Monday morning starts like any other. I sit on the sofa, angled to overlook the garden and beyond. The binoculars sit beside me in case I spot the impressive red kite or barn owls that hunt over the marshes. I have turned into a voyeur of this world.
My brother and his girlfriend are on study leave. I hear Syd stomp on the floorboards in his bedroom above me. I want to ask him how many mocks he’s ploughed through but I bite my tongue. We had a serious falling out over a clear plastic pencil case over the weekend. He thinks it’s not suitable for his exam; I argued that no-one could write notes along a bloody zip.
We since mildly reconciled over the fact that he has never exceeded the number one outside of the comfort of the house. This is something I find unfathomable – who is that organised?!
Back to the story.
I spot a brown common kestrel being chased by two fat crows. As I snatch up the binoculars, it swoops around a telegraph pole and eludes its chasers. I move my eyes back a touch to locate it once more – the window pane and our towering willow and eucalyptus trees are in the way. A clatter upstairs.
‘You alright Syd?’ No reply, but the chase is on again. I catch the kestrel dip-diving and the crows swoosh in and almost clip it before disappearing into the reeds once more. Another crow watches lazily from the power line.
As I place the binoculars down, I tingle spreads across the back of my knees. I strain my ears. Nothing. I shake it off, and call over Fred for a cuddle. He stays rooted, his ears flicked up.
My eyes bore into the ceiling. I unconsciously hold my breath to hear better, but my heart pumps high up my throat and then floods my ears.
‘Are you in the house?’ I whisper to Syd.
‘No, we’re in the summer house. Why?’
I instinctively turn to the door leading to the stairs. His voice seems so far away through my phone.
‘Get in here now.’
I get up slowly, picking up my crutches without the usual metallic twang. I am utterly powerless, but I silently make my way to the base of the stairs. My eyes follow the banister up to the top, to the edge meeting the wall. I see a slither of a face.
I blink, and realise my imagination is on over-drive. Syd and Shannon rush in, and I notice he is holding a knife. He’s collected it from the magnetic strip in the kitchen. I can’t take my eyes off it. Before I even say a word, they bound up the stairs.
I shout ‘Hello?’ up after them, hoping it is David home early, although I know it isn’t him. I saw him leave the house not long before. I wait for any sound from upstairs. I am helpless, waiting at the bottom.
Nothing. No-one in the rooms, behind the doors, in the wardrobes, or under the beds.
I find myself justifying what I heard before, to myself and to them. It was someone – I heard the footsteps. The clatter – it didn’t sound like something just falling down. It was loud and deliberate. It set my whole body on edge. I feel stupid.
Syd checks I’m happy on my own before heading back out to revise. I feel guilty for taking up their time and distracting them. Once alone again, I can’t fully relax and keep my phone close by. I think about how I’m going to cope in London, and then remember I’m carrying two massive metal poles around if I ever need to use them.
For some light relief, I’m delighted to share the news that Syd was so nervous ahead of his first exam, he broke his own golden rule and surrendered his house rules. I’m strangely proud – the world has really opened up for him now.
Picture: a rare red kite spotted on Southwold marshes – what a beauty!
Picture credits: https://www.wildernessreserve.com/animal/red-kite/