A secret chuckle of happiness.

Here’s the next part of a story which might turn into something longer… or might not! Jay has been relocated with a new identity to the village of Oxhope. She has met a few people at the local pub, The Otter, and is tentatively getting to know them. Jay has met a couple of people in the pub, Ed, Gem and Em, and they suggest they make a quiz team together. Jay’s anxious, but agrees, she has to begin to live a normal life:

She was supposed to be working, but her mind kept drifting back to last night. She stared out of her window in the direction of The Otter. She found she was smiling and it felt somehow odd that a normal sort of a smile had crept up on her. She had been tempted to have a shot of something, vodka maybe before she went, but no, no for several reasons.
Ed and Gem or was it Em were already  there and when she sat down with them they were having a normal everyday sort of conversation, about nothing in particular and Jay sat down and joined in.
Other people, other teams had arrived, calling out hello to each other and nodding a greeting to her team ‘her team’. She felt a bubble of something, no not indigestion, not anxiety, but a secret chuckle of… of, well, almost happiness.
Gem had arrived, the answer sheets distributed, twenty five spaces in a grid like a bingo card, randomly numbered 1-25. It was a very different sort of a quiz, engrossing, fun, banter between the teams, and Gem was taken out of herself and away from the enervating anxiety.
Occasionally, she had pulled herself up – this isn’t real, my life is other than this – ­and then she’d glanced at her team mates, laughing and happy, and she’d thought – this is real, this is how it is.

It had been a brilliant evening, the best she could remember for so long, and yet it had been so ordinary. Friends met in a pub, friends joined in a quiz, friends planned to meet next week if not before to do the quiz again…
Em, she knew which was Em now, Em had walked part of the way home with her, she lived further along the High Street. They’d chatted about nothing in particular,  mostly quiz related, but also remarking again about Otterfest, and rumours of a minifest in the autumn.
“Bye, Jay, see you next week,” Em had called.
See you next week, now nice, and Jay smiled to herself, looking out across her back garden. This was no good, she couldn’t concentrate, she would make a coffee, take a break, watch quarter of an hour of daytime TV –
There was a ring of the doorbell.
Postman, it must be the postman. But no, she would have no post. A delivery for a neighbour who was out? Answer the door, answer the door.
Jay ran downstairs and flung open the door. A man stood there with a pleasant smile on his face. She didn’t know him. Had never seen him before.
“Mrs Chivers?” he asked.
“No, sorry, I don’t know anyone called Chivers.”
“Maybe a neighbour? I have the address and it says Mrs Chivers,” and he held out a piece of paper she barely glanced at.
“No, sorry, no-one her called that,” and she began to shut the door, but he stepped forward.
“Maybe the people who lived here before were Chivers,” and still he kept smiling.
“I can’t help you, I’m busy, I’m working,” and Jay slammed the door.
She couldn’t help it, she sunk to her knees, and then subsided forward so the top of her head was against the wooden door, her face in her hands.
He rang the bell again. Above her head the letterbox was pushed open, but there was a draught excluder, so at least he couldn’t look in.
She stayed motionless. Was the back door locked? No, why should it be?
The letterbox opened again and something lighted on her neck and she jumped and almost screamed.
It was a piece of paper advertising carpet cleaning .


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