Sunday 19th October
She is on today and I feel relaxed immediately. It’s a cliché but a weight really has been lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t sleep so well last night. Mei even tried to take my mind off it, and it worked for ten minutes, if you know what I mean. Wink wink. But then I was back in the semi-depressed state. Although, if Mei wants to try again later she’s more than welcome. I might lie and tell her I haven’t seen Mrs Mellor. I smile. No, I can’t do that to her.
Or can I?
No. Behave Lee.
At the depot, tweedle dum and tweedle dee are busy packing the boxes while the impatient drivers watch them. That’s how mistakes happen. I’ve filled in for Tim or Tom in the past and when you’re under pressure getting the meals hot enough and out on time, the last thing you need is the impatience of the drivers.
Agatha calls my name from her cave and everybody looks at me.
I enter her office and stand close to the door in case she decides to eat me.
She has in her hand the delivery sheet from yesterday that I’d handed in earlier when I arrived. She’s holding it out on the page for Mr Byrne, with the note I left explaining that he said he didn’t want the meal.
‘What’s this about?’ she asks. Her face is saggy and her cheeks are drooped like a bloodhound’s. Or Droopy’s. All she needs is Droopy’s little hat and she’ll be a dead ringer. It’s a shame she doesn’t have his personality.
‘Explain,’ she orders, like I’m a piece of shit.
‘He didn’t want his meal. That note is me reporting it.’
She scrunches her lip. ‘Why didn’t you call to report it?’
This is my moment. I lean in and say, ‘Because you don’t like me reporting things to you. It’s none of our business, remember?’
Her eyes widen like I’ve just kicked her in the crotch. ‘You interfering in a client’s life is different from one not eating his meal.’ She leans in now. ‘Can you not see that?’
‘If I had called and told you, you would have had a go at me like you do everyone else. You’d have told me that I’d delivered my meal and that was the end of it.’
She does this thing where she wants to speak, beginning a word and then stopping. It’s funny to watch her struggle like this.
The next thing I say just rolls off my tongue: ‘Nobody here likes you, least of all, me.’
It’s childish, but I feel better for saying it.
I leave her in her office with her red face glowing. The other drivers heard it all, as did Tim and Tom. Some had their mouths open like a bus was about to his them while others tried to suppress a laugh.
I collect my box and raise my eyebrows to them and leave the depot.
I can imagine Agatha there still standing in her office like a giant red lollipop. It makes me smile.
I have nineteen deliveries today. Mr Byrne is like he was yesterday, but he is at least sitting at the table waiting for his meal when I arrive. He just doesn’t have any manners. Must be a fan of roast beef.
At Mrs Mellor’s I walk inside where she greets me as she usually does: with a smile. I put her meal down on her trolley and look at her.
She looks back. ‘Is everything OK?’
‘Yeah fine. I worked yesterday and didn’t see you.’
She looks at me flatly. ‘I don’t have a meal on a Saturday. I get taken into Preston with some of the other ladies. It’s our only day out, really.’
All that worrying for nothing. I feel like an idiot. Lee, you stupid shit. Mei and Harold were right. But when something is stuck in my mind it’s hard to get rid of. It’s obvious when you think about it: yesterday was Saturday. There was no school. Unless the kids were particularly malicious, I don’t think they wouldn’t come here if they didn’t need to. Or perhaps I’m just naïve.
It’s two thirty in the afternoon when I get home. Mei and her mother are watching TV. English TV. The Longest Day is on. I’ve never known Mei to watch a war film without some persuasion. I guess her mother wanted it on, though I don’t know why. She can’t understand it. But the look on her face tells me she’s invested in it.
I leave them to it and make a start on dinner. The instructions on the beef say twenty minutes per kilo plus another twenty for rare. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I always ignore it and slow cook it for about three hours on a bed of onions and garlic. I don’t mean to brag, but my roasts are pretty nice.
I season the beef with salt and pepper, sear the edges in a frying pan and sit in in the cast iron casserole dish on the onions and garlic and shove it in the oven for the rest of the afternoon. My mouth waters at the thought of the finished product.
The finished product, along with Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes and veg, is something to be proud of. Unless you’re Mei’s mother. She doesn’t like it. I don’t think she likes anything you can’t eat with chopsticks. I offer to cut it for her, but she think I’m treating her like a child.
Can’t please everyone.
Later on, her mother uses the remaining beef to fry in soy sauce and garlic and ginger and eat with rice. I don’t mind that she didn’t like it really, I just wish she’d put the effort in to try our food. After all, it can’t be worse than chicken feet.
After I’ve washed the dishes, it’s almost eight o’clock. Tomorrow is bin day, so I step out into the chill to drag the bins to the pickup location. The worst part about this is having to fetch my shoes from the front door, carry them through the kitchen, and put them on with difficulty without them touching the kitchen floor. But I manage it.
My back gate leads to an alley that runs along the rear of all of our properties on this street. Each house has a gate and each house does the same thing I do. The gates are six and a half feet high and there’s a bolt at the top and at the bottom. The walls on either side are the same height. But my gate has been worn away at the bottom over the years and there’s a small gap a cat can fit through. Usually there’s a brick there to stop it, but it’s been moved. Weird. I get another one from the pile I have from a dismantled wall and fill the hole.
I stand there for a moment in the dark and wonder who would have moved it. Her mother won’t have because it was she who put it there the last time she came.
I muse on it for a short while. The only conclusion I have is Jason could have done it when trying to reach the bottom bolt. Anyone could really, but he’s my first suspect. The top bolt can be easily reached so that’s no problem. But why not just climb over?
Then I notice that the top bolt is actually loose.
I don’t worry about it for now and just put the bin out. I take it to the end of the alley where there’s a carpark for the residents. I hate using this carpark because there’s often a car blocking it that belongs to the selfish arse that lives on the other side of the entrance from Harold.
I leave the bin and head back. I walk past my gate and check the neighbour’s ones. I’m well aware that if anyone sees me I look like a burglar myself, so I’m quick about it.
Their gates looks fine. So why just me? It makes me think that it’s Jason even more now.
The little shit.
But I’m one of those people that won’t accuse anyone of anything unless there’s no doubt at all. Most of the time anyway.