It was a Saturday, I remember because she was hanging out her washing in her back garden. I watched her take the clothes from the laundry basket, shake them, then hang them on the line. Each time she stretched to reach the line, she threw her head back and her waist-length dark hair fanned out across her upper back. An ochre-red dress clung to her curvy body.
I watched her for several weeks. I discovered she lives at number six on the ground floor, that she cycles away at eight a.m. Monday to Friday and returns at six p.m. Every Saturday, she stays home, hangs out her washing; every Sunday goes to church. No visitors and no male callers that I noticed.
Saturdays, I take a break from the computer and story writing. Early in the morning, I do my shopping at the farmer’s market. The rest of the day I spend cleaning, cooking, and relaxing.
This Saturday, I call out to her from my balcony, polite and casual.
“Hello there, glorious weather for drying clothes!”
“Hi neighbour, I’m Hugh,” I say.
She balances her washing basket on her hip and nods.
“I’m Angela,” she says.
“I love your wild and shady garden,” I say.
“Thanks,” she replies.
“There’s a Chardonnay chilling in my fridge. Care to join me later? Number thirteen, second floor,” I say.
“Come to mine, number six, ground floor. We can enjoy the garden. Say six. Bring the wine.”
I need to tell you something. I moved here a year ago. Before that, I lived far away. One evening when I was nine and a half years old, Daddy returned home from one of his beer-drinking bouts. He and mom started shouting at one another in the kitchen. There was a loud bang. The silence that followed was terrifying. Mom warned me to say nothing. Said if I did, the police would send me away. Said I'd never see her again. So, I didn’t utter a word for two years.
My mother went to prison for manslaughter. She fell into a severe depression and tried to commit suicide. She now lives in a mental institution. I don’t visit.
Shrinks assessed me. Foster parents raised me. I attended a remedial learning centre and found comfort in writing. I went off the rails, but I am now clean.
After showering I dress for my laundry love in my new blue jeans and best black shirt. I dab musk perfume—the same scent my mom loved—behind my ears and on the inside of my wrists. At five minutes to six, I take the wine out of the fridge.
I told the police I keep to myself. Don't socialise at all with neighbours; saw nothing. Didn’t tell them about surfing the internet for those Japanese torture cartoons sites and sex sites I love to visit, except on Saturday. I don’t go there on a Saturday.
© Mary Anne McEnery