I was having two days off at home. My manager had offered me an extra two days of leave as reward for a job well done. It was leave in lieu and off the record, and she was leaving at the end of the month to return to working for another company. So I was taking off a Monday and Tuesday towards the end of the month, making it a long weekend.
My girlfriend was leaving for work on the Monday when I got out of bed, having enjoyed a ninety-minute lie-in. Slipping on my running gear I had gone for a forty-five minute run, returning home hot and perspiring. I left my running gear on as I brewed and drank a cup of tea while I cooled off, and then stripped, tossing my damp gear into the basket in the laundry before walking naked through the dining room and kitchen to the bathroom.
After a long and luxurious shower I towelled myself dry and pulled on a towelling robe before walking back through the kitchen towards the dining room, intending to add my towel to the damp clothes in the laundry. However as I glanced out the floor to ceiling kitchen window to the garden, I saw someone cross from the neighbouring garden into our back yard. I stopped, recognising Anna, the neighbour’s daughter. As she began to walk towards the back deck, I continued through to the laundry, deposited my towel in the basket and opened the back door just as Anna stepped onto the deck. ‘Hello! Can I help you?’ I asked.
She stopped, and gave me a somewhat crafty look. ‘I’m looking for my cat,’ she responded, ‘I thought it might have come to visit your two.’
Our cats, a pair of Russian Blues, which were only let out on harnesses tethered to the deck as we lived both close to the beach and a road, were inside the house. However, despite being tethered they were very territorial and sent any stray cats packing, so I doubted that Anna’s cat, if she had one, was visiting here. Testing her, I asked what sort of cat she had. The question caught her unguarded, and she had to think before she said it was a tabby.
I knew that Anna was sixteen, as she had been fourteen when we bought the house two years earlier. Close friends, whose daughter was friendly with Anna, had told us of the trouble her separated parents had had with the girl, who was then living with her mother, and how her mother had struggled to control her behaviour. Two years on and she was now staying more frequently with her father, our neighbour Greg. Whenever Greg was working late, or visiting his latest girlfriend, who by coincidence lived near his ex-wife, Anna would have girlfriends visit, playing music loudly and smoking on the balcony outside her bedroom, which overlooked our back deck.