Corey watched as the others explored the garden. He thought life on the streets had made him hard, as he had witnessed some terrible things over the years and believed himself immune to feelings. Why then did he feel so sad? He cleared his throat, hoping this small act would dispel the lump that formed there. The grass shimmered, as his eyes filled with tears. The screech of the garden gate became a welcome distraction, and he hurried back to the front of the house. The sight of a police car parked outside on the road would once have instilled fear in him, but now it meant nothing. A lone officer stood waiting.
“This is private property,” he said to Corey. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m Corey Dawson,” he held out his hand.
“Paul Regan,” the officer shook it. “I’m the community police officer and I got a call to say that there was somebody snooping round the place.”
“I inherited the house from my parents,” Corey explained. “I have just turned eighteen and decided to come home.”
He did not want the officer to know that he was underage, and it was just a little lie.
“Who are they?” The man nodded at the others, who had come to see what was happening.
“My grandfather, Tom, my aunt Annie and my cousins,” Corey introduced them.
The others held their breath. It was obvious they seemed a ragged group and no one would believe that, but Corey held the man’s stare.
“Well, let me be the first to welcome you to the neighbourhood,” the officer smiled. “I’ll let everyone know you’re back, and good luck to you all.”
“How do you do that?” Tom whispered, as they watched the officer climb back into the car.
“Get people to believe everything you say.”
“I’ve no idea, I’ve always been able to do it,” Corey said, as he pulled out the old tin box.
The key to the front door nestled next to the sepia-coloured will, and his hand shook, as he picked it up and placed it in the lock. It felt stiff from disuse, and he had to jiggle it a few times before it opened. Hundreds of envelopes, circulars and old newspapers blocked their way, and they pushed hard to get the opening wide enough to slip inside. The hall smelt musty, and there was another overriding odour, the stench of ammonia. Cats got inside and left their trademark by peeing all over the place. Corey’s legs felt like lead as he made his way upstairs to his old room. His fingers gripped the white, round knob of the door handle, and for a moment, he remembered a time when his hand was much smaller and the doorknob as big as a football. The door creaked open and a small rush of trapped air sighed all around him. The room was exactly how he remembered it, with its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posters and matching bedspread. The curtains were closed, and he walked to the window and pulled them back. Inches of dust fell, causing him to sneeze. He sat down on the bed. They were all there, still waiting; his childhood heroes and he wondered why he had not taken them with him to the home. Perhaps, he sensed with that secret, instinctive knowing of a child, that they were better left behind. He picked up the action figures one by one. Leonardo, he pressed the cold, plastic head above his upper lip, hoping to find some scent of himself trapped there, but there was nothing. He did the same with the others Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Splinter, the rat, and the mentor of the turtles. The villains were there also, and he scowled at the fierce faces of his two favourites, Bebop and Rocksteady. He started collecting the figures long after they had gone out of fashion, and he remembered how his parents took great pains in tracking down each one of them.
He had to get out. He closed the door behind him and walked to the next room. His parents’ room, like his own, lay suspended in time. His mother’s makeup littered the top of the dressing table and a nightdress lay carefully folded on her pillow. He opened the wardrobe door. His father’s suits hung in a neat row and jostled with his mother’s dresses for space. The smell of damp was overpowering, and patches of mould clung to the fabric. He went over to the dressing table. He was grateful for the solidness of the small stool, as he sat down. It felt sturdy and safe in a day that was fast becoming surreal. Cobwebs coated the mirror in front of him and dust settled on each carefully woven thread, making his image hazy. He picked up a glass bottle and pulled out the stopper. His mother’s scent rose in the air. It smelt of Christmas, autumn fires and warm summer days. He was home, he was finally home. Corey put his head down and sobbed.