It was party season! Life sparkled! But she did prefer it when the central heating had kicked in and she was wrapped up and two macchiatos down
Feeling slightly less afraid of a robber with a taste for her Krups, the weighty Hugh Grant gripped in her left hand, Isla moved softly down the hall towards the kitchen at the back of the house.
She paused at the door and looked into the dark. The blue illuminated ring on top of the coffee machine provided the only light. Someone was there. Someone her height, wearing what looked like a cap and a thick coat. What to do? Speak? Let Hugh Grant do the talking? She could put on the lights. If she quietly stuck out her right hand she could reach the switch on the wall just inside the kitchen door. She inched forward, the clay model raised, other hand snaking across the wall and then, she hit the button . . .
BAM! The spotlights in the ceiling flooded the room with brightness and, adrenalin pumping, Isla lunged with Hugh Grant like she was holding a sabre.
‘Argggh! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! It’s me! It’s just me, bro!’
Heart racing like Mo Farah on the home straight, Isla stopped, staring into the face – well, the hands across the face – of twenty-something Raj, their postman. He nudged the kitchen cupboard door with his elbow and two Christmas cards Isla had stuck on last night fell to the worktop.
‘Raj!’ Isla exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here?’ She slid Hugh Grant on to the kitchen worktop, a hand clutching her chest, determined to keep her heart where it should be.
‘Just making coffee . . . just coffee,’ he stammered, blowing out terrified breaths. ‘Hannah, she said it would be all right. She gave me a key, innit.’
Isla leant her body against the countertop. Her sister had given their postman a key to their house . . . and not said a word. She shook her head then stopped. That was typical of Hannah.
‘She didn’t tell you,’ Raj guessed, holding his hands up. ‘I’m sorry. I was just moaning ’bout the coffee at the sorting office last week and how I’s got to start even earlier now it’s December, you know – cards, parcels, all that stuff Yodel can’t do for Amazon – and Hannah said, if I had time . . . if I was this way, I could, like, come in your crib and make a coffee before I start my round.’
Total Hannah. Despite being the one that everyone wanted to protect, her sister had a penchant for taking people under her wing. Sometimes it was endearing, other times it was annoying, like now, when their postman had trodden dirty slush from the last snowfall over the kitchen tiles and woken them up.
‘I’ll go,’ Raj said, taking a step towards the back door, hands pulling his cap further down over his head. ‘I’ll get coffee from that new café. It’s Moroccan, innit, infused with orange blossom . . . and that’s no bad shit, man.’
‘Raj . . .’ Isla began, now feeling a little mean.
‘It’s okay, we’re sweet, bro,’ Raj said, backing away, eyes on the pottery statue, hands held up in surrender.
‘Raj! Don’t you go anywhere!’ It was Hannah’s voice at full volume. ‘I’m coming down!’
‘I should go,’ Raj said, directing the statement to Isla.
‘No,’ she sighed. ‘Honestly, it’s fine.’ And she would never hear the end of it from Hannah if she let him leave now. She could hear the whirr of the stairlift which meant her sister had crawled to the top of the stairs, dragged herself into the seat and was on her way down.
‘Let’s put some more water in the coffee machine, shall we?’ Isla suggested.