This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 825 words.
Although me and Alex had never got formally engaged, and never really discussed the future, it was sort-of expected that we would get married one day. Almost six years of being together had made being a couple seem normal, even though we still both lived at our respective family homes. My mum was never that impressed with her, to be honest. By the time I went to college to study Accountancy, Alex had already left school and was working in a pretty dead-end job answering the phone and doing the admin at the office of a double-glazing company. Her dad was a self-employed window installer, and he had got her the job through one of his contacts. He had also paid for Alex to learn to drive, and bought her a little Renault Clio to use to get to work. And mum didn’t like that Alex called me Jeff, instead of Jeffrey.
She was a stickler for things like that.
The crunch came when I decided to quit college, and join the police like my dad wanted. Alex went all weird about that, and was dead against it. She tried to stop me applying, and I had no idea why. Then when I was round her place one night, her dad got all arsey with me, and lost his temper about me wanting to be a policeman. That ended with me and Alex having a blazing row, and her splitting up with me. I was confused, to say the least, though mum was delighted at the news. I only found why out weeks later, when my dad told me something I had never known. Alex’s uncle Teddy was in prison, and had been for sixteen years. He was doing life for killing a security guard during a bank robbery.
No wonder they didn’t want a copper in the family.
After Alex, I had a couple of dates that didn’t work out. Mostly friends of people I met at police training school, awkward setups that I never found enjoyable. Then once I was on Division, I had an affair with the woman who ran the cafe close to the Police Station. Meeting Nicky on my days off was never very satisfying though. Mostly quickies at the back of the cafe after she closed in the afternoon, or sometimes in her car when she had driven us out to some quiet spot in the Hertfordshire countryside. She told me up front that she wasn’t about to leave her husband and kids. Not that I ever wanted her to, as she was forty-three at the time, and too old for me to think about anything long-term. And she nagged me constantly about the fact that I couldn’t drive, and didn’t want to bother to learn
But it lasted almost four years, on and off.
After I had moved into Spencer House, closely followed by Theatrical Cone Head, the block started to fill up rapidly. Frizzy-Haired Sexy Girl was the next one to arrive, and I have to admit I fancied her rotten. I used to try to guess what she did for a living, as she came and went at all hours. I varied my conclusions between high class call girl, and social worker, depending what she was wearing when I spotted her. I tried to be friendly to her once, chatting amicably in the entrance hall. But she didn’t want to engage in conversation, and managed to avoid telling me her name too. I was left with nothing to do but occasionally ogle her when she looked hot, and after a while I just stopped wondering what job she did. Whatever it was, it must have paid well, as she had a newish BMW coupe that she always parked right at the end of the car park, in the same spot.
The next owner was the first one to occupy a ground floor flat, number two. She was also the oldest person to ever live there, and her name was Edna. She collared me on my way in one day and told me her life story in ten minutes. She had lost her husband, her son had emigrated to New Zealand, and her best friend Audrey who lived next door had died. So she sold the three-bed house in Plaistow, and downsized to Flat Two, Spencer House. She had only been there for three days, and instantly regretted the move. Nobody wanted to chat, she had no garden, and the people upstairs were noisy, clomping about on their laminate floors with no respect for her trying to get to sleep. She hated Vijay’s shop, it was too far to the bigger supermarket, and she missed the greengrocer’s in Plaistow.
Then to cap it all, the old Ford Granada she had inherited from her husband was too big for her to park comfortably in the spaces outside.
I learned to avoid Edna at all costs.