A Luton van has just pulled up in the road. I’ll get into position, just to the side of the front bay window, so I can watch them move in without them seeing me. In the old days, everyone used Pickfords removals now lots of people do it themselves, especially younger people. I do hope it’s young people moving in; I get really fed up with all the old people in this road. Take Elizabeth, it’s her house they’re moving into. She’s gone into a home and her daughter’s selling the house to pay for the care. Well, all Elizabeth ever wanted to talk about was the old days and how good they were. Rubbish! We went to school together, and believe me she always had free meals and never wore a school uniform that fitted. It was either way too small, or hung on her like a tent. And she’s forgotten that her dad used to wallop her mum all the time. Once her mum went to the police station and showed the sergeant all the bruises on her arm – I reckon there were lots more injuries she didn’t show him – but all he said was ‘try to be nicer to your husband and don’t make him angry.’ I know that’s true because she told my old mum, who told my Auntie Vera and I was listening from the hallway.
Look there’s that Joe from number 42 walking slowly past. He’ll be interested in who’s moving in. He’ll want to clean their windows and mow their lawn if he gets half a chance. Joe’s the sort of chap who never spends any money unless he has to. He’s a real old skinflint. I reckon he’s rolling in it.
Ooops! Keep back. Don’t want anyone to see me. They are a young family. There’s a kiddy of about eight running up the path. I think he spotted me; I saw him tell the man who must be his dad. The man just looked at my house and shook his head.
I did go and see Elizabeth in the home, just the once. She was still on about the past. I told her that not so long ago she’d have been in the workhouse. That didn’t go down very well and she started on about Mrs Thatcher and how wonderful she was.
Now there’s a turn up for the books, Dilys Wassname from number 31 walking across the road with what looks like a cake and a bottle of wine. She must want to sign them up for the Neighbourhood Watch. They’re a bunch of busy-bodies if you ask me. She doesn’t even look at my house, knows I’m not interested. I’ll wave at her, just to annoy her, might even make her drop the wine. No, she just stares straight through me. Rude woman.
I think Elizabeth always fancied my Derek. She used to come round every Thursday when he had a half day; sometimes to ask if he could mend something for her, sometimes with a handful of beans from her garden and sometimes to ask him if he knew the football scores. ‘Just turn on the television,’ I used to say, ‘or get one of those smart phones.’ I don’t think she ever did, but after Derek had a stroke she stopped coming round on Thursdays. She was married you know, to a waste of space called Leslie. Anyway, one day it was all over the papers that Leslie had been sent to prison for offences with little boys. He never came back here and she never mentioned him. In their front room there used to be photo of them on their wedding day, but after it was all in the papers the photo vanished. I never mentioned it of course.
I’ve given up trying to hide. I’ll stand right in the middle of the bay window and wave to them. It’s a mum and dad and as far as I can see the boy who saw me and a small girl, all pink dungarees and pigtails. The boy looked back at me, but his dad said something and they all went indoors carrying boxes and bags. A few years ago I’d have helped them. Shame I can’t now.
Now what’s going on? There’s a car pulled up in my drive and a young woman in a smart red suit and very high heels is coming to the front door. I won’t let her in. Bother! I must’ve left the door unlocked; I can hear her in the hall talking into her phone. ‘Overall good condition, could do with modernising.’ Who does she think she is! This is my house. Now she’s in my front room, using her phone to measure it. Whatever happened to tape measures.
‘You get out of my house now.’ I say in my firmest, loudest voice.
‘Stories that this house is haunted by the previous owner have no basis in fact.’ The smart woman talks into her phone in what my Derek would’ve called a patronising tone.
Then it occurred to me that it would be much more fun living next door. I could help with the children, the boy already sees me and the girl soon will, and I can advise on the garden. I’ve lived here long enough, I’ll move next door.
About the author
Penny writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She has been published in print and online. She is the reviews editor for SOUTH poetry magazine.
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