Sarah's feet crunched the soft gravel as she jogged gently into the drive, finishing her morning run. Leaning forward, palms resting on her thighs, she started to feel the thin blanket of sweat that the morning run had wove on her back; like the foil for the runner who had just finished the marathon. Glancing down at her watch, she smiled. It was 7:45 and she'd just smashed her personal best. Not a bad start to the morning. Maybe even a perfect one. Unclasping her sports bottle from her running belt, Sarah drank, the liquid was like a mini-waterfall wetting the dry rocks at the back of her throat. She felt good, like she did every morning. This was pretty much her routine every day (except a Sunday which was sacred for a quick morning cupcake before a walk with the dogs) but it never got old how good she felt. Looking around the street, each house semi-identical save the few personality flourishes from their individual owner, she could feel the calm of the early morning just on the brink of disturbance. It was one of the reasons she liked to get up so early; she liked rising with the morning and feeling the first weak rays of light struggle to conjure up a little warmth. That, and she had always found that when you woke up before everyone else there was a smaller chance that they could ruin your day from the start. It was something her father used to say.
"Get up before the world honey. Because by 11 O'clock, chances are strong that somebody will have ruined your day." She liked to heed her father's advice and it hadn't steered her wrong yet.
Letting her earplugs dangle and pump the surrounding air with a little music from her running playlist, she took in Fredrick Street. She breathed in the white picket fences and the front lawns as smooth as the icing on a wedding cake. The road looked fresh and free of cracks, as if it had only been laid this week. There was a cloudless sky overhead and the sun shone down, as it did most days, on the rows of houses like a family would their properties on a Monopoly board. It was, quite simply put, sheer perfection. Dreamland 101.
It was just over a year since they'd moved in, Morgan, her and the girls, but some days it felt just like yesterday. Today was no different. It had been a no-brainer really, the house had come on the market at a cut-price & they'd always dreamed of growing up in a little cul-de-sac where the kids could play in the garden, ride their bikes down the street and everyone waved at them in the morning. Regular house dinner parties, book clubs and civilised living with a civilised neighbourhood. Most times, when people came to live out in one of these little pockets of Suburbanity, away from all their family and friends and the memories of their past it was because they were running from something. But for them it wasn't the case. Moving to Fredrick Street, they were running toward something. A brighter future, the one they had dreamed of, complete with their picket fences and BBQ's on a Sunday. It was perfect.
Her jog down memory lane was just about complete when she saw one of the neighbours from across the street (you could see them all really, there only was the 12 rows of houses in this little slice of Suburban Solitude). It was Kim. She was taking out the bins. Sarah waved and Kim flashed a smile before making her way toward her. Watching Kim cross the street, Sarah noticed the slight sashay in the way her body led her forward, still looking so glamorous without a dot of make-up and her morning sweats on. She had the looks a movie star would most likely kill for and, being that Kim was a movie star, she half wondered if this wasn't the case. In a past life, Sarah was sure she would have been hit with that sickening and unpleasant rush of jealously, followed by a crippling guilt and anxiety about judging another human. Jealousy was nothing but an ugly shade on a person, even on the nicest of people, which Sarah considered herself to be. She was sure that jealously would grip the nicest person tighter because they don't know what to do with it and don't understand what it is. It was nothing but the mind playing tricks on you, because it doesn't understand life (and love) the way the heart does. Sad really. But it was OK, because Sarah wasn't the jealous type.
"Morning Sarah. Day and a half am I right?" said Kim.
There was a twang to the way Kim spoke, like she was trying out all the accents she'd acquired at acting school all at once. Sarah, still a little breathless, opened up her arms and breathed in.
"Hell of a day to be alive Kim. Although every day is like that around here, am I right?" said Sarah.
Kim nodded. "Better believe it. Think it'll hold for tonight?"
Sarah took a little glance skyward and squinted at the sun, more for show than any weather reading ability she had, and nodded.
"I say it will, we've not had a bad day in a couple of weeks, Mother Nature's not let us down yet. You guys coming?"
"Wouldn't miss it. 7.30?"
Sarah nodded. "On the button."
She paused, wanting to frame the question so as not to broadcast any party host insecurities, but Kim seemed to guess and gave her that movie star smile.
"Relax, Sarah. Everyone will turn up. It's a nice thing, celebrating us all moving in. And who doesn't love a free BBQ?"
"I've not seen The Hendricks or The Murphy's for a while. You heard from them?"
Kim shook her head. "Not seen either, but I'm sure they got your flyer. Just relax. It'll go swimmingly."
Sarah smiled. "You've never seen Morgan try and cook a burger on the grill. If it's not tasty, it'll at least be entertaining."
Kim laughed and started to walk away. "I'm sure he'll do fine. See you tonight." And with that, she sauntered back across the street, her hips moving back and forward like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.
Sarah almost regretted suggesting the idea of the BBQ now that the day was upon them. It was a year since the Fredrick Street housing estate had been finished and opened up for them all to move in. Well, all 12 of the finished houses anyway. There were still a large number of the secluded community homes to be built and the current inhabitants of Fredrick Street were anxious to meet their new neighbours, each and every one of them hoping the newbies wouldn't disturb their tranquil life. Although recently, it had seemed that all work on the unfinished houses had stopped and they were all now living a stones throw from a construction site. She had hoped that the houses would have been finished and tonight's anniversary celebrations would double-up as a welcome party. Regardless, Sarah thought it would be a nice thing for all the current residents to get together, raise a glass (for her a non-alcoholic cocktail – she wasn't putting on hold her clean living, not even for this) and celebrate the day they all met and started this chapter of their lives. So far, she'd only had RSVP's from 5 of the other residents. The Hendricks, The Murphys, the young newlyweds a few doors down (Pete and Liz Guthrie), Old Lady Charles from round the corner, Mr. and Mrs. Kingston and Gordon the Gopher (on account that he was the handy man of the neighbourhood) had all so far failed to get in touch. Perhaps they were too busy or not interested. Either way, Sarah was understandably anxious as to her hosting abilities and the lack of response for tonight wasn't doing much to fight her insecurities. First world problems she thought and shrugged the thoughts from her mind as easy as they'd come, replacing them with thoughts of how fantastic the night was going to go.
Tearing away from the early morning calm, Sarah made her way back into the house ready for the chaos of the day to begin and into the kitchen to get the breakfast ready for the kids. The school run was a pain for some mothers, but not for Sarah, particularly today when it would take her mind off her worries for later on. It was the second reason she loved getting up so early. She got the chance to spend time with the kids before they went to school; kids incidentally that she never thought she would have. It's not that she felt like she loved her children more than the other mothers who griped at the school gates or was a better mother because she didn't use a nose peg to clean a shitty nappy but because she never felt the desire to moan about the things her kids made her do everyday. She never acted or felt like it was something she didn't want to be a part of. They were a gift as far she was concerned; a cheesy cliché but one she liked to roll out anyway. As Sarah prepared the lunches, she thought that some days she lived only for them. They were the centre of her little universe, and one of the main motivations behind her fitness regimes was the desire to be around long enough for them to grow up and start a family of their own. She smiled at the thought that in 10 or 20 years time, it might be the mother of their children doing what she was doing now; a thought that filled her with an enormous amount of hope and sunshine that shone stronger than the rays outside.
The breakfast bar armed and ready; Sarah retreated to the bathroom for a quick shower and gave her kids a little shout as she went, smiling as she heard the familiar groans of people who'd fallen in love with their duvets over night and didn't want part from them. It was the same start to the day she always had and something she wouldn't change for the world.