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Friday 31st October

Today is Halloween. The last few days have been pretty uneventful from the Jason camp. I’ve only seen him twice this week and both times I received a nasty glare, but it was nothing that bothered me. Mrs Mellor’s face was healing though I can’t shake the fact that it happened in the first place. She’s been polite with no other insinuations so I figure she was telling the truth about the bathroom cabinet door hitting her, though I did notice footprints in the soil around the garden. Something is off there, I’m sure of it. Agatha actually approved my holiday for January, which was the most surprising thing to happen. According to the other drivers she was in a good mood. I can’t think why, unless she got herself some the night before. I shudder at the thought. I think I’d prefer a miserable witch than a sexually satisfied one. Urgh.

The sawdust and blood on Harold’s garden path has now gone and Harold seems to be getting better. He’s even talking about a cat, something to keep him company that doesn’t need too much taking care of. Everywhere he looks he’s reminded of Poppy: the food and treats left in the cupboard, her toys, her bed, even the lack of noise reminded him of her. I agree that a cat would be a good idea, plus it would drive Mei’s mum wild with the shit it gives out. I smile.

Poppy’s body had been returned to him and he’d bought a box for her. That was yesterday. He was going to have a little burial for her last night but then it rained and he changed his mind about it. Instead he took the box and body to one of those pet cemetery places that cremate the bodies and have a plot of land where you can spread the ashes. He should be back soon. I think he’s keeping and urn, though. He loved that dog.

I’m currently on my way home after delivering my final meal of twenty one to Mrs Mellor. I’m running late because of the extra delivery on my round today. It took me ages to find with no number on the house. Thankfully she was happy to see me, not like Mr Byrne is sometimes, who, by the way, was nice today.

My phone rings. It’s Mei. I do the usual and put it on loudspeaker and hold it low and out of sight.

‘I’m with my mum at the fish market.’

‘OK?’ I say. Wait, why isn’t she at work?

‘I got a call at work. Luckily I was on my break. My mum called me. She has caused a scene at the market. She bought some meat and the butcher short changed her and she won’t leave until he gives her the right change. Can you come and help?’

I don’t want to go there and deal with that. I can’t think of anything worse. But I agree and head to the old Blockbuster carpark. It’s a five minute walk up Ringway to the market. Ringway is the main road that goes through Preston city centre. It makes up part of the A59 that goes from Liverpool all the way to Skipton and beyond.

I like Preston. The layout of the city – yes, a city – is something that I’ve gotten used to and wouldn’t really have it any other way. I know it’s probably one of Britain’s smallest cities and only takes twenty minutes to cross, but it’s still a city. Anyway, I like the layout. A lot of people tell me it’s a shithole and in some places it is, but the city centre with its two main shopping centres and the main shopping streets and fish market are quaint and they make it easy get around. The Harris library is one nice building.

But I’m not here for that; I’m here to try and sort out a mess of someone trying to rip of my mother in law. She’s family to me whether she’s annoying or not.

I enter through the main fish market entrance which is closest to Ringway. They don’t just sell fish here. They sell everything from fruit and veg to squid and pig trotters.

The first thing that hits me when I enter is the stink. There are few things as bad as the smell of fish. My kitchen bin after I’ve washed salmon and thrown away the kitchen roll I used to pat it dry for instance. I’d rather stick my face into Jason’s mum’s armpits.

There are Halloween decorations dotted around that look like a child has made them, and some are pretty good. Others aren’t. Papier Mache and some paint don’t automatically make nice adornments; they make nice fires. It’s bonfire night in five days so maybe they’ll come in use for that.

The hard tiled floor and high ceilings make the place feel cold. I feel sorry for the business owners, standing there behind a chilled fridge or freezer. Upstairs is for clothing and whatnot. I don’t go up there. It’s like a ghost town and it’s depressing to walk around with the gaze of hopeful shopkeepers bearing down on me.

So I stick to the ground floor. I’ve shopped here myself on plenty of occasions. I like to help the independent businesses, and the food is the right price, but not when they rip off my family. This particular butcher has a reputation among a lot of the Chinese in Preston, so Mei tells me anyway.

I can hear the shouting before I see it. There’s a bit of a crowd gathered. I see them. Mei’s face is red because she’s embarrassed; her mother’s is red because she’s angry. Security is there too. Also red.

As I approach, the butcher is handing over some money along with a free portion of pork ribs. It won’t be enough for her. It’s not enough for me and I want to say something to him but the eyes from the crowd are burning my skin.

Mei looks at me sternly. She says, ‘They short changed her.’

I look at the butcher, a short fat balding man with glasses. He looks like he should know better. I say to him, ‘How can you short change her? Now she’ll go back to China and tell everyone what thieving bastards we are.’

‘It was an honest mistake. I’m sorry.’

I look around at all the watching faces. There must be fifteen of them. I go red.

Mei saves me. She says to the butcher, ‘It’s not the first time you’ve done this to Chinese.’ She says to her mum and me, ‘Let’s go.’

We leave through the crowd and head out of a different entrance from the one I came in. We walk along Orchard Street towards the entrance to St Georges.

‘Are you going back to work?’ I ask her.

She nods. ‘I have to go back.’

I look at my watch. It’s after four. ‘You finish in an hour. Can’t you finish early?’

She shakes her head.

Now what am I going to do? The carpark only lets an hour and twenty minutes each time. And now I have to do something with her mum.

I’ve decided. ‘I’m going to take you mum home and come back but I’ll have to meet you at Hill Street carpark instead, OK?’

She nods and we say goodbye.

I know that by the time I’ve taken her mother home I’ll have to leave again and I feel like a taxi driver. I also know that the traffic will be bad. At least Hill Street is slightly easier to get into than the ex-Blockbuster one

I manage to pick Mei up from Hill Street and she suggests getting a takeaway tonight. I tell her her mother is cooking something so we’ll have one tomorrow. I’m really not looking forward to tonight. All the way home I have a sinking feeling that Jason will try something under the cover of trick or treaters.

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