The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

#fridayflash: Greenhayes

on April 20, 2012

‘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.’

‘Okay then.’

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.

This story currently appears on Flash Fiction South West which celebrates National Flash Fiction Day on 16 May 2012.

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17 responses to “#fridayflash: Greenhayes

  1. marc nash says:

    Nice ambiguity over the deliberate code/accidental ink blot. I rather sadly think she has gone back to Herman & his abuse…

  2. Eric says:

    Really liked the ending!

  3. I really liked this, and the way we are left wondering if that note was a cry for help or not and whether the good meaning neighbour just deep down didn’t want to get involved.

  4. Steve Green says:

    Sad to say, domestic violence exists in all levels of society.

    Powerful story.

  5. Fiona Murphy says:

    I want to read more Gail. Such a moving story. I loved it. 🙂

  6. Wonderfully written story though terribly sad. There’s something of Raymond Carver about this..trouble in suburbia.. Vivid and intense.. loved it..

  7. great work Gail, maybe Jenny will find the courage to escape herself. I also liked the ending.

  8. How terribly sad. Nicely done.

  9. John Wiswell says:

    Unsettling and darned fun toward the middle, until we grasp what’s definitely happening. Then “fun” has nothing to do with it. Of course sleeplessness is a valid response. Some things I’d like to drive from the world.

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