Somewhere in this house is a set of keys. You can’t miss them, I’ve punched holes in all my store cards and attached a ring to them to go on my keys. There is of course my front door key, that one is in constant use. Then there is the inner door key, which I have to admit I never use. I don’t think I have locked the inner door since we moved in. Mark does at night sometimes but I just think it’s a waste of time. One swift kick and it would break into a million pieces. It’s a glass door with a wooden frame.
There is a back-door key. Now this key is peculiar. It never gets used. I don’t even know why I keep it on my key ring. Even if I got locked out and had to get in through the kitchen I couldn’t, because: A) There is always a key in the lock, and B) there is a spare key hidden in the back yard.
I got locked out and the trouble I had getting into my own house was ridiculous. The next-door neighbour used to hold a front door key for us but she decided that she didn’t want to do so anymore because of the dogs. Strange woman.
My back yard has an alley way that runs through the set of garages at the back. I walked to the back gate and looked up in awe. Let me explain something before I start. We live in my mother-in-law’s old house. Built by Jack, which means that under no stretch of the imagination is anything built straight, upright, nor in line. As I stood looking at the six foot five black gates, they grew taller by the second. The width of a car and a half, I pondered the possibility of climbing over. It just wasn’t going to happen. Not even wearing my imaginary black shiny leather cat suit whilst a full orchestra played an arrangement close to the opening theme on a DC Comic TV series. Scratch that. In all honesty I don’t think they do a black leather cat suits in three-way stretchable fabric, elasticated waist and inner scaffolding for the more amble bosom. Plus, where would I find an orchestra at short notice. Watching the last imaginary bassoon player wandering off down the alley way, my mind refocused on the job at hand. The options were limited whichever way I went, I had to climb.
The neighbours on my left have a six foot fence on top of small wall. Not even going to attempt that one. It would be easier to go through her house, jump out of her son’s bedroom window on to my kitchen roof and shimmy down the drain pipe. The cat suit was getting an imaginary airing again, as I could see myself transforming into Angelina Jolie. However hard the brain was trying to convince me; my body was screaming out for some sensibility.
As I stood out back, looking into my yard, to the left of me was his house, the house that Jack had played with. I checked my Fitbit for the time. In all honesty that is the only reason I wear it now days, I haven’t reached ten thousand steps in about 12 months. To feel smug however, I have read recently that ten thousand steps is a bit OTT.
It was 11:30am. Did I take the chance, did I wait until 12 or did I go away and come back again at 1:30 to be super safe? I suddenly felt like Scout Flinch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. My neighbour is a strange man, not cruel, not bad, not even scary, well OK, just a bit. His biggest problem is, he is an habitual drinker. He has to be down the pub every day between 12 and 3pm. It’s not the alcohol you see. In his own words. “Alcohol is good for you. They pickle things in alcohol to preserve them.”
“Yes, but that’s when they are dead.”
We’ve had our disagreements, mainly when mum was alive, so I suppose in a way it’s a good job that he doesn’t speak to me. He has told the other neighbours some weird things, but it seems that they are not taken in by him. Me? I am nice to him. Every time I see him I say hello, I always smile. I just can’t understand why it upsets him to see me so happy. But trespass on his property, now that I wouldn’t do, no matter how desperate.
I walked around the block a couple of times. I didn’t want to pop in for coffee with anyone. Chris is lovely and I knew he would be home, but he’s also a reluctant hero. He would want to help and would try to as well. There he’d be in his superhero tights with boxers on the outside, free and flapping in the wind. His bald head shining and his motorcycle googles firmly in place. The tight lycra top would have a big C emblazoned on the front and I would have to explain to everyone that passed, that it did in fact stand for “Chris”. Brrrrr. Got to shake that image. I hope he never reads this!
I could have gone to Lizzies, I knew she was home. Now Lizzie is a lovely lady, but she is a doer. I’m not sure if she is a member of the WI, at least she isn’t a member of our branch, but if she is, then I can see her being the chair. Short and well built, our Liz. Strong as an ox. Between the aerobics, the horse riding and the surgery gatekeeping she can be quite a force to recon with. She would just have to threaten the gates and they would open. There she stood in front of me, having dismissed Chris in his Super C suit, Liz in Jodhpurs, blonde hair fighting the breeze. Left leg forward, hands in fists, she stamps her left foot firmly to the ground, the earth shakes and the gate bows to her will.
I laugh to myself, as I try to get the image out of my head. A spot of rain hits the edge of my nose. I’m not surprised, with a nose the size of mine, it’s always the first thing to get hit by anything. There was no more time for it, I had to get in the house, I was going to take the chance.
At the age of twelve, I was climbing everything, from garages to trees. This was a three foot wall and a four foot fence. All I had to do was sit on the wall, swing my legs over and drop into my yard, it couldn’t have been easier. I checked for signs of life in my neighbour’s house and once again checked my Fitbit. 11:45am. It would be safe by now, there was however still that doubt in my mind as I threw my bag over the wall. Would he still be there lurking in the kitchen, watching?
I spent a moment trying to figure out where I could have left my keys, retracing my steps and wondering if I could go back and find them. Then it struck me. I didn’t actually have them. Mark had left after me and I hadn’t picked them up. Now I had to get into the house, recover the keys and make it look as though none of this had ever happened. I love Mark don’t get me wrong, but he’s a worrier. You know the type of thing. A bit like my Aunt Pat used to be. When she was younger, she had an accident and got taken to hospital. Back then you were stripped and put in a gown the minute you were given a bed. Her biggest problem was that she was wearing old knickers. She never let me forget it and every time I would go anywhere she would always ask if I was wearing my Sunday Best. I once told her that I was commando and after explaining what I meant she never asked again. After all I couldn’t wear my Sunday knickers every day, now could I? if Mark ever knew what had happened he would be constantly checking to make sure I had my keys.
No, I couldn’t put it off much longer. The imaginary cat suit firmly in place and cat mask on. If the miserable neighbour did see me climbing the wall, at least in my mind he wouldn’t recognise me.
I hiked myself up backwards, rather like when you pull yourself up on to the side of a swimming pool, only without the water to give buoyancy. It took several attempts but I finally I made it. My boots scuffed, my arms aching and my pride in my fitness destroyed, I sat and caught my breath. Now to swing my legs…erh…where did I get the idea that this would be easy? Sitting on a two foot by two foot square buttress with my back to the length of the wall I had to get my legs around to the left. With the big black gates on one side and a gate on the other. The choice, either to squeeze in tight and swing 45 degrees to the left or get my now knackered legs over the small fence doing a complete 135 degree turn. In my great wisdom I chose option three.
I shuffled back along the wall further into his garden. It’s my wall, on my land. I know that. After he tried to get joint custody of the wall, no seriously, solicitors and all sorts involved. It was decided that because the wall was attached to our kitchen, on our land and ended at our gate, the wall was in fact ours, and no, he couldn’t put a chicken wire fence on it. There I sat, legs bent and about to swing down into my yard when Mr B, from the other side popped his head down the gap between the gates. “Hello. Locked out?”
“Yes.” I tried to make it look as though I was taking things in my stride. Could he see the beads of sweat running down my hair line? Had he noticed the imaginary cat suit?
Readying my dialogue of explanations, he walked off. No, can I help you, are you ok, what do you need me to do? He just doffed his cap and went on his way. I was stunned.
I dropped down into our yard, almost breaking my neck as I stumbled forward after stepping into a flower pot, then kicking my bag. I routed around under the foliage and pots for the spare key and regretted instantly using this as a hidey hole. I shivered as I touched something squidgy.
Having retrieved the key, I went to stand upright as I felt a presence behind me. Stunned I turned not knowing what to expect. It was him!!!
No not him. Not the miserable one, the other side. He smiled that old man smile, his eyes twinkling under his cap. “I’ve always go a spare key.” He stated.
“Thank you, I mean, I thought Mrs B… she gave me back the spare.”
“No, she gave you back her spare, this one’s mine.”
It must have been the puzzled look that got him. “We both have one. Marks mum said you could never be too careful and insisted on it.”
We both laughed, after all it was funny. Funny enough to have ripped my leggings, scuffed my boots, have to put up with Marks scorn for the next month, and to feel humiliated beyond belief. I thanked him the next day with a lemon cake and consoled myself with the fact that I know Mrs B would have told the grumpy neighbour the other side. At least the thought of him seething because he hadn’t been able to stop me using what he considered his wall, and he still does apparently, makes me smile.