The back door slammed shut. The noise made her start but she carried on weeding, determined to finish the patch she was working on before the light went. She knew her mother would have wanted the garden to look at its best when the new people took occupation. Satisfied, she made her way down the path to the back door of what had been her childhood home.
She turned the door handle—it turned easily but did not give. She tried again and then the realisation dawned on her that the latch must have been engaged and she was locked out. She looked up at the sky and swore loudly, alerting the neighbour who peered over the fence and asked if she was okay.
“No,” she admitted, “I have locked myself out and my phone is on the kitchen table. Can you phone a locksmith for me?”
“No need,” he answered. “I have your mother’s key. I was about to come over to return it, so sorry to hear…” he fumbled for the appropriate words, “of her demise.”
She nodded and fought back tears as she waited for him to come up the path to the house. She had had a vision of a hot bath and a glass of whiskey in front the TV, so was a little reluctant to give in to the idea she should invite him in for a drink. Still, it seemed rude not to, and he was a nice-looking guy about her age, so she found herself saying as he returned with the key, “Thank you, can I get you a drink?”
He nodded, and smiling, followed her into the house.
“Do you still have your mother’s sherry?” he asked. She laughed, reaching for the decanter.
“Sorry I don’t know your name,” she said, “I’m Mary. Nice to know Mum had a new neighbour who looked out for her”.
Again, he smiled, “I’m Bob, but I’m not a neighbour. I’m the handyman for the people next door, I used to do odd jobs for your mother.
Mary frowned slightly. She could not remember her mother telling her about an odd-job man. Not to mention that even at a quick glance it was obvious the house needed a great deal doing to it.
His face fell sensing her distrust. “She probably did not tell you about me because she thought people would think she couldn’t cope on her own. You know how sensitive people get about their independence as they age.” Then, hesitating, he went on. “Also, you may as well know I have a record.”
Mary looked perplexed.
“A guest of Her Majesty’s Service,” he said with a wry smile.
She stared at him; he did not look the type, whatever the type was. There was a distinct lull in conversation.
Then he said, “I’m joking. I lost my job, my wife left me and my life fell apart, so I’m down here trying to get it all back together.”
She blushed and bent her head, ashamed of her thoughts. She was about to murmur something like she was sorry to hear that, when the silence was filled by the wind picking up. It struck her immediately there had been no wind that afternoon; it was quite still…what had made the door shut?
She began trying to piece together the events of the afternoon, and as she looked up, she saw he was still smiling at her but now his eyes were bright and, in his hands, a scarf.
“You are so trusting,” he murmured as she felt the silk around her neck and the darkness envelop her. “Just like your mother.”