Coming back from the gym I found a lace glove draped across the hedge near the garden gate that looks across the road toward the park. It was getting cold, and the glove didn’t fit me, it was small, amost child-size, so I decided it wasn’t anything I could use. I walked up the steps, unlocked the front door and went inside, dumped my bag at the foot of the stairs and discovered, almost by surprise, that I was still holding the glove. I went into the front room and left it on the oak table I have there for when I write.
Starlight was in her basket at the top of the stairs and she looked up, eyed me as took off my clothes and dropped them in the laundry basket, and gave a plaintive cry for attention.
‘Not now,’ I told her, so she blanked me, clambered out of her basket and trotted lightly downstairs. Her sleek black back arched and proud.
Naked now, I walked to the wet room, closed the door behind me, turned everything on full and took a long, steamy shower. After fifteen minutes of this I turned the heat all the way off but left the pressure on full and took a long cold shower.
An hour later I was back in the front room, listening to radio 4 and trying and failing to write. Some days it’s just like that. The room overlooks the garden and the late-summer light was coming in through the window in a good way and I thought I’d give it another hour and if nothing arived I’d go and drink some wine.
I’d noticed a girl hanging around outside, waiting near but not quite next to the Zebra crossing, and she’d been there a while. I went for the bottle opener, returned, dug out a glass and a bottle from the sideboard and sat back at the table. The girl was still there.
She was small, slender, no more than five one, and she looked anxious, disconcerted, or maybe she’d been stood up for a date or something. She looked lost
After another fifteen minutes, and a glass and a half of fairly cheap red wine, Starlight walked in and purred once loudly, climbed onto my lap and groomed herself with detailed and thorough care. Then she dropped lightly the the floor and left the room, turning right to the front door. I stood up and went to open the door for her.
The girl in the street saw the movement, looked up and said, ‘Hi.’ and I think she almost wished she hadn’t but we were barely twenty feet apart and it just happened.
‘Hi,’ I replied. ‘Everything ok?’
She nodded, with a small smile, and she said ‘Yes.’
But she didn’t look ok really and I said, ‘You waiting for someone?’
She was small but she had a nice figure, waspish waist and nice breasts beneath her top, though to be honest, coming from a family of voluptuous women it kind of innoculated me against being a breast-obsessive, so her tiny waist and rounded hips impressed me more. Plus she had a nice face. Clear eyes. Bright. But I just said, ‘Ok then,’ and went to close the door. ‘If you need anything, just knock,’ I told her.
‘Ok,’ she said, but she wasn’t really listening, I don’t think.
I went inside, gave up on the writing and worked on finishng the wine. She was out there for at least another hour. Then I looked up, and she was gone.
The next night she was back.
I watched her standing on the other side of the road, near the park gate. She was staring directly at my window, though I don’t think she was even looking, and she gave no indication of seeing me as I sat there writing.
I gave up watching her, and a couple of hours later I noticed she’d gone.
The next morning I discovered the lace glove in Starlight’s basket and I thought I’d leave it there. Then the postman brought me a small cheque for an article I’d written about two years earlier and had just been re-used by another magazine so I took it around to the bank. When I got back, the girl was there, standing by my gate.
She said, ‘Have you got it?’
I opened the gate, ‘Got what?’
‘He said he left it here.’
‘Have you got it?’ she demanded.
I turned to her, hand on the gate, thinking she was a care-in-the-community day release or something. ‘Got what?’ I repeated.
I looked at her. I said ‘No. I haven’t got it.’
‘Someone must have it, ‘she told me. ‘He left it in your garden. He wouldn’t lie to me.’
I said, ‘Tell you what, come back tomorrow. I’ll ask about, see if anyone has your glove.’
‘Can you do it now?’ she said.
‘Ask about. Ask about now.’
I shook my head. ‘Most of my neighbours are at work.’
‘Why aren’t you at work?’ she demanded, like she suspected me of something.
She snorted. ‘I’ll come back tonight,’ she told me. ‘About eight.’
I went inside to make myself some breakfast. Then I went upstairs to rake through Starlight’s basket to retrieve the glove, took it downstairs and washed it under a warm tap with some soap powder. Then I squeezed it out in my fist and then rolled it in some kitchen roll to dry it a bit more. Then I went out back and hung it on the line to dry properly.
About ten past seven she knocked on my front door. I opened it and was about to speak when she asked, ‘Have you got it yet?’
Starlight walked past me, purring, and curled her body around the girls leg. She bent down to stroke it like they’d known each other forever. Then she straightened up, and eyed me.
‘I’ve got it,’ I said. ‘I’ll go and get it. Wait here.’
I went through the hall and out the back of the kitchen to the yard, plucked the glove from the peg on which it hung on the line, and folded it neatly in two, wrist to fingertips. Then I took it back to the front door.
‘Is this it?’ I asked, holding it out.
Her eyes shone and she reached out for it and I thought, is she crying? Is she crying over this glove?
‘He said he’d left it,’ she told me, taking the glove from me and holding it against her cheek. ‘He’d never lie.’
Then her face changed. Became sharper. ‘Have you washed this?’ she said. ‘Have you washed it?’
My bemused silence must have condemned me. Her face contorted, ‘You washed it! You fucker, you washed it!’
‘It was dirty,’ I said.
‘He left it for me!’ her voice was rising.
‘The cat had it in her basket…’
‘Her basket!’ and she just shrieked at me. Shrieked. A distorted gutteral sound that began as a roar and rose almost to a scream.
Then she turned and stormed back down the stairs, turning as she reached the gate. ‘It’s no use!’ she hissed. ‘It’s no use!’