The End of an Error

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Monday 27th October

I wake up early at seven. Mei is sleeping soundly beside me without even a murmur as I climb out of bed. She’s so quiet I have to make sure she’s still breathing. She’s laid on her back with her arms over her head and her mouth open wide like she’s having a surprising dream. Or someone stepped on her toes and she froze like that.

Usually I’d have a shower when I get up but her mother is still in bed and her room is next to the bathroom, so I wait downstairs and make myself a cup of coffee and some cereal. I’m not hungry I just think I should have it. Having breakfast has been drummed into me by my parents so I just go on autopilot most of the time.

I do feel a little tired still. I sit on the couch and turn on the TV with the volume on low, not just so I don’t wake up the sleepers, but so I can hear any commotion next door. The walls are so paper thin that I often hear Harold in a morning slope down the stairs.

I sit there for almost an hour when Mei’s mother comes downstairs. Right away I feel apprehensive, like she’s going to talk to me. I don’t know how to reply to her, so I get there before her. I stand up and walk past her, smiling, and I head upstairs into the bathroom for my morning shower.

I can’t wait to finish my round today and get back to see Harold. Why hasn’t he called me? Perhaps it isn’t as bad as I thought. But blood, though?

At the depot I have to put in a holiday form for our trip to Edinburgh in January. Luckily the forms are on a table just outside the witch’s cave. The problem is I need to hand it to her when I’ve completed it.

Shit.

I think I’ll wait and hand it in with the delivery sheet tomorrow. They go in a cubby hole on the wall outside her office. That’ll do the job and I don’t have to deal with her sour face.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I don’t like her.

Mr Byrne was pleasant today, which put me in a good mood. A good mood marred by the image of blood on the garden path. Maybe I should phone him.

I don’t phone him and complete my round at Mrs Mellor’s.

I walk inside and yell ‘meals’.

She tells me come inside. I do so and put the meal on the trolley with the towel. She’s on the ugly old sofa looking away from me outside the window.

‘Is everything OK?’ I ask her.

She turns to me and I recoil. Her left eye is black. Her face looks like a panda’s.

Before I have a chance to ask her, she says, ‘I banged it on the bathroom cabinet door this morning.’

I don’t believe her. I look around. I can see the kitchen from here. The sink has a couple of plates and cups in, which is odd. I’ve never seen more than one. But I guess we all have our off days.

‘Honestly, Lee’ she continues. ‘Listen, I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t them.’

All right. Why would she lie? I ask her if she wants me to get her anything.

‘No, thank you. You’ve done enough for me.’

I don’t know what she means by that.

‘Bringing me my meal every day. You have a kind soul, Lee.’

I leave Mrs Mellor’s house feeling out of sorts. I can’t help thinking that somehow that black eye is my fault. But how could it be? The comment about how I’ve done enough for her weighs on my mind. Maybe it’s just me putting meaning into her harmless gratitude.

I try and forget about it for the time being. I guess she’s telling the truth.

I head home almost breaking the speed limit so I can speak to Harold about the blood. I don’t think I’m being nosey; I’m concerned, that’s all.

I turn into Bournemouth Avenue and see that his car isn’t there. The suspense is killing me now.

I pull up and get out. The blood spot is covered in sawdust, which to me confirms it: something bad has happened.

With no choice, I reluctantly go into my house and wait.

Mei’s mum is upstairs. I must remember to call her Wei. I keep forgetting. Anyway, she’s upstairs with the laptop. I decide to perch myself on the sofa and play some games until Harold returns.

Thirty five minutes later I hear his car pull up and his gate open. Then I hear him enter his house and put his coat under his stairs. But what I don’t hear is Poppy barking.

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