This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 725 words.
When the man came to fit the intercom and outside light, Gillian made him a cup of tea, and this time added a Penguin biscuit. She liked the elderly man, and wished more people could be like him and her mum. But she knew they weren’t. When he had finished, he showed her how they worked.
“I have removed the old doorbell and put the new entryphone in its place. There is a sticker on it that says ‘Press to speak. Release to listen’. The same thing on the inside for you, so don’t forget to let go of the button to hear the replies. The outside light has this three-way switch on the inside, near the door. Turn it left for off, in the middle for motion-activated, and to the right to leave it on all the time. It is in the middle for now. The bulb should last a long time, but if it goes, just contact the company and I will come and fit a new one. It is fitted higher than the camera, which also looks like a light, as you know. But this one is bigger, and covers the path and front door really well”.
She rang the bank while he was there, and transferred the payment. Then he tidied up his tools, and left.
Next day, Gillian watched the CCTV monitor for the postman, the only person who regularly came to the door. When he showed up just before ten, she was thrilled at how clear the image was. Just a shame he had no reason to ring the new intercom door buzzer, then she could have tried it out. Over lunch, she made a mental list of reasons why she might still have to go outside.
She smiled at the fact they all started with D. Dustbin day was an essential, but she could creep out after dark, leave it just outside the gate, and collect it the same way that evening. The dentist might be an essential trip, and she couldn’t imagine she could pay one to treat her at home. As for the doctor, that could wait until she was very ill with something. Then she could offer to pay privately for a visit at home. She was sure that could be arranged.
She had forgotten something. The back lawn. Mum always cut the small patch of grass with an electric mower kept in the little shed by the back gate. Gillian wasn’t about to take that job on, so she would ring around some local companies and get it concreted over. Mister Allen the window cleaner came once a month, but they always left his cash on the upstairs window sill. He would have to take a cheque in future.
Put it in a plastic bag so it didn’t get wet, then place something heavy on it so it wouldn’t blow away if it was windy.
It never occured to her to question why she had suddenly wanted to stop going outside, but the thought of opening the door and walking out onto the path now filled her with dread. When mum had been alive, she had never once thought about it. But she had everything she needed, and was happy at home, so she didn’t think it mattered in the least.
The next time she was due to put the plastic dustbin out, it didn’t go quite as easily as she imagined. After standing at the open door for almost twenty minutes, she closed it again and went back inside for a cup of tea. Then she put the outside light on and sat watching the CCTV to see if anyone was on the street. When it was completely deserted, she went out and dragged the bin to the gate, leaving it there propping the gate open.
Turning to go back inside, the front path seemed to be ten times longer, the house receding into the distance. Breathing fast, and trembling with fright, Gillian closed her eyes and made a run for the door. She tripped up the step going in, but luckily didn’t injure herself.
Sitting with a glass of Pepsi and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, it took her a good half an hour to calm down.
Dustbin day was going to be something she hated.