“Hello, Harriet speaking.”
“Okay, yes I think I can do that, I’ll have to come and measure the job.”
“What’s the address please?”
“Great, thank you.”
“I could pop over tomorrow afternoon?”
“Great. Could I have your phone number to confirm?”
“Look, just stop this! Tell Marie I’m not playing her games!”
“Well who the heck are you then?!”
“What do you mean you just wanted to hear my voice?”
“LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU CREEP!”
Angry and exasperated Harriet went to throw her phone across the workshop, but thought better of it. Her phone was more important to her then the annoyance of the phone calls. She took a few deep breaths to calm down and then phoned her phone service provider.
“….So you can block the number, but not tell me what it is?”
“Okay, I get it. Data protection. But you can block it, yeah?”
“Good, please do that.”
“And can you check that the previous ‘unknown’ calls were from the same number?”
“Yes, I understand you can’t tell me the number. But can you see if the calls are from the same number without telling me the number.”
“You can? Great.”
“Oh! All of them? What the fu… sorry. I’m not angry at you, I am frustrated and angry at who ever is doing this to me.”
“Thank you, I really appreciate what you are doing.”
“So that’s all of them blocked?”
“Thank you, no. Unless you can stop any more calls like that.”
“You can do that?”
“Hmmm, but if I have a new client call me, they won’t have the password….”
“No, that’s not going to work then I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I understand that you can’t really do any more then that.”
“If I get any more calls I phone back and you can block it.”
“Thank you, that has been really helpful. Thanks again.”
“You too. Bye.”
Harriet let Monty out for a quick wee in the garden before she grabbed her coat to walk to the Community Centre. It had been a while since she had been there, the pandemic had left her furloughed from her caretaking job. The continued income was useful but now, all being well, she would be able to go back to work and earn a little bit more for her couple of hours each morning. She should have started on Monday but due to a clash with her first Covid vaccine Sarah had postponed the start until next week, but set up a return to work meeting instead. Harriet was hoping that it would just be a formality, but during the walk she couldn’t help but dwell on the latest nuisance phone call. It was the words “I just wanted to hear your voice again…” that really made her feel uncomfortable. It had gone from just messing with her work and business to being very personal. She couldn’t be sure that all the callers were the same woman, and hadn’t really been paying attention to the callers voices. There were slight differences in accent, but that could be put on by anyone with a bit of practice. A shiver ran down Harriet’s spine and she glanced behind her wondering if she was being followed and wishing she had cycled instead. There didn’t seem to be any one there but she quickened her pace anyway. Like many women Harriet was familiar with the fear of being stalked when out at night, and even in the morning, with other people about, that feeling was no less of a warning that raised her concerns and adrenalin in equal measures. The Community Centre wasn’t too far away now and Harriet could feel the relief as she rounded the corner of the building and entered the familiar automatic doors and walked towards the reception. The sound of the doors opening again panicked her enough to stop and glance over her shoulder to see who was entering behind her. An elderly man in a hat and coat walked in and looked around to get his bearings before heading for the toilets. Harriet breathed out in a huge sigh, she hadn’t realised she had held her breath. She continued to the reception desk. “Hello, I have a meeting with Sarah Taylor. I’m Harriet Board.”
“One moment,” The young man at the reception desk probably wouldn’t have looked out of place if he was still in school uniform, Harriet thought, but he seemed completely confident in his job. “Oh yes, Sarah said to send you straight up. Do you know where to go?”
“I do, thank you.” Harriet set off up the stairs towards Sarah’s office where she found the door open and Sarah just hanging up her coat.
“Hello Harriet, it’s been a while! Sorry, I only just got in, I don’t think the traffic has recovered from the crash yesterday. How are you?” Sarah kicked her bag into the corner behind her desk, adjusted her bra strap and sat down at one of the chairs in front of her desk and beckoned Harriet to sit with her there. “I don’t know about you but my mask really chaffs behind my ears!”
“Hi Sarah. I don’t have that mask problem.” Harriet put her hand behind her neck and lifted her hair to show Sarah. “Wide elastic straps and a buckle behind my neck. Much more comfy and I can slide my mask down to blow my nose when I need to. Made it myself.”
“Ahhh, crafty! Now why didn’t I think of that?” Sarah smiled enthusiastically. “I might have to copy your idea.”
“Oh yeah, do.” Harriet quickly forgot about the phone calls now that she was able to chat with a friend. “Anyway, how have you been?”
“Working from home, mostly, so much better then working in the office.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “This place and my open door policy, at least I don’t have to do that at home!” She laughed, “Though the boys were going a bit stir crazy they still respected my ‘do not disturb sign’.”
“Aside from stir crazy, how are ‘the boys’ now?”
“Oh they are fine. Dennis is still wondering about buying himself a sports car. I might have to give in and let him have his midlife crisis just to stop him talking about it. And Martin it picking all that up from his Dad and wanting his toy cars to go faster! I hope he doesn’t grow up to become a boy racer in his teens!” Sarah scoffed at the thought. “Five is too young to be racing cars! Anyway, I hear you are settled in your workshop now.”
“Yes, and I’ve had a little bit of work, but not much, mostly stuff for my landlord and a few clients. I’m looking forward to coming back to work here. It gives me a routine.”
“That’s great to hear. Though at the moment, without many bookings, there isn’t much to do beyond the cleaning. So I was wondering….”
As Harriet was walking home she was happily thinking about the potential work that Sarah was suggesting. It wasn’t the sort of thing that she had really considered, but there was no reason why not. In addition to the cleaning and the currently much reduced caretaking she would have the additional duties of handy person for general maintenance. That would involve all the little tasks that didn’t justify booking a trades person in to do, though Harriet would be that trades person she would be held on a salary for a set number of hours of work per year, on an as needed basis, hours to be reviewed monthly through the first year.
In addition to that, Sarah had suggested setting up a repair café to run one Saturday per month, two if popular, and Harriet was to coordinate the room use and technical requirements for that. She was offered the role of managing the whole event, but Harriet really wasn’t keen to be coordinating finding and managing the volunteers, or not at this stage just yet so Sarah would find a member of staff to do that, and apply for funding. Though it meant that Harriet would be paid for her time during the event as staff, she would also be able to assist with repairs if she wished, and her time allowed.
Harriet thought about which skills she had that she could offer. Woodwork and furniture repairs was obvious, bicycle maintenance, general mechanical stuff and tool repairs, and a little bit of sewing too, but if other expert volunteers were available then that would be really good. She couldn’t wait to tell Daisy, she was sure Daisy would know if the Environment Centre would have, or know of, skilled and interested people who might want to take part.
“Here’s your tea, love. I’ve gotta go into work to grab a few things but I’ll be back later. Will you be ok?” Amanda set the tea down on the bedside table and crouched down and put her hand on Adam’s cheek. “You might get a call in a while from the doctor. Your phone is right here.” Adam didn’t open his eyes, but he nodded and reached out to give Amanda’s hand a squeeze. She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Love you.” Adam smiled back and let her hand slip out from his.
As the bedroom door closed Adam sighed and pulled the duvet in closer and tried to sleep. He could feel the warmth radiating from the mug of tea in front of his face, as the radio continued to play. He drifted off to sleep again as the presenter chatted meaningless nonsense and the annoying jingle played for the morning quiz.
He woke again briefly catching song lyrics on the radio.
“…One night they called me for supper, But I never got up, I stayed right there, in my chair…”
The Chicks, Top Of The World, he thought to himself. The lilting music played on as the poignant lyrics worked their way into his head causing a tear to run down his cheek. If I never got up, and stayed right here, in my bed… he thought. He was dehydrated and needed to drink the tea that was getting cold, but that meant moving and that was too much effort. He closed his eyes and tried to fade out the world and his thoughts.
He woke with a start to his phone ringing. He instinctively reached out for it and answered as his head throbbed.
“Greene IT, Adam speaking.”
“Oh, hello doctor.”
“No, I’m not working, force of habit, I was asleep. I should get up, really.”
“Yes, she did. I… I had a… I broke down yesterday. I’m… I’m not coping.”
“No, no, nothing like that. No, I just feel really really low, I couldn’t stop crying yesterday…”
Adam explained to the doctor what had been happening, Sybil’s death, Robbie being in hospital, and generally trying to deal with life over the recent few months, on top of the year and a bit in a pandemic. Just talking about openly and without reservation eased the feeling and lifted the weight a little. The doctor had listened and offered to refer Adam for counselling but was unsure of the waiting time due to high demand and limited staff. In the meantime a course of antidepressants was prescribed and a follow up phone appointment made for a fortnight.
After the call Adam got up and dressed before remembering his cold tea. He took it to the kitchen and put it in the microwave to reheat and looked in the kitchen drawer for some paracetamol. He took two and drank water from the kitchen tap, cupped in his hands. He sighed heavily and stared out of the window. He could see the garden, and with a heavy heart noted that it would need tidying. Perhaps that was something he could do today.
He went outside to the garden and walked down to the garage at the far end where Amanda had put the gardening tools. He looked at the garage door and frowned realising that he needed the key. As he trudged back to the house his steps felt heavier and heavier. He didn’t go back inside, instead he sat on the door step and leaned his head against the door frame. As he looked back down the garden it seemed to have stretched, the garage felt much further away then it was and from his seated position the plants were suddenly taller making Adam feel as though he was getting smaller and smaller… and in the process more insignificant and pointless against the size of the garden ahead him. He closed his eyes and wept quietly.
Ritu sat next to the hospital bed holding Robbie’s hand. She didn’t care that the chair was uncomfortable or that the old man in the bed opposite was snoring loudly. “I thought I had lost you.” She said.
“I thought you would be cross about the van.” Robbie chuckled and grimaced against the pain in his chest.
“Why would I care about that old van, silly?”
“Because you always wished I would do something more useful then just be a van driver. And now I have wrecked the van.” Robbie squeezed his wife’s hand and looked at her. “I am sorry for not being in the office more. If I was I would not have been on the road yesterday.”
“It was last week.” Ritu corrected him, “But that doesn’t matter. You are not happy in the office, you are always happier pretending to be ‘Rubber Ducky’ in that Convoy film. I would rather you be happy and alive then unhappy and feeling hollow inside. The crash wasn’t your fault and we can buy you a new van, a whole fleet of vans if that is what you would like. Anything for your happiness.”
It felt like it was yesterday. But yesterday it had felt like yesterday. In his mind the crash had only just happened and he was only just awake from it. But he had seen consultants, been X-rayed, CT scanned, slept more then one night, and yet it still felt like the crash was yesterday. “If I am able to drive again.” Robbie stared up at the ceiling and a tear ran down his cheek.
“Don’t speak like that Robert! You will drive again. Even if we have to get you a special van.”
Robbie fretted. The damage to his pelvis and ribs would heal they said but the nerve damage from the inflammation in his spine was a ‘wait and see’. He was lucky that the brain scan showed very minimal bleeding and there were no fractures in his skull. His bruising would take a while to fade but Robbie was afraid of losing the use of his legs. There had been nothing but pins and needles and since regaining consciousness he had been unable to feel anything nor move them. Wait and see the consultant had said, wait and see.