‘Christ, what was that?’
Frank doesn’t answer but turns over, pulling the duvet with him.
I roll out of bed and peek through the blinds. ‘Sounded like a car back firing.’
‘Not on Greenhayes. There aren’t any old bangers around here.’
I scan the cul-de-sac, looking for any sign of movement but it’s all quiet. The mock-tudor houses stand in a row and our bay window offers a good view. I notice movement on the porch next door. It would be a foolish burglar trying to gain entry at the front. Reaching for my glasses, I see more clearly. There’s naked woman slumped on the doormat. Her tapered legs stretch to the step and her skin’s all pearly in the moonlight.
‘Well I never.’
The woman hugs her knees, trying to hide her breasts the size of honeydews.
‘It’s Jenny. Herman must’ve chucked her out.’
‘I knew that marriage was never going to last.’
‘But it’s the middle of the night and she’s got nothing on.’ I grab Frank’s dressing gown and tie the belt around my waist, throwing the other robe over my shoulder.
‘Blimey, what a woman.’ Frank’s at the window now he knows there’s something worth watching.
I stand beside him and we see Jenny shivering. ‘You can’t go interfering.’
‘I’m only going to lend her my robe.’
‘Herman went off his head when I cut a few inches off his precious Leylandii. You don’t want to make an enemy of him.’
‘I can’t leave Jenny stuck on the porch like that. I’ll never get a wink of sleep if I don’t help her.’
I leave the house, my slippers clip-clopping as I walk to the boundary. The night is clear but the damp air clings. Standing on tiptoes I peer over the wall. She sees me and scurries through the shrubs. Passing over the robe I notice her fingers are like ice. She pulls a smile but looks set to burst into tears.
‘Thank you.’ Jenny’s swollen top lip makes it hard for her to speak.
‘Might stop you getting a cold – I’d invite you back but Frank says no. Won’t hear of it after that last row he had with Herman.’
‘It’s okay.’ She struggles to get her arms into the sleeves. ‘Herman will let me in soon.’
I still can’t sleep in spite of my good deed and when it’s time to get up, I’m like a dishrag. Limping to the window, I draw the blinds and there’s no sign of Jenny. She must’ve found refuge somewhere. When I get downstairs, there’s a parcel on the back porch. I peel back the brown paper and there’s my robe all fluffy and warm from the tumble dryer. There was no need to wash and return it so promptly. I find an envelope nestling by the collar and inside there’s a thank you note from Jenny. She’s signed her name in loopy handwriting and at the bottom, there’s a smiley face. Only this smiley face has a black eye. I wonder if it’s a coded message for help and I think about Jenny trapped in Herman’s executive home like a modern day Cinderella but without a prince in sight. I look again at the smiley face and decide it’s not a black eye just a blot from the ballpoint pen.
Gail Aldwin lives in Dorset and enjoys writing flash fiction as relief from the slog of completing a novel. She is currently redrafting her third manuscript titled Mistrust. Please see her blog at http://gailaldwin.wordpress.com