I took a step back after turning the key in the lock. The idea of a spending a week alone in your house would be daunting, if not depressing, to most. Even though my parents had only been absent for five minutes, the feeling of blissful independence had already surged back to me. The next time I would see them would be as they would take me to the airport to go skiing and that would just be a two hour car journey.
I placed the key in the draw and headed to the kitchen. I filled the cast iron kettle half full and placed it on the hot plate, before preparing a mug that could only be described as oversized on the counter next to it. The fridge was my next destination; for the milk, this would help pass some of the minutes before the familiar steam whistled indicating the water was ready. As I walked back I grabbed the rich tea biscuits for a complete teat time experience. I was far enough into my routine for the final steps to be done on autopilot and before I realised it I had a steaming cup of relaxation ready. Blue Peter would have been proud.
The next stop ion my routine was one that only happened at a specific time of year, and due to my travels next week, the timing was necessary. I placed the cup on the Aga, covering it with a small plate ensuring minimum heat loss and skipped up the stairs, too excited to maintain my supposed maturity that I should have acquired having left school. As I opened my wardrobe I felt the corners of my mouth curl upwards. I selected the wire hanger which held my skiing jacket and coat and laid them carefully on the ground. Before I got ahead of myself I donned my thermal underwear, having quickly lost my boring jeans and t-shirt. The zip on my jacket had already been half unzipped when I had previously succumbed to temptation earlier that week. This was one activity that did not warrant autopilot.
As soon as I had my jacket and trousers on, my goggles and socks were soon found. I could almost feel the smooth snow under the skis and boots that I was yet to rent. I took in the fabric and excitement that the clothes brought, I was ready for what was next; in this case it would be the sofa.
I sank into the forgiving leather already feeling the technology of well put together suits as I felt familiar perspiration start to form. When I thought I had reached full comfort my stomach in typical fashion reminded me that I had not. I placed some bread in the old fashioned iron gauze excuse for a toaster and subjected it to the heat of the Aga hot plate, closing the lid for full effect.
Once again I sank into the leather and started to sip at my tea which had quickly cooled to a drinkable temperature. Sweat had fully formed and I felt a slight dampness under my underarms, but a shrug of the shoulders was all the interest I could muster, no one was here to nag or order me about. This was the definition of freedom, and what better way to begin than a couple of hours of me time.
“Every man is an island,” I smugly said to the empty room in my best Marlon Brando impression. The adverts and programmes began to merge into one, so I closed my eyes and let my eyelids and heavy breathing take over.
It was not long before I was awoken by sweat trickling down my cheeks. Expecting to simply peel off a layer to combat this predicament was a foolish one, as my eyes opened and met smoke filled air that had the distinct smell of toast.
Instinct made me stand and go to the door, which was locked. I ran to the draw nearly sliding past on my dangerously sock covered feet. I scrambled back through the smoke to the door and fell out coughing in fits. The fresh air was like nectar although it did not completely banish the tickling throat that ensued.
The next step was calling the fire department, so I searched for my phone in my trousers before remembering its whereabouts, and it was not in my skiing trousers. The phone was not hard to find, even with the masses of adrenaline pumping around my system. As I was running out I heard every fire official that had ever come to any of my schools who had said never to enter a burning building at any time. I smiled thinking how I showed them up. Then I remembered my situation. I dialled 999 and they were on their way.
I cursed and ran inside as I realised that the cat was still locked in, opening the door to the cat’s room and seeing the outline of one haring outside. The room had cleared slightly in a short period of time with the door open, although the stench of burnt bread remained strong. Looking left I expected to see flames licking the kitchen soon to spread to the rest of the house. The room was a tangible grey, but there was no searing heat and no flaring orange. I ventured in.
When I got to the Aga I lifted the hot plate lid; two charcoaled slices of what used to be bread crisp from the exposure to the heat, but there was no fire. I started opening all the windows when I heard the sirens closing in. I panicked and began closing the windows I had previously opened. I moved the papers over by the Aga along with the cardboard and paper recycling. They had come and there would need to be a fire otherwise I would get in trouble. I chucked a match in and ran outside as the fire engines arrived. I was immediately attended to and asked if I was the only one inside, I nodded, stricken by the pure idiocy of what I had just done.
“The fire was found relatively early so nothing was damaged apart from a small amount of paintwork. Are your parents about?” A brisk Yorkshire accent asked me.
I shook my head unable to muster the strength to answer to what I had just done; it would take a lot for my parents to trust me again. I was scared, the firemen were about to leave and they had not told me the origin of the fire. Was it because it was so supposedly obvious? I hadn’t said in the phone call. Then the last fireman came out of the house and was striding towards me, as he came closer I could see; there was a single match in his hand.