This story was written as a task set by a member of my writing group.
“The old boy across the road has got a visitor. I’ve never seen anyone visit him before. Don’t recognise the guy,” Alison moved away from the front window. Daniel took her place.
“Never seen him before, mind you, we don’t really know many people round here.” It was true. Like most people on the new Shrublands Estate, they had moved in two years ago, but had not met many of their neighbours on Lilac Crescent, or any of the other appropriately named roads. Working all day meant fewer chances to see and speak to other people.
Brian, the old boy, smiled at his visitor. He had never met him before but he had stopped for a chat when he saw Brian pottering in his front garden. Brian was so grateful to have another human being to speak to. He had moved here after his big, old rambling house had become too much for him to cope with alone. He had hoped to make new friends but everyone was so busy with their own lives.
“Come in and have a cup of tea with me,” he said hopefully to the stranger. He could almost hear his daughter’s voice screaming at him
“Dad! What are you doing? You don’t know him from Adam. He could be a serial killer or a fraudster.” Well, she was too far away to see what he got up to and if he wanted to invite a new friend into his house then he could do just that.
It turned out his new mate, Mac, was not a serial killer or a fraudster, just a nice man, who lived ‘somewhere nearby’ and was happy to let Brian chat and just listen. Mac could see Brian was lonely. There were lots of photos around the cosy room of Brian’s wife (died five years ago) and his daughter and grandchildren (live 300 miles away), but it seemed Brian did not have much company.
Mac waved goodbye and carried on down Laurel Grove. At number two he saw an old lady sitting in the window and gave her a friendly wave. A man washing his car at number four saw him.
“Do you know, Ruth, then?” he asked.
“No not all. Just saw her sitting there and thought she looked like she needed a smile and a friendly face.”
“Too right. She’s very lonely poor soul. Can’t get out like she used to. Her son visits occasionally. I get her shopping for her but don’t have a lot of time to spare with my job. I do what I can.” Mac carried on and turned right down Rowan Avenue. At number 13 he helped a young mum get her pram up the steps to her front door.
“Thanks, love. It’s a struggle and he’s still only tiny. How I’ll cope when he gets bigger I don’t know. Still, as my dad said, – you’ve made your bed, Mandy, and now you’ve got to lie in it! I knew being a single mum would be hard work.” She shut the door behind her.
At number one Mac met Steve, cleaning his windows. Steve was definitely up for a chat and within a few minutes Mac had his life story. He was divorced and this was his first time living on his own. He had loved his wife but she had cheated on him once too often. He was trying to start his own business as an odd job, gardener, handyman in the local area.
“Well I know there’s a young mum on her own at number 13 who could do with some support and a friendly face. Maybe a ramp up to her front door might help.”
Mac continued past Green Park to Maple Road. Half way up the road he saw a mum struggling with heavy bags of shopping and an inquisitive three year old, who wanted to stop very few steps to investigate something exciting he had seen. As Mac approached the little boy had just picked up a worm from the path.
“Look, mummy, look. A baby snake!”
“Lovely,” replied his mum, distractedly.
“Let me take your shopping for you, so you can properly appreciate this marvellous find!” The lady laughed and thanked him.
“I do try, but you need the patience of a saint to deal with Noah’s constant demands. He asks questions constantly and loves finding mini beasts and flowers to show me. It’s easier when his dad is home but he works on the rigs so he is away three weeks at a time.”
“I know someone who would love to go on a minibeast hunt with Noah,” suggested Mac. “Brian lives at number 6 Lilac Crescent. He’s on his own and has got a lovely, wild garden. He would love the little lad’s company and you could enjoy a sit down on the patio. You would be doing him a favour, he’s been very lonely since his wife died.”
“Thank you. I might just give him a visit when I’ve put the shopping away. I don’t know many people round here. I’m Millie Cooper. Do you live round here?”
“I’m Mac,” Mac replied. “I live down that way.” He waved his arm vaguely.
Maple Road was the last road on this little estate. It led back on to Lilac Crescent. At the junction of the two roads Mac saw an elderly lady sitting outside her front door with a mug of tea.
“I only get the sun out the front in the afternoon,” she told him. “But I like sitting out here anyway. I can chat to people as they walk by. Not that many do. I’m Bren. Do you live round here?”
“Not far, but I have met lots of friendly people on the estate.”
“Lucky you. I’ve been here nearly two years and I only know a few people who stop and pass the time of day with me.”
“Well, if you take a little walk to number two Laurel Grove, there’s a lovely lady called Ruth, who is housebound. I’m sure she would make a good friend for you, and you for her.”
“Thank you dear. She sounds just the ticket.” Mac smiled as he walked along Lilac Crescent, through Ivy Walk and back to the main road.
Brian became very good friends with the Coopers. Noah gave him a new lease of life. It was like having a grandchild living down the road.
Ruth and Bren became good friends. Bren visited most days for a cup of tea and they were always at the end of the phone for each other.
Steve built a super ramp at the front of Mandy’s house which made it easier to get the pram in and out. He ended up visiting regularly, initially to do the little jobs she kept finding for him, but eventually just because they enjoyed each other’s company.
The Visitor was never seen on the estate again.