The Lady Next Door — Chapter 1
This story explores the developing emotional and sexual relationship between a young man in his mid-twenties and his next-door-neighbour, a seemingly unremarkable lady in her mid-fifties. It does not contain any anal sex; Chapter two, however, will.
I hope you enjoy it and, as always, would appreciate any feedback.
I finished law school when I was twenty-three and went straight into a good job with a firm of solicitors in Oxford, my hometown. This was no coincidence; the firm was part owned by my father, and I wasn’t too proud to take advantage of this fact. I also wasn’t too proud to accept his generous offer to loan me the required deposit to secure a mortgage and buy my own house. With interest rates at historical lows this meant I could get a half-way decent place out in the country; I had no interest in living in the city, unlike most of my contemporaries.
The place I settled on was right out in the sticks; the middle of nowhere; the back of beyond; chose your metaphor. It was two miles to the nearest village and was a semi-detached brick-built three-bedroom house, with a double garage, at the end of two hundred yards of a shared and disintegrating tarmac driveway. It boasted certain features that didn’t appear on the estate agent’s details such as damp problems in the garage, missing slates on the roof and a kitchen and bathroom that dated back to when the house was built, in the nineteen-fifties. In short, it was a project; I couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. And I didn’t mind hard work. Indeed, I set to with a will during weekends and evenings too, when I could get home in time. Only lack of funds slowed the progress of the project; I’d apparently reached my overdraft limit with the Bank of Dad.
The location was delightful. Set in the middle of arable farmland and with a small copse of trees at the end of the long back garden. During the day only bird noise and distant farm machinery disturbed the peace. At night it was silent and dark and, on a clear night, perfect for an amateur astronomer, like me. The only fly in the ointment was the malicious bitch who lived next door. Over the course of the two years I spent renovating the house she variously accused me of poisoning her cats, killing her trees, blocking her view, scratching her car and intercepting her mail. In the end I wrote her a formal solicitor’s letter stating that if she continued to harass me with false accusations I would seek a court injunction. After that she maintained a poisonous silence.
Then came the day when I arrived home to find an ambulance outside her house. It transpired that she’d had some sort of stroke whilst lumbering down the stairs and had fallen to the bottom, breaking her neck. The ambulance was, in due course, joined by a hearse and her carcase was removed, to my intense and unashamed relief, although this was partially tempered by the thought that her replacement could conceivably be worse. I had to wait some time to find out; probate took an age and, furthermore, my neighbour’s house was largely in its original and now decrepit condition and it took another six months to find a buyer. So I was filled with a mild sense of trepidation the day I arrived home to find the “For Sale” board at the end of the drive replaced by one saying: “Sold Subject to Contract”.
I was keen to meet my new neighbour; when you live in such isolation with only one other house it’s important that you get on. Having said that it’s also important to respect the other household’s privacy and I resisted the temptation, that first Saturday morning, to peek through the curtains as the removal lorry disgorged its contents and settees, beds, tables and endless cardboard boxes disappeared inside the house. Besides, I’d got work to do. My house was now finished apart from a few projects in the garden but I worked most Saturdays either in the office in Oxford or in my home office in the smallest of the three bedrooms. I had planned to go around the next morning to introduce myself and offer any assistance that might be required. As it turned out, Alice Sayers came to me instead.
It was early February. A cold, damp and dismal time in the UK and not best suited to moving house. For one thing it gets dark about five o’clock in the afternoon so when you go to switch on the lights in your new house and nothing happens you are a little bit stuck, particularly if you don’t know where the fuse box is, have no torch and wouldn’t know what to do if you had one and could find the fuse box. To make things worse it was also raining hard. The first thing that I was aware of was a rat-a-tat on my front door at around half past five. That happens very rarely and as I made my way downstairs to the hall I had an inkling of who it might be. I opened the door to find a figure swathed in a light-coloured, belted raincoat, wearing a dark sou’wester and blinking in the glare of the security light in the outside porch.
‘Oh hello,’ she began, nervously, the rain sheeting down behind her. ‘I’m from casino siteleri next door. I’m really sorry to disturb you but my lights don’t work and I can’t find a torch or any candles and the phone hasn’t been connected yet and there’s no mobile signal so I can’t get hold of an emergency electrician…’ Her voice cracked as she finished and she stifled a sob.
‘Hey, no problem, we’ll sort it out,’ I said, reassuringly. ‘I’m Paul by the way.’
‘Goodness, how rude of me, I’m Alice.’ She spoke beautiful middle-class English: perfect vowel sounds and a clean precision to her diction. She held out her hand and I shook it solemnly. A small, slim hand with no rings but one or two light-brown age spots on the back. It’s funny how you notice these things.
‘Well come in for a second, Alice, and I’ll get some stuff together.’
‘Oh, thank you, but I mustn’t, I’m dripping water and I’ll ruin your carpets.’ The hall was tiled but I didn’t say anything. ‘I’ll wait for you in my hall.’ She disappeared into the teeming blackness.
I went through the internal door into the garage and collected a few likely looking tools plus a torch, a plug-in inspection lamp and an electrical test meter and stuffed them in a canvas tool bag. Then I pulled my golfing umbrella out of the rack by the front door and walked round to next door, the rain hammering on the material above my head. Alice must have been lurking behind her front door because she opened it as I approached and I went in, looking around for a doormat that wasn’t there to wipe my shoes on. In the end I slipped them off and kicked them into a corner of the hall.
‘I’m very stupid,’ said Alice, in the gloom. ‘I didn’t ask the estate agent where the fuse box is.’
‘They probably didn’t know. It’s above the front door,’ I said, switching on my torch and lighting it up.
‘Oh, yes, so it is. How silly of me. I never noticed it.’
‘Could you get me a chair to stand on?’ She disappeared into the kitchen and came back holding one in front of her. I set it down and clambered up, opening the fuse box cover and noting the main breaker had tripped. I tried to reset it but it tripped straight off again. I switched off all the subsidiary units and tried again. This time the breaker stayed on. I switched on the subsidiary units one by one and as the fourth one was switched on, the main breaker tripped again. I reset it and switched on all the other units. ‘Right, let’s see what we’ve got and what we haven’t got.’ There were no legends on the mini breakers to tell you which services they supplied, but with a certain amount of trial and error we discovered that the upstairs lights were the culprit circuit. Now that at least some power had been restored Alice seemed much happier. Twenty minutes later I had established that the cause of the failure was a blown lightbulb and a faulty mini breaker which allowed the main circuit breaker to trip before it did. I replaced the blown lightbulb and restored the upstairs lighting circuit.
In the kitchen Alice had put the kettle on and now she called up and asked me if I’d like a cup of tea and how did I take it. I went downstairs and had my first proper look at my new neighbour. My initial impression was that she was quite tall, at least five-seven or eight, and about the same age as my parents, perhaps two or three years older. As my parents were both fifty-two this was a remarkably good guess; I later found out that she was fifty-five. She’d taken her raincoat off by this time. Underneath she was dressed in jeans and a thick, polo neck jumper which hid the contours of her upper body, although it couldn’t disguise the fact that she was very flat chested. She also had long, thin legs and narrow hips. In fact you would probably have described her as generally thin. Not skinny, but not a particularly feminine figure. Facially she was thin too. Not unattractive, but not really pretty: a slightly hooked nose, square chin and small ears. Her eyes were nice though: deep violet, with crows’ feet wrinkles at the corners and dark eyebrows. She had faint lines on her forehead too, and above her upper lip. But it was her mouth that attracted the gaze. She had the most wonderful mouth, incongruous in an otherwise very unremarkable countenance. It was wide, I suppose you’d say generous, the lips very full and well defined and conforming to the ideal for a mouth as defined by Hollywood. Her teeth were nice too, white and even. Her hair was mid-brown and thick and cut to collar length in a rather uninspired style. And that was how I saw Alice Sayers that first evening.
I suppose it’s only fair at this point to tell my readers what Alice saw, standing by the kitchen sink and looking at me across the little table. An equally unremarkable looking young man: five foot ten inches, one hundred and fifty pounds, give or take, an open countenance with grey eyes, dark brown hair, cut short and a mouth that my friends and family say is made for laughing.
As we drank our tea I explained that one of her mini breakers was faulty güvenilir casino and although it was on now, it needed replacing if she didn’t want to lose all electrical supplies every time a light bulb upstairs blew.
‘Do you know a reliable electrician? I’m completely new to this area.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘there’s me.’ She looked at me uncertainly. ‘I can replace the mini-breaker,’ I told her. ‘I can pick one up on Monday in town and it’ll take about ten minutes to fit.’
‘Oh I couldn’t possibly impose on you again…’
‘It’s no imposition at all. When you’re out in the sticks, like we are, neighbours have to support each other. I’ll probably ask you a favour some time.’
‘Well I can’t imagine what I could do that you couldn’t,’ she smiled and I smiled too and finished my tea.
‘Ok, I’ll leave you to it. If you need anything else please don’t hesitate to come and knock. Otherwise I’ll see you on Monday.’
‘Thank you, Paul. I really don’t know how I’d have coped without you. But I’m sure I’ll be ok now. The world looks a much brighter place with the lights on.’ I was puzzled by the obviousness of this remark but I said nothing and, taking up my tool bag, left her to it. For just over an hour.
The rat-a-tat at the door came as I was dishing up my evening meal of supermarket fish pie. Before I could answer the rat-a-tat was repeated, more urgently, it seemed. I opened the door and there was Alice in raincoat and hat again, almost hopping from one foot to the other in anguish.
‘Oh, Paul,’ she wailed, ‘I’ve got a flood in the downstairs toilet. There’s water everywhere and I don’t know how to shut it off!’ She burst into tears and I had to restrain myself from hugging her; that would not have been appropriate. Instead I slipped on my trainers and legged it around to her house, the rain drumming down on my bare head. Inside I headed for the cupboard under the kitchen sink where my stopcock was and where, I noted with relief, hers was too. It was stiff but I shut it off and went into the downstairs toilet. It certainly had flooded. The whole of the hall was under about an inch of water. The ballcock valve had failed, presumably the first time Alice had used it, and, through some piece of towering imbecility, the overflow pipe had been removed so the water had just cascaded out of the cistern. One positive, I noted, was that the water supply to the cistern had an in-line stop valve. I paddled out and ran back to my house for a screwdriver to shut it off. Then I opened the stopcock valve again and checked that the cistern isolation was tight before giving Alice a hand to get rid of some of the water.
An hour later the hall and kitchen floors were passably dry. Ingress into the sitting room and dining room had been largely prevented by Alice’s quick thinking in damming the doorways with towels. We sat again in the kitchen with fresh tea. Her spirits had revived with the isolation of the leak and the restoration of supplies and mopping up operations.
‘I don’t suppose you know a reliable plumber as well do you?’ she smiled faintly.
‘I’ll pick up a new ballcock on Monday too, and a piece of overflow pipe. It’s an easy job, but the overflow pipe definitely needs to be reinstalled.
‘Is that what you do, Paul? Plumbing?’
I laughed. ‘No, I’m a solicitor. I’m actually much better qualified to sue the idiot that removed the overflow pipe.’
‘How do you know all about this stuff then?’
So I told her about buying my house and the state it was in and how I’d had to learn to be an electrician and plumber and carpenter and decorator and a dozen other trades. She made more tea and we talked some more. She told me that she was a widow and her husband had died ten years ago and she’d moved to the Oxford area because that was where her daughter worked as a consultant eye surgeon but she hated the idea of living in a city so she’d found this place and the price seemed reasonable. ‘I’m beginning to understand why, now,’ she finished.
‘Well there are bound to be a few things going wrong in a house that’s stood empty for the best part of a year. And I am very happy to help out when something does go wrong. I can do most stuff and I know who to contact for the things I can’t do.’ I asked myself later that evening why I’d been quite so forthcoming with my offer to help, but her expression when I said it was reward enough.
‘Thank you.’ She gave me a smile straight from the heart with that wonderful mouth of hers. ‘I really, really couldn’t have coped tonight without your help. I’d probably have driven into Oxford and stayed with my daughter and left the house to flood!’
A thought suddenly occurred to me. ‘Have you had any dinner, Alice?’
‘No, I brought something.’ She took a little Tupperware container from the kitchen counter. Inside was a single round of sandwiches wrapped in cling film. I looked at it dubiously.
‘It doesn’t look very appealing.’
‘No,’ she agreed.’
‘Well my dinner is now a cold and congealed mess in my canlı casino kitchen so why don’t we both go and get a decent meal?’
‘Oh Paul! I’m so sorry!’ she wailed. ‘I’ve ruined your dinner on top of everything you’ve done for me!’
‘It’s no great loss but there’s a nice pub a couple of miles down the road and they serve food till nine.’ I looked at my watch. ‘So we can just make it.’ Alice opened her mouth to protest but I cut her short. ‘A drink and a good meal will be just the thing after a traumatic evening. Now get your coat and I’ll see you by my car.’
Twenty minutes later we were in the little dining room of the Three Horseshoes public house, a sixteenth-century alehouse that had resisted the temptation to convert itself into a gastropub and was all the better for it. They cooked traditional pub fare of decent quality and they served locally brewed beer from their pumps. I used the place a lot, in fact I ate there more than I ate at home, as I explained to Alice as we sat waiting for our meals. She’d changed before coming out and was now wearing a pale blue blouse and a tailored blue linen jacket. She looked nice. Rather plain, but, yes, nice is the word. A middle-aged lady who looked after herself and didn’t try to cover up with cosmetics, though it did cross my mind that a touch of lipstick on that lovely mouth might have been an idea.
Looking back now I can’t remember everything that we talked about that evening in the pub. I do know that she asked me about my job and my family and whether I had brothers and sisters and she listened carefully to the answers and seemed to show a genuine interest. After the meal we sipped coffee and I asked her what she liked doing in her spare time.
‘Oh nothing very exciting, I’m afraid,’ she said, smiling. ‘I read a lot, historical fiction mostly, and I like walking in the countryside. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to live out here.’
‘Well you’re in the right place. I think you’ll find there’s a stile at the end of your garden — there’s one at the end of mine — and it leads onto a public bridleway and you can follow that all over the place and never see a soul. Why don’t you let me show you, sometime,’ I suggested?
‘Yes, when I’m a bit more organised I’ll take you up on that offer. Thank you. And thank you again for everything you’ve done this evening. And no, you’re not paying the bill!’
I drove us home and we said our goodbyes. It was past eleven o’clock and I was tired. I went straight to bed but sleep eluded me for a long time. I suppose I was mostly thinking about my new neighbour, a huge improvement on the last. In fact I realised I rather liked her. She was quiet and unassuming but she listened attentively, laughed at my jokes and gave out an air of warmth and sincerity. A nice person, I decided, rolling over again onto a cool piece of sheet. And that mouth… My mind wandered as sleep descended and my last thought was how nice it would be to kiss those lips.
The next day, Sunday, it was still raining and I stayed in and did household chores and vegetated in front of the TV. I didn’t hear anything from next door. On Monday I slipped out of the office at lunchtime and made for the local DIY superstore where I picked up a replacement mini-breaker and a new ballcock and some plastic pipe. I left the office just after three pm, very early for me, and drove straight home and changed into jeans and a polo shirt. I wanted to fit Alice’s new fuse box part while it was still light. Her car was parked outside her garage and I knocked at the door and waited. After a minute I knocked again and heard movement in the house and she opened the door, dressed in a faded denim overall, a greasy smudge on her cheek and another on her chin. ‘Come in,’ she smiled. ‘I thought I heard knocking. I had my head in the oven,’ she explained. ‘It’s horrible. I don’t think it’s ever been cleaned.’
‘That wouldn’t entirely surprise me,’ I said, drily.
‘I gather the previous incumbent and you didn’t see eye to eye.’
‘No, not really. Let me get these jobs out of the way and I’ll tell you about it.’ I had the mini breaker replaced in five minutes; the ballcock and overflow took a little longer but half an hour later we were in her kitchen again and I was telling her about the old witch who’d lived next door.
‘She sounds charming,’ Alice laughed. ‘Now, before I forget, I’ve got something for you. It’s in the boot of my car.’ We went outside. It was almost dark but the rain had held off for a few hours. Alice unlocked her car and raised the tailgate. There was a cardboard box inside, about the size of a case of wine, which was exactly what it was. ‘I remember you said you liked red wine when we were in the pub, so I went into the wine merchants and got a selection. I don’t know much about wine but the man in the shop recommended them.’
‘There’s no need for this, Alice–‘
‘Don’t be silly. I know what plumbers and electricians charge and you’ve saved me a fortune.’ I thanked her profusely and lifted the case out of her car. We stood for a minute or two feeling rather awkward, not helped by the weight of the case of wine, then Alice said: ‘I made a lamb casserole this afternoon. There’s heaps of it. Would you like to have some with me? If you haven’t had your dinner already.’