An unexpected minder
Warm sun streaming in through the window meant that thinking soon turned to dozing. Jeannie peeped in to the bedroom when Laura hadn’t reappeared after half an hour, but left her undisturbed. At nine thirty there was a soft knock on the front door of the apartment and she opened it to see Colin standing there.
“An old lady just came in a taxi. Were you expecting her?”
“I was expecting someone. Where is she now?”
“Downstairs with Harry. Shall I bring her up?”
Colin went back to the lift and Jeannie waited in the doorway, curious to see the ‘old lady’ who must be the relief. Joseph had said that they would arrive before ten.
The lift rattled and groaned down, and then back up again to the tenth floor and the guard reappeared carrying a small leather suitcase. He was followed by a small elderly lady who greeted Jeannie warmly.
“Hello my dear, you must be Jeannie. Joseph told me all about you.”
“Not all I hope?” smiled Jeannie, thinking back to some of the scrapes she and Joseph had got into as kids.
The lady looked confused for a moment but then carried on talking.
“I am Dulcie Patterson, Laura’s landlady. Is she in here?”
“Yes, sorry,” Jeannie hastily stepped aside to let the old lady into the flat. “She’s sleeping. Would you like some tea?”
“Yes please, that would be lovely”. Then she turned to the security guard who had followed her in.
“Just put it anywhere, thank you – Colin, wasn’t it?” He put down the case and beat a hasty retreat, shaking his head. This day was getting stranger and stranger – somehow there were now three women in the flat, when he was not supposed to be letting anyone in. He decided to check with Mr Lunn, just to make sure.
Mrs Patterson settled herself at the kitchen table as Jeannie made tea. If she was going to be here for a while, this didn’t seem like too bad a place, although the chair was rather unforgiving. Jeannie meanwhile had some questions.
“So you’re Laura’s landlady?”
“Yes, she’s lived with me for a couple of years.”
“And that’s how you know Joseph?”
“Oh no, I’ve known Joseph since he was born. I knew his mother well.”
“But she died when he was young didn’t she? There was only ever his dad when we were at school.”
“Yes she did.”
“What happened? Joseph never talks about it, and he’s never mentioned you before.”
“There was an accident. She drowned.”
Jeannie said nothing else. She had been friends with Joseph since she’d been given the job of looking after him when he’d joined her school in the middle of a term, and they had grown up together like brother and sister. She was closer to him than anyone else in the world, apart from her beloved Bill of course, but he’d always had secrets, and she’d somehow always known never to pry.
She suddenly thought of the café and her husband left alone to handle the morning rush. Now that this Mrs Patterson was here she could go home. She showed her where everything was, and wrote down her phone number on the back of an old cash and carry receipt she found in her handbag.
“I can bring shopping over, or anything else you need.”
“Thank you. Joseph said you would help. I’m glad to have met you Jeannie.”
“Okay. Bye then,” and Jeannie let herself out of the flat. Steeling herself for another ride in the dodgy lift she wondered where the stairs might be.