‘Alright then,’ he says to himself. ‘Home it is.’ He laughs softly, but he’s not amused.
Jay, dressed in a polo shirt underneath a sharp business suit, stands alone at the Heathrow Terminal 5 pick-up point with a small travelling bag by his feet; his airline ticket from Havana through Paris sticks out of the side pocket of the bag.
He is somewhat uncomfortable in his attire – he has to look the part of a travelling businessman – but he is completely uncomfortable with being back in England. He has to fight not to fidget and his growing impatience isn’t helping. He glances at his wristwatch; he’s been waiting twenty-five minutes.
A Silver Mercedes S-Class Saloon with tinted window stops in front of him, but he doesn’t acknowledge the car as that isn’t the car he’s expecting. The window of the back seat lowers, and Alan Matthews, strongly resembling his older brother but more slender and with a beer belly, sticks his head out of the window with a wide smile.
‘Superman,’ Alan calls his older brother with more than a hint of sarcasm. ‘Fucking get in, we can’t park here. Unless you want to fly home.’
Jay smiles – a genuine smile. He is happy to see his younger brother happy.
Jay opens the door and steps into the car. Alan switches a half empty bottle of Peroni beer from his right hand to his left and then he and his brother bump fists as the car drives on. Jay instinctively glances at the bottle, and the two empty and two full bottles in an ice cube bucket between them. Alan looks at the bottles and raises an eyebrow.
‘What?’ Alan inquires. ‘It’s not like I’m fucking driving.’
‘I didn’t say anything.’
‘Fuck off!’ Alan says jovially, and takes a gulp of beer. ‘Anyway, I thought you were fucking around when you called. But no, you’re here. That was sudden.’
‘I know, it happened fast.’
‘Didn’t it just. You are lucky today’s a bank holiday too. How long you here for?’
Jay glances through the car’s interior and then through the rear-view mirror at the elderly driver, who’s focused on the road ahead.
‘For a while, I think. Where’s your car?’
‘A while? Fucking hell. I wish I had your job.’
‘Oh, I do.’ He laughs. ‘What exactly do you do again?’
Jay stares at Alan, without an ounce of amusement.
‘I forgot,’ Alan says, fuelled with amusement. But he hasn’t forgotten, it’s just in his character to be, for the lack of a better word, a dick. ‘It’s been years, you know.’
Alan looks into the distance of the motorway as he exaggerates trying to remember.
‘Security Consultant,’ Jay calmly says.
‘Yeah, that! I’d do that. You certainly have more holidays than us Investment Bankers.’
‘Right. Where’s your car?’
‘It’s being serviced, for fuck’s sake. Leave that alone.’
The S-Class drives slowly along an affluent suburban street in Epsom, a town just outside London, and parks in the driveway of a large elegant detached house.
The elderly driver turns to Alan and says, ‘Hundred twenty-five Pounds, please.’
Alan turns to Jay. ‘I don’t have my wallet on me.’ And with that he steps out of the car and leaves Jay to sort it out.
Jay fights back a smile and pulls out his wallet and pays the driver.
He steps out of the car and is stricken motionless by the sight of the house; it’s just as it always is in his nightmares, even the greenery that surrounds the house, and shadows. It’s all the same. He hears the front door unlock; it’s the same sound. He hears his brother’s footsteps along the hallway inside the house; again, the same sounds. He can’t go inside; he knows the memories his home will evoke are even worse than the nightmares. His breathing becomes erratic and his pulse surges. He wants to flee.
Alan walks back to the front door and immediately recognises the excruciating struggle in his brother’s face. He understands and gives his brother a quiet moment to fight through, but it soon becomes evident that his brother might not succeed in that fight.
‘Jay,’ Alan calls out, with a hint of compassion.
Jay slowly turns to Alan.
‘Forgive me,’ Alan says. ‘I forgot about the red carpet.’
They smile at each other.