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'Lies & Revelations' at first amused me, then shocked me, then sucked me in; eventually after getting over a few jolts, I found myself literally unable to leave the book alone until I had finished reading it. This work should be aired on the radio or at the very least be made available as an audiobook. 5 stars out of 5, possibly more ..
New people are moving in next door.
Mum, dad, two kids and a cat. In their late twenties or early thirties I would guess, the parents that is, the kids, probably about four and six... And the cat, a big fat overweight ginger tom.
It's going to be pretty cramped in there for a family, these cottages are tiny.
Two bedrooms, one double, one single, a living room and kitchen with hardly enough room to swing a big fat ginger cat.
I know this because I've been in there and all the cottages in this row are pretty much the same.
They've bought it, so I guess it's all they could afford. Probably their first step on the property ladder.
The landlord makes the agency come around every six months to check I'm not trashing the place, which I hate. I find it very intrusive.
They're dark inside, small windows, hardly any sunlight, and damp, especially in the winter. The bathroom is speckled with black mould which, as I understand it, is very bad for your health. It's all very well for the landlord to be worrying about how tidy I'm keeping the place, he should be addressing the urgent need for maintenance, like damp proofing and fixing the broken sash on the bedroom window. I've only got one bedroom because the other room is the bathroom, whereas, next door the bathroom was converted into a second bedroom and an extension was built downstairs, flat roof, probably leaks.
There's hardly any room for the kids to play out back and just a small front garden.
My yard still has the old outside toilet. Someone needs to have that pulled down. It serves no purpose now.
The dad, I think he's called Ray, and I know she's called Bella because all I've heard since the removals van arrived is Ray yelling out...
“Bella, where did you put this? Bloody hell Bella, don't leave that there! For Christ's sake keep Almado out of the way!”
Almado! Fucking hell, how pretentious is that. I'm assuming that Almado is the eldest boy as he is the one who's getting in the way and being generally annoying.
Lilly lived there before, then she died.
Which was sad, I liked Lilly, she was like a granny to me.
I'd keep an eye on her. See whether she needed anything from the shops, that sort of thing.
Bella's really good looking
She's small, just over five feet I reckon, and slender, or short and skinny, whichever way you want to look at it.
Her hair is as black as jet and long. Although she's got it tied back in a ponytail.
Beautiful perfect olive skin and I'm thinking that she is either Spanish or Italian. Well, I guess her name also gives that away.
She's got big dopey brown cow eyes, the sort men find attractive and really long thick dark eyelashes.
She's just wearing jeans and a pink T-shirt and he's wearing jeans and a black shirt.
Ray, if that is his name, well, he's pretty good looking I guess. I'd rate him about an eight out of ten. Tall, sandy coloured hair, over six feet, strong looking, with a kind of sexy mean and moody look. Nice body too, muscular. He's not foreign though, Ray's skin is white, but tanned.
There's no denying it, they've both been blessed in the looks department.
Bella's probably a few years older than me. I'm twenty-six in August, Leo, the fiery lion sign.
I even have red hair, long and straight, which comes with freckles. Angie, my mum, says that they are cute, but I hate them, and I wish I was skinny like Bella, I could do with losing a few pounds.
“Don't be so bloody daft Zeta.” Angie always says. “You're as skinny as a rake, you need to put weight on if anything.”
Mind you, compared to Angie, I would look skinny.
Angie, well, she's got a really big weight problem, or to put it more bluntly, fat verging on morbidly obese. She's got a pretty morbid personality as well.
All she does is sit in that house of hers chain-smoking and watching television.
She's agoraphobic, it's been building up for years and now she never goes out.
Is it true what they say about redheads? You might wonder, are they fiery and highly strung?
Well, I guess so, you won't see me sitting on the fence in an argument, I can give as good as I get. Foul-tempered, that's what Angie calls me.
“You need to learn to sit back and stop flying off the handle about any old thing,” she says.
I wish I looked like Bella, so pretty, so perfect.
My legs are fat. I wouldn't look good in skinny jeans like Bella does.
Angie laughs at my clothes, she says that they are at least two sizes too big for me.
“Why do you hide your body in baggy jumpers and long skirts, and what's with the funereal black wardrobe.” She says.
I'm surprised she has the nerve to comment on what I wear. Angie just sits around in fat people clothes, massive great T-shirts and leggings that do her no favours at all. All in putrid pastel shades, she'd be better off in black, it might make her look slightly slimmer. She orders them online. Why she even bothers I don't know, she might as well just hang around in her nightdress and dressing gown.
Their cat's wandered into my garden, I hate cats, and they need to keep it in for a few days if it isn't going to get lost.
Cats creep me out, it's the way they look at you. It's as if there's a real person trapped inside. Like a reincarnation or something. It's hard to explain. My friend Tammy's got a tabby cat, it either sits on the shelf staring at me when I go around there or hisses and runs into another room.
Anyway, I guess I ought to wander out and say Hi or something.
So, I've found out some more about Bella and Ray.
The removal van had driven off by the time I went out and the family were inside unpacking.
As they'd left the front door open, I wandered in.
It was chaos, as you can imagine, boxes, furniture, stuff everywhere, all over the place.
They looked up, surprised.
“I'm your neighbour,” I said, “thought I should introduce myself and see if I can be of help in any way.”
Bella looked at Ray for guidance, how should she respond.
“No, we're just fine,” he said without offering a hand to shake or any kind of introduction. He just carried on unpacking.
Bella looked at me awkwardly.
“I'm Bella,” she said with a rather weak smile, “and this is my husband Ray.”
Bella waved a hand in Ray's direction.
Then the boys came charging past us and ran out into the backyard, wild and overexcited.
“Calm down boys!” Bella yelled after them.
“They look quite a handful,” I said, for lack of anything more inspirational to say.
“Oh, they are,” agreed Bella, “Almado's the eldest, he's seven and Luca is the baby, he's only three.”
Almado was dark like his mother and Luca fairer, like his dad.
I liked Luca best, he was cute with a mop of curly dark blonde hair and skinny little legs and arms. Almado was big for his age, quite plump, and I would describe his face as crude, big features, no refinement. I could imagine exactly how he'd look by the time he reached forty.
“Anyway, I really must get on, there's so much to unpack.” Said Bella, with a tight smile.
“Well, like I said, if there is anything I can do.”
“Oh no, it's fine, I just need to figure out where everything needs to go.”
“Where have you moved down from?” I wanted to find out more about them so that I could tell Angie.
“Oh, I've never been to London,” I said, not really sure why, conversation wasn't exactly free-flowing and I suddenly felt awkward, just standing there, being the only one making any kind of effort.
Bella looked at me and said nothing in response.
“What part?” I asked, although it meant nothing to me, seeing as how I had never visited it.
“Oh, Islington, north London.”
“Isn't that quite posh, isn't that where the prime minister used to live? You know, the last one, the one that invaded Iraq.”
“Depends which part of it you're living in.”
“So what do you do then, you and Ray, have you got jobs?”
I knew this was a forward, slightly rude and intrusive question, but I just wanted to get the full picture.
The rudeness wasn't lost on Bella unfortunately, she gave me quite a hard stare, though she then told me that Ray was a builder and she was going to be working at Marsden Properties the estate agents.”
“You're a secretary then?” I asked.
Bella looked even more irritated.
“No, I'm an estate agent.”
Then Luca started screaming and Bella rushed out to see what had happened.
This was my cue to leave. I sensed that my neighbourly intervention hadn't really been appreciated.
Neither Bella or Ray had even bothered to ask me my name.
Rude, that's what I thought as I wandered off into town, they're rude people. It's friendly, down here. If they want to get along with the locals, they're going to need to change their attitude.
Ray was in the garden when I came back, just standing there with his hands on his hips surveying his new property.
“I'm Zeta, by the way,” I yelled over to him.
Ray turned around, then looked back at the house.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“Nothing, just the windows, they need re-painting.”
“Well, that's a small job for you, isn't it? Bella tells me you're a builder.”
Ray turned around and looked at me quizzically as if he wasn't quite sure what I was doing there.
“Have you got any work down here yet? I can always put word out if you like, you know, tell people, see if there are any odd jobs you could take on.”
In a way, even before I said it, I knew it would annoy him. Why I wanted to do that I don't know, but I succeeded.
Ray just turned and walked back into the house.
I felt edgy and annoyed by the time I walked back in through my own front door.
They're the new people, I thought, they should be trying to ingratiate themselves with me, not the other way around! Fucking Londoners, rude bloody city people with their sense of superiority.
I wandered out into my backyard and rolled a cigarette.
The boys had gone back inside.
Maybe I should go around and visit my friend Tammy, I thought.
Tammy is my best friend, we have known each other for over twenty years.
We both started infants school on the same day and were told to sit together.
Tammy was crying her eyes out because she didn't want to be at school, she wanted to be at home with her mum. I was only too glad to be away from mine for a few hours, so I looked after Tammy and helped her settle in.
I was a few months older than Tammy as well. She was nearly four. I'd already had my fourth birthday.
Of course, we have had the occasional fall out, but that's to be expected when you are as close as me and Tammy, we're more like sisters really.
There isn't anything we don't know about each other. I know loads of stuff about Tammy that I have sworn never to tell anyone. It's not actually that bad, she thinks it is though. Once we stole some chocolate from the sweet shop just down from secondary school, we were about twelve. Tammy didn't want to, but I dared her. Then I stole a bead necklace from the gift shop while Tammy stood lookout and made sure that the shop owner didn't see, but I think she had.
She said, “excuse me,” seconds after I had put the necklace in my coat pocket.
I ran out and Tammy followed. I didn't stop running until I reached the end of the street.
When I told Tammy that I thought the owner had seen me stealing from her, Tammy got really upset. She was convinced that her mother might find out.
Tammy's a goody-two-shoes, very straight. Her parents are the God-fearing, church going types.
Nothing like mine, well, for a start, I've only got one parent, Angie. I've never called her mum, I don't really know why, just Angie.
I've asked her who my father was but she just says it was a guy she met and then lost contact with. Angie is a very evasive person under questioning.
When I asked her about her mother, my grandmother, she just tells me that she died before I even reached my second birthday.
Granddad? He left her mum before I was born.
I said to Angie.
“It seems to me that a lot of bad stuff happened around me being born, it's like I was some kind of family curse.”
Angie could only have been sixteen or seventeen when she got pregnant with me.
She did have a few boyfriends, when she was younger, prettier, and a lot slimmer. I didn't like any of them though. We were better off on our own. They just had Angie running around waiting on them hand and foot and I might as well have not existed.
She nearly married Charlie. I must have been about twelve when he came on the scene.
I told her that he couldn't be trusted.
Then just before they got married, I let it be known that he was sneaking around with some blond woman from up on the estate and that I'd seen them furtively kissing up a back lane on my way home from school.
Angie didn't believe me at first and of course, Charlie denied everything.
Then she found a packet of condoms in his jacket pocket and a couple were missing. I knew they didn't use condoms, well, I'd never found any around the house, or in Charlie's pockets before.
Angie was on the pill, she kept them in the drawer beside her bed.
I thought Angie would get over him soon enough, but she didn't, she became really morose and that's when she started comfort eating and not looking after herself properly.
So anyway, my upbringing was very different from Tammy's.
Tammy has a nice little flat on the seafront. Very smart and tidy. There's a basement flat below, then Tammy's, and one flat above hers.
When she was thinking about moving, last year, I suggested that she and I should share a flat.
Tammy wanted to move out of her parent's house and I knew why, she had met Graham. She was sleeping with him and her mum and dad would not have approved.
Graham lives in Bristol, he's at university there, studying science, or something equally boring, but he comes down and visits Tammy most weekends, and in the holiday breaks he's always around, worse luck.
When this flat came up it only had the one bedroom. Tammy said that she had to take it because the landlord had told her there was a whole queue of other people who were interested and she had to make her mind up right there and then.
There was no answer at first when I knocked on Tammy's door. I knew she would have finished work by now.
Then the woman who has the basement flat came out.
“Have you seen Tammy?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, I think she got in about ten minutes ago, maybe she's having a shower, I heard her water running.”
So I knocked really loudly and then I saw Tammy's face at the window.
Tammy looked tired and fed up.
“Long day at work?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Can't be that hard though, I thought. Working in a clothes shop.
Tammy's job mainly consists of standing behind a counter, folding clothes, and putting them in a bag. That, or sometimes she is there at the entrance to the changing rooms counting how many clothes people take in. I guess it must be quite boring. Still, I'd like a job there.
Tammy promised to tell me if any vacancies come up, but none have so far. When I dropped in to see her the other day I noticed a new girl on the till. Although, when I asked her about it, she said that the girl had just been transferred over from another branch.
Tammy told me that she was about to have a long soak in a hot bath and then just crash out in front of the telly.
So, I guess that must have been the water the tenant downstairs heard running.
“Well, I'll just stop a minute,” I reassured her.
Then I told Tammy all about the new neighbours and how rude they were.
It's amazing how time passes when you're having a chat.
“I hope your bath water hasn't gone cold,” I said when I realised that I'd probably already been there an hour.
Then I thought I had better change the subject, you know, ask Tammy a few questions.
“So, do you fancy going out this Saturday? There's a band playing down at the Seafarers.”
Tammy said she couldn't, Graham was coming down.
Graham doesn't like me and I don't like him so when he's around I don't get a look in.
When Graham first went up to Uni I said to her.
“Aren't you worried about what he might get up to? You know, sleep around.”
Tammy's too trusting.
She insisted that they loved each other and there was no way Graham would ever cheat on her.
Ha! More fool you, I thought. There's no such thing as a man you can trust. He's up there in Bristol far more than he is down here, and if some hot student makes a move on him, well, he's going to be tempted and let's face it, Tammy's not going to know, is she?
Tammy hadn't offered me a coffee and when I mentioned that I really fancied one, she told me she really needed to get an early night.
I'm not one to overstay so I told her that we must meet up next week sometime and then I wandered back to the cottage, wondering why no one indulged in the most basic common courtesies these days.
“Guess I'll make my own bloody coffee, then,” I muttered as I left, half hoping she'd hear.