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Where the heart is

“All the best and don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord splits you”

His granddad said those words and stretched out his hand. Mark stood there with a blank expression.

“Is that all you have to say granddad?” Mark said

Granddad chuckled and took his hand back

“Well then, you tell me what I should’ve said….”

“I don’t know, maybe something encouraging or a speech of some kind”

“I’m glad I let you down then”

“Excuse me… say again” Mark scratched his head

“Boy, you’re off to university. You’re 18. I’ve raised you as best I can, given the circumstances, and you’re now old enough and ugly enough to go out there into the world and make a name for yourself. You don’t need my blessing anymore. You’re a man. Now go be one. All the best and shake my hand. The good book says ‘A man must leave his parents house’ so right now you’re just delaying the inevitable. And besides, you being disappointed at this is your first lesson of adulthood… you don’t get what you want all the time. There will be disappointments and setback so hi there. Now get moving or you’ll miss your train”

Granddad put his arm around Mark and led him to the door.

“The taxi’s booked boy. Be strong. You’ll be fine. Call me when you get to the halls.”

“Will do granddad” Mark replied

Mark entered the taxi, sitting in the back seat.

“Where you heading mate?” asked the driver

“Train station please”

“Who’s that at the door?”

“That? My granddad. He’s not good at goodbyes” said Mark

Mark and the taxi driver both laughed as the car pulled out onto the road. Granddad had already closed the door before the car had left.

Mark reached the train station in time for his train

“So long, small town. Hello, city life!”

Mark sent a text to his friend Alex ‘I’ll be with you in 3 hours mate. Save a drink for me, too much luggage!’ before putting his phone on airplane mode. He loaded onto the train just before it departed

.

Mark turned his airplane mode off once the train journey was over. He gazed around Euston station as he wheeled his suitcase to the main departure area, manoeuvring around the hustle and bustle of souls around him.

He checked his phone standing outside WH Smith to see there were 3 voicemail messages from his Aunt Emily.

“Who still leaves voicemail?” he asked himself

He checked the messages

‘3 new messages, 12:47pm…. Mark, Mark, it’s Emily. I know you’re on the train but can you please call me as soon as possible… press 1 to repeat, press 2 to delete, press 3 to skip to next message….. 12:59pm… I know I just called but Mark please call me as soon as possible… press 1 to repeat, press 2 to delete, press 3 to skip to next message…. 1:15pm… CAN YOU PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PHONE!!!! IT’S ABOUT YOUR GRANDDAD!!!”

Mark took a deep breath and called her

“Emily, I just got your voicemails. I just got to Euston… what’s happened?”

“Mark, he’s had a stroke, he’s in the hospital. They don’t know what’s happening. He’s passed out at the minute. He fell over not long after you left and luckily he called me. He was able to get his phone thank God. But why the fuck weren’t you answering your phone?”

“Oh my God. Oh my God. No signal on the train Em. I just left it. I’ll come home right now. I can get the train back. Let me check the table,” Mark said as he looked at the departure board, “I can be back in 3 hours, where is he?”

“Mark… don’t bother. I’ll keep you updated” Emily cut the phone

Mark stood still and looked up at the ceiling of the station. By the time he put his head back level, his eyes were flooded.

“How can she just… ARGH!”

Mark kicked his suitcase to the ground before picking it back up again.

He sat in the café by the first class lounge, waiting for a call back from Emily. Calling her multiple times only led to hearing the same voicemail message and his texts stopped going through.

“Why would she say don’t bother? What’s happening!”

“You ok love?” said a voice

Mark jumped up, “Sorry, just some news” he replied

It was an old woman, who had been sitting on the table next to him, “Here’s a pastry. You seem stressed. Hope the news isn’t so bad?”

“Thank you but I’m fine. And I’d rather not talk about it thank you”

“Suit yourself” she said as she departed the seat on the table, leaving the pastry on her table.

Mark sat there for 3 hours, shaking anxiously, waiting for any news, torn whether he should catch the train as each of them were announced for boarding and then left.

After sitting there for 5 hours, Emily finally called him.

“He can’t move one side of his body and his speech may be gone. We won’t know until they do a few more checks”

“I should be there…”

“None of us can do anything Mark… he’s asleep and he could be for a long time. He wouldn’t want you back here, not today. Not tomorrow even. Just crack on. Please… just crack on”

Tears flowed down Mark’s face as he tried to wipe them away, “Tell me when he wakes up please”

“I will do”

 

Mark spent the rest of the night outside Euston station staring at the buildings around it, noticing how tall they were, wondering how many had given their lives to raise them up, how many made their livings working in them and around them and how many who once walked their corridors were no longer breathing. He felt a calm over his spirit from the cold London air and by the sunrise the next morning, with no sleep, he walked towards Russell Square, hoping to locate his halls of residence. Each step he took, his heart ached, feeling a detachment grow from everything he knew, to who he could potentially be. Opportunities were now ahead of him which were offered to none of his family before and come what may with his Granddad, Mark grit his teeth believing this would be what he wanted for him. To break your heart for it to evolve.