Around two years ago I felt an inexplicable desire for change. We sold our house and moved from the area that we had grown up in, from the house our children were born in. Friends thought it was drastic, my parents worried about the potential financial strain but I was so determined to find my children a different path to the one I’d walked all of my life. We decided to rent a house in the leafy suburbs, we’ve always heard good things about this area and it’s literally the picturesque postcard image for middle class life. So we felt we’d try a short stint renting before we took the plunge of buying our next forever home, dipping our toes in the water so to speak. The house we rented is a beautiful semidetached period property and it’s the first garden we’ve had in our lives. Our neighbours were lovely and welcoming. We met Cyril who promptly told me which day the bin men came but added that I needn’t worry about it because he’ll put them out for me, what a gent! The neighbours in the joining house are fantastic too, we have friendly chats over the garden fence, team up when we’re painting the fence so neither of us have drips through the panels. It has been wholesome to land in such a nice neighbourhood, in a community.
The first time we spoke with our neighbours their whole family was in the garden, it was lovely to be asked how we were getting on and if we were settled in. Then he said something that made me gasp, it wasn’t a shocking comment but I felt a huge gush of dread wash over me “I should mention the noise” his wife shushed him. Thin walls, they’re obviously referring to the thin walls and making a subtle and polite request for us to keep it down, but why would a perfectly reasonable comment/ request turn my blood cold? I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I mentioned it to my Husband “Are we really THAT loud?”
He roared laughing at my naivety and tried to comfort me “Two teenagers and a seven year old? We are definitely THAT noisy. People understand, it’s not even our house we can’t soundproof but I’m sure if it was that much of an issue they would put measures in on their side.”
Job done, he’s done it again, put me at ease and I’m not so worried that we are disturbing my lovely new neighbours and I slipped off to sleep. Then I heard it, a tap tap tap on the ceiling directly above my head, it sounded like a drip of chubby rain hitting a sheet of metal. A piece of slate must have slipped and there’s a leak, I woke up my husband and told him I can hear rain coming in and asked him to pop up for a look before the ceiling bellows and collapses on us whilst we sleep. He groggily rose out of the bed and headed to the hallway but stopped and turned when he reached the doorway “It must have been a dream, it’s not even raining. Try and go back to sleep.”
So I did.
The next morning it was the first thing I thought about. I jumped up, threw on my clothes and pulled down the loft ladder. There’s no way those tappy tap taps were a dream there was something wrong up there and It needed fixing before a slipped slate turns into a gigantic planetarium like hole in our ceiling. I popped my head into the loft space like a meerkat and waved my phones torch across the roof. It all looks fine, not even a break in the insulation and no signs of damp. I grabbed the top step to go back down when my torch shone on something hanging from the party wall. It was fluttering above the gap that lets airflow through the houses. Everything in me was screaming to get out but the morbid fascination won, I hopped over the joists and grabbed it, a piece of paper. I giggled and mumbled to myself “fancy letting your imagination run away with you like this, silly bloody sausage.” Hopped back over the joists and went down for a brew. I’d popped the paper on the kitchen side. It was covered in a thick black soot like dust but you could see the faintness of writing underneath. I hoped it was an old love letter, a beautiful glimpse into the past lives of the former tenants. I dusted the dirt off as I could until it was partially legible.
I wish it wasn’t.
It was an instructional list;
I’ve lived here for many years, a happy and long life and I wish you all the luck in the world with your new home. It is a beautiful home and I’m sure you’ll be as happy here as I was.
Providing you continue to follow these simple rules.
DO NOT CUT THE TREES BACK!
DO NOT PUT THE BINS OUT AT NIGHT!
WEED THE FRONT GARDEN OFTEN!
IGNORE THE INTERMITTENT TAPPING!
PUT A LOCK ON THE HATCH! HE HAS SEEN YOU NOW.’