“Voila,” Joan said. She stood at the door and hustled Colin into Susan’s old room.
“Well?” She showed him her handiwork: just a tidy-up and a clean, but plenty of individual touches too. She’d been at it since she’d finished at the doctor’s surgery.
The walls were white with a hint of pink, but she’d looked at them long enough to decide the pink was a beige-ish pink. The more of Susan she’d subtracted, the beiger the beige had become.
“The walls are a touch pink, aren’t they?” her husband said.
“A touch, but it’ll do for now.”
She opened the desk drawer and showed him the rainbow pens, and a set of colour pencils. Colour pencils were so expensive. She’d had no idea and wouldn’t be sharing that discovery. The money had come from her own savings account. Colin didn’t need to know.
“The pens are a good idea. Will he use colour pencils? I’m not sure. But they’re there if he needs them.”
The next drawer down had paper in various sizes.
“Good.” Colin nodded. “We can put some printer paper in there too.”
Joan had already beaten him to it, but didn’t say.
She’d moved their old laptop and old printer into position but wasn’t sure what else needed done to make them chatter. “You’ll have to…” — she gestured, two fists together — “You know. Join them.”
“Does that one have the internet on it?”
She had no idea. She let Colin think about it.
He rubbed his chin. “Yes, it does, doesn’t it?”
“It does have the internet, but the phone line plugs into it, doesn’t it? Remember the reel?”
She remembered the reel. “The reel is dangerous. He can use the proper one when you’re not noodling.”
Noodling. Googling. Ogling more like. She didn’t say that.
“It’ll still work. It just won’t be as fast,” Colin said.
“Better to say it doesn’t have the internet, Colin. I don’t want him to trip over the reel.”
She’d bought a new duvet, snug and hypoallergenic. From John Lewis. Colin didn’t need to know that either, because again the money came from her savings. The duvet cover was old but it had geometric patterns so a boy would feel happy. It matched the curtains she’d put up, although some of the colour had gone. She’d even found the cushion cover she’d run up on the sewing machine using remnants from the curtains. The teddy in the bed was from Oxfam but she’d washed him and he smelled fresh as a spring morning, had come up all fluffy. He looked like a Christopher. Christopher Bear.
“What do you think?” she said.
“Not sure about the teddy, but it’s there if he needs it.”
She pointed to a library she’d made. The full set of Harry Potters, a dictionary and a book on dinosaurs. “Charity shop, don’t worry. They were pennies.” She’d repurposed a snow globe as a bookend. It was too tacky to have downstairs but kids liked snow globes.
“If he uses the snow thing, the books will fall, though,” he said.
“But he’ll hold them, shake it, and put it back.” Colin was picking faults now, she felt.
“They look interesting, don’t they? You’ve been busy, haven’t you?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you’ve made the perfect den for him.”
“And,” she said. She’d stood in front of this when he came in. She pointed at the door. A china plaque said Peter’s Room.
“Oh, that’s a lovely finishing touch, isn’t it?”
“It has a computer on it, too, look. That was pure luck.”
“I hope it wasn’t expensive.”
“Fifty percent off.” That wasn’t true but it would keep Colin quiet.
“You’ve outdone yourself, Joan, you really have. I think he’ll appreciate it. He’s the appreciative type, isn’t he?”
“He is.” He’d appreciate the pencils, the teddy and the cosy duvet. Colin was out of touch with children. Too fond of setting them tasks.
“Pity he can’t come sooner. I’ll have another word with Lorna Hardy about that. I can’t see any reason for him to hang around there now, can you?”
Colin had already floated the idea they might adopt, if things worked out. She hadn’t told Colin because he’d pooh-pooh, but after one meeting, Joan felt she’d made a connection. She felt she already loved that young boy and his old-fashioned good manners. He was the one. “Lovely.”
Joan headed down to the kitchen and popped in her new CD, one she’d picked up in Oxfam along with the Harry Potters. It was only pennies and she’d always loved Abba. She used to watch out for Freddy, the one with the beard. He was hunky. The other one’s face was too plastic. Reminded her a little of Colin. She sang along to Take a Chance on Me, and even took a chance on the fast part. Her tongue still tripped but she had the CD now, so she could practise.
Susan had been practice. Peter would be Joan’s real chance to finally be a mum.