And where was dad anyway? Amelia looked around, half expecting to see his tall, angular figurer, ambling along the road with his usual stupid grin on his face - but there was no sign of him anywhere. He'd come up earlier in the day by train, to meet his new boss, and sort out the details of his transfer to the local branch of the bank he worked in. He was supposed to meet them here, once he was finished, and had picked up the keys. Amelia almost reached into her jeans pocket for her phone, but resisted the impulse. Dad wouldn't be happy if she interrupted his meeting, and it wasn't as if he was all that late yet anyway. And, after all, her mum didn't seem all that worried at his absence, so why should she?
The grip on Amelia's hand eased a little, as her mother stopped walking. They had reached the house, Amelia realized, and had stopped before the twin brick pillars that marked the border of the property. One of the pillars, the one on the left, leaned a little, the gate that had bridged them long rotted to splinters. To Amelia's eye, the pillar seemed to be leaning towards its brother as if tired and in need of support. The other, more erect pillar was joined to a wall at its midpoint, that stretched away to the right and kept the unruly privet from expanding its dominion onto the pavement. It bent away, out of view, presumably, Amelia thought, around to the side of the large detached house that was going to be their new home.
'You know,' Amelia's mother's voice pulled at her thoughts, 'I haven't been here since-,'
She seemed that she was going to say something else, but stopped suddenly, and turned her face away from her daughters. She wasn't fast enough though, and Amelia caught the sheen of unspent tears in her mother's eyes. 'It's been a long time.' She finished quietly. She caught Amelia's puzzled look, and managed a small laugh, blinking away the tears. 'It was way before you came into the world, sweetie.'
'Weren't you very happy here, mummy?'
Her mum laughed again, but it was a high-pitched, false noise. 'Of course I was sweetie.' Her grip on Amelia's hand tightened briefly, before loosening again. Amelia winced, but made no sound. 'Why wouldn't I have been, living in such a beautiful house as this? And you're going to be happy here as well - you and me, and your dad.' Her tone became enthusiastic. 'Blackpool's a wonderful place to grow up in; you'll see. There's so much to do here, what with the beach, and the parks, and the zoo. We've got all summer to explore, and we'll get Ami and Jo to come up - stay over for a few days, once we've got the house cleaned up a little. How does that sound, sweetheart?'
'Cool, mum.' Amelia allowed her worry for her mum to subside. It was most probably just nerves, she thought. Mums were like that; always worrying about something. 'Do you think dad's going to be long?'
'I don't know sweetie.' Both of them glanced along the length of the cul-de-sac. Manor Avenue was a small street just off a main carriageway, and their house was situated about halfway along its length, six houses up from the junction. The carriageway, Westcliffe drive was a main route into and out of the town, and was busy; even at this time of the afternoon; well before the evening rush hour.
During the twenty minute walk from the railway station, Amelia's mother had told her a little about some of the places they had passed and about her own time in Blackpool as a child. The route from the station to the Avenue was a direct one, and they walked through Layton village, pausing to look into the windows of some of the shops that lined the busy road.
Layton was one of the smaller suburbs of Blackpool, lying along the eastern perimeter of the town, and separating it from the semi-rural pastures of Lancashire proper. As they walked, Talbot road gave way to Westcliffe drive as it rose towards a small hill at the far end of the shopping area. Manor Avenue was almost two-thirds of the way along; almost at the summit of the hill, which Amelia's mother told her, used to be called Hoo Hill, though the name had not been used in a very long time. Amelia had laughed, considering the name to be very funny. At the corner of Manor Avenue, mother and daughter had stopped for a moment and turned, taking in the view.
Westcliffe Drive stretched away from where they stood, curving gently down towards the shops before branching, forking towards the south and north - towards Stanley, and Blackpool proper. From their vantage point, towards the eastern horizon, the stark angular framework of Blackpool's tower was visible, reflecting dull red in the bright afternoon sun.
To the left of the tower, and set about halfway between it and the village, five squat concrete shapes crouched, partially hidden by a distant line of trees. The trim of each block had been painted a slightly different color, but even so, all four buildings still managed to maintain the dulled concrete grimness that Amelia knew so well from her old home in Manchester. The high-risers, Amelia's mum said, was Queenstown; Blackpool's concession to high-rise living. Amelia didn't like the tower blocks much; there was something menacing about the way they seemed to dominate the sky, and the surrounding houses. They reminded of Amelia of massive stone trolls; waiting for night to come so that they could shrug away their stone mantles and prowl the streets, looking for supper.
'What do you think sweetheart?' Her mother looked at her and smiled. 'It's not like Manchester, is it?'
'No,' Amelia smiled back, 'not really - the air smells different, for one thing. Her mother laughed brightly, and pointed towards the tower.
'That's the sea you can smell sweetie,' Annette told her daughter, 'it's just past the tower - it sits right on the promenade, next to the sea. You'll see it very soon - promise.' She turned away from the view. 'Come on... come see the house. You're going to love it. It's just down here.'
And, chatting happily, mother and daughter had turned into Manor Avenue, and their new home.