As planned, David travelled north on Thursday morning, arriving in Leeds shortly after lunch. Despite knowing the city all his life, it still felt slightly strange. He’d only been away a week, but now it seemed part of another life.
He walked from the railway station to the bus station to pick up the Sedgethwaite bus, his head full of memories of childhood shopping trips and teenage trips to the ‘big’ cinema, which got blockbuster films way before they arrived at their local fleapit. Later, there’d been all those journeys along the Sedgethwaite road in his bus – almost six years of seeing the same streets and the buildings in different lights and in all sorts of weather.
Boarding the bus was the first hurdle he faced. His stomach tightened and his breath grew slightly shorter as he neared the terminal building and made for the Sedgethwaite stand. He wondered who would be driving. Would he be acknowledged or ignored? The most extreme reaction would be for the driver to refuse to carry him. But surely nobody he knew would do that, would they?
He reached the stand to find the next departure already there, the driver busy taking fares and checking passes as he got ready to depart. David recognised him as a regular, but he was one of the younger guys with whom David had been on nodding terms but little else. An occasional “na then” might have crossed their lips, but so far as he could remember that had been the extent of their conversation.
David still had his staff pass, so technically could have travelled free, but he didn’t feel comfortable using it given that he’d resigned. He boarded and asked for a single to Sedgethwaite.
The reply was a brief smile, a wink and, “Don’t be daft, lad. Get on with you.”
David breathed a sigh of relief, gave a small smile in return and fled upstairs, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. But at least he’d jumped the first hurdle.
He got off the bus short of the town centre at the end of the road where Alan’s Auntie Mary had lived. He gave the driver a nod and a thanks as he alighted, relieved to have got this far without incident.
The street was attractive, tree-lined, sloping gently upwards in a northerly direction from the town centre. The house was on an Edwardian terrace like so many built in the early years of the twentieth century. Stone-built and standing slightly above the road, it had a large ground-floor bay window overlooking a small front garden and a short flight of steps leading up to the front door. On the ground floor there were three receptions rooms and a small kitchen to the rear, together with three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor.
It was full of memories for David, who’d spent a huge amount of time here with Alan from the age of nine through to nineteen. Like his friend, he had often been on the receiving end of the owner’s gruff affection. Alan’s aunt had been an austere woman with a sharp tongue, but she’d had a big heart which she expressed through deeds rather than words. She’d been an excellent, if traditional, cook, an expert baker and a terrific seamstress.
As he let himself into the house, he could still detect the familiar smells of pine and eucalyptus, though they were fading now. The house had been empty for several months awaiting a purchaser that never came. Alan had cleared out a lot of his aunt’s personal possessions earlier in the spring, but the furniture was still in place, covered with dust and looking decidedly forlorn.
David took his bag upstairs to Alan’s old room. His first job was to locate the central heating boiler and get it going again so that he would have some hot water for washing and cleaning. Once he’d done that, the airing cupboard would warm up a bit, airing the bedding he would use later.
His next job was to phone his sister Jen and let her know he’d arrived safely. He’d warned her that he was coming, and she’d insisted on feeding him that night. That was good; he wanted to see her again, to thank her for all her efforts at peace making the other Saturday night. She and her husband Mark had been the first people he’d told about his burgeoning relationship with Alan, and they’d been so helpful and supportive.