A Quiz and Tussled Hair
The aluminium ladder banged against the wall with a rattling crash resting just below the large first floor window. The window to the main bedroom at the back of the house. Diamond pattern leaded lights fixed into old Crittall metal frames mounted in dark oak frames. The glass shapes distorted, slightly buckled where hot summer sun expands the tightly fixed panels. The fanlight was open. The curtains were closed. The sound of running water and sploshing. A bucket was being filled from the outside tap. The changing pitch indicating that it was nearing capacity. A whistling as the man picked up the bucket and started to climb the ladder. The curtains were open. The fanlight shut. He reached window height standing near the top rung and proceeded to clean the window. Inside there was movement as the husband and wife, both up and dressed, were going out the door and down the stairs.
Alan Durban has been cleaning windows for years. Has an established round with a very large portfolio that takes him all over the area. Works on his own. Always has. Prefers it that way, much less complication and no one to split the money with. Works hard. Manages to clean the windows of about ten houses a day depending on size and travel times. An average of forty pounds a house so excellent money. Most houses he cleans every three months. Some sooner, some longer.
He is married to Helen. No kids. Helen says she is too young to be tied down with screaming little devils in tow. “I’m only thirty one. There’s things I want to do first.” Alan is happy with that situation he feels no pressure to get so involved. Likes his freedom. Kids would just complicate his life.
Average build and height. Alan is a martial arts expert. Fit, agile and supple. A Dan something for Karate probably fifth or sixth grade. Has the sort of face that cannot be ignored. Strong features with kind of rough good looks. A tough look and definitely someone to treat with respect. That’s the look. A no nonsense look. Dark hair and no tats complete an impressive picture. Very confident as you would expect. Teaches his skills at the local village hall twice a week. To kids mostly giving them an outlet. Keeping them off the street.
Scrivener’s Cottage in the Dell. The small lane down by the river. Lovely spot, nice and quiet. Not overlooked. It is centuries old and rumour has it Scrivener was the local blacksmith. A detached garage now standing where the forge might have been. He moves around the house. To each elevation he cleans the higher level windows first then moving down. Finished in about forty five minutes. Knocks on the door and Mr Stevens answers.
“Finished then Alan. Quite early today. Assuming we are your first.”
“Like to get a quick start. Lots to do today. It’s still forty pounds. No price rises this year.”
“Forty pounds well spent. Thanks. See you in about two months then.”
Alan secures his ladder to the roof rack of his van and heads off to his next job only two miles away. Another local cottage but a bit smaller. Fewer windows. Same procedure. Ladder up to the upstairs window to the rear. He always starts at the rear. The furthest to walk. From there the job just gets easier. No problems all the windows are shut and the curtains open so he knows he will not disturb anyone sleeping in. He cleans all round and then knocks on the door.
“Hallo Mr Gibson no work today?”
“No Alan day off. Going to take Viv to lunch for her birthday. How much?”
“Same as always thirty five pounds. No price rises this year.”
“Cup of something before you go?”
“No thanks lots to do must get on.”
“In three months then.”
He continues his round and completes his normal five cleans by lunch time. He stops at his usual spot when he is in this part of the countryside. The Jolly Farmer. Sits outside at a table a long bench each side with a diet coke and a home made pasty. Emma the landlady makes them. He sees Lucy Downs sitting on her own. Lucy, lovely blond haired Lucy. One of his customers of course. She looks like she is nearly crying. He goes over and sits down next to her.
“What’s up Lucy you look a bit down.”
“It’s Andy I think he is having an affair. I found a lunch receipt in his jacket pocket two of everything on it. It smelled of perfume. Not mine though.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s up to things though. He could have been dining a client or something.”
“Could’ve been but I’m not sure. I’ll just have to see what happens. Anyway how are you. You working today.”
“Yes. Lunch time. My usual spot. You meeting anyone.”
“Waiting for Ann Stevens and Viv Gibson we are all having lunch. We meet up every month or so. They will be here in a minute I expect.”
“Good so you won’t be alone. I am back to work then. See you at the weekend. Aren’t you and Andy coming to the quiz night in the hall?”
“Oh yes that’s right. Yes will see you and Helen there.”
He and Helen are friends of a sort with Andy and Lucy. Sees them from time to time. Nothing special just village stuff. The day ends well. He cleans the windows to the large house on the edge of the village. Three times the size of one of the cottages.
“And that’s the final question. Results in about thirty minutes.”
“How’d you and Andy do then Lucy?”
“Well I don’t know. Wouldn’t like to guess. Found a lot of them too obscure. How about you? Any good Helen?”
“No I don’t think so. The usual for us. In the middle I expect.”
“Fancy a beer after the results. We can make the pub before closing. I’ll drive.”
“Good idea Alan let’s go now neither of us has done any good.”
They get in the car Andy in the front with Alan driving. The two girls in the back chatting away, mostly about nothing. They all sit together in the pub at a small round table in an alcove.
“So what have you been up to Andy anything going on at work.”
“Yes. I have been having a lot of meetings. Lunch stuff mostly. We are trying to buy a site over the other side of town. Going to build about sixty houses. The owners are being difficult on the price but we’ll get there.”
Alan glances at Lucy who has been listening to the conversation. Gives her there I told you that’s how it is look.
About a month later Alan heads over to Lucy’s house. It’s window cleaning time. He arrives sets his ladder up at about eight in the morning. Bangs it against the wall. The fanlight is open and the curtains are closed. He fills his bucket, picks up his cloths and climbs the ladder. The curtains remain closed and the fanlight remains open. He climbs back down the ladder puts his bucket and cloths down and goes round to the back door. It’s on the latch so he goes in and upstairs to the main bedroom. Lucy is there laying on the bed in her skimpy negligee her blond hair all tussled up and flowing.
“Thought you were never coming. Why so late?”
“Got hooked up at home first thing couldn’t get away as normal. Helen was being difficult.”
Alan undresses and the fun begins. After they are laying together.
“So the curtains closed and window open works then?”
“Yup all I have to do is not open them. Andy has gone to London to meet his bankers. Will be gone all day and not back till late. Left early but I must tell you I can’t do this anymore.”
“What you and me?”
“No you with them. You with Helen. Me with Andy. I want to be with you.”
“What do you mean me with them.”
“With Ann and Viv.”
“How often do you meet up with Ann and Viv then?”
“Oh about once a month to compare notes.”
“You of course. You. And the curtain and window thing. And what goes on. Marks out of ten and all that.”
“And how’d I score then.”
“Oh maybe a nine. Occasionally a ten.”
“So why were you so upset when I saw you? Worried about Andy?”
“Not Andy. I don’t care about Andy. He is having an affair alright and I now know who with.”
“It’s Helen. I recognised the perfume that evening at the Quiz particularly in the back of the car. It’s her alright.”
“So that explains why she has been so off lately. This morning she was awful. I’m not too shocked though. Half expected it. She has not been happy for a while. But why were you upset?”
“Because I am in love with you and I am so jealous of you being with Ann and Viv as well. I can’t stand the meetings we have. I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“Do you know I feel the same way. Felt it for ages just didn’t know how you would react. You seemed to enjoy it being casual. Furtive even.”
“I did at first but not now. I want all of you now.”
“Then that’s what we will do. Just all the awkward stuff to get through first but shouldn't be too difficult given the circumstances.”