Debbie, sitting at my kitchen table and looking over the rim of her coffee cup at me, said, quite casually, “Why don’t you write a note to the guy next door thanking him for putting out your dustbin the other day while you were away?” Then added in a whisper, as if there was a devilish plot brewing, “At the same time, you can ask him over for a coffee.”
“What! Me?” I exclaimed
Debbie, looking surprised at my astonishment replied, “Sure, why not? It will be a nice gesture, and besides, Jane, it will be a perfect excuse for you to meet him”.
“Exactly,” I said, “... to meet him. He might misunderstand me.”
Debbie tutted, “Hogwash Jane, you should be more positive. It will be a great icebreaker for you both. And besides, have you seen him? I have, and Wow!”. While bringing the back of her hand to her forehead and feigning a swoon added, “So cute!”
“Debbie,” I said sharply, and in a tone that our mother would use on us when she was cross with us, “Thank you for trying, but after my last experience I’m in no hurry and I certainly don’t want my neighbour, cute or not, to think I’m making a move on him. For goodness sake, Debbie, he only moved in next-door four weeks ago. Talk about desperate. I don’t think so, thank you very much. And I would like that to be the end of the matter, ok?”
Debbie shrugged, “Ok, but I can’t see the point of you both spending your evenings alone when you live only yards apart.”
Debbie, looking at her watch, the legs of her chair screeching over my polished floor as she jumped up said, “ Oh, crumbs, it’s tea time, I must fly. See you tomorrow.”
“ That’s Debbie,” I thought, watching her hurtle out of the door. She is always dashing everywhere, and totally disorganised. We are as different as chalk and cheese. Debbie is the original Miss Outgoing, whereas I am the original Miss Wallflower. We have always been close, as sisters, but in personality we are so different. Debbie has many friends. It was through one of her friends that she learned that my new neighbour’s name is David and that he’s unattached.
As for me, I have only a few friends and have only ever had one boyfriend. We had been together since our school days. We both just assumed we would get married, so we did. It was a disaster. The divorce was traumatic but I’m over it all now. I’m quite content here in my little house, although I do sometimes feel a little lonely in the evenings.
While eating my tea, alone, as usual, I decided to spend that evening writing a letter to mum.
After doing the washing up, I retrieved a pen and writing pad from the top of the fridge, and wandering into the front room, planted myself in my favourite armchair.
I began: “Dear Mum, I hope you are well...” Then I stopped, with pen poised over the paper, I couldn’t think of anything to write. Perhaps I was trying too hard; that happens to me sometimes. I decided to have a break.
Chewing on my pen, I looked over at the window and realised the evening was drawing in. Crossing the room I reached up to draw the curtains. Looking out, I saw my new neighbour. He was strolling under the street lamp outside, his black curly hair reflecting the glow. His tanned face looked golden in contrast with his white shirt. He looked like Emily Bronte’s ‘Heathcliffe'. He was, as Debbie would put it, absolutely drop dead gorgeous.
He saw me standing at the window and, giving me a smile that would make Casanova envious, he waved.
All I gave in return was a terse nod before quickly closing the curtains.
I turned my back to the window and the world and looked about me.
My forlorn room gave a warning, “It’s going to be another lonely night, Jane”
Sighing, I thought,“Perhaps Debbie is right, maybe I should try to be more positive in my outlook and not just wait for things to happen, or, in my case, not happen.
I wondered to myself, “ Why don’t I become a little more like Debbie and start to live a little”.
I pondered on my age next birthday and decided, “Watch out world, here I come”.
“What shall I do first?, I asked myself, then remembered that when I was taking down the writing pad and pen from the top of the fridge earlier, I saw the bottle of sherry that had been left over from some Christmas bash Debbie had organised. She told me to take it home and to finish it off. I never did, but then, that was the ‘old me’. Now, this was the ‘new me’.
Taking down the sherry and picking up the glass that I normally use for my ‘before-bed’ milk drink, I came back into the front room. I tuned in the radio for some soft night music. I turned down the lights and, curling up in my armchair, clicked on the lamp on the table at my side. My first and second drink burned my throat as the genie in the bottle rushed into me.
By my third and forth glass I was definitely warming up inside.
I picked up the pen and pad from the table, and then poured my fifth.
Kicking off my fluffy bunny slippers I squirmed my toes into my luxurious furry rug.
Trying to finish my letter to mum, I kept seeing Dave in my mind.
Remembering Debbie’s suggestion earlier, and for fun, I began to scribble a note to him.
My first attempt was from the usual me:
“Dear Neighbour, Thank you for putting out my dustbin, it was very thoughtful of you...”
“No, no, Jane”, I rebuked myself, “That’s the ‘old you’, writing. You are the ‘new you’, remember? Try again”.
I tore off the page and, scrunching it up, dropped it on the floor.
“ Dear Neighbour...”
No, not ‘neighbour’, that won’t do at all. Rolling it up, my second ‘thank you’ note joined my first on the floor. If I want to be a ‘new me’ then what I need are words that don’t normally come crowding to the tip of my pen. I had an idea.
Leaning over the arm of my chair I pulled across the magazine rack. Searching through, I found a magazine that Debbie was currently reading. I excitedly thumbed through the pages and found a sexy story. I circled words and phrases that I thought would really fit the new me.
The bottle of sherry that I had spent most of the evening drinking and enjoying was now somewhat less than a half bottle. It urged my fantasies to run wild and they did.
Giggling like a schoolgirl, and with Debbie’s sexy story magazine for referral, I began:
Thank you for putting out my dustbin on to the pavement for me the other day. Talking of putting things out, why don’t you call round and put me out of my misery. You see, it’s been over a year since I had sex. You wont know about my exploits and me yet! But I was known as a sex Goddess around here. I’m a living legend. In fact, I was famous for it. My reputation ran far and wide. Men were often seen leaving my house, day and night, on their hands and knees. I have been resting up, but now, I’m back and, am I ready? You had better believe it. The thing is: are you ready? Do you want a challenge? Are you an athlete? And I don’t mean can you run a thousand metres! Why don’t you come over and try me, I’m lying here waiting, and so hungry?
Yours, in anticipation.
Insatiable. (From number eight)”.
I read it back and felt positively wicked. To complete my fun fantasy, I folded my invitation and put it in an envelope; sealed it and addressed it simply:
“To: Dave at number six”.
Dropping the envelope on the table, I decided that I had had enough excitement for one night and wandered unsteadily to bed, leaving the clearing up until tomorrow.
After putting my hair rollers in, in a fashion, I donned my hairnet and crawled into bed.
Next morning the noise from someone hoovering downstairs woke me.
I looked over at the clock on my dressing table, Eleven a.m.!
I sat up quickly and then groaned. My head was throbbing, fit to burst.
Putting on my dressing gown, and descending the stairs, I walked into the front room.
Debbie looked at me, and then switched of the Hoover.
Her mouth gaped open, her eyes widened. My appearance must have spoken volumes describing how ill I felt.
“Look at you! ” she shouted; clapping her hands in approval, “ Your colour explains the nearly empty sherry bottle. How many did you have last night?”
“Too many,” I replied. Wincing and waving my hand, urging her to talk more quietly, “ And oh, my head hurts.”
Debbie could not disguise her glee, “Good for you, Sis’.”
Then, with her hands on her hips, grinning and trying to impersonate our mother as I had the previous day, she said, “I hope you realise, Jane”, trying to look cross, “Your night of drunkenness has put me behind schedule, what with having to clean your house for you. Now, I’m late and I must dash.”
Reaching the door, she called back, “Oh, by the way, I’m glad you changed your mind about sending a ‘thank you’ note to your neighbour. I noticed it on the table as I was tidying. I saw David jogging past the window earlier, so I dashed out and gave it to him. Bye”.
With that, she was gone.
Debbie left me wondering what she was talking about, “What note?” I called after her, “What note?”
Then I remembered.
I turned and looked at the table.
The note was gone.
Thoughts raced through my aching head. I began to remember what I had written. I broke out in a cold sweat. Why couldn’t I have been satisfied with the ‘old me’.
He will have read it by now. What must he be thinking? I’ll never be able walk past his house ever again. What if he photocopies’ my note and distributes them down at the pub? What if he pins a copy on the free notice board by the checkout at Tesco’s under ‘domestic services’ or the ‘suggestions to keep fit’ board down at the gym? What if he drops a few copies into the free knitting patterns box at the ladies coffee morning in the community centre? I’ll have to wear a brown paper bag over my head forever. What if he thinks I meant what I had written? Why shouldn’t he think I meant it?
“ What an offer”, he will say to himself.
I can imagine him now, trashing his wardrobe, searching out his sexiest gear for tonight.
Tonight!!!!!! Oh, my God, I suddenly had another terrible thought, “What if he calls round tonight with a bottle or two of wine and two glasses and fully expecting some action?
The more I thought, the more my predicament dawned.
I had concluded that my only way out was for me to sell my house and move in with mum; when there came a knock at my front door.
I rushed to open it, “It will be Debbie,” I thought thankfully, to say she had read my note and had been only teasing when she said she had delivered it.
It wasn’t Debbie.
It was Dave, in his jogging top and shorts.
I looked like a bag lady in my battered old dressing gown.
The positive, ‘new me’, resolution that I had made the night before, crumbled.
I just stared up at him, frozen.
“Hi, I’m Dave...” he paused, an impish smile revealing his perfect teeth, “ ... your new neighbour, from number six. A young lady came out of your house as I was passing earlier. She gave me your note.”
I looked down at the note in his hand, hoping to die soon.
He winked one of his deep brown eyes, and said, “I’m here to accept your challenge, Miss Insatiable. I’m ready when you are. I hope you’re hungry.”
This wasn’t happening. I will wake from this nightmare. Just like Pam, in Dallas, with Bobby emerging from the shower. Bobby wasn’t dead after all. I wished I was.
Then, throwing his head back in laughter, he said, “I think the young lady has played a joke on the both of us”. He handed me the note, “ If you read it, you will understand what I mean.”
An opportunity to retrieve my reputation slowly fought its way through the fog of despair and desperation. My jaw slammed shut so hard that I heard my teeth click.
With my mouth as dry as a desert in a drought, I croaked, “You... you mean... you think my sister wrote....”.
Salvation was at hand, “ Oh yes, of course, my sister, she is always playing practical jokes on people.”
Offering up a very sheepish grin, you know the type I mean, were the grin takes so much effort it makes your lips quiver.
Pretending to read what I already knew, I brought in some Oscar winning amateur dramatics. I slowly shook my head in disbelief and gasped in horror, where appropriate.
I offered an apology and promised that I would give my sister a good talking too for playing such a childish prank.
He placed his hand on my shoulder,“ Oh, no, please don’t do that,”
His touch turned my knees to mush.
He continued, “I wouldn’t want you and your sister to quarrel.”
I began to answer like an automaton, “ No… Of course not… I see…yes… quite”. I ended this piece of gibberish with a gulp that was so loud it would have been audible at the end of the street.
He smiled, “I thought the note was very funny.”
“Oh, did you? ……Yes… of course… quite.” I sensed my responses were becoming insanely repetitive.
He offered his assurance, “Besides, I knew immediately that you hadn’t written it.”
“Oh, … did you? That’s wonderful…I mean, I didn’t mean, ‘that’s wonderful’…what I meant was…yes…. of course…quite”. I began to feel sick.
“I’ve been watching you when you pass my house.”
“Really! That’s nice…No! I didn’t mean that’s nice, I just meant, ‘Really?’” Same word, different meaning, you know, spoken with a mental ‘thank you God’ prayer accompanied by a choir of heavenly angels singing ‘Hallelujah’ from fluffy white clouds in the sky.
He flashed that smile at me again, “You just don’t look the type.”
“Oh, absolutely not, no… absolutely…. quite.”
I looked down at the floor, hoping it would open.
I screwed up my face in grief at the loss of the ‘new me’ I was supposed to be becoming.
“Why aren’t you asking him in, Jane?” my mind was wrestling with itself, “ You’re a coward, that’s why. All your intentions, to be a changed person, crashed at the first fence. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
There was a desperate battle going on inside my head, “ Come on, Jane, go for it, go on!”
I felt my resolve welling up from my fluffy bunny slippers to the top hair roller inside my hairnet.
I blurted out, “Would you like to come in for a coffee?”
Then I held my breath.
Dave accepted my invitation.
Dave walked in while I walked on air behind him.
I offered him my favourite armchair, while I went into the kitchen.
Switching on the coffee percolator, and with my back to the door, I called out, “ Do you have cream with your coffee, Dave?”
A voice, sounding like Shaun Connery, two inches away from my ear answered, “ Black will be just fine, thanks.”
I was so startled I nearly launched the coffee pot into orbit, “ Oh,” turning to him, “ I didn’t realise you were so close”. And he was close, very.
“ Would you like to finish the coffee while I get the biscuits?”
“ Be glad to”, he replied, “ In fact, I’m famous for my coffee making, I’m a living legend”. I knew from the sparkle in those eyes that he was teasing me, or was he flirting?
Returning to the front room we sat and talked over a coffee, or was it four, I can’t remember now.
I found myself becoming more relaxed as the morning flew by.
We were soon laughing together at my (I mean Debbie’s) note.
Debbie was right it was a great icebreaker.
We found we had so much in common.
Dave and me have been going out together for some months now.
I still remember that note and I still smile at my enquiry in it, about whether Dave is an athlete.
Should I drop you a note about that?
Did I here you say, “Yes?"
Ok, I’ll just nip into the kitchen for my pen and pad; and Oh yes, I mustn’t forget the sherry.
Author Notes: I would welcome your critique.