The Good Neighbour

He’s the cocky type, striding along the pavement, whistling because he’s so pleased with himself. He doesn’t look at me when we pass, a woman over sixty, not so much as a glance, as though I don’t exist.

But he should notice me, he should stop and say, Hi, I’m Keith. I’ve moved into number 31. Then I’ll reply, Welcome to the street, Keith! I’m Barbara, from number 22. If there’s anything you need just pop round! He’ll have already heard about me from the curtain twitchers, no doubt they’ve noticed I go out earlier in the mornings now, at the same time Keith is swaggering his way to work.

He’s heading towards Barclays, on the corner of Mill Street. He could have told me about his job, if he’d stopped for a chat. A cashier, he’d have had to admit. He doesn’t carry a briefcase, so he must just be on the desk. Not a lot to be proud about then, but he does it so well. His suit is too well cut, too expensive for just a cashier, so he must have ambitions; aspirations. But then he’s young, not the wrong side of sixty.

When he remembers his manners one of these days and speaks to me, I’ll bake him a welcoming gift. He’ll have heard I like to do this when the neighbours were gossiping about me.

He’ll ask me in, and put the kettle on. Oh, these are something else, Barbara, he’ll say, after tasting my scones. To die for? I’ll ask, and he’ll smile, Absolutely. Then a frown will wrinkle his smooth brow as he remembers what the twitchers said, but they were exaggerating, must have been. Look at her, just a harmless old biddy in her elasticated skirt, lace-up shoes, and twinkling smile. Dangerous – that was the word number 25 used, but there must be history between those two.

He doesn’t remember his manners though, doesn’t pause for a chat, and I wonder if I’m judging him harshly; the swagger might be a front for shyness, so I make the first move on the pavement.

© 2021 Rosemary Mairs