First in a series of vignettes.
He signed his name, a neat squiggle at the bottom of the final page. His initials were enough for the rest of the documents, but they insisted on a full signature to complete the transaction. Done. The woman held out her hand as if to shake his, but the man, busy folding the papers and putting them in his briefcase, was oblivious to the gesture.
‘Congratulations,’ she persisted. ‘A very quick sale. I’m glad we were able to expedite matters so quickly.’
He looked up, a slight frown creasing his forehead, his thoughts far away. ‘Quickly?’
‘Yes, it can take up to two months sometimes to get all the surveys and legal matters finalised, especially with such an unusual property.’
‘Unusual?’ He closed the briefcase, fingers sliding a small metal plaque.
Not only monosyllabic but also pretentious, she thought, seeing the name engraved on the plaque. E. Straker. An odd customer, one of those rare men who simply handed the whole process over to the solicitors and let them get on with it. He had not even queried the additional extras that were so very profitable to her firm.
‘I understand the property was originally a gatehouse. Quite a history as well. Guarded the entrance to the Harlington estate. All sold now, for death duties and so on. Family treasures dispersed, the mansion demolished in the 1920’s. The gatehouse is the only part left.’
‘I wouldn’t know.’ Straker picked up his case and held out his hand. ‘Keys?’ There was a short pause and a jingle of metal. ‘Thank you.’ He walked out without looking back.
The sky was dark, and clouds accumulating on the horizon threatened heavy rain and blustery wind. He almost missed the entrance to the driveway; after all he had only been here the one time, and that was for a brief walk through. Living room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom. The very basics, but it had a decent sized plot of land and was private. That was enough.
Weeds covered the driveway, the front door groaned with disuse as he pushed it open and the floorboards creaked underfoot. He stood there in the gloom. It would suffice. The builders would be starting tomorrow and he had asked the garden landscapers to build a climbing frame built for when John, hopefully, came to stay.
A place of his own. Home.