing that amazed him most was that he knew what everything was for, and how to use them. In his mind, he saw himself repairing ceiling roses, and skimming fresh plaster over the newly-built walls in flat conversions. But as far as he knew, he had never mixed plaster in his life. He closed up the back, and returned to sit in the driving seat. A thought struck him, and he leaned across to see his reflection in the wing mirror. Much the same as before. The same age, same hair, and same lines on his face. But no suntan. That had changed to the pasty white of an English winter. There were no cigarettes anywhere, and he felt no desire to smoke. On the ring finger of his left hand was a wide gold ring. Nothing fancy, just a band.
He was married to Pamela, and bringing up their daughter, that was obvious. According to the sign outside Daisy’s school, he was living in Basildon, in Essex. He had heard of the town of course, but had never been there before. He smiled, thinking about the line he had typed the night before, in the house in Spain. ‘Martin was finally settled. ‘He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure’. Well, that had come true, but not at all in the way that he had expected.
After staring out through the window for what seemed like a long time, the musical note of his mobile phone made him jump. He answered the call with a simple “Hello”. The voice at the other end was raised, and tetchy. “You were supposed to be here by nine, you said. I have other tradesmen waiting for you to do your bit, and we need to get on. How long will you be?” The man obviously knew him, and had presumably employed him to do a plastering job. Martin was short in his reply. “Sorry, something came up with my little girl. I won’t be able to make it today after all”. As the man started shouting, Martin hung up.
He turned the engine on, and drove out of the car park.
He had to get back to the house, and do some digging around, before Pamela got home.