At last. I’ve waited a long time for this moment. I’ve been through years of torture at the hands of excitable twenty-somethings, experimental thirty-somethings and Booker-prize-winning forty-somethings. I’ve had nothing but adventurous, liberal-minded, free-spirited sorts living in the flat upstairs. But I don’t want happy, joyful and free people living near me. I don’t want successful artistic types. No good can come of it.
I remember only too well having to knock on the door the night my next-door neighbour won the Booker prize. ‘But it’s a big celebration,’ said a girl, swaying from side to side, as she explained why they were making such a racket.
‘That’s as may be,’ said my then partner John. ‘But it’s 4 a.m. and we’re trying to get some sleep.’
The Booker-winner moved out soon afterwards, owing to the worldwide sales of his book making him a multimillionaire, and so we got some peace until a gaggle of young professionals moved in and started sitting in the garden after dark discussing what life was all about. As I lay in bed listening to them being exuberant and fulfilled, I came to the conclusion that the only peace would come when someone who was repressed, tortured and lonely moved in.
After the flat upstairs went on the market earlier this year, my heart leapt when I saw a really insipid-looking couple viewing the property. In the absence of an oddball recluse with no social skills, that would do.
But when I nobbled the estate agent the next time I saw him he told me that the insipid couple had been pipped at the post by two brothers, who were buying the property together as an investment. He wound me up further by telling me that he thought they were called the Mitchell brothers.
‘You are kidding me?’ I said, incredulous. ‘After everything I’ve been through you can’t sell that flat to the Mitchell brothers. No, you can’t do that to me.’
But do it to me they did. The sale has now gone through and it turns out that while the buyers are not called Mitchell, exactly, they are brothers. They moved in a few weeks ago by sending a cut-price van to deliver all their stuff at 10 p.m.
The builder boyfriend almost had to pin me down. ‘What sort of people move in at 10 o’clock at night?’ I ranted, threatening to go round there and give them a piece of my mind. The builder begged me to suspend judgment and wait until they had got settled in. Perhaps things would look up when we met them. They might be very nice.
But I couldn’t catch a glimpse of either of them, despite twitching the curtains 24/7. ‘What sort of people don’t knock on the door to introduce themselves?’ I raved.
The builder calmed me down and urged me to be patient. Perhaps they were busy. I really must give them the benefit of the doubt. I waited and waited. But I didn’t get a single sighting.
Until last night, when the waiting was finally over. I was letting myself into my flat after a meal out with friends, and a voice came up behind me.
‘Hello hello!’ it said cheerfully.
I jumped out of my skin and screamed. ‘Oh my god! I thought you were going to attack me!’
The man standing on the pathway was huge, a giant. He was in football kit and was bright red in the face. When I realised he was one of the brothers, I started wittering: ‘Ha ha, you see, my friend just now, she insisted on dropping me home and said oo you don’t want to walk back alone, this is stab city…’
He raised his eyebrows in alarm. ‘Ha ha, not this street. I mean, this is a nice street. No, I mean, the town centre is stab city…er… Anyway, I was thinking about getting stabbed, you see, when you came up behind me…’
The big man blushed even redder, sank his head down into his shoulders and put his key in the door with fumbling hands.
‘Nice to meet you, though,’ I said. ‘I mean, obviously you weren’t going to stab me…er…’
I opened my door and the dog ran out and threw herself at him. He bent down and started fussing her. ‘Oh, so this is the dog I hear barking,’ he said, nervously, in a soft Irish accent.
‘Oh dear. I’m so sorry. Cydney!’
‘Oh no, I like a nice dog, barking about the place, y’know,’ he said, petting the dog, apparently lost in some reverie. Then he snapped back. ‘Anyway, right you are.’ And he picked up his sports bag, walked inside and slammed the door.
I might be wrong, but I think this one could be the neighbour of my dreams.
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