Didn’t have time yesterday because I was busy losing my iPad Mini on a train and then finding it two hours later while meeting up with former world champion boxer Steve Collins and hopefully asking him a barrage of questions he’s never been asked before. I also briefly met up with the beautiful and charming Frank Buglioni, who is the latest in a long line of boxers whom I’ve fallen deeply in love with. A purely platonic staunchly heterosexual kind of love, but a form of love nonetheless.
All of this a day after I’d apologised to another boxer for the grevious wrong that I committed upon his 6’5″ person no less than a quarter of a century ago. But that’s another story which I’m currently writing right now with a view (possibly) to offering it to one of the broadsheets.
Anyhow, here goes:
Because mum is a nurse she has to work shifts. Sometimes she leaves the house very early and comes home in the afternoon. Other times she leaves the house in the afternoon and doesn’t come home until we’re in bed. Today is Saturday morning and she’s just left the house for a double shift, which means we probably won’t see her until Sunday. Dad left earlier to go down the pub. He always goes down the pub on Saturdays and Sundays. I suppose that’s why his stomach is so big and it’s probably why he’s always so bad tempered. Mum says we’ve never got any money because he puts it in his stomach. He says he needs to relax after teaching idiots all week. Funnily enough he says that most of the people he meets in the pub are idiots.
This means that Sofia and I are alone for all of the morning and some of the afternoon. And there’s something I want to – have to – do. I tell Sofia about it:
“I’m going to count the money,” I say.
Sofia is watching a really rubbish Barbie movie that dad downloaded and doesn’t want to be dragged away from it. She says nothing.
“Sophie,” I say. “Don’t you want to know how much is there?”
“Not really, Stevie,” says a distracted Sofia, not bothering to look at me.
I get the key from my underpants drawer and go into the back garden. I try not to look too suspicious and make sure that none of the neighbours are watching from any of the bedroom windows that overlook our garden. I open the cupboard door and peer inside.
There are already a few spider webs on top of the dogshitty plastic that I wrapped the money in. I don’t know how spiders are able to get into locked cupboards. I force my fingers under some of the masking tape that I stuck the plastic down with. I fiddle about for a while and eventually pull out one of the bundles of money. Because I can’t think of a better idea I quickly stick it down the front of my t-shirt. It feels cold and damp against my tummy. I quickly lock the cupboard and hurry back upstairs.
I go into my bedroom and shut the door. I pull the money out. It’s slightly worrying that it already feels damp. Perhaps the barbecue cupboard wasn’t the best place to put it. Sooner or later I’m going to have to think of another place.
I slide the notes out of their gummed paper wrap. I spread them out on the bed. I’ve never seen so many pictures of the queen. Somebody told me that if you fold a banknote in a special way you can make the queen’s neck look like a bottom crack. I start counting. I’m very good at counting. Exceptionally good. There are exactly 200 £50 notes in the bundle. That’s makes £10,000. Ten thousand pounds! I don’t know how many bundles there are down in the barbecue cupboard but there are a lot. I pick up the pile of banknotes and fan my face with it. I’m holding £10,000 in my hands!
The bedroom door suddenly opens and makes me jump. Sofia walks in. She sees me holding the money. Her eyes widen and her mouth droops open.
“What are you doing?” she says.
“I told you before?” I say. “I’m counting the money.”
“What are you doing that for? Someone could come in.”
“Stop stressing. Dad won’t be back for hours. And mum won’t be home until tomorrow.”
“But what if someone else comes round?”
“Like who?” I say, all smug and grown-up.
But just at that moment the doorbell rings.
Dad has told us many times that we are not allowed to answer the front door when we are alone in the house. He’s told us that strictly speaking we are not old enough to be left alone in the house and he and mum could get into big trouble if anyone finds out. The doorbell rings again. Sofia and I stare at each other. She looks scared so I put my arm around her. “Don’t worry,” I whisper so quietly that she can hardly hear. “They’ll go away in a minute.”
We tiptoe into mum and dad’s bedroom which is at the front of the house. The curtains are always closed in mum and dad’s room. The room is dark and as usual smells a little bit of stale beer. We creep silently over to the window just in time to hear the doorbell ring for a third time. Sofia waves her hands frantically at me as I move over to the curtain and gently open the tiniest of cracks so that I can look down.
Whoever it is at the door has lifted the letterbox flap. We hear its gentle creak. I look through the gap in the curtain and see the back of a large man stooping at the front door. He has his ear to the letterbox. I hold my finger to my lips and mouth and shush Sofia. The man seems to be listening to the house. Listening to see if there is anyone inside.
This goes on for several long moments. Me looking at Sofia. Her staring at me wide-eyed through the darkness. Then she moves closer to me and puts her lips to my ear. “I need a wee,” she says.
“You’ll have to hold it,” I whisper, half angry, half scared.
Sofia shrugs, unable to hear what I am saying.
I move closer to her, letting go of the curtain. “I said you’ll have to hold it…”
As the words leave my lips a loud noise makes us both jump. Except it isn’t really a loud noise. The man downstairs has simply let the letterbox flap slam shut. Once again I put my finger to my lips and then I go back to the curtain. I lower my eye to the slit and look through.
The man has moved away from the front door now and is now standing by the garden gate. He slowly looks up and down at the house until his gaze fixes upon the tiny gap I created in my parents’ curtains. I hold my breath as he continues to look right at where I am standing. I’m close to panicking. The curtain mustn’t move. Any slight movement and he will know that there is someone in the house. This seems to go on for a very long time. I can hear Sofia’s painful grunts as she holds in her wee. And then finally, just as I’m about to think that the man might never leave, he turns on his heel and walks quickly into the street. Then I hear the sound of a car door closing and an engine starting.
I gratefully pat my heart and Sofia rushes off to the toilet.
I didn’t get a very good look at the man. Even though he seemed to stand there looking in my direction for a very long time I was too scared to do anything but keep my eyes completely still and frozen. I did, however, get the chance to notice that he seemed young… Well, younger than dad. And that he wasn’t the man from the park. He was someone else.