“Da! Da!” Rosie’s demanding yelps carried over the din of the movers’ grunts and footfalls.
The toddler was currently imprisoned within a travel cot in the middle of the living room so John, along with three muscled 20-somethings, could finish clearing the boxes and furniture from the house into a moving van without having the curious one-and-a-half-year-old under foot. The cot not only corralled Rosie, but several of her toys, books and stuffed animals, all meant to provide entertainment. However, after about 15 minutes, Rosie’s attention span was at its limit, as was her patience, and she was making her displeasure known in a very loud way by not only squawking at John, but also dumping items over the side of the cot.
“Whoa there, Miss,” John lunged and stretched out his arm to barely catch a large book as Rosie heaved it over the side. John deposited the book gently onto the floor and kneeled down so he was at Rosie’s eye level.
Delighted, she grabbed his face with her tiny hands and proceeded to mouth at his chin. John giggled then peppered her face with noisy kisses, eliciting squeals from the child.
Then, the little girl watched as John rose gingerly, letting out a soft moan listening to his knees crack as he straightened them.
“Your Daddy is an old man,” he confided in the small girl, staring at her with a melancholic expression, while running his hand over her curly blonde head. But her attention toward him had already waned, and she gripped the side of the cot and peered curiously as a large box with legs trotted by.
“This should be the last of it, Dr. Watson,” a young voice emerged from behind the box.
“Thanks, Terry,” John answered. “If you want to come back in a minute and pick up this cot and bag, I’d appreciate it.”
“Sure thing,” came the reply. “Then we’ll go ahead and meet you at the new address.”
“Sounds good,” said John. Then, he leaned over to start placing items from Rosie’s cot into a large bag. It eventually turned into a type of game, with Rosie pitching blocks and books into the bag one by one.
Watching her, John remembered a time not long before, when he would have just hurried the process along and dumped all of her toys into the bag and have been done with it. But life experiences had caused a change in him and he was learning to slow down and experience the little moments, especially with his daughter.
Rosie was growing and evolving every day and he had already missed so much of her short life because of well … circumstances. He didn’t want to miss any more of it. Guilt. Fear. Self-loathing. They all stood at the back of his mind, being annoyingly repetitive, and reminding John that things could be taken from him in an instant, so he’d better make every moment count.
In fact, it was guilt, fear and self-loathing that had put into motion a few months ago, the thoughts and actions that had led to this day—moving day. It had seemed absurd at first. After all, things had finally settled down after the events of Sherrinford. He and Sherlock were going on cases again. John had found a reputable sitter for Rosie and was working as a GP. Things seemed to be headed in an upward trajectory.
But, deep down John knew it wasn’t right. He wasn’t right. And one day, he ended up huddled alone on the kitchen floor, trembling, head in his hands, eyes squeezed shut, tears streaming down his face as tragic memory after tragic memory flooded his mind—the Fall; the horrors of the war in Afghanistan; his injury and subsequent infection; the Fall; Mary’s death; his physical abuse of Sherlock in the morgue; the Fall; and the twisted mind games of Sherrinford. It was all just too much.
John didn’t know how long he’d been blacked out, but upon coming to, had found himself laying on the cold kitchen tiles, with sweat-drenched clothing and a throbbing headache. However, what he did know was that he had to take measures—drastic ones—to try to put his life back together again … the right way. And one of those measures was to physically move from the house that he’d shared with Mary.
So now, with Rosie perched on his hip, John slowly walked from room to room taking one last look around the empty space. It felt odd, but as his footsteps echoed off the wooden floors, John could honestly say that the overriding emotion he was feeling was relief. Relief to be leaving this part of his life behind so that maybe, just maybe, he and the ones he loved could have a better life.
However, for as much relief as he felt as he closed the front door and headed toward the car, he couldn’t help but feel a void that he knew would never be full again. And as he buckled Rosie into her car seat and slid in behind the steering wheel, the relief, which John had felt, suddenly turned to uncertainty. He started the engine and instinctively pulled out his phone to see if perhaps there was a text from … but there wasn't. He’d been deluding himself. He knew there would be no texts today … or in the days ahead. He swallowed hard and pocketed his phone, then adjusted the mirror so he could see Rosie in the back seat.
“Ready, love?” he shakily asked the toddler, not expecting an answer and not receiving one, as she busily thumbed through a cardboard picture book.
“Ready, John?” he murmured to himself as he pulled out into traffic.
The fact was, he didn’t feel he’d ever be ready. But it was too late to turn back. He had chosen this path and he had to make it work.
And as the tiny caravan wound it’s way down the A24 toward Sussex, and the promise of a new beginning, John knew that he wasn’t just leaving London behind, but all that went with it, including the world’s only consulting detective and the best friend John had ever known.
John shook his head. He couldn’t think about Sherlock right now, or he might find himself having another breakdown. They had had the necessary conversations. John explained the what’s and why’s of the move. They had said their good-byes.
There would be time to think about his friend later.
There would be time to think about all of it later.
Time to come to terms with who John had been, who he was now, and who he hoped to be in the future.
And as the afternoon sun burned high and bright across the country, John glanced in his rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of Rosie nodding off in the backseat, and smiled softly to himself. But, the smile soon faded as he shifted his eyes forward and looked out at the road ahead. A quiet sigh escaped him.
It was fine, he almost convinced himself. It was all fine.