Josh and I arranged to meet the landlord, Mr Rothman, Sunday morning at 11 o’clock outside the shop to collect the keys, plus he wanted to meet the other guys who would be living there. When I arrived Josh was already waiting with his father who had given him a lift and knowing what his dad is like it was a good way for him to check things out.
“Hello Mr Taylor,” I said smiling cheerfully at Josh’s dad and I nodded a greeting to Josh.
“Good morning Michael,” he replied. “How is your father doing these days?” I don’t know why he asked me that, maybe just out of politeness. The two men were diametrically opposed, the entrepreneurial businessman head of one of the biggest companies in the area and my dad, the quasi communist local union leader.
“Oh, he’s fine Mr Taylor,” I answered.
“So, I understand from Joshua that you have put a lot of effort into finding this apartment.” Josh’s dad was kicking off with his questions, I wasn’t surprised that he would be digging to find out why exactly we had all decided to up and leave home. “Joshua’s mother and myself were not too sure about his idea of leaving home and moving in here,” he continued.
I nodded, but didn’t interrupt him. “Joshua was very enthusiastic though and convinced us he would be in good company. Now I hope you won’t let us down, we don’t want a repeat of anything like the end of school party, do we?” He looked at me and then towards his son. Neither Josh nor I spoke, we just tried our best to give a suitably serious look to indicate that nothing like that would happen. “Speaking of which,” he focused his attention back on me. “I was playing golf last weekend with Roland’s father and well, we both agreed it would be good for Roland if you boys paid him a visit. It might help cheer him up, it has been nearly two months.”
He was right of course, we should go and see Roland, I don’t know why we hadn’t already. No, actually that’s not true, I know perfectly well why we hadn’t been, it was because everybody had a sense guilt about what happened. “What I propose,” Josh’s dad was speaking again. “Is that I drop round here next Sunday afternoon and pick you up. I know the trauma rehabilitation centre being stuck right out in the countryside is difficult to get to if you have to rely on public transport.”
I was caught between wanting to see Roland and the apprehension of being face to face with him for the first time since the accident. I gave a quick glance in Josh’s direction and saw him nod yes. It’s funny how well we know each other, because that little nod of the head conveyed a whole message meaning ‘go with what my dad’s saying’.
“That’s a great idea Mr Taylor,” I replied. “It’s very kind of you.” I hope I wasn’t laying it on too thick.
“Good, then it’s settled,” he said. “After lunch next Sunday, about 2 o’clock.”
I gave Josh another quick glance and saw him grinning, obviously pleased at how I was playing up to his dad. As if on cue, Mr Rothman arrived, stopped in front of us and spoke to me whilst extending his hand to shake. “Good morning Mr Woodrow,” he said. “Are we all here?”
It was a stupid question, it was obvious Mr Taylor wasn’t the third tenant sharing the apartment when I had already told him we were all at school together. I ignored his question and did the introductions. “This is Mr Taylor, Joshua’s father,” I looked over to Josh’s dad. Mr Rothman then shook hands with him, whilst weighing up Josh at the same time.
Addressing Josh’s dad he said, “Mr Taylor, a pleasure, you wouldn’t happen to be the same Mr Taylor who is president of the Chamber of Commerce would you?” Josh’s dad smiled.
“Yes exactly, I am,” he replied. Then turning to his son he added, “And this is my youngest son Joshua.”
Joshua shook Mr Rothman’s hand. “Pleased to meet you sir,” he knew how to suck up to people as well as me, if not better. He probably learned a lot from watching his dad.
“Where is our number three?” Mr Rothman asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Aaron, Mr Sachs I mean, has a family lunch so he won’t be here until later.”
“Well never mind, he can introduce himself next week. I am sure everything will be just fine.” Mr Rothman took a bunch of keys from his pocket and handed them to me.
“I’ve told Joshua to make sure he behaves himself, he has responsibilities now.” Josh’s dad was talking to Mr Rothman again.
“Indeed,” Mr Rothman replied. “I am sure they are a good group of friends and I’m here to keep an eye on things.”
“Good,” Josh’s dad said. “Well I need to be getting off.” He turned to Josh. “Joshua, get your things out of the car please.”
Josh collected his stuff from the car, one large sports bag, two big suitcases and three pretty big cardboard boxes. As I was watching him unload his stuff, I was suddenly conscious that I had all my belongings in one small sports bag and an Ikea bag.
Everyone said their goodbyes, Josh’s dad got in his car and drove off, Mr Rothman disappeared down the street in the direction he had arrived from and Josh and I stood in front of the apartment door surrounded by our baggage.
We both smiled at each other. “Come on, let’s get this stuff inside,” I said. “You sure you brought enough?” I joked.
“There’s a load more back home,” Josh replied. “I didn’t know how much to bring, what space there was.”
“You serious?” I smiled at him. “Look I got a bag and a half, you brought half your bloody house with you.” He laughed.
* * * * * *
The door bell rang, it was 7:10 I looked at the clock. “Must be Aaron,” I said to Josh and I went downstairs to let him in.
I guess Aaron travelled light just like me, he had one bag over his shoulder and a medium sized suitcase, one of those with wheels and an extending handle. “Welcome,” I said as I opened the door smiling.
“Bet you was worried Mikey,” he said. “In case I didn’t show up.”
“What me, never, but I am pleased you’re here.” I took his suitcase lowered the handled and went up the stairs ahead of him.
“I know you Mikey, you had to be worried, you always assume the worse.” He was talking as he came up the stairs behind me.
“Well I’m not worried now. Welcome to our little place.” I smiled giving a broad sweep of my arm tracing a semi-circle in the air.
“You gonna give me the guided tour then?” Aaron asked.
“No, but I’m gonna show you your room.”
I opened the door to his bedroom. It was at the front of the apartment next to the lounge, had a single bed, wardrobe, small table and a chair. The blue carpet and cheap curtains did nothing to improve how it looked.
He threw his bag on the bed, I left his case by the wardrobe. “I thought you said it was bigger than my bedroom at home?” he regarded me with a sort of quizzical look on his face.
“Did I?” I replied grinning and he grabbed me in a loose head lock pulling me towards him.
“You know bloody well you did.” He was messing up my hair with his free hand. Then he let go and let me up. “It’s fine anyway, who cares, it’s nice we’re all here together.
We went to join Josh in the living room. “Hi Aaron, good to see you.” Josh was smiling.
“And you mate,” Aaron replied.
We sat down, me next to Josh on the blue plastic sofa, Aaron on the armchair. “How was lunch with the oldies?” Josh asked.
“Well, you know my mother,” he explains. “She starts on about making sure I get enough to eat and telling me I’ll have to do my own washing, clean the house, cook. All the things she’s been doing for me all my life and do I appreciate it. Nag, nag, nag. You’re going off leaving your mother all alone she says and I’ll forget about her, she’s got no one…” he pauses. We look at each other Josh and me. “Do you want me to go on?” He asks and starts laughing. “Because that’s just the beginning.” Now we’re all laughing. “She’s just your average Jewish mother,” he manages to get in between bouts of laughter, which just serves to make us laugh even more.
When we all finally calm down, he says, “No it was good.” It must be the serious tone he uses when he says things like that, but he nearly started us off again. “No I mean it, not my mother doing her usual OTT act, but the grandparents were there and I got a chance to talk to Hayym alone for five minutes.”
We were listening, I was wondering what Aaron wanted to talk to his grandfather about. “You both know I was adopted, right?” he asked us. We nodded. “Well you see that’s all I know. I was adopted, end of story. My mum won’t ever say anymore and whenever I’ve pressed her she just closes up and gets all sad telling me she’s been the best mother she could be and it hasn’t been easy bringing me up alone. You get the picture. I’ve given up talking to her about it.”
“But you want to know?” I interject and immediately think that was stupid of me.
“Of course I want to know Mikey, wouldn’t you?” I just nod, I don’t want to open my big mouth again. “Well, so the only other person I can ask is pops, Hayym, my mum and grandparents that’s all the family I’ve got.”
It’s Josh’s turn to interrupt now. “So what did he say, your grandfather?”
“Nothing, he was not exactly shocked, but I think the question took him by surprise. He just looked at me kinda sympathetically and patted my hand.”
“That was it?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, that was it. Only…” Aaron paused.
“Only, only what?” Josh asked again.
“Only, when they were leaving and I was getting their coats, pops took my hand in his again and said after I’d settled in here I should come round to see them to tell them all the news. To which my mother added, yes you must do that Aaron, you don’t see your grandparents enough.”
“So what do you think all that means?” I ask very curious to know.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Aaron replies.
“Maybe he wants to talk to you alone,” I tell him.
“Maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s like my mum said, I don’t see enough of them.”
“Isn’t there another way to find out, like through the adoption people or something?” Josh asks.
“I don’t know, I need to investigate that. Let’s have a drink to celebrate the new apartment.” He gets up and fetches three cans of beer from his room.
“They’re not cold,” he says. We all smile at that. “Here’s to the apartment!” Aaron raises his beer.
“Here’s to us!” I toast.
“To us!” Everybody says in unison.
next – dreams can give things away…