The party had been a huge, success, excellent. For once the weather had been kind even though there was a barbecue involved. The garden had looked stunning with the new pots, fairy lights along the fence and huge candle lanterns on the patio. Everyone really did seem to have a super time. There were no breakages and the food had been lovely in spite of handing over the cooking to Simon half way through so that she could circulate. He had singed the ribs a bit but nobody had minded and it had all been lovely.
She finished loading the glasses into the dishwasher and then sat on the back step with a last little glass of red wine. What a wonderful way to start living here. The neighbours seemed very nice, Shelley and Clive, young and pregnant and then Steven and oh what was her name, Steven and Carly, Mandy, Sandy oh something like that from the other side. All young professionals and really pleasant.
She had forgotten about the problems with the break in and the weirdo on the lounger in the excitement of it all and so hadn’t mentioned it to the neighbours. Not to worry Steven and whatever-dy had asked her to go for a drink on Sunday and she could have a talk about it with them then. Actually she was glad now it could have spoiled the atmosphere to bring all of that up couldn’t it.
With a huge satisfied sigh she pushed herself up and turned out the floodlighting. Back gate and doors all locked and then tomorrow a guy was coming to put up a security light that would sense any movement. Her mum had warned her that they had trouble with cats setting theirs off but she actually thought better that than somebody coming in and trashing her stuff.
She climbed into bed and lay down intending to re-run the highlights of the party through her mind but before there was time for more than a quick inventory of who had turned up she had drifted off to sleep.
The moon was muffled silver through the bedroom curtains and a brighter band shone on the wall where the fabric didn’t quite meet. The atmosphere was wrong. Even before she opened her eyes she felt it. Her skin prickled with tension and there was a threat in the air.
As her eyes popped open in the dim room she started to push herself into a sitting position her heart hammering in her chest. What was wrong? What had woken her? She listened, trying to still her breathing as sweat broke out on her forehead. Part of her brain was trying to calm her, an internal struggle pulled at her nerves. She knew she would have to move. Something had woken her and she couldn’t just sit here. There was no sound.
She swung her legs out from under the duvet, leaned across and clicked on the small light. All was well in the bedroom and she breathed a little easier. Her skin felt clammy and her heart was still pounding but she forced her bare feet to take the steps to the door. It was slightly ajar and she could just make out, on the landing, the moonlight filming the floorboards and the top of the bannister. Pulling the handle towards her she stepped through.
Out onto the landing and to the top step. All well. She was relaxing a little now, had her second wind and a modicum of bravery. She went down the first three stairs and leaned over the wooden rail.
As she peered down into the living room her heart leapt into her throat and her breath hissed into the silence. Leaping back the few yards to the bedroom she flung the door closed, fumbling with the lock. Stumbling in a frantic panic to the bedside table yanking the phone to the floor in her haste to unhook the handset she dialled the emergency number.
“Emergency, which service do you require.”
The woman at the other end was so calm, so matter of fact. “There’s someone in my garden. There’s a man peering in my window. I’m on my own. Please, please send someone.”
“Try to keep calm caller. What is your name and your address.”
“Fiona, Fiona Carlisle. 162 Western Crescent. Upton. Please send someone, please he’s there in the garden”
“Alright Fiona try to keep calm we will have someone with you as soon as possible. Just keep talking to me now, what is your number?. Are you in a safe room?”
“Yes, yes I’m in the bedroom. I can’t remember my number. Oh God I can’t remember it’s new”
“Don’t worry about that now. Have you locked the door?”
“Yes, it’s locked.” She leapt across the room dragging the ‘phone with her and double checked the lock. As she did so she heard the step on the stair. Unmistakable, firm and steady, one stair, two stairs, three stairs.
“Are you still there Fiona, are you okay.”
“Oh God, he’s inside I think he’s inside.”
“The officers will be with you very soon now, try to keep calm. Stay on the line Fiona. Hello, hello, Fiona are you still there. Hello Fiona, speak to me.”
The sound of the sirens could be heard now in the distance. “Hello Fiona, are you there, can you hear me?”