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Saturday 1st November

The morning after, everyone from the four homes are out cleaning their windows. The air is cold. It’s the first day of November and I get the feeling the weather is only going to get worse.

Every year I feel anxious at this time. After bonfire night I’ll feel better. I’ll be excited for Christmas. Harold will switch on the lights on his house and cover the garden in more. It’s a magnificent sight. Forget Blackpool illuminations. Bradley illuminations are the ones people should see. People even stop and comment. The police did once, I believe. But that was before I moved into the area.

As I look at the four houses being cleaned I can’t help but be reminded of my time at school. I was bullied because if my name, Lee Mercer. Flea Homo was the clever name the kids came up with. And now I’m an adult, in body anyway, I’m being bullied by a little shit pre-teenager. And so are the neighbours.

It’s ten ’clock and time for me to go to work.

Mrs Mellor isn’t on again today, as it’s Saturday. Mr Byrne is.

At the depot, Agatha spoke to me for the first time in a while. I’d like to say it’s something nice, but it’s not. She says, ‘Don’t I get a thank you?’ She doesn’t ask it with any hint of humour. It’s dry and somewhat aggressive.

After last night, I can’t be bothered to deal with another miserable wretch. But I can’t help asking, ‘For what?’

‘Well for approving your holidays in January.’

I feel like saying, ‘Thank you for doing your job. The thing you get paid to do.’ But I don’t. Instead I give her a raised eyebrow and a slightly raised upper lip.

She raises her head and looks down her nose at me like a snooty toff before entering her cave.

My round today went by without a problem. There were only fifteen on today. If many more drop my wage will be going down after all.

I’m heading home thinking what to buy Mei for Christmas. I’ve not thought of it since that afternoon on the laptop when she caught me looking at sexy underwear. It put me off somewhat.

The Police Corsa is outside my house again and I have to park in that bloody carpark. I could mount the kerb and put all four wheels on the pavement but I don’t like doing that unless necessary.

This time it’s a lot more serene.

I don’t know if the constable is at my house or not. What was his name? Sometimes I’m useless with names. Smith? That’s right. Paul Smith.

I walk into my house and take off my shoes. I can hear voices in the living room. He’s here.

When I enter the living room I see everyone sitting in the same places they were the other night.

Smith stands up and shakes my hand. ‘Your wife has been catching me up on what happened last night.’

I nod and sit down.

He gets down to business. ‘Jason’s mother has filed a complaint against you. She says you keep harassing her.’

I shake my head. ‘That woman needs a personality transplant. Can’t social services do something about her? Those kids have no life.’

He doesn’t answer me.

‘I only go down there to complain. There’s no other reason I’d go near that house.’

Smith says, ‘Why didn’t you call me? I gave you my card, didn’t I?’

‘It didn’t cross my mind.’

He sits back and tells me he’s already spoken with Harold about the incident. ‘I believe your neighbours, the Starkies? They got egged too. And the next house along?’

I nod.

‘I’m heading there next.’

And with that, he stands up and I see him to the door.

For the rest of the afternoon I want to relax. A lot of things have happened lately, most of it bad. It’s like everything is going wrong at the same time. Jason is getting worse, Mrs Mellor is hiding something, and Mei’s mother is just...there. At least Mei has sorted her boss out so that’s one thing to tick off the list.

No matter how hard I try I don’t seem to be able to relax. Even the games are boring right now, and I thought I’d never say that.

I feel like punching something.

I decide to bake some bread. I haven’t done it for a few months and I still have some dried yeast and flour left in the cupboard. So I give it a go, partly because I find it therapeutic, and partly because I have something to punch.

In the living room Mei is on her laptop. I shout to her and she ignores me. This frustrates me somewhat. I do hate it when she does that. Sometimes I can say something important and she will ask me about it later in the day. She’s like my dad in that respect. Perhaps I’m the female of this relationship.

I knead the bread a little too roughly. It awakens Mei from her laptop and she comes into the kitchen. She can sense I’m not happy. It’s like an invisible force is constantly pushing against me and I don’t feel comfortable in my own home. I hate this feeling.

I tell her how unhappy I am lately and she tries to comfort me with the usual ‘Everything will be OK’ blah blah blah. I know she’s trying to help but it’s really not doing.

Two hours later after the bread has risen, been knocked back, and risen again in its tin, I put it in the oven. Mei had mentioned I could make some Chinese steamed buns at some point and I agree but I know it’ll be a while.

The TV is shit for a Saturday evening. I want to go out but there’s bread in the oven and nowhere to go really. The cinema has nothing interesting on show and the only times we tend to go out together these days is when we have a meal or go shopping. We eat out way too much.

I think I’ll check online again for her gifts. It’s only eight weeks or so until Christmas.

I don’t know what to get for my parents, so I call them. I don’t see them as often as I should because the trip to Blackpool isn’t very appetising. I think the town is a shithole to be honest. I’m sure back in the day it was an appealing and family friendly seaside resort, but these days it’s just tacky and outdated. Even their football team don’t care anymore.

I know what mum and dad will say: ‘Just get us anything.’

I don’t like doing that. What if they don’t like it?

Mum says to me, ‘Your dad is going on about having goose for Christmas instead of turkey.’

He does this every year.

‘We all want turkey, don’t we?’ she asks.

‘I do. If you cook it with bacon on top.’

‘Lee, I always do.’

Her Christmas dinners are a delight. They’re always packed with the trimmings and the turkey is succulent. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

So that’s my mum and dad and Mei and her mum that I don’t know what to buy for Christmas.

I do have a sister but she got married and moved to Australia years ago. She does phone sometimes. She once came to visit us two years ago and it was good to see her. ‘I guess we both like foreigners,’ she joked. But I wouldn’t call an Australian a foreigner. Not really. I know it’s a different country and they have that accent but to me, it’s like an extension of Britain. Only cheekier.

I end the call with my mum after going through what time we’ll be there for Christmas and whether Mei’s mother will be there. Which she will. She’s never been here before on Christmas so it will be a new experience for her. Not that a lot happens. Eat food and watch shit TV after opening gifts. That’s about it.

It’ll be all right.

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