by Jo Dearden
a glass of wine
The cottage was on the edge of the village. The front garden was overgrown, and weeds were poking up through a stone slab path. A pretty rambling pink and white rose trailed over the front door and was stretching towards the two upper windows. The previous owner had left to work abroad, and the house had lain empty for a few months. A For Sale notice swung forlornly on its hinges, creaking in the wind.
The estate agent was encouraging, and Janet didn’t need much persuading. She loved the view of open fields from most of the windows. It seemed an idyllic spot in the spring sunshine. The price had also been reduced. She had been looking for somewhere smaller to buy since her divorce had come through and the house she had shared with her husband had been sold.
‘I’ll take it,’ she told the man who had shown her round.
‘Don’t you want to think about it,’ he said, slightly surprised at her impulsive decision.
‘No, it’s just what I am looking for. I can move in as soon as all the legals have been done.’
The day arrived for Janet to move into her new home. She felt nervous and excited. The removal men were efficient but seemed in a hurry to leave. By early evening a sea of boxes seemed to occupy almost every inch of floor space. Janet poured herself a large glass of wine. The boxes can wait, she thought as she dragged a kitchen chair into the back garden. It had been an exhausting day.
The doorbell rang. An attractive woman in her forties wearing skinny jeans and a navy jumper stood on the doorstep. Her dark hair was tied back in a ponytail. Her expensive sunglasses perched on top of her head. She was holding a small bunch of flowers. ‘Hi there. I’m Liz. I live next door. I’ve just picked these from my garden. I hope you’re settling in,’ she said thrusting the flowers towards Janet.
‘Oh, yes, thank you. I still have most of my boxes to unpack but I’m getting there. Would you like to join me for a glass of wine? I was just having one in the garden.’
‘No, sorry, I can’t stay now. Perhaps another time.’ Janet watched Liz walking down the unkempt front path. As she reached the gate, she turned around. ‘Oh, by the way, don’t forget to lock all your doors and windows. A couple of houses in the village have been broken into recently.’
Janet closed her front door and twisted the key in the lock. She suddenly felt quite deflated. This was not quite the start she had envisaged. She wasn’t finding it easy to live on her own since her husband had left her for his secretary, a curvaceous blonde about ten years younger than her. She was hoping that moving to a smaller house would be less daunting. She had always felt scared of potential intruders or seeing something supernatural. She had never actually seen anything, but now she was alone, uncertainties and fears had crept over her.
Janet stepped out of her back door and picked up her unfinished glass of wine. Dusk was beginning to fall and there was now a chilly breeze. I must be strong she thought. I really want to be happy here. The telephone rang. It was the estate agent. ‘I just wanted to make sure your move has gone well.’
‘Well, yes, thank you. I’m a bit worried though about these burglars who are supposedly doing a few houses in the village.’
‘Ah, yes. Just make sure you are all locked up. I think the police are getting close to catching them.’ Oh great, Janet thought as she clicked off her phone.
After supper, she decided to go to bed as exhaustion finally got the better of her. It was about midnight when she woke with a start. She thought she had heard a bang. Perhaps she had dreamt it. But no, there it was again. She could now hear a scraping sound. Janet snapped on her bedside lamp and threw back the duvet. A wave of terror washed over her. She decided to open her bedroom window as it overlooked the front of the house.
She waited a few moments as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She couldn’t see or hear anything. Perhaps she had been dreaming after all. She tried to go back to sleep but her mind was in overdrive. Eventually as dawn broke, she went downstairs and put the kettle on. As she sat drinking a cup of tea at her kitchen table, she noticed a small knife lying on the dresser. She was sure it had not been there last night. It didn’t belong to her. Perhaps one of the removal men had left it.
She wandered into the sitting room. A devastating scene confronted her. Some of the boxes had been opened and the contents were strewn across the floor. She heard herself scream as she ran into the hall. She fumbled with the front door key. As she opened the door, she almost fell into the arms of a policeman, who was standing on her doorstep.
‘Are you Mrs Janet Brown?’ he asked her.
‘Yes, oh please help me. I’ve been burgled. I only moved in yesterday. I don’t know what to do,’ she sobbed.
‘I think we may have caught the culprits. We’ve been on to them for some time. There are two of them and they work for a local removals firm.’