Alexa play Never Grow up by Taylor Swift.

10am Sunday morning – Bolton UK.
I curse the skies as I shove an armful of hangers into the boot of the car and I feel the first drops of rain hit my cheeks. My anxiety over my first long-drive completely on my own is already high never mind if the heavens open above us. The flat is empty, eerily empty. James and I glance at each other from across the room, both of us are too stressed to fully acknowledge the magnitude of what we’re about to do but there’s a softness to James’ eye and I know he, like me, is remembering all we’ve done in our short but sweet time in these four walls. That wobbly dining room table saw me finish my undergraduate degree, it’s where we ate the first roast dinners both of us made from scratch, where we laid out countless covid tests and where James had spent long hours quality checking works for his first QS job. Neither one of us feel particularly attached to the flat or the area but, seeing it so bare we become reminded of how excited and fresh it all seemed only 18 months before. We take one last look, one last grimace at the pea-green toilet seat, before shutting the door and moving on.

I’m driving down the M6 my childhood toy, Zebbie the Zebra, strapped into the passenger seat and James is on loud speaker providing me with instructions on how to merge lanes as he watches from his rear view mirror. 6 cars behind me I spy my step-dad in the van stockpiled with everything we own. It all feels a little surreal. Despite living together for two years I feel as if this is the beginning of a brand new chapter for us. A little house, fingers crossed our final rented property, on a quiet cul-de-sac in a tiny village filled with pubs, friendly faces and canal boats. It feels like a storyline plucked from a book. It does not feel, yet, like this is my reality.

As I drive, flustered by the rain and the half-term traffic, I have a wave of realisation that this is quite literally me driving away from my childhood and firmly into adulthood. There is no longer my perfectly kept childhood room waiting for me in Sheffield, it’s all been dismantled ready to be reassembled in some form in the new house. My boot is filled with boxes upon boxes of tickets, photo-booth strips, diaries, leavers notes, old timetables and well anything remotely sentimental anyone has ever given me. Everything I have ever collected, ever treasured is here in this car (and the van now 8 cars behind) and will soon be stuffed into a cupboard or a loft only to be brought out when I am feeling rather melancholic or when my future child asks to know more about their mum. I have longed for so long to cross that border into adulthood, into the part of my life where my actions and my independence are taken seriously and not doubted or prompted by a parental figure. Yet now the moment is here I only seem to be feeling grief for the girl I was and for the days of living at home.

4pm- Our New House
My step-dad isn’t a hugger, it’s rare. So the moment he wraps me in tight for a hug before shaking James hand and heading back home to Sheffield causes my throat to seize up and I have to swallow back the tears. It signified that this truly is it. We’re here, we’re miles away from any family, this is our home, the proper beginning of our adult lives together.

Our first meal of choice, fish and chips. Eaten stood up in the kitchen and with every window possible open so we don’t spoil the smell of fresh paint with vinegar. There’s no dancing in empty rooms or triumphant kisses like in the rom-coms. Rather, by 8pm we are both in bed more than happy to not say another word to each other and to sleep through to the 7am alarm. We both feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Boxes surround us and my stomach twists into a knot as I think about the long day alone tomorrow regimentally trying to decide where everything will go. There’s the faint noises of our new neighbours chatting and bird-song as my eyes drift shut.

I can’t sleep though. I’m too excited, too nervous, too stressed, too guilty? I’m feeling a bit of everything. My mind drifts to my now empty room at my childhood home and I think to my mum looking on it and realising her little girl is now grown. I have to go to the bathroom and splash my face with water to avert the tears. I think this will be the problem that always haunts me – I think too deeply, too strongly about others and how my actions affect them. I think of James’ mum now knowing her son is yet another hour away from her. I think about James and I feel honoured that he’s chosen to live with me. That he feels secure, safe and at home with me. Our relationship is very different now to the two teenagers who met at a rainy gig 4 years ago and at times it’s hard not to feel sad about that. But it is in this moment, as I sneak back into our bedroom and settle back under the covers warming my feet on James’ legs, that I realise this is the height of bliss and how I hope our relationship will forever stay. There’s no nervous butterflies, no doubts, no stresses. It’s just me and him- together, content and proud of what we’re accomplishing together.

6.45 am – New Home
I sit in bed, shout bye down to James as he locks the door and does his first local commute to the office. All I can hear is silence, a welcome sound as opposed to the sirens, shouts and building work that would wake me over in Bolton. Last nights anxieties have been replaced by an eagerness to get opening boxes and spend my day organising cupboards to a Kardashian standard. I stretch out and let myself, for a moment, think to the possibilities that the next few years could hold for me, for James. For the first time since I was 18 I feel as if when I look to the future there is actual stability. There’s still so many unknowns but I know now that at the core of it all there’s us and there is this house that will soon become our first proper home.

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