I walk a lot these days. Never used to do it in the old days. Back then, I’d rather have eaten my own head than walk farther than the pub or the One Stop. Don’t know how I managed to keep any kind of figure, I was such a slug. Now, though, I like to get up early with Pete. We’ll have breakfast, he heads into the city most days and I usually head out for a ramble even before the mist’s off the locks.
We have a place in Weybridge — Pete got rid of his other house. Too many ghosts, and one of them looked like me. I told him I couldn’t stay there and he told me he couldn’t, either. I mean, he loved her, that other me, and to think of what happened … anyway, our home’s got fields and trees around it. I like that. Sometimes I only go as far as our own gardens, but if I want to, I can trudge about like a proper hiker, and see no one and nothing but the trees and the fields, all the way down to the waterways and locks. It’s a lot less built up in this world’s Weybridge than it was back in my old world. Very toney, too; old families who lived here before the Republic and people like Pete, who are movers and shakers in the Republic’s government, but know how to be low-key if they have to be.
Which makes me laugh out loud when I stop to think about my Pete ever being low-key. That man was born to hold center stage. It’s what made me fall for him in the first place. And even this Pete likes to be showy — but only when he thinks it’s necessary. Years of working with the bigwigs really taught him how to operate on the quiet. He was always a quick learner, my Pete.
But, yeah, Weybridge here is very exclusive, very old money. That’s what himself told me, one night he and Rose came over. They kept all the old commons, and the greens, and the old homes along the waterways.
I think the old me might have liked the bigger, busier Weybridge. Well, the old me probably would have liked Virginia Water even better, but not these days.
Here, it’s peaceful. You see these old trees and you can’t help thinking that they’ve seen so much, because they’re hundreds of years old, aren’t they, and they just take it all in. The fields, well, you can hear traffic from the M25, except they don’t call it that here, it’s something else, but only just. I like the river and the waterways best. You can wander along, watch some of the barges go by and wonder what they’re carrying and where they’re going, but nobody’s going to bother you while you do it.
Isn’t that a laugh? I used to hate being alone. I nearly went mad after Pete died; my first Pete, Rose’s dad. I had to have people around all the time to keep from thinking about that empty spot where it used to be “me and Pete” and had turned into “me and — me and — me and— ”. People being around chin-wagging, that used to keep me from feeling guilty. God, I used to feel so awful for making him go back to the car and get that stupid vase. I’d keep the telly on loud, I’d have people round the flat all the time, I’d do just about anything to keep from thinking about it, or how I always used to rag on him for skirt-chasing, never used to trust him, always thinking the worst of him.
Of course he was chasing skirts! I know my man, don’t I? But truth is, he didn’t do it near as often as I thought, especially after I got pregnant and Rose came along. And I should have known it. Maybe I did. Maybe I was just scared of being left, tired of being poor, tired of being disappointed when his big plans failed. When it came down to it, in those awful days after the funeral, I’d rather have seen him chasing every bird he met, and him be alive, you know? But I learned that too late, so I just tried not to think about it.
It got to be a habit, not thinking.
But a lot’s happened since then, thanks to Rose and himself.
And isn’t that an understatement, eh?
I love my girl. But I’m the first to say I don’t understand her. She’s not got much of me in her; she always had more of Pete, even though she never met him, not really. Not until … not until that day. The day he died. That nearly killed me, when she told me she’d been the blonde who held his hand. It should have been me. But it made me feel good, too, I finally decided. She’d seen him, the real Pete, not just the imaginary Dad I’d made up for her. Anyhow, yeah, she’s Pete’s girl; she dreams. And it’s part of why I love her.
But I wanted her to be me, too, you know? At least a little of me, and not just her looks or her taste in makeup. A lot of reasons for that, and they’re not all selfish; not all of them. If she’d been like me, she would be been fine with the life we had after Pete died. The estate wasn’t all bad. I had friends, we had fun. They cared about me and Rose. They checked in on us. And Mickey, he was a good boy. He grew up to be a good man. I miss him now that he’s back home. Well, his home.
If Rose had been alright with life, she would have stayed with me. I can admit it now — probably because I have him back, and all this around me, I know, but at least I can admit it. Was a time I wouldn’t have, I couldn’t have. But that’s not what I really want to say. The thing is, back then, I was thinking mostly of me, and how much I’d miss her face and her smile, if she got on in school, got her A levels, maybe even went to university. I knew she’d never stay with me. She’d move on with her life, and I didn’t want that. I wanted my little girl with me, my little Rose. I thought I was teaching her about life when really, I was stepping on her dreams.
Then she walked out that door and didn’t come back for a year.
Oh, God. I can’t … even now, it’s hard to talk about.
I’d wake up every day and go into her room, like a fool, thinking maybe she’d come back and was sleeping, and would explain everything and we’d have a good laugh. Or maybe I’d just been having a nightmare, like on Dallas, and I’d walk in on her in the shower. But the bed was always empty, and I’d think of who’d taken her, and what he’d done, because I always knew it was a man who’d taken her, and where was she buried, or had he just left her to—
Sorry. I’m sorry. Just give me a minute.
He took her traveling and oh, my, what I wanted to do to him when he came back with her! Although, to be truthful, I was so angry at her, and so happy she was back, I didn’t know which way was up, or what to do first; kiss her, spank her, strangle him, I was a right mess. I settled for a slap, but murder and mayhem figured pretty high on my to-do list, I can tell you.
And the worst of it was that I could tell by looking at her that I’d lost her. It wasn’t that she wasn’t sorry for what she’d done. She was sorry — my God, was she sorry. I looked in those brown eyes of hers, and I knew. I can tell when she’s telling the truth, at least when I keep my own mouth shut and just listen. But that’s a tall order for me. Still, I knew. And if you want to know why, it’s because I know her heart. She has such a kind heart, even if she does have a sharp tongue, that I know she’d never have left me deliberately for a year.
So I blamed it on himself. He didn’t look like much, either. Dodgy didn’t begin to cover him, big clodhoppers, bigger ears, manky old leather jacket.
It was the eyes, though. His eyes. He walked in the door the first time, and I should have known. I know I wasn’t on my best behavior, but when the next thing I hear after he walks away from my bedroom door is my living room table being smashed, and my daughter gone out the door with him, I think I had every right to worry. And that’s just the first time I saw him. The second time was when he brought her back. That’s when I got a good look at the eyes. They were beautiful, no doubt about it, but they were cold. And the way they looked at her, I knew he wasn’t going to let her go.
I’ll give him this; I don’t think he knew it at the time. But I did. I knew what I was fighting for, and I knew he was the competition. And I knew I’d lost when I watched her watch him.
Do you have kids? Have you watched them grow up? Then you know what it’s like. It hurts at the best of times, when you’re proud of them and you’ve been planning to see them go off and have a great life, and you know where they’re going and who they’re going with. When you don’t, when you’re afraid they’ve made the wrong choice, it’s like … oh, I don’t know, but it’s panic in the pit of your stomach. That’s how I felt. And I couldn’t fight him.
But I didn’t learn to give up from my mum. Rose’s gran was a tough old bird, and she taught me a few things. One of them was that if you couldn’t beat them, you joined them. Or at least you tried to figure out who the hell you were dealing with. It was like sucking lemons to admit it, but I’m not stupid. Not all the time.
So I tried to get to know him. That didn’t work out well, not with the first him. He kind of struck me like some of my dad’s old war mates, the ones with the thousand yard stares. He’d seen things and he had no intention of sharing them with yours truly.
And I mean, he’s alien. When you come right down to it, he was alien, especially the first him. He’d seen things, Rose said, things that humans couldn’t believe. And he was centuries old.
At first I didn’t know what to do; what can you do with someone like that? What do you do when you can’t understand who a man is? Then I thought about what my mum said, and I figured, at least you can try to understand what he does.
What the Doctor did was simple. He traveled.
Well, he traveled and he ran. Two different things, if you ask me, but after having a few run-ins with the kind of nutters that wanted him dead, I can see why he ran.
It was harder to understand the traveling. I’d never wanted to travel. I’d always wanted to be with people I knew, people I loved, people who loved me. Why go traveling if you’ve got the ones you love around you at home? But you know, I finally got it.
Sometimes you travel to find the people you love. And once you find them, you travel with them. And while you’re at it, you get to see things that can be pretty spectacular. That’s what I’ve been able to do here with Pete, my new Pete. We can do all the traveling my old Pete promised but never delivered; and traveling with him — and in style, I have to say — I finally understood that you can take joy in exploring. And since I’m one of three people from the Powell Estate who can say they’ve traveled a little more than your average Earthling, I think what I say carries a little weight.
I’m still not like Rose. She and himself, the one who’s human but who’s still the Doctor as far as I’m concerned, same gob on him for one thing, they’re working on getting off this planet. And while they’re working on it, they’re saving the planet with Pete and Torchwood. And I am so proud of Pete and Rose, and him too, that I could burst. But I have no intention of ever getting inside the new TARDIS they’re growing, if they ever get it grown. I’m happy to stay here on my new Earth.
But my new Earth … now that’s something I like learning about. When Pete and I were getting to know each other again, I asked him to take me traveling, and he did. We flew, we took luxury liners, we stayed in all the best hotels, just like my old Pete had said we would, someday. And it was brilliant. But we did a lot of walking and talking, too, in France and Italy, in China (which calls itself something completely different here, and they’re an amazing lot, really), in Egypt and even places I always thought would be dull, like Canada.
The more we walked and talked and took in the sights, the more I fell in love with this Pete, and the more I fell in love with this world. And I didn’t know it at first, but I was falling in love with travelling, just a bit, and with walking; I fell in love with walking a lot.
I’ve got the Doctor to thank for that. And I’m woman enough to admit it.
And so I walk now in the mornings. And days when Pete doesn’t have to go into the city, he walks with me.