The Invite

By Jan Weldon-Veitch

Man looking our of a window

It was a town of irregular old houses, stretched in terraces along the steep hills, which climbed toward rocky outcrops overlooking the sea. It was a dilapidated town, neglected and partly abandoned, a town which no longer supported the once thriving fishing industry. Housing was cheap. Over time, it had evolved into a place where a society of lower socio economic people lived, a place, if they chose, granted anonymity.  Many houses had become squats, where the homeless had found shelter, and others, taking advantage of reduced rent, sort escape from main stream values.  Services were few, the general store selling everything from shampoo to hammers. Mail was delivered once a week by an ancient postal worker, who struggled up the hills on his creaking bicycle. A battered whistle hung around his neck, which he blew after slotting letters into mail boxes.

It was the perfect town for Alec, a place where he could immerse himself in his art, and lead the bohemian lifestyle that he had long been craving. From his front window, Alec had a clear view of the house directly across the street. It had, he expected in years long past, been grander than all the other homes. In the front garden, now mattered with weeds, statues of naked women rested among overgrown ivy, which had twisted its way around marble legs and crept over slim torsos, binding them in a sinister green serpent grip. Statues that under the full light of the moon pulsed and shimmered with a luminous glow.

He heard it before it came into view; the bike in desperate need of a drink of oil, and wondered, how the old man still managed to ride it up the steep hill? He watched as he pulled the letter out of the shabby leather bag and pushed it into the mail box. From his pocket, he fetched a crumpled hanky, and wiped the sweat from his brow. Then the whistle, blown shrilly, breaking the silence. 

It wasn’t long before she opened the door and walked barefoot through the tangled garden, her long summer skirt trailing in the weeds. She paused near one of the statues, momentarily resting her back against the smooth marble, to fasten the buttons on her blouse. He looked as she wove her way along the garden path that led directly to her letter box. A frown crossed her face as she read the unfamiliar writing. Turning the envelope over she read the senders address, and briefly glanced across the street, catching him framed in the window.

Then with a toss of her long auburn tresses, she ceremoniously tore it to shreds. A north wind picked up the fragments and whisked them along the street. 

 From his vantage point, Alec watched as she turned back towards the house, he had expected that she would have at least been curious, wanting to know what was in the envelope. Perhaps he should try a different tactic? Maybe a casual approach?  

It had become obvious that she lived alone in the old house, he had been studying her movements for several weeks. She had become in his artist’s eye, a free spirited Venus, a goddess in tatty old world clothes. And his need to paint her had become overwhelming. 

On the gas ring in the kitchen, he stirred the lentil stew, then added a generous amount of cumin and curry powder. The rich Middle Eastern aroma’s wafted around the room, their pungent scent tantalising his taste buds.

The dark summer shadows had lengthened before he summoned up the courage to cross the street. In the distance stray cats shattered the drowsy heat with a cacophony of high pitched screeches. Half way through her front garden, he paused, admiring the forms of the marble statues. Then cautiously knocked on her door, and waited for her to answer, so he could invite her to dinner.

Copyright Jan Weldon-Veitch 2020.