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, and is tentatively getting to know them. She is still anxious, but wants to begin to live a normal life. She’s working at home when there’s a knock at the door. She only knows a few people here, who can it be? She opens the door to a smiling but rather sinister man. He says he’s calling about carpet cleaning; Jay’s spooked and shuts the door on him.
Jay sat on the settee, her hands wrapped round a glass of water. She had been through so much before she came here. She had been tough, she had been strong, she had struggled but she had come through. She had a phone number she could ring if she thought she had a problem. It wasn’t written down anywhere, she had memorised it. Did she have a problem? Should she ring the number?
No. She was a strong independent woman. She managed a smile. It had been something she and a friend had laughed about when they were young, and it became a bit of a joke, but they would haul it up whenever there was something they were nervous about. Going for an interview, asking for a job, telling a too persistent boyfriend to fuck off.
I’m a strong independent woman, she told herself and got up decisively and went into the kitchen to make a coffee, now her hands had stopped shaking.
She stood at the sink looking down the road while the kettle came to the boil. She was at the top of a cul-de-sac, on the other side of the path leading down to the footbridge over the Oxhope, was a smaller house, tucked into the corner; who lived there she had no idea although she’d seen a car on the drive. On the other side of her was a pair of houses. She didn’t know any of her neighbours, but an elderly couple lived directly next door, and beyond them some people with teenage children.
The kettle boiled and she made her drink, but still stood, looking down the road. Further down were some people with a frisky dog, walking along towards her. She saw them most days and knew the dog was called Fritzy because they were continually calling it to walk nicely. A car turned into the road and then pulled into a drive. Two elderly gents lived there and she watched them get their shopping out of the boot.
She became aware of a woman coming up her drive, where had she come from?
The woman smiled – the carpet-cleaning man had smiled… who was she, she was smiling –
But wait! Maybe she was the neighbour on the other side of the path, maybe Jay had seen her putting something in the boot of her car.
Jay put down her coffee and left the kitchen, through the dining room and sitting room and into the small hall and opened the door. Her heart was racing and her fingers slipped on the door handle.
“Oh hi,” said the woman in a pleasant way. “I’m your neighbour, Gilly,” and she waved towards the house across the path. “We’ve not met yet but I’ve just had a weird guy knocking on my door about cleaning carpets.”
Jay felt such a strong wave of relief wash through her she clutched the door.
“Hi, Gilly, I’m Jay. Yes he knocked on my door too, and yes he was weird.”
“I was wondering whether to mention it on the village Facebook page, or maybe get it in touch with the village society.”
“I wonder – would you like to come in for a coffee?” Jay asked. The idea made her nervous, but she was suddenly overwhelmed with a terrible sense of loneliness.
“Thanks, Jay, yes, that would be great!”