Sunday 21st December
Last night’s party was still going when I finally closed my eyes. The last time I looked at the clock it was approaching midnight. I could feel Mei tossing and turning while trying to get to sleep. I don’t know what time she drifted off.
She was awake and playing on her phone when I woke at seven with a groggy feeling in the back of my nose. I didn’t drink much at the party, just two or three of that German beer I got, so I don’t know why I’d feel a mini hangover.
For breakfast I have a bacon sandwich, with extra grease soaked into the bread. Something fatty and unhealthy is just what I fancy this morning. Mei has porridge her mum makes for her. I remember my grandma giving me extra bacon fat as she wanted to fatten me up a bit, and she lived until she was eighty two. Perhaps the old ways are the best after all.
Last night while we were at the party, Mei’s mum, Wei, decided to have a go at putting the Christmas tree up. She must have been bored shitless. I have to give her credit; she did a good job. The star is at the top and the tinsel twists around the tree perfectly. Even the lights are hidden well. I just wish she’d put it by the front window instead of behind the sofa. I won’t complain, though.
Taking Mei to work feels different today. Even getting into the car feels uncomfortable, like I know Emma is in the flats videoing us. I look but can’t see her. Perhaps that’s the point.
As I drive to Mei’s drop off point at the old Blockbusters I think to myself: why did Emma openly confess to recording things? Is she a nutter? I don’t know if she was trying to help, but how does that help? Weird, right? I know I won’t be stepping foot in the Spar shop while she’s still about.
All throughout the day I feel that grogginess. The first beer I’ve had in ages and it makes me feel like this. I don’t understand why people drink so much. I used to have a friend who could drink anyone under the table and still wake up early with a clear head. Prick.
I see Amy again today. She’s on Leyland covering Naz. She asks me if I enjoyed the party.
‘How do you know about that?’ I ask.
‘I was there.’
‘Arrived after ten.’
I stare at her.
‘I told you. I used to live in Bradley.’ She smiles at me, a kind of sideways flirty smile. ‘Bret mentioned you and your wife were there.’
‘Bret Fogarty. One of the owners. The small one.’
‘Oh right. So who’s the muscle man?’
‘I see.’ I wonder: are they married?
‘They’re brothers,’ she tells me.
She smiles that smile again. ‘Can’t tell, right?’
I ask her about Emma, the peeping tom. She tells me that she’s a strange girl. Bret and Alan can’t stand her really. She was there as a plus one for someone else who then ignored her for the rest of the party. Nobody spoke to her all night. Apart from me that is. They didn’t know about the recordings and I don’t know if I did the right thing telling her or not. It might cause trouble.
Then I ask her about Mrs Mellor. I know I shouldn’t still be asking about this, not after all this time not seeing her but I can’t help it.
‘She looks so ill. I’m sure she’s not alone in that house.’
I try not to read too much into what Amy said to me about Mrs Mellor. I don’t want to obsess about it again. I also try not to read too much into the flirting, which, by the way, makes me feel like a bit of a stud.
There are only four days left until Christmas. Four days to get through and then I can enjoy a relaxing day with my family. I don’t need to work Christmas day as the meal numbers will be so low that rounds can be merged together. I do need to work Boxing Day, though, which I’m not too bothered about.
After my round I head into Leyland. I’m going to see Mrs Mellor and take her a Christmas card. A Christmas card I’m yet to purchase.
I pick one up on the way. I feel good about this. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile instead of just coasting through life as I have over the last few weeks.
I park up and look at the school, which is quiet for the holidays. To me it’s just a training centre for bullies. Bullies of old ladies.
I’m getting angry.
I step out into the cold and walk up her path with the feeling that I’m doing something wrong, but also something right. I don’t see her looking; no candy floss wig floating in the window. Nothing.
I knock and wait.
Inside I can see a shadow coming to the door. It’s bigger than she is. Bigger than I am in fact. I take a step back.
The door opens to a man in his forties. He has a dirty look about him, like a tramp. He’s unshaven with a bald head, and he has gravy around his mouth.
‘Yeah?’ he says.
‘Is Mrs Mellor in?’
He nods. ‘Why?’
I tell him I used to deliver meals to her.
She appears behind him in the living room door holding a Zimmer frame. She looks horrid, like her life has been slowly leaving her. She doesn’t say anything to me.
‘I’m her carer,’ says the man.
I don’t believe him.
‘If you don’t mind, I’m just giving her her dinner.’
He closes the door on me. I don’t actually know what to say now. I’m conflicted. I need to tell someone. It won’t be Agatha that’s for sure. It won’t be Amy either.
I decide to go home and speak to Harold about it.
‘Oh I don’t know what to say, Lee, I honestly don’t. It doesn’t look good but you might be looking into things that aren’t there.’
‘He had gravy on his face. I’m sure he was eating her dinner.’
Harold nods. ‘It does look that way, but he could have been eating his own dinner.’
It is a possibility I suppose.
‘If I were you I wouldn’t get involved. She didn’t say or do anything to suggest she needs help, did she?’
I think back. No she didn’t. Even when I was leaving there was nothing in the windows that could have been a cry for help.
Harold is probably right. I keep telling myself not to worry blah blah blah but it niggles at my mind. And now there’s the Amy and Emma situation. One’s a flirtatious and seemingly promiscuous free spirit while the other is a closed off neighbourhood pervert.
Mei told her mum about Emma last night and she was not happy about it to say the least. After she’d finished laughing about the hug I gave her she wanted to confront Emma about it. Mei and I asked her not to so she didn’t bother with it.
I tell Harold about the whole thing and he finds it as weird as everyone else does. It has put us all on edge somewhat.
When I leave Harold’s house, Mei’s mum appears at our front window and ushers me inside quickly in case Emma is recording us. It’s not like I was doing anything wrong so if she was recording then it’s wasted. I wonder if she has it set to constantly record, or if she does it when she pleases. I do see an open window with Emma leaning out smoking a cigarette. I wave out of politeness and Mei’s mum stares up there.
Later on when I arrive home with Mei, Jason’s mum is waiting for us.