My Father’s Name – Chapter 6

Come Wednesday and I was almost afraid to open the door to go to work. I’ll admit it occurred to me to leave through the back gate. But I knew that was silly and if flowers arrived, they’d be left with a neighbour or in the bin store where the Amazon delivery man usually put parcels.

All day it bothered me. The odd thing really is that when I arrived home and there was nothing it was a sort of disappointment. Well maybe not a disappointment, but I had so convinced myself that there was going to be a delivery, had even had imaginary conversations raging at the flower shop, and I felt strangely unnerved when there wasn’t anything. I looked in the bin store and spent a while expecting a knock on the door from a neighbour who had done me a favour. By ten that night, when nobody had been I accepted that there had been no delivery that day and the episode was over.

Okay, I had entertained the idea that Frances had been right and it was some bloke but, as far as I knew, there was nobody remotely interested in a middle-aged single mum who, let’s be honest, was looking less than her best these days. There had been people at work who had asked me out and now and then someone at a dinner party, but not for ages. Nursing an invalid and bringing up a seven-year-old doesn’t leave a lot of time for dating and I really didn’t think I wanted that sort of complication in my life.

Yes, Fran and I had talked about our lonely old age, when the children were off at Uni. or with families of their own, but it was all jokey. We said we’d live together and let people think we were lesbians. We weren’t, there was nothing like that between us, we were just really good mates but the idea was a laugh. Anyway, top and bottom of it all was that I didn’t think that I had a secret admirer and so the flowers had been a mistake and it was over.

I think it was the same night, Wednesday, some of it blurs together now and I find it difficult to remember the actual dates, but I think it was the same night.

It was windy. There was a gate somewhere banging, not mine but nearby and it was irritating but eventually I’d dropped off to sleep.

I woke suddenly, all the nerve endings in my body were zinging. My skin tingled and the hairs on my arms were standing up. At first, I thought I’d had a nightmare, it had happened before. It didn’t bother me, back then those things didn’t.

Back then a nightmare was just a disturbing dream.

I lay perfectly still under the covers. I was warm and comfortable. I sleep with the curtains open except in the middle of the summer when the light comes very early. There is a streetlamp outside my house and the bedroom was fairly bright. Without moving I looked around, the shadows and shapes were familiar, there was nothing to concern me. Of course, more than anything else I’m a mum and so I had to get up and check on Suzie. I wasn’t aware that she’d called out but I wondered if that had been what had disturbed me.

There’s a tiny night light plugged into a socket just outside Suzie’s bedroom door, not enough to keep her awake but it helps if she needs a wee or to cross the landing to my room. I didn’t need to turn any of the other lights on and when I stood beside her bed in the dark, listening to her slightly nasal breathing I could tell she was deeply asleep and it was unlikely she had woken me. I did what I imagine all parents do, I leaned and touched her face, just lightly, then left her to her dreams.

So, it had been just one of those things.

I went back onto the landing and glanced down the stairs towards the front door. The window is small, a narrow pane just from half way down to about three inches from the top. It has a pattern of twigs and leaves in it, some of the glass is coloured. If there hadn’t been the movement, I don’t believe I would have noticed the shape. But as I stood in the gloom on my landing, I saw the figure outside my door. I think I gasped, I know my stomach flipped. I know I was scared, well shocked anyway. I reached out and grabbed the post at the top of the banister. I glanced back at Suzie’s room. It’s impossible to relate the thoughts that raced through my head in those first seconds but then I regained control. Surely, I thought, it had been nothing more than one of the shrubs moving in the wind. I went back into my bedroom, to the window and peered out. There was no-one in my short front path, nobody stood beside the door. I realised then that I’d been holding my breath and I laughed at myself as I gasped for air. I never used to be so nervy. I put it down to the emotion of the past few weeks. It was after one in the morning and I reached up to draw the curtains across, to close us more deeply into the safety of our home and with my last glance, I saw the figure move away from the hedge and walk, quite slowly, towards the corner where he – I know now that it was he, don’t I? He stopped briefly and raised his head and then moved away out of my line of vision.

I ran downstairs and checked all the door locks, the windows, and I turned on the burglar alarm. I had got out of the habit of using it at night because if Mum had needed me urgently I didn’t want the added problem of disabling it. To be honest I’d never quite got the hang of using the various zones. I scrabbled in the hall cupboard and found my old hockey stick.

I spent the rest of the night on the fold down chair bed in Suzie’s room.

I didn’t sleep.

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Filed under Serials, Serials, Shorts and Stuff

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