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. A smiling but rather sinister man says he says he’s calling about carpet cleaning; Jay’s spooked and shuts the door on him. She’s unnerved by another knock on the door but thankfully it’s a friendly neighbour who has also had the sinister man calling on her. Her name is Gilly and Jay invites her in for a coffee.
Gilly sat on the settee by the window and Jay went to make coffee, returning with some biscuits while the kettle got itself boiling.
“Seeing your view down the road makes me feel very poked in the corner with my house. I have a view of the neighbour’s fence and the side of their house, I have a sideways view of the tree in the garden over there and a bit of the road, that’s it!”
“I’ve got to know all the dog walkers and parents taking their kids to school by sight,” Jay replied. “It’s a nosy parker’s paradise!”
She returned to the kitchen, made the coffee and went back to the lounge.
“Have you lived here long, Gilly?” she asked.
Apparently her neighbour had moved in only a few weeks before she had, and was still finding her feet.
Jay replied she felt the same, but had gone to Otterfest and was beginning to get to know a few people at the pub. Gilly had missed it, but she mentioned Glastonbury and they began to talk about music they liked, gigs they’d been to, concerts, and then compared notes on travel. It was interesting, general, non-specific and because of that, enjoyable. Jay felt the tension and anxiety leech away, there was nothing personal except who their favourite bands were and their secret crushes.
Gilly asked if she’d been to the little café down by the beach where the coastal path dipped down to join the road from the village.
“Not yet,” Jay replied. “But I notice they have a pizza oven and build your own pizzas.”
“I didn’t know that, sounds great! Talking of pizza and oven, I need to put my bread in my oven – it’s finished rising now,” Gilly glanced at her watch. “Thanks for the coffee, nice to meet you, and watch out for carpet cleaners!”
As Jay stood on the doorstep, without thinking, she suddenly blurted out that if Gilly ever fancied trying out the beach cafés pizzas, then knock on her door.
“Sounds like a plan!” and Gilly waved and headed home to attend to her bread.
Jay closed the door, put the deadlock on, and wandered through to the kitchen with the empty cups.
Jay stood in the back garden; her house was south facing so she caught the afternoon sun, and now the sunlight seemed trapped by the fences round her small patch. It was pleasant, there was the scent of flowers in the air, but what she didn’t know. Sometimes out here she heard voices of people passing by in the passageway, hidden by a massive prickly hedge, or her elderly neighbours chatting to each other as they pottered around.
There was a gate in the back fence, and for some reason she opened it to gaze down into the rhyne which led under the bridge to the River Ox. The sides here had been reinforced in bygone times with stone, but a little further along were cottages on the other side and their gardens backed onto the rhyne, and apparently were prone to flooding.
A family of ducks quacked past and suddenly there was a flash of brilliant blue, skimming over the heads. A kingfisher! Jay wanted to exclaim aloud at this marvel – but of course, she had no-one to share it with and she was overwhelmed with loneliness. Sitting with Gilly had been such a simple pleasure, wittering on to each other inconsequentially, but now, as usual, as ever, maybe forever, she was alone.
“I could bloody kill you!”
Jay jumped and was seized with fear as the low, vicious voice carried along the rhyne. After a moment there was an answering mumble, and then a door slammed. The ducks quacked indignantly as they swam speedily back and past her and under the bridge.
Jay shut and locked the gate, noticing that her hand was shaking as she tried to get the key in the padlock.