by Carole Turnbull
Gwen came in from the garden through the patio doors stepping into the new kitchen extension. She needed to sit down for five minutes and rest her aching limbs, her body reminding her she wasn’t young any more.
Sinking into a plush white chair she sighed and gazed around at the gravity-defying central island, the gleaming surfaces, white lacquered cabinets and stainless steel, incorporating all the latest technology. This was minimalism at its best. Gwen was pleased she’d made a good choice.
The five minutes were up and she forced herself to a standing position. There was more spring cleaning to be done. She stretched out her hand, admiring her new gardening gloves. Spring cleaning to Gwen meant sorting things out. The car in the garage had been dealt with, all that bending hadn’t helped her back pain, and then there had been the electrics to sort out - no wonder she had needed a sit down.
Now it was time to spring clean the house. She would start upstairs and so hobbled out into the hall. A long mirror adorned the side of the hallway giving the impression of someone walking alongside when it was really only your own reflection. In Gwen’s case it was a white haired stooped old lady with a leathery lined face.
Gwen hung onto the banisters to haul herself up the steep staircase. She’d tell Reg their next house must be a bungalow. She stopped mid-stair. Whatever was she thinking! Reg had gone now, she was on her own. How could she have forgotten? Had she lost her mind as well as her looks?
Up in the bedroom she began sorting the jewellery, putting it into two piles. One was for costume and paste jewellery not at all valuable, but steeped in memories of times past, the good and the bad. The other pile was made up of the more costly items, mostly platinum and gold, much of it in a new modern style.
Reg had been in the business of jewellery and taught her how to tell the purity of gold just by assessing the various shades of the gold. Similarly, she could easily tell the difference between platinum and white gold without resorting to checking the markings. This knowledge had stood her in good stead over the years when purchasing new pieces.
She thought she heard a noise and put her head on one side listening again, she was a little deaf, yes there it was again a sharp tap. Putting one pile of jewellery back in the box she scooped up the other dropping it in her deep pockets for safekeeping. Another tap tap, she toddled out to the landing and realized someone was knocking at the front door. Gwen sniffed, “what a nuisance, who can that be?” Yet another tap. “Oh dear,” she moaned to herself, “they’re not going away I’d better get it.”
Gwen took the bunch of keys hanging from the rack on the wall and unlocked the front door to a young woman who seemed surprised to see Gwen. “Er, Mrs Buckmaster?”
“Oh no” replied Gwen “my daughter and son-in-law are away at the moment. I’m just minding the house for them.”
“What, all on your own?” the woman asked anxiously. Gwen nodded.
Suddenly the woman stepped into the house. Pulling the door shut behind her. She grabbed Gwen’s arm, twisting it behind her back, frogmarching her up the hall into the kitchen. “Lucky family winning the lottery” she sneered. “It’s just you who’s not so lucky.” She pushed Gwen out of the open patio doors kneeing her hard in the back.
Gwen landed in a heap on the ground. She lay motionless as the woman slammed the patio doors, shutting Gwen out. Waiting until she heard the woman’s shoes clip clop away across the kitchen floor, presumably to ransack the house, Gwen lifted her head and assessed the damage. Fortunately, she’d landed on the grass, nothing felt broken but she’d have sore knees and back for a few days. She stood up unsteadily and crept over to the garage. Once inside she switched back on the camera alarm system operating within the house but not the outside cameras.
Next Gwen buzzed open the car door operated by the bunch of keys in her pocket and slid reverently behind the wheel. The garage doors opened and she drove noiselessly away.
Gwen was tempted to keep this glorious car but it was too recognisable even with the false number plates she had fixed on earlier that morning. Anyway, she had already made all the arrangements to pass it on before she caught her flight. It was a pity that awful woman had read the same news item about the lottery winners who said they were not going to move at the moment. They would spend some of their winnings on the house, buy their dream car - a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport and go on a cruise. The rest of the money was going in the bank.
Gwen phoned the police posing as a concerned neighbour saying she thought she had seen someone breaking into the lottery winners house. She refused to give her name and threw the phone into the next river she drove by.
On the ‘plane to Panama where Reg was waiting for her Gwen mused over her last job. She’d made mistakes – she shouldn’t have opened the door to that woman. She’d panicked worrying the knocking would draw attention to the house. She had worn herself out climbing over the high garden wall, at her age, it had been too much for her. Reg was right when he’d said they needed to retire. They were both getting too old. He had started to make mistakes too and said they mustn’t spend their remaining years in the clink. In fact, it had got a bit hot for him, he’d had to go to Panama before her.
Gwen smiled to herself, no more spring cleaning for her.