Congratulations to all the runners in today’s London Marathon. Typical English weather, after suffering from freezing temperatures for weeks the sun has been blazing down. Great for the tourists but hard work for those trying to put one foot in front of the other. If you’re determined enough you’ll find the strength, which is the subject of today’s story.
Although I hated confrontation and would walk away from heated arguments, it was not in my nature to be a push-over. All my life had been a fight. My job, lifestyle, and even the roof over my head were all things I had accomplished on my own. I’d never had the support of a husband or partner to share the angst, pay the bills or solve the problems. Occasionally I wondered if pride was just another name for stubbornness, but as the years passed I was happy with my lot.
Life has a habit of throwing curve-balls. Just when I’d decided I would grow old as a lonely spinster, someone came into my life. At first just a friend, the charismatic divorcee with grown-up children soon became something more.
‘What’s up Colin? You look a bit perturbed,’ I said one evening when we were having a drink together.
‘Nothing for you to worry about Jen. It’s just my landlord has terminated my lease, so I’ve got to find a new apartment urgently. Apparently, he’s had an offer for the whole building and is selling up. I expect I’ll find somewhere soon. Do you want a top-up?’
A few weeks passed and the situation was becoming desperate. Although he had charmed himself into my bed, and I enjoyed his company, I valued my independence so I don’t know what made me make the suggestion.
‘Look. My house is big enough. Why don’t you move in for a week or so, just until you find something permanent?’
That was the start of it. Although we were lovers the only thing I insisted on was he took the spare room, and my bedroom remained my personal sanctuary. At first it worked well. Our sex life was good, perhaps because every assignation was like a date, rather than the routine of normal humdrum life. After so many years on my own I knew I had a lot of adjusting to do, but he seemed to understand and allowed me space. He teased me about my idiosyncrasies, but in such a loving way that bit by bit I let them go and gave in to his way of thinking.
The weeks turned into months, and before I knew it a year had passed. Then his elder daughter moved in after splitting with her partner, followed by her younger teenage sibling. I began to feel a stranger in my own home. The bickering started and his true personality emerged. His youngest slobbed around all day, while his other daughter helped herself to anything of mine she fancied. The house was a mess, no one contributed to the bills, and my sex life became non-existent.
One day, after a heavy drinking session with his cronies, the row got out of control and Colin raised his hand to hit me. I happened to be making sandwiches, and without thinking I turned to confront him with the bread knife inches from his throat. From that point there was no turning back, and I told him he and his family had to leave. Within the week I received a solicitor’s letter informing me that as established tenants I had no right to evict them. For a while I panicked but there was no way I could continue with my life the way it was.
Out of the blue I received an invitation to meet up for a farewell drink with an old friend who was relocating. We had lost touch for a while, but I knew Mike had set up a successful law firm and would be able to give me advice. He listened to my story, let me weep on his shoulder, and told me to leave it with him. Two months went by, the atmosphere at home went from bad to worse, but at least I now had someone on my side.
I discovered a lot of things about Colin I should have realised if I’d been thinking straight. It seemed I wasn’t the first to have been scammed into providing a home for him and his daughters. He had been in prison twice for fraud, cleared out the bank accounts of a widow and two other single women, and gambled away the proceeds from house sales belonging to all three of his victims.
All it cost me was a week’s holiday for him and the girls while I pleaded pressure of work making it impossible for me to accompany them.
‘Where’s all the furniture? What’s that SOLD sign doing outside?’
‘Where’s all my stuff? Why is the house empty?’
‘What have you done now? You’ll regret this, you crazy cow.’
Payback time. I couldn’t help smiling at the horrified expressions on the faces of the three people confronting me.
‘To answer your questions. Charity shop, it’s been sold for redevelopment, in rubbish sacks outside, and I don’t think so. Oh, and one other thing. The bulldozers arrive tomorrow, but at least you won’t have to worry about packing. Have a good life.’
With that I picked up the bag containing my passport and went to join Mike who had come in to ensure my safety. My remaining suitcases were already stowed in his car outside, ready for our trip to the airport. I took his arm as we walked away together, ready for whatever fresh beginnings life would throw my way.
© Voinks March 2018