The Postman Always Knocks Thrice.

Posted: September 10, 2015 in Random Daily Musings

Image Courtesy of Google Images

She stood by the front door, wrapped in an oversized dressing gown, listening. The only familiar sound to reach her ears was the general pandemonium which accompanied the daily school-run operation taking place in the driveway of Number 5. She glanced anxiously into the kitchen. The oven clock read 08:35. Where was he? He was rarely late. Perhaps he wasn’t coming anymore. Maybe he’d had enough; she wouldn’t blame him. But what if it was someone new? A complete stranger?

The thought lurched into her stomach and heaved into her chest. She shrank into the darkness of the living room as the walls closed in and clawed at the edge of her mind. Through the fog of panic she pressed her cheek against the cold concrete and desperately tried to focus; breathe in, 1-2-3-4, breathe out, 5-6-7-8.

Suddenly the letterbox rapped three times. She shrieked into a handful of dressing gown.

“Janet?” said a familiar voice through the flap.

Sinking to the floor with relief, she crawled on her hands and knees toward the front door.

“Hi,” she said breathlessly at the warm green eyes twinkling through the slat. “Sorry, I was having a funny turn, perfectly fine now.” Lifting her mouth, she bared her teeth and grinned forcefully.

The voice on the other side chuckled. “Well, wait ’til you see what I’ve got for you t’day.”

Janet leant back on her heels and watched two envelopes flop onto the carpet.

“Bills?! Thanks, Jim! You certainly know the way to a girl’s heart, don’t you?” As soon as those words left her lips, she grimaced. Subtlety had always been an unfamiliar social trait.

“Patience, young lady. You in a rush? Somewhere to be?” came the voice from the other side.

Cheeky git, she thought.

The flap opened and the eyes reappeared.

“Don’t know if you’ll like ’em but you mentioned ’em before. Thought they might help pass the time ’til you get to see me again.” This time it was Jim’s grinning teeth which appeared through the flap. She laughed and realised how rare the sound was.

Two small booklets slid through the gap. She took them with both hands.

“Crosswords!” she whispered excitedly. Real crosswords, on real paper, not just virtual ones!

“One’s arty-farty questions and the other one’s general knowledge. I had a go but I ain’t no clever clogs like you are. Got stumped on the first question. What is a ‘game bird’ with 7 letters?” he said playfully.

“A partridge!” she laughed.

“Course it is! Well, that’s why I’m a postman and you’re a hot-shot lawyer.”

She could feel the regret seeping through the wood as soon as he’d said it.

“Were. Sorry.” His eyebrows furrowed.

“Don’t be sorry,’ she said. ‘I may not be a hot-shot lawyer anymore but I am, without question, the best crossword solver that ever lived.’ She smiled weakly. ‘Perhaps, when you’re on a break, or it’s your day off or you’ve got a spare moment, or…”

Get to the point Janet, she thought.

“…we could, um, do one together? There must be a way to prop this blasted letterbox open. I’ve got a little stool to sit on; maybe you could get one too?”

“I’d like that, Janet.”

Her heart almost burst from her chest. She couldn’t even remember the last worthy interaction with another human being. Even the phone cord had been pulled from the socket in case it should puncture the all too comfortable silence. Yet there was an unusual comfort which Jim always seemed to bring. His presence on the other side of the door calmed her almost instantly.

The rest of the day passed in a frustrating loop of boredom. He’d promised to return late the following afternoon and time stretched before her in an endless stream of nothingness. One book of crosswords was devoured by lunchtime and the house certainly didn’t require any further scrubbing. Perhaps she could bake something special for tomorrow; a past-time she had never been particularly good at but one she enjoyed on the rare occasion that inspiration struck. She flew into the kitchen with renewed vigour and begun rummaging through the cupboards, hurling dusty old packets of varying ingredients from decades past toward the direction of the bin. Eventually, from the depths of the dark cupboard, a small shriek of satisfaction could be heard.

As the time of his arrival drew near, Janet sat on a small stool opposite the letterbox, desperately trying not to pick at her newly painted nails. She’d even applied some make-up, something she hadn’t done for years. She felt fresh and new, even a little attractive, almost like her old self. Although, normal Janet wouldn’t have been a nervous wreck at the thought of seeing the postman through a slat in the door. Old Janet would have been sitting behind piles of files and papers in her plush London office, billing by the minute, late into the night. She felt a pang for her previous life, for the bustle and frenzy that each day brought. Tears pricked her eyes.

Crap, she thought, and stared at the ceiling, willing them to go away. This was not the time to get all wobbly.

The front gate squeaked open and his heavy footsteps crunched over the gravel driveway. She leapt into the living room. The letterbox rapped three times.

“Coming!” she yelled in a voice that she hoped sounded far away. “Breathe in, 1-2-3-4,” she murmured quietly whilst straightening her blouse with shaking hands.

The green eyes shone warmly through the opening.

“You’ve brought a seat?” she said.

“Yup,” came the response, “I found a kid’s stool in B&Q, just the right size n’all. Only bugger is, it’s bright pink so I look even more of a twit than normal. The curtain at Number 4 is already twitchin’. They’ll be talking about this f’weeks.” He laughed gruffly.

“Oh Jim, I’m so sorry,” she said sadly, “I wish it didn’t have to be like this.”

“Don’t be daft; I couldn’t give a flying monkey what anyone thinks. N’anyway, I’ve got bubbles.”

He lifted a bottle of expensive Champagne from his bag and dangled it in front of the letterbox. “First things first,” he said and disappeared from view. She could see the collar of an ironed white shirt. Moments later he pulled out a long piece of string, fed it through the gap and around the letterbox flap several times, looped the other end through the door knocker above and knotted it tight.

“Not just a pretty face,” he grinned, plonking himself down onto the stool again. She gazed through the open slat. He’d sat far enough back that she could almost see his entire head and shoulders whilst still being close enough to smell the masculine scent of his aftershave.

“I hope you like Ol’ Blue Eyes,” he said, flicking on his iPod. The velvety sounds of Frank Sinatra floated up into the summer air.

“I do,” she whispered, mesmerised by his happy bustling.

The cork popped and he slid a straw into the open bottle.

“Get some of that down ya,” he said gleefully, poking the straw through the letterbox. She drew the cold liquid into her mouth; it tasted wonderful. She couldn’t remember the last time anything so delectable had passed her lips. There had never been anything to celebrate.

“Got some fancy crisps n’all,” he said, waving a bag of Kettle Chips with his free hand. “I’ll feed ’em to ya. Bet you didn’t get all this in those posh French restaurants, eh? I like to provide a very personal service, m’lady.” He winked.

Janet snorted. The bubbles flew up her nose, throwing her into a spluttering fit of laughter.

Three loops of Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits, several crossword puzzles and numerous giggling fits later, the sun settled on the front door. Janet was giddy with Champagne and excitement. She hadn’t enjoyed herself so much in years. This delightfully gruff man with his kind eyes and dry humour had somehow managed to perform a miracle. She was, at this very moment, happy.

“Oo,” she said suddenly, “I’ve made brownies! Well, I hope I have. I found some old ingredients in the cupboard and chucked it all together. Haven’t got a clue what they taste like. Want one?”

“Well, you’ve sold ’em to me now, Janet,” came Jim’s response as she rose slowly and wobbled toward the kitchen.

“If you poison me to death, I’ll be lyin’ out ‘ere for days, won’t I? I’ll have t’call me own ambulance!” he called after her.

“I’ll throw them at you in a minute,” she said returning with the tray of treats.

“Well, how about you at least open the door to chuck ’em at me?”

She froze, brownie in hand. Her stomach lurched and the panic started to rise.

“Um, I, uh……..” The air suddenly felt very thin.

“S’alright, Janet, I won’t bite. On a scale of 1-10, how scared are ya of openin’ that door?” His eyes were warm, kind, and without a hint of judgement.

“About 7,” she said breathlessly.

“Well how’s about we get it down to a 5, you open the door a crack n’ if you don’t like it, you can shut it again. I’ll still come back; you ain’t gettin’ rid of me that quick!”

She smiled weakly.

“Ok.”

“Good, drink some more of this first, that’ll help,” he said, passing her the straw again.

As he spoke softly, encouraging her to breathe deeply, the panic started to subside and the crippling fear slowly released its grip. Like a small pebble dropped in a still lake, the darkness rippled away and there in the centre was a droplet of light, some sliver of hope that even for the briefest of moments, her shackles had fallen away.

Setting the tray down on the stool, she smoothed down her blouse, and under the smiling gaze which peeped through the letterbox, Janet reached out a trembling hand and grasped the door handle.

THE END

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