Rachel Seiffert

The Walk Home

‘The entwining of brutality and tenderness touches the scalp… The Walk Home is not only a deeply human story, but a powerful insight into the noise of identity.’ Hugo Hamilton

 

Stevie comes from a long line of people who have cut and run.  Just as he has.

Only he’s not so cure he was right to go now.  He’s been in London, taught himself to get by, and how he’d working not so far from his childhood home in Glasgow… But he’s not told his family – what’s left of them – that he’s back.  Not yet.

The Walk Home is a powerful novel about the risk of love and the madness and betrayals that can split a family.  Moving between Stevie’s contemporary life in Glasgow and the story of his parents when they were young, it captures the compelling reasons why some people spend their whole lives running – for love, for freedom from the past.

But where does it leave you when you go against your family, turn your back on home; when you defy the world you grew up in?  If you cut your ties, will you cut yourself adrift?

 

Tyrone, early 1990s

Graham waited for her after the Walk, in the back room of the only pub.  He sat there a good couple of hours among all the drinking, all the flute bands and Orange lodges, more than half-cut by this stage.  Graham was sure that Lindsey would come, certain he’d never have the nerve to go and look for her if she didn’t; and then he saw her.  Coming through the bar, and looking for him, he knew she was, because when she saw him she made a bee-line through the crush.  She had the same T shirt on, still knotted, still on backwards, the Red Hand of Ulster across her narrow shoulder blades, but she had no apron on now, so now Graham could see the skin on her belly, that narrow strip on show above the waistband of her skirt.  And it was all he could do to stop himself putting his hands there when she got up close.

‘You buying, then?’

One drink later they were out the back and walking, past where the barrels were stacked and on, with the sun going down behind their shoulders.  It was quiet out there after the pub doors fell shut; just the two of them on the empty track, and neither of them talking.  Only the sound of the wind in the wheat, and the weeds growing tall beside the farm gate.  They walked the length of a tumbledown wall until it got low enough to climb, and behind that was a hidden spot with just enough grass for Lindsey to lie down.

Graham shouted out when he pushed himself inside her.  He didn’t mean to, but it didn’t matter; she didn’t laugh or anything.  But then after, when it was over, when she stood up and pulled down her skirt, Lindsey looked at him, and then he saw it hadn’t been that way, not for her.

Graham was still on his knees, and he busied himself with his trousers.  Tucking in his shirt, to cover his shame: gutted again.  Too much drunk, he regretted the pints he’d already sunk.

Lindsey stood a moment, watching, and then she crouched down next to him reaching for her knickers.  They’d slipped off her ankles, over her trainers, and she picked them up from where they’d landed.

‘Where you from then?’

She was looking at him, face level with his, and close; knickers bunched in her fist.  Graham told her:

‘Scotland.’

And she rolled her eyes.  But friendly, he thought: like she’d been on the burger van that afternoon.  Graham said:

‘Fae Glasgow.  I’m fae Drumchapel.’

He named the housing scheme, though she’d never have heard of it, and then Lindsey narrowed her eyes a bit:

‘You in a juvenile lodge, Graham?  Or a man’s?’

She was smiling.  She’d found out his name from someone, and now she was guessing how old he was.  But she was teasing as well, and that nerve was still too raw for Graham to take courage.  So he shook his head:

‘I’m no.’

Bad enough he was in a band, that’s what his Mum said.  There’d be no end of nagging if he joined a lodge: she’d told him their family had had troubles enough.  But Graham wasn’t about to go into all that, because Lindsey had her cool eyes on him, like she was weighing him up.  She leaned in a bit closer:

‘Me either.  My Da’s Orange enough for the two of us.’

Lindsey pulled at her T-shirt, tugging the lodge number up onto her shoulder to show him, then shoving it back again, out of sight.

The knot at her waist had gone slack.  So she undid it, and then re-tied it, tighter; higher up, under her ribs, and she told him:

‘I’ve never been to Glasgow.  Is it good there?’

Graham shrugged, trying not to look at her skin; that strip of it on show again above her skirt.

‘Aye.’

He’d never thought if Glasgow was good or not, he couldn’t say.  Lindsey looked at him a second or two:

‘Better than here.’

She wasn’t asking, but Graham shrugged again, by way of reply; not wanting to put this place down, because he’d had a fine time.  Except that made Lindsey smile, so he had to look away, and then his eyes landed on the small scrunch of cloth between her fingers.  Lindsey laughed:

‘Bet it is.’

And then:

‘I’ve never been anywhere.’

She stood up and pocketed her knickers.

Graham thought she was making to go, and so this was it now: it was all over.  But when he looked up, she was waiting for him:

‘You coming?’

Lindsey put two fingers through his belt loops when they got to the road.  She was walking next to him, but it felt like she was pulling, like she was more than willing, and Graham got hard again, and hopeful; so hard that it was painful.  And even when she led him up the front path to a house and got her keys out, even though he felt sure this must be her mum and dads’ place, and they might be home and demand to know who he was, Graham couldn’t think of anything but pushing himself inside her again.

Lindsey shut the door and there was no-one there.  Just the last bit of late sun falling through the window onto the carpet, same colour as her hair.  The red gold girl, she stood in front of him, and he put his fingers there first, where he wanted to be, and she was wet; not just from what he’d done before, he was sure, because it was different; she was full and swollen, just like he was.  She kissed him, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, and she kept her eyes open, unzipping his trousers.

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