When a big event happens in the world, people usually remember what they were doing, where they were, who they were with, how old they were when it happened. For many years to come, they will say, “oh yes, when the planes hit the towers, I had just arrived in Cuba for my first holiday in two years,” or “when the Queen Mother’s death was announced, the entire family were here for lunch, including Aunty Martha who we hadn’t seen since Uncle Stephen passed away.” All the little details of the moment they heard something terrible or significant happened come flooding into their mind.
It is the same with more personal events. Happenings, that in a single moment of now then permeate our thoughts and memories forever after. The day I came home to find my key wouldn’t turn in the lock, my head was full of how one of my colleagues had committed suicide, messily, under a tube train during rush hour. I can’t tell you that I had any gut feeling or intuition that day would become such a significant turning point in my life. It started like any other, my alarm went off, I pressed the ten minute snooze option, shut my eyes tight and hoped each minute would become an hour in real time. Of course this is impossible but when you hate your work, every little delay in getting there becomes a mini freedom.
I can even remember the dream I had before I woke up. It involved a tea party in the middle of a field with buttercups and dandelions, a voice said ‘don’t pick the dandelions or you will wee in your bed.’ I often wonder if that somehow signalled the events of the day and why if it did, did I get such a pointless and unhelpful warning?
I stood on the doorstep for a full ten minutes before my poor befuddled brain would take in the fact my key no longer fitted this lock. Stepping back I inspected the house to make sure that in my confused and distracted state I hadn’t mistaken someone else’s house for my own but no, the door remained red with a brass knocker in the shape of a mermaid, weeds had grown over the air vent, and rain dripped in a reluctant waterfall from the guttering. No, this was definitely my abode of the past eight years, the place I bought after my second divorce vowing I would never again share my home, my heart, my possessions with another person.
Stepping back I glanced at my watch, I don’t know why. Every evening I walked home from work, setting out from my office around sixish whatever the weather, regardless of time of year. I trudged through snow, battled wind, rain and hail, slid around on ice, squinted through fog and wore a ridiculously large hat to keep the rarely sighted sun of recent summers off my pale skinned face. Somehow, I seemed to think the time might give me the answer as to why my key wouldn’t fit the lock. Then I caught sight out of the corner of my eye, the curtain twitch open a second. It fell back again instantly.
Did I imagine that? I thought, standing there stupidly as rainwater soaked my shoulders. I leant over and tapped on the window. Nothing happened. The curtain didn’t move again. It occurred to me at this point that perhaps I should try using my back door key. I fumbled to pick it out among all the other keys on the ring: keys to my desk drawers at work, the shed key, my elderly neighbour’s key, a bicycle lock key I had ceased to use many moons ago. I began to walk round the right side of the house, across the tiny front garden, through the side gate and along the muddy path to the back door. Again I inserted the key into the lock, tried to turn it and it did not budge. I managed to stop myself from hammering on the frosted glass window of the door. How ridiculous would that be? Knocking on my own door to be let into the house where only I lived. On examination the lock looked shinier than my normal rusty edged lock, brand new in fact. My heart jigged a little, in a downward way, my legs weakened and my stomach did a back flip, panic had finally set in.
I put the keys in my coat pocket and walked slowly back to the front of the house, pondering the situation. Back at the front door I reached up and grasped the mermaid knocker firmly and thumped brass against brass three times. Nothing happened. I inspected the lock; again it appeared to be shiny and new. A couple of deep scratches and a dent I didn’t recognise were next to it. Someone had changed the locks.
I simply didn’t know what to do. Bizarrely the thought ran through my mind that somehow my colleague had faked his death, come round, broken into my house and locked me out. Why would he do that? We hadn’t been particularly friendly, or not friendly. For the past year of his appointment to my team we exchanged personal pleasantries on an irregular basis, shared a filing cabinet, made each other the odd cup of tea and displayed only cursory interest in one another beyond our work. A burglar wouldn’t have changed the locks. I had no family who would create such a prank. My parents lived abroad. My brother, a well off stockbroker lived happily in Surrey with his wife and two children. Extended family included only a very elderly aunt and a spinster cousin in Australia. My friends and acquaintances were not of the type to do this either, they were for the most part professionals, reasonably well off, fully encompassed in their own complicated lives, far too busy and harassed to decide to break into my house, change the locks and then refuse to open the door. They weren’t the kind of people who would think such an elaborate prank funny.
Available to buy to download via Amazon Kindle.
To read on, click here The Eight of Swords
A short story of circa 13k words
Copyright © 2012 Petra Kidd