Wednesday March 8th
I arrived at Isla Bennett’s but paused before leaving the van. Opening the glove box, I took out the unopened jar of honey, looked at it and put it back. She was my friend, but not a friend I had known very long, only since she moved into the area and qualified for meals-on-wheels, which was three months ago. She certainly was not worth getting into more trouble over.
I walked into the house and placed her meal on the foot stool. Isla looked grey, ill and weak. Her eyes had dark rings around them and her face looked grubby with saliva crusted around her lips and chin.
“Isla, you look poorly. What’s up?”
It took a moment for her to respond. “Just tired, my dear.”
“Do you want me to ring for a doctor?”
“I already have a helper.”
All of a sudden there were footsteps above us. Someone was walking about in the front bedroom with footsteps that were slow, heavy and erratic as if the person was unsure where to put their feet. Who walks like that I thought looking at the ceiling. “Is that your nurse?”
“Sort of,” replied Isla. I looked back at her and helped her sit more comfortably and put the meal on her lap.
“Sit with me,” she said, pathetically. “How was your weekend with the kids?”
“Good,” I replied, glad of the distraction from the slightly unnerving sounds coming from upstairs. “We went to the park, ate ice-cream.” All of sudden, the footsteps became more trudging, heavier. “Maybe I should go up. They may need my help.”
“How old are they?”
Isla had distracted my thoughts about her ‘other’ visitor. “Jess is nine and Natasha is thirteen.”
“And what are you up to tonight?” Her eyes were suddenly cold; her face was a little greyer than a moment ago.
“The usual,” I said shrugging my shoulders. “Meal for one, feet up, watching the television.”
“I don’t have that many. There’s only my ex-wife, Beth, and her brother, Nathan, who comes round less often than I would like him to.”
“Did you get any more honey?”
“I’m not allowed. I got reprimanded.”
Isla looked puzzled. “I didn’t tell a soul, honestly.”
I gave a brief smile and stood up. The footsteps were coming down the stairs. They took a couple of quick but heavy steps, paused, and then carried on. I frowned as I walked into the kitchen to pick up yesterday’s probably dirty plates and cutlery. I was expecting to see the owner of the footsteps exit the stairwell but no one emerged. Walking over to the foot of the stairs, I looked up towards the landing. There was no one. “Hello?” I said, and waited for a response. I was about to ascend when suddenly there was that voice again. It was coming from the front room.
The voice sounded nasty. “What’s he doing here? Always coming here.”
“He lives alone.” That was definitely Isla’s voice.
“No one to disturb us, no one.”
There was definitely someone in the front room with her. I strode through the door to see Isla still tackling her roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Stepping back, I felt a chill flow through me. I turned, the kitchen had been cleaned and the company’s plates were ready for me to take, a rare occurrence.
After picking them up, I walked back into the front room. Isla suddenly looked slightly better, more colourful which pleased me, and, as I was about to open the front door, she asked me about another jar of honey.
I opened the van door and took the honey from the glove box. I caught the label on the hinge and tore a thin strip away, but the glass was not damaged.
“If you ever tell anyone about this, I will get into so much trouble,” I remarked. “If you need to tell someone, say that one of your friends bought you a jar.”
“I don’t have any friends either, only you.”
It seemed sad that this frail old lady only had one friend, me. How could I not give her the honey? As I leaned over and handed her the jar, she placed her cold, clammy palm onto mine and thanked me over and over, but as she let go I could see the colour drain from her face, from pale pink back to grey. The tips of her fingers wrinkled and her arms fell to their sides, she looked weak.
As I left, I considered informing Mr Wright about her condition but if the social services find the jar of honey then it might cost me my job.