A return to one of Sue’s Prompt for #writephoto back in January 2018
Serge readied himself to knock on the door. It was an impressive piece of oak. ‘Just nod and smile, ok? She’s not keen on anyone new.’
Darren shuffled his feet. Serge thought him an odd lad. Sometimes he seemed shy and nervy, like now; at others he was full of himself.
‘If she asks you a question, let me answer it.’
Somewhere inside the house a dog barked and was stilled. Then a door could be heard to open and close and finally, after what seemed an age, the door itself began to move. It was on a chain and Darren could see a rheumy eye appear in the gap, stare at him, then at Serge, before the door closed again. Another pause and then the door opened fully. A short ancient lady, in thick grey cardigan and woolen slippers peered out.
Serge smiled broadly. ‘Morning Mrs P. Come to do yer windows.’
‘Of course. Who is this, Serge?’
‘Darren. Me apprentice. Good lad. Hard working. Always…’
‘He knows the rules?’
‘Course. First thing I explained. Don’t yer Darren?’
Darren looked confused; he’d been told not to speak, hadn’t he? After what seemed like an age, the old lady nodded. ‘Your money is in the tin.’ She turned and pushed the door shut.
Serge let out a breath and then smiled at Darren. ‘Ok, let’s get this place done. All these bloody crittel windows take a bloody age.’
The two men unloaded the ladders. As the stood by the outside tap for the first bucket to fill, Serge said, ‘Rules. One, clear the sills with a separate cloth; she doesn’t like soap on the sandstone, says it stains. Two, don’t use a squeegee as it doesn’t get into the corners of each little pane of glass. Three, the two windows at the top, round the back, are outside our arrangement so leave them.’
‘She do them herself?’
‘No idea but I doubt it. You’ll see they’re all grown over anyway so you’ll get scratched to pieces if you try.’
Darren picked up the bucket and looked up at the front façade. ‘How many windows does this place have?’
‘Geez. Better get on with it.’
‘You do the side and start on the back and I’ll get these sorted. She likes these especially clear as they are the best view.’
Darren pulled a face. ‘Pretty crap if you ask me. A school and shops.’
Serge smiled. ‘No, the view in; she likes people to admire the house.’
Darren lent his ladder against the back wall and looked up. The gable at the top had a double window, which, as Serge said, was covered in rose stalks and creeper. A lovely large red rose grew out in front of the left side. His Mel would like that rose. He could just pop up and slip it in the bucket when they left. The work of a moment.
When Serge heard the short scream and the thud he feared the worst. Hurrying round the back, he found Darren lying on his back on the grass, a rose in one hand and a look on his face that spoke of surprise and bewilderment and, yes, terror.
He looked up; it was clear from the placement of the ladder and the height it had been extended to that Darren had been at the topmost window; the forbidden window.
Carefully he bent to his colleague. ‘Anything broken?’
Darren shook his head.
‘What did you see?’
‘It was awful. Hideous.’
‘Dead?’ He’d often feared what might be up there.
‘Oh god. A prisoner? Were they tied up? Chained?’
Darren shook his head. ‘Far worse.’
Serge frowned. ‘What? Tortured? Mutilated?’
‘Mrs P. Dancing. Naked.’
Serge patted Darren’s shoulder. ‘There are some views no one should see.’