This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 735 words.
Now when the deliveries came, Gillian could see the drivers coming up the path, and would already have the door open. Standing just inside, she would speak to them through the gap. “Just leave it on the doormat, please”. If there was anything to sign, she would take the paper through the gap, sign it, then pass it back. When the young man came with the groceries from the supermarket, he had to unload the bags from the plastic delivery boxes and stack them in the doorway. When he was gone, she would carry them through to the kitchen.
That was a system of sorts, and it was working well for her.
Two men came to estimate the work of concreting the garden. She spoke into her new doorbell intercom. “Can you come around the back please? The gate is open”. They went through the side gate into the garden, and she talked to them through the kitchen window, telling them a lie to excuse the fact that she wouldn’t go outside. “I haven’t been well, and have to stay in the warm. When you come to do the work you will have to use the back gate or side gate, and you won’t be able to come into the house I’m afraid”.
They looked at each other, and the younger one tried not to smile. But work was work, and they accepted the job.
The window cleaner didn’t seem too happy about being paid by cheque. “Gill, if you are going to pay by cheque now, you had best pay me for the full year in advance. I can’t keep going back and forth to the bank to pay in cheques”. She was happy to do that, and passed a new cheque for the full amount through the partly-opened kitchen window.
It had taken the men four days to dig up the garden, lay the hardcore, and then concrete it all over. They were not prepared to be paid by phone banking, and reluctantly took a cheque after grumbling about their quoted price being based on a cash payment.
She had stood her ground. “Well I haven’t been able to get out, so it’s a cheque or nothing. Sorry”.
The following week, a removal lorry stopped outside. The house next door had been empty for almost two years after Mrs Parkinson had died. Mum told her it was because of some problem concerning Doreen not having a will. Now it seemed that it had been sold, and people were moving in. She watched the removal men coming and going on ther CCTV camera, but there was no sign of the new neighbours. Gillian presumed they must be inside the house out of view.
If mum had still been alive, she would have gone next door and offered to make them cups of tea. Perhaps taken them a cake, and introduced herself. But that wasn’t going to happen today. Or any other day.
Keeping an eye on the camera over the next few days, she could soon tell that there were two people living next door. They were both women, and she had heard them talking loudly out in their garden. They looked to be about the same age, so not mother and daughter. One of them wore overalls, and used to go out on a small motorbike that they kept parked in the front garden. She hadn’t seen the second one clearly until almost two weeks later, when someone walked up the path and pressed the intercom buzzer.
She was about forty years old, with short hair like a man, and wearing a denim pinafore dress. Gillian spoke into the box. “Hello. Can I help you?” The woman replied too loudly, as if she had to shout through the door. “I’m Kirsty. I just moved in next door with my friend, and came to say hello”. Gillian watched as the woman walked back a few paces, looking at the windows to see if anyone was looking out. Then she pressed to reply.
“I’m Gill. Sorry I can’t let you in, or come out. I’m not very well, and have to stay inside. I hope you like living on the street”. She saw the woman shrug. “Okay, Gill. See you around”.
As she made herself a fried egg sandwich, Gillian was glad she hadn’t let Kirsty in. The last thing she needed was nosey neighbours.