At weekends and during holidays, Daddy and Teresa laboured on the house in Marlborough Road. Sharon and I went to Granny’s while they worked. Granny had a big garden filled with sweet peas, gooseberry bushes, sunflowers, runner beans, and much more. We played for hours chasing butterflies, pouncing on the cats, and doing somersaults, handstands, and cartwheels.
When the loft extension was finished there was a new bathroom with spiky painted orange walls. My new bedroom was papered with woodchip paper and painted white. Daddy got a new workroom with a wooden workbench and vice, and a darkroom with some photography equipment. Shaz stayed downstairs on the first floor in our old shared room. It was the same floor where Teresa and Daddy slept.
There was another extension into the back garden, built where the old kitchen and outhouse had been. Where the monster spiders lived in the dark behind the chain. This was our new dining room. French doors led to three big steps down to the back garden which I could walk across in ten steps.
Beyond the garden was the field. The field was full of water in the winter and full of cars in the summer. Often visitors parked in the field would drink tea from Thermos flasks and eat their sandwiches from Tupperware while sitting on deckchairs. Sometimes, I watched them surveying the other cars.
Three doors away from my house Hinksey Park spread out, home to a deep swimming pool for adults, a middle-sized pool for parents and children, and in a separate area, there was a paddling pool for babies and toddlers. I passed my twenty-five-metre swimming test in the middle-sized pool.
I went to New Hinksey Primary School and Mr Burns was my English teacher. He had funny ears. They were long and appeared as though they had been stretched before they were glued on to the sides of his head.
One day I gave Michelle a piggyback ride in the playground. She was kicking me with her feet to go faster and I fell over. We both got told off. We didn’t do it again.
Shaz liked to scribble. She scribbled all over my dolls’ faces with a blue biro or her felt-tip pens. She also liked to scribble over the last pages of any book I was reading then rip the page out and put it in the bin.
We were playing in mummy and daddy’s room while they were downstairs one Saturday evening. I was jumping off the chest of drawers and landing like a gymnast, curved spine and arms stretched reaching for the sky.
Shaz wanted to have a go, of course, so I let her. She decided to do it backwards but instead of pushing herself away from the chest of drawers she went up and came straight down. Her jaw under her chin hit the edge of the piece of furniture and blood erupted in all directions. Shaz screamed and Daddy came racing up the stairs.
He took in the scene from the doorway and twisted round to the airing cupboard behind him on the landing. He whisked out a towel. He ran over to Shaz, picked her up and plonked her on his lap at the same time as sitting down on the double bed. He held the yellow towel up to Shaz’s chin and held it there while cuddling Shaz.
“What happened, Sarah? He demanded.
“She jumped off and hit her chin.”
“Why did she do that?”
“I don’t know, she just did.”
“Go and fetch Teresa.”
I ran downstairs to the kitchen. Teresa was stirring a saucepan of something on the hob.
“Teresa, come with me upstairs to see Shaz, please.”
She rushed in front of me out of the kitchen into the passage, through the doorway to the lounge past the sofa and coffee table and turned right to go up the stairs. I followed. I watched as she turned left into her bedroom and heard her cry out as she saw Shaz and all the blood.
“Bowl and cold water, Sarah, szybko! Which by now I understood to mean fast!
Some weeks had passed since the bloody chin (which needed a hospital visit) incident when Daddy sat Shaz and me down on the burgundy coloured stretch nylon flower-covered sofa cushions. I rested my arm on the glossed wooden arm while Daddy stood in front of us with Teresa. He told us that he loved her. He took her hand when he announced they were getting married. He smiled at his daughters and we smiled back.
Preparations were swift and simple. Teresa wore a long peach dress and carried a bouquet of purple, peach and cream freesias. Her long bleached blond hair was tonged into twists and they were secured by an ivory coloured barrette covered with fresh flowers.
Her adoptive daughters-to-be wore matching but knee-length peach coloured dresses with their hair tied in two curly bunches secured with elastic bands under peach-coloured satin ribbons. Daddy wore a purple velvet three-piece suit with lapels the size of a small aircraft wings, and a peach coloured frilly dress shirt. His sideburns and Cat Steven beard were trimmed, as was his wispy wavy mid-neck length grey hair.
Daddy drove us to the Registrar’s office in his Morris Minor saloon or was it the Cortina by then? I don’t know. No real interest in cars at that age. Nor now, even.
Granny and Grampy were there along with Barbara and Douglas. Shaz wriggled in her seat, then she got down. I had to catch her and bring her back to our seats in the front row.
Teresa glowed and Daddy fussed. They kissed in front of everyone! Throwing the confetti was like being naughty but being allowed to. There was a kaleidoscope of horseshoes, bells, and hearts littering the pavement outside the Registrar’s office.
The wedding party moved to the reception in the new Marlborough Road extension. Shaz’s friend, Tracey, came with her parents so I was free to read my book in my room.
My pigtails were making my hair ache so I untied my ribbons and pulled the rubber bands off. I picked the hair out of the bands and put them in my wastepaper bin, keeping the bands for another day. I lay on my bed and picked up my book, The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.