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She was a bloody nuisance, popping in and out with cloth covered casseroles, apple pies and God knows what else. I hardly dared answer the door; you could stake your life on it being her stood there. I didn’t often go out, but when I did, a quick trip to the bookies or for the odd pint with Ken four doors down, blow me if she wasn’t coming out of next door every time I went past. Ken reckoned she stood behind her front door with her coat on waiting.

And then gabbing on and on about her kids and grandkids… we never had any, I never missed them; Mary was enough for me. Nothing is much fun any more, not since Mary died. Eight years now she’s been gone and do you know, when something tickles me I still look up to share it …still.

I have to say though, credit where credit’s due, Missus next door was good to Mary before she died. It was handy then, the casseroles and stuff, stopped Mary fretting about me getting a square meal. Fred Jones, you’d be a bag of bones if it was left to you to feed yourself, she’d say.  

Mary had this thing about feeding me up. I used to joke about the worry of it, with it coming up to Christmas. It was a daft joke, but she expected it.

The doctors said she was being eaten away with cancer; too late to do anything. You’d expect someone who was being eaten away to lose weight, but she didn’t. I suppose because she went very quickly, thank the Lord. No, it was me who lost all the weight; couldn’t eat a thing that was brought in for us. Missus next door tried to tell me that she was the same when her Bert went, but I couldn’t be doing with it. You’d think she was the only person in the world who had lost someone. When Mary was poorly I made the mistake of telling Missus that I was quite enjoying her cooking. After Mary passed away she never stopped coming round with the meals.

Ken kept saying, She’s got her eye on you, Tom, lad. She’s got her eye on you!

Course, I soon put him straight, but he’s like a terrier with a bone when he gets an idea into his head, won’t let go of it for love nor money.

When I tried not answering the door, she took to leaving the stuff on the doorstep. Well, who in their right mind does that? Birds pecking, cats peeing and God knows what else. If I didn’t touch it, she just swapped it for fresh the next day. And the next…and the next…

And then one freezing cold weekend it stopped. Just like that. I wondered if I’d upset her. I wouldn’t want to think that, she wasn’t a bad old stick. I hadn’t eaten many of her meals in a while, and to be honest, I’d treated myself to one of those microwaves like Ken had, he swore by Iceland’s frozen ‘Meal-Deals’. But I sort of missed hearing the click of her garden gate and her cheery wave as she went past on her way to the shops.

I can’t remember what I was doing in the shed, but it was early one Monday when Ken came barging in.

Steady on, Ken, I said, you’ll do yourself an injury dashing around like that.

You haven’t heard, he said, about Beryl, have you?  

Beryl?  I said, oh, you mean Missus next door?

Well, blow me, she’s only died…Found in her leather-look reclining chair, watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’ as far as they can tell. Fresh baked meat and tatie pie covered with a cotton tea cloth on the kitchen table. Hypothermia and malnutrition, Ken said…Odd really because by all accounts the daft old biddy had a freezer packed with all sorts.


Ken made me a cup of tea with three sugars and got the half bottle of brandy out from under the sink.

Will you be alright? He said.

Why shouldn’t I be? I asked.

Because you’re crying, he said.

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