Late Friday afternoon and I pull onto the familiar drive, the gravel crunching under the tyres. The place looks much the same as it always was, if not just a little more jaded. As the front door opened a wonderful smell of garlic wafted out.
"Daddy says would you like a cup of tea mummy" Small sprog shouts from the kitchen.
How did we get to this point? I walk in.
Ex Husband is cooking risotto, juggling ingredients, smiling, enjoying the task. We talk, the children join in, he makes me a cup of tea, well mostly makes it; I reach into the fridge for the milk. The handle feels looser, more fragile and the inside is full of things that I have not bought and stored away, things have changed.
"Would you like to eat with us?" He says after a while
"I'm out with my girl friends at 8pm" I say "but it smells delicious, I'd love just a little"
He sets me a place at the table. Not 'my' place, he sits there now; no it is his old place, the one furthest from the kitchen that I sit at. The seat which, at the time, was his because he had very little to do with preparing meals and fetching things from the kitchen back then.
We sit down to eat. I worry momentarily that the children will find it unsettling but that didn't seem to be the case. It was a wonderful moment. Strange, very strange, like moving into an alternative universe, one that could have been, had things been different. It was happy and easy and unbelievably good. We had made it, to this place that I had hoped for. Normal but different.
After eating he clears the dishes while I chat to our children about their day at school. I found myself thinking how the tables have turned; things have changed and I quietly muse on the massive cost of getting here.
As I leave I offer to help him clear up, old habits die hard. He waves his hand dismissively saying "It really doesn't matter"
And as I go I know how important it was to say those words, for me to hear them too. All that time, all those days; it really never did matter...