Gareth turned up the volume and sang along, loudly and slightly out of tune, to the song on the radio. When it was over, he eased the volume down but the smile wouldn’t shift from his face. He was beyond the outer limits of the suburbs now and edging towards the small coastal town where his new home was waiting for him. Life was going to be different out here.

There had been several trips to the coast in recent months. After a decade of inner city living, he was suddenly over the noise, the pollution, the people. He wanted space and clean air. And he’d found the perfect house for the next stage of his life.

The road curved ahead of him and he tightened his grip on the wheel, mindful of rougher patches. Even regional roads were different. An incoming call broke into his concentration, and he frowned when the screen lit up with the removalist’s name. ‘Steve, how’s it going?’

‘Better get here … no access …’

‘You’re dropping out,’ Garth slowed the car, searching for a shoulder to pull the car over. By the time he found somewhere, Steve’s call had vanished. He tried to call him back, but the phone only had SOS service. Garth sighed, his good mood a little deflated. Nothing to do but drive on. It was only half an hour or so to Hope Inlet, and he knew that the phone service would come back in eventually. Another old tune was playing on the radio. Garth turned the volume up and began to sing.

When he pulled up outside the property, Garth was surprised to see not one but two trucks there. One was in the driveway, and the one that he’d packed his household goods onto was parked out the front. Garth was barely out of the car when Steve walked up, his hands gesturing at the truck closest to the house.

‘They were here when we arrived and they’ve moved most of their stuff in. I’ve been trying to call you all morning.’

Garth looked down at his phone, which was now vibrating with several missed call messages. Garth looked from Steve to the truck to the house, where two removalists were shifting a fridge through the front door.

‘I don’t understand. This is my house. Settlement was yesterday. The real estate agent gave you the key, didn’t she?’

Steve opened his palm to show a key with a neatly written tag. Garth slumped back against his car, then swiped at his phone, looking for the agent’s number. He had the phone pressed against his ear, listening to it ring, when a car pulled up behind his car. As Garth watched, a family of five got out, the parents smiling at each other as the kids raced up the driveway and into the open front door.

‘Our new home,’ the woman said. They followed their children into the house, oblivious of Garth who stared after them, aghast.

This piece was written to a prompt on the Writer’s Digest website. Welcome to our Home: write about someone showing up to their newly purchased home … to find another family in the process of moving in.

Photo: flash fiction tiles