This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 828 words.
When Matt hadn’t replied by bedtime, Gillian gave up and went upstairs. The noise from the party was as loud as ever, and she peered out of the side of the curtains, looking down into the garden next door. There were some flashing lights inside one of the open tents, and about thirty people crammed into the small garden. The music they were playing sounded terrible, and one song was played over and over again until she had the chorus stuck in her head.
‘Yeah, hallowed be thy name
Yeah, hallowed be thy name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’
She wondered what the family on the other side of them at number forty-nine must be thinking. The Singhs were a very quiet couple, and on their own now since the daughter had got married and moved to somewhere near London. Even as she settled down in bed, Gillian knew that she wouldn’t get any proper sleep with that racket yards from her bedroom window.
At a quarter to one, she gave up and went back downstairs. Making a cup of tea, she grabbed the biscuit barrel and walked through to the dining table. If there was to be no sleep, she might as well look at the computer. There was still no reply from Matt, but there was a new comment on her blog when she logged on to that.
Hello, my name is Charlotte, but most people call me Charlie. I know exactly how you feel, as I haven’t been outside for years now. I used to live in this small flat with my sister, but then she got a job at Gatwick Airport and moved down to Surrey. Now I live here alone without her to help me, and she hardly ever visits because she is a stewardess and always away with her job. If it wasn’t for the Internet, I don’t know what I would do, but I have to survive on benefits, and I find it hard to make ends meet. Will you be my friend? Here’s my photo.
The photo was of a woman about thirty, very chubby, with long hair worn in a pony tail. She was sitting on the edge of a single bed, and had taken it with the phone extended in her right hand. She was wearing a dressing gown, and some big fluffy slippers. Except for the long hair, Gillian realised it was uncannily like her, and felt an immediate connection to Charlie. Despite it being so late, she replied straight away.
Hi Charlie, of course I will be your friend. We actually look quite alike I think, and are about the same age too. If you let me have your email address, I will contact you there, rather than type a long reply.
Surprisingly, the reply came back in seconds.
As she was thinking about what to say in the email, the music next door suddenly stopped. There was still the noise of people talking and laughing, so Gillian went to the back door and peered out. The lights were no longer flashing in the tent, and there looked to be only about half a dozen people left. As she was looking, she could hear the sound of motorbikes starting up at the front of the house, and car doors slamming. After all the uproar, the night now seemed eerily peaceful.
Back at the computer, there was an email from Matt, sent a few moments earlier.
Dear Gill, thanks so much for your nice email. I honestly don’t think I can cope much longer though. I have been buying Paracetamol tablets in the shops every week, and saving them up. I have over a hundred of them now, and think I will just end it all with an overdose. But I didn’t want to go without thanking you for your kindness. Matt. X
Typing at great speed, she replied as soon as she had finished reading.
No Matt, that’s not the way. Please don’t do that, I have only just got to know you, and anyway, I have thought of something. You could come and live here. I have a nice big spare room that was my mum’s room, and you will never have to go out. I have some money that was left to me, and that will tide us over for a long time to come. Please don’t kill yourself, come and live here, not as a boyfriend, I don’t want that, just as a friend who understands me. You don’t have to come out of your room if you don’t want to. Think about it before you do something harmful, please Matt. Love Gill. xx
The offer had been made without thinking it through, but now she had done that, she decided she would stick to it. At least they wouldn’t ever criticise each other for not going out.
But as the sun came up that morning, there was no reply.