I could hear an engine idling outside. A low thrum. We were in bed. Warm. Intimate. He was talking to me, whispering in my ear, but I was distracted. Couldn't be outside our house, my car is there. And that's not my car. It sounds newer. But who sits with their engine idling outside Mrs. Brady's house at this hour?
I began to rehearse what I'd say to the ambulancemen.
We've only just moved in, I'd say, but then I'd ramble. Well, we moved in just before Christmas (two weeks before Christmas) but you know yourself you're in and out and then one of the neighbours had told us she was very elderly and sick and just out of the hospital so we didn't want to... and then I'd trail off because by then the neighbour who told us, Susan, would have heard my excuses from three doors down and she'd be out in her dressing gown and slippers and not a towel and a hoodie and a pair of Andrew's boots, and she'd be helpful, writing down emergency contact numbers for Mrs. Brady's nephew and her home help whose name I don't know. I've met her a few times, the home help, smoking on Mrs. Brady's doorstep. Happy Christmas! I said and I gave her my biggest smile when I ran into her on Christmas morning as I was leaving on my bike to visit my nana. I still feel the compulsion to tell people that I cycle places. Like they'll be impressed. Mrs. Brady's home help wasn't. Happy Christmas, she said, only I have to fuckin' work, don't I? I didn't know what to say to that so I just smiled a bit wider and pedalled off. On my bike.
What? Andrew asked. My gawpy kisses gave me away. I sat up in the bed. I'm just going to check outside, I said, I can hear a car. It's been there a while. It might be an ambulance. For Mrs. Brady. I spoke in a low voice and short sentences, the better to convey the gravity of the situation. Our elderly neighbour had just died, after all, and we'd never even bothered to call in and introduce ourselves. Now we'd have a dead old woman either side of our terraced cottage (Dolly died nine years ago in the house to our right and nobody has lived there since). Andrew cocked an ear. Do you mean the buzzing noise? he asked. Yes, I said. It's not a car, he said. You dropped your thingy on the floor. It's still buzzing. I reached a hand down and groped around in the dark, found it and switched it off.
Mrs. Brady lives.