The Trikes Return
It was the first time we had returned to the coast for several months,
the last time was in the autumn when that strange mist had rolled in from the sea.
We like to take our dogs as often as possible, they love frolicking about in the waves,
and it gives the smelly old things a good freshen up!
We've been together for 15 years now,
we have no kids, no room for them in our tiny terraced Mortlake Cottage opposite the old children's workhouse in S.W. London.
We just have the one bedroom up a very steep staircase.
Micheal had often remarked that it wasn't a very child friendly house, and as events turned out it would never be because 'Mich' as I affectionately call her, developed breast cancer and had to go through a year or so of grueling treatment. Thankfully that was several years ago and now she's clear and over the worst of the treatment, except now after the chemotherapy she'll never be able to have children...
I expect the dogs are now our surrogate kids, we're always getting ribbed about it by our opera singing neighbors,
but we make one handsome family, the two big gray Afghans and Mich and I both being blonds look like we were made for each other in a strange kind of way.
Back at the beach the dogs were having a ball of a time, we had their favorite red 'ladybird' ball,
which we threw into the sea for them both to fight over!
Mich got worried in case they got too overtired so we brushed the dogs as best we could and had a flask of hot milky coffee,
sitting in the Volvo looking at the sun glancing off the slate gray sea.
The dogs in the back on several old towels, fell into a pleasant exhausted sleep wrapped around each other.
I noticed Mich was very quiet, not her normal quiet, but with a lost, 'far away' look in her eyes.
I asked her what was wrong?, and she said "I wonder if that little girl we found is alright"?
I started to say "Sorry?" And caught myself, of course, the little Girl on the trike.
"Of course she's alright, its lucky the address was printed on the seat or we'd have had a real job of finding the parents"!
I remembered back to the last time, we were walking with the dogs through this thick sea mist along the promenade when we heard this god forsaken high pitched weeping coming towards us.
We stopped in our tracks, the dogs hid behind our legs with their noses in their legs, obviously afraid of the sound.
We then heard a squeaking followed by the appearance of a little fair haired girl with bright blue button eyes wearing a pink peaked cap on a trike.
She'd been bawling her eyes out, and was obviously quite lost.
As she approached we could hear her blubbering that she couldn't find her Mommy and Daddies house where she lived.
She said she'd lost her trike on the beach and had been looking for it, and couldn't return home until she's found it.
Now she had been reunited with the little yellow bike she couldn't find her own house!
Mich was bewitched by her, I could see they would have made a perfect mother and daughter, and that old lump in my throat returned, as I knew it was the one thing she could never have.
Mich was wonderful with the girl, she calmed her down in moments and had a reasonably cohesive conversation,
the girl was bright and seemed older than her years as she spoke very well for a toddler who had lost her way in her own neighborhood.
Mich found the address as soon as the girl stood up, it was an old ex-libris paper book sticker on the saddle, number 9,
Regents Terrace, just a little way on from where the girl had come from.
She told Mich her name was L i l - l y, after her mothers favorite flower. And cheerfully chatted away as if we had always known her,
Mich could do that with kids, it was uncanny how easily she made friends, and I'd always been proud of her talent as I was in contrast, quite shy.
We found the house in a couple of minutes, the white regents terrace rose up like the nearby white chalk cliffs,
which added to the mysterious reflected sunlight through the ethereal fog.
The dogs were having to be pulled,dragged even, as they were scared of the child, I put it down to them not being used to kids.
We rapped the nautical brass knocker on the white painted door and all stood expectantly.
The girl looking up at us smiling like it was Christmas morning.
A moment later a thin pale women wearing a long knitted kind of white dress answered the door;
"Oh, there you are you silly child"! Putting her arms out and lifting her to her chest, hugging her as if she had been lost for days!
The women thanked us profusely and offered us a cup of tea or something, as she pulled the trike around her, into the hallway,
it was the least she could do, but the for the dogs, we'd have loved to have accepted.
They were madly pulling to get away, perhaps wanting to go back into the sea, which was still obscured by the thick sea mist.
So we made our goodbyes and left.
Mich remarked on the pearl 'Lilly' broach the women was wearing, that you don't see people wearing those old broaches any more.
Mich recognized it as being a collectible 'Hatty Carnegie' retro design as Mich sells jewelry on Portabello Road once a month.
Of course, she added, Pearls are considered bad luck by some, her mother always said they stood for tears..
That was last year, its now early March, spring.
I turned to Mich in the car and asked her if she would perhaps like to call at Number 9 again?
She smiled and said it was a great idea, I inwardly groaned as meeting the little girl again might set off Mich's depression again,
which had lasted several days after the child in the fog.
This time, as the dogs were sound asleep we opened all the windows a few inches, although they were fine as we were under the shade of tree. We then locked the car and walked across the road towards the distant terrace. Whilst walking a strange thing happened, another sea mist gently came as if from nowhere, blocking out the sun and bringing the temperature right down, I wished I'd brought my coat, but as we were almost there, we continued, Mich clearly delighted to be going back, and not feeling the drop in temperature so I let her light mood continue.
At the door, we recognized it immediately, the nautical ships wheel knocker, quite kitsch to a Londoner's eyes, but had a charm about it, I liked the way its polished verdigris had stained the white gloss of the surrounding paint finish a very pale sea green, It brought to mind the Mausoleums bronze doors in Highgate, a favourite dog walk of ours.
A moment later the door flew open, this time a harassed young man answered, dark haired, wearing a'V'necked sweater,
with holes in the sleeves and covered in flecks of paper.
This threw us for a moment, thankfully rescued by Mich's charm, she asked if Lilly was Ok? as we were just passing.
The man looked genuinely puzzled for a moment and said, "I'm sorry but we have no 'Lilly' here"?
But we're sure it was this house we returned the child to?
Just then we heard the voices of two kids and two little dark haired heads popped around each side of the man,
"Who is it da"? The twin boys asked in unison.
"Its nothing, just a mistaken address", he said, as if to end our conversation.
He began to close the door when Mich Blurted out;
"But I'm sure it was this house, I remember the printed label on the Trike seat, Number 9?"
The mans face lit up, "Ah! he said, so you are the people that returned the trike, thanks for that".
The boys are always leaving it on the promenade, he swung open the door and there was the little yellow trike in the hallway under the coat stand.
"We thought we had lost it and gave up looking. It was last October, half term wasn't it boys?
The twins made themselves scarce, as if acknowledging past faults.
We had gone to our house in the south of France for their half term holidays.
When we returned it was back in the hallway.
We assumed the cleaner had found it and brought it back, so I must thank you for that"!
Our faces where blank and he could see we were quite lost.
Mich continued, very quietly, almost desperately, "But we had returned the trike with a little blond girl and had been met by a blond lady who offered us tea, but had to refuse because the dogs were too much to handle", gesturing back towards our obscured car..
The man, not wanting to be unkind, listened to the story.
Mich continued, she remembered the girl was called Lilly, the Mothers favorite flower.
Suddenly the man looked up and said;
"Actually, I'm stripping the old nursery upstairs at this moment and white Lillie's were the pattern on the wallpaper,
I've also uncovered an infants writing around the bottom of the walls in crayon under the wallpaper, It looks like she was practicing to write; 'L i l - l y' he slowly pronounced".
He added, "The Trike came with the house when we bought it a few years ago,
so I wonder if you've possibly mistaken when you last came here"?
We looked at each other, could we?
The man continued, "We've had the devil of a job getting this house into a livable state again, it was locked up for several years after the last owners died quite suddenly".
Mich looked at the man with an incredulous expression.
"Yes, he continued, the mother, father and child were cruelly wiped out on the motorway whilst driving through thick fog, the child was never found, they assumed it was thrown into a fast flowing, deep river which runs into our nearby sea "..
By Paul Grand