The Next Door Neighbours

They are very odd. We never see them, even when all the lights in their house are on. Their car sits outside all the time, on weekdays and weekends, but they don’t appear to be in.

We often speculated about them, when we first moved in.

‘I think they are Polish,’ my husband said, as we heaved boxes upstairs.

‘Why do you think that?’

He shrugged, ‘everybody is Polish on this street.’

I thought that was a generalisation, and thought about going over there with some fruit tarts to be neighbourly. The oven refused to work, however, setting off a fuse every time I turned it on. So I gave up on that idea for the time being, making a mental note to do so when the oven was sorted out.

Three nights after we moved in we heard them arguing at 1am. So we crept to our windows and peered out. A tall shadow stood by the door of their sedan, while the woman inside, illuminated vaguely by the light in her car, spoke passionately, her hands moving up and down and sideways in emphasis. The shadow stooped and a hand reached into the car, but she slapped it away.

We crept back to our bed, and lay awake for another hour as the muffled arguing outside continued.

Three weeks after we moved in, a few minutes after my husband left for work, I was standing at the sink washing the breakfast dishes when I saw them. Or, rather, I saw him. He was systematically wiping condensation off his car from all sides with an ice scraper, stepping sideways each time he was done with the window. He was glancing around him in an inconspicuous manner, dark eyes darting from side to side. The way he did it was so interesting that I had to stop, turn off the tap, and watch. His hair was greying on the edges and thinning at the temples, a little messy.

Then he glanced straight into my window, through my blinds, and made eye contact with me. I was so startled I dropped the knife I was holding and it clattered loudly on the floor. My kitchen window was open so there was no doubt he heard that.

When he got into his car he turned on his windscreen wipers and his wife came out with a mug in one hand and a messenger bag dangling off the other shoulder. She had a secret smile on her face as she handed the mug to her husband(?) and got into the car. Her hair was thick and brown with grey flicks at the front. Her face was slim and olive coloured, her nose slightly pinched and her chin small and pointy.

The car reversed slowly and I fancied they were both staring at me as the car turned, and drove off.

I went upstairs to change and get ready for work, and when I pulled the bedroom curtains open, their car was there again.

Nobody was inside it, and nobody was around on the drive.

I thought that mighty curious indeed. I am having second thoughts about going over there when the oven is fixed. I don’t know what I might find.

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Love Letters #3

 

Dear Laura,

It has been five months. I haven’t had not a single reply from you. I can’t take this anymore, I feel a fool. I go daily to the post office to see if there is a letter from you. John receives weekly volumes from you detailing the lives of everybody including the cat, and I receive nothing. It disheartens a fellow, I tell you. Mary tells me you write to me. Perhaps she is wrong. The only letters I look out for are yours, Laura. 

Tom

****

Dear Laura,

I love you, I have always loved you, since the day I saw you wearing your blue dress and knocking Adam out with a great punch to his stomach, your golden curls askew. Your Mama was livid, I recall, and John was mighty embarrassed of his rogue little sister, disrupting the choir so. I fell in love with you and your passion, Laura. I couldn’t help myself. I loved you when you pushed me into the lake because I told you your dress was pretty, I loved you when you put a fish in my shoes because I gave Mary such a scolding. You made me laugh, you made me happy. I loved you when we all grew up and you pretended you were such a lady but really you were swinging on the barn swing while everybody was enjoying a demure dance at the party, your dress tied high around your waist. I am positively mad for you I can’t even begin to tell you. You bring laughter into my heart and you are so feisty and passionate and untameable but I want to tame you. I want to marry you, Laura, I want to be yours alone, and do away with the Williams and the Roberts and the Georges who spill all over the pages of your small novellas to John. To hell with them all. I want you.

****

Laura,

Please see the books I promised you in this parcel. 

Tom

****

Dear Laura,

I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know why I keep writing to you. You’re so changed when I see you, and promise me you’ll write, and laugh and jest with me just like old times, but when I’m gone its as though I don’t exist, and Johnny gets all his letters while I look on with burning jealousy. He is your brother, I know, but we are friends, are we not? Life here is hectic and busy. We dissected a human yesterday. It was mighty tough stuff, and some fellows of faint heart were quite overcome and had to be hauled out by the rest of us so we could carry on with our bloody work. You would have loved to be here, I know, and I thought of you as we examined the lungs. You will probably not reply to this, but know that John and I both miss you and Mary and the babies and everybody else, and look forward to seeing you all come the glorious long days of summer.

Tom

****

 

Dear Tom,

I miss you

I have been keeping busy here. It hasn’t been too cold this winter, and the crops have been kind to us. I’ve been fishing a few times with Mary, but she is really tired out by the twins. They are crawling everywhere now on their chubby hands and knees, gurgling at us like precious little angels with peachy cheeks. I am constantly popping over to Mary’s, I think her and Edmund must be quite sick of me! But oh I only go to drop my kisses on those babies and give them a nice little cuddle, soon they’ll be all grown up and flying off to their own little nests and oh how old I shall feel. Joyce Poole at the post office has had quite a spell, and has had to take some leave. Mr Poole’s sent her off to the seaside, and we waved her off at the train station. She’s been awfully cold with me lately and I couldn’t fathom why, until her Mama came over with a box containing all these letters addressed to me in your hand. Underneath my letters, were the ones (dozens and dozens of them!) that I’d written to you. Mrs Poole was beside herself and told me she didn’t quite know what to say and that Joyce really wasn’t herself. Oh Tom, I know what it’s all about. You took her to Margery’s coming out ball before you left, and left her quite heartbroken. Not a single letter, I’m told, and not even a proper goodbye. She was jealous, thinking, poor soul, that there was something going on between us, and so she thought she would put a stop to it by waylaying our correspondence, being in charge of the post, as she was. And there I would be, asking her for my post, rifling through the envelopes to see if there was anything from you! Anyway. That’s over now. I do blame you, though, you heartbreaker. I haven’t opened any of your letters, and shan’t until you get here. We can read them together and have a right old laugh, I think! Oh do hurry up and come back with Johnny in tow, we haven’t had any fun for a long time and Aunt Meg’s house needs brightening up.

Love,

Laura.

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