St Austell

Contribution from Writers Group

I Knew Something Was Wrong …

I knew something was wrong when I saw the expression on his face. Dad usually smiled when I came home, but that day his face was drawn and his eyes just stared blankly ahead.

`She’s just gone`, he whispered, pointing towards the door.

`Who’s gone?` I asked.

`Joan - from upstairs. She’s been here all the afternoon. I couldn‘t get rid of her`.

His voice was so quiet, I had difficulty in hearing what he said.

He told me that Joan, who had recently moved into the flat above, had knocked on the door just after lunch and asked if he could help her fill in a form.

Always keen to help, Dad had invited her in and soon dealt with the form, but she seemed reluctant to leave.

`I’m so glad you were in. I was afraid to be upstairs on my own.`

Then at some length she began to tell him what had been going on.

It had all started a week ago when the security lock on the main entrance to the four apartments had been forced and was still waiting to be repaired.

Two young boys had come up the stairs and knocked on her door. She realises now, with hindsight, that she should not have opened the door to them, but seeing only children through her ‘spy hole’, she had not foreseen any danger.

But they were not simply `children` - they were young teenagers - bored teenagers who thought it was clever to taunt the elderly.

As she opened the door, they ran down the stairs, turning round to laugh at her.

Joan felt un-nerved. She quickly closed the door and locked it. She felt a prisoner in her own home. Perhaps it was simply a childish prank - knocking on the door and running away - hadn’t she done that when she was a girl?

Yet these boys were smoking and holding cans of drink - they seemed too old for childish pranks - and had an air of defiance about them - almost arrogance. They were threatening to Joan and she had certainly been frightened.

She wondered if she should phone the police, but immediately decided not to. The police had more important things to do than follow up complaints about boys knocking on the doors of old ladies. She just wished the entrance door could be repaired. It had been like that for over a week now.

Perhaps she should phone the Management Company again and draw the problem to their attention, explaining it was now a matter of urgency?

They promised to do their best, everything was in hand, but couldn’t give her a firm date when their Contractor would carry out the repair.

That meant the boys might be back again that evening.

It was at this stage that she had gone down and knocked on Bill’s door. She knew he would be on his own until his son came home about 5.30pm. He was always very pleasant when she had met him at the Post Office. Perhaps he would be able to help? She would ask him about the form she had to fill in at the same time.

As she expected, Bill asked her in and helped with the form and then as he moved to open the front door, she covered her face with her hands and started to cry.

Bill was at a loss. He hardly knew his upstairs neighbour and yet she seemed to be in some kind of trouble. He asked her what was wrong and in between sobs she told him how frightened she had been by the boys. She had always felt so secure in her first floor apartment and now her safety was being threatened.

Bill did his best to re-assure her, but there was no consoling Joan. She couldn’t go back upstairs knowing that she might be tormented again.

`Just ignore them`, Bill suggested. `If you don’t answer the door, they’ll just go away`.

`You don’t understand. This brings back memories of when my bag was snatched by two young thugs and I finished up in hospital`.

This was news to Bill and he began to feel some sympathy for his distraught neighbour, yet realised there was little he could do to help, unless he kept guard at the entrance door and prevented the boys going upstairs.

After a second cup of tea and a promise from Bill that he would guard the entrance door that evening, Joan rather reluctantly made her way upstairs, thanking Bill over and over again.

When she had gone, he sank into his armchair and wondered what he had let himself in for. He was going over how he would carry out his promise when he heard the key in the door.

`Hello Dad`, I called out. `It’s only me. Had a good day?`

I was shocked at the sight of Dad and even more concerned when he relayed the story of Joan and the boys.

`Well, Dad - there’s one thing for certain - it won’t be you waiting for those boys tonight. I’m going to put a stop to this once and for all`.

After a particularly gruelling day at work, I really didn’t need this, but felt I had to do something to allay Joan’s very real fears. I’d go upstairs and wait with her in case the boys returned.

True to form, there was a knock on the door. I opened it and the two boys froze. I didn’t need to say a word.

They turned and ran down the stairs, spilling their drink and dropping their cigarettes in their haste to get away.

They were most definitely not expecting a 6`4`` Police Officer to open the door!

© Sheila Fermor Clarkson