The water was cold. It was always cold. It hadn’t been warm for months.
I ran the scourer over the pans, my hands tingling with icy reluctance, and gazed vacantly out across the alley. The tabby sat watchfully on the fence opposite, and the grey sky sat heavily on the scene. It seemed like nothing had changed at first. The filthy bricked terrace looked as miserable as ever. Lightless, lifeless, endless.
But something caught my eye in the kitchen window opposite, a colour, a violent shoot of green. Had someone moved in? Yes, they must have! The tedium of staring into a vacant property was over, and what’s more, they had a plant. A plant! Surely it wouldn’t survive. Nothing ever grew here. It’s simply a place where things come to wither away.
I loaded the final piece of crockery onto the drainer, and went to rest my hands on the lukewarm radiator
The pipes had frozen, and there was no water. I used a tea towel to wipe the grease from the plates, and stared tiredly into the gentle glow of the neighbour’s house. Decorations were hung, there was a small fir, and a large bowl of satsumas rested on the counter top. How I longed to be involved in their yuletide festivities.
The green strand of colour continued to grow across the windowsill, and seemed now to be ready to fruit. It was almost tastelessly colourful. Unfortunately bright.
I stooped down to pick up the gin off the kitchen floor, before emptying the dregs into my accommodating stomach. Merry Christmas.
I seemed to have spent less time in the kitchen lately. The pile of washing up had mounted up, and a single plate had fallen and smashed on the cold floor. I decided not to tidy up the pieces, as they had all skittered under the cupboards, and out of the path of unsuspecting feet.
The water was back, still cold, mind. the plant still shone out of the grey of the terrace, but now held six green bulbs, which could only have been tomatoes. They looked delicious. I missed vitamins greatly.
A slip of paper sat on the doormat. Parcel delivered to neighbour. What an exciting inconvenience this would be! I would have to meet the neighbours! Neighbours so advanced that they had a plant! But why did they live on the terrace? They really were enigmatic.
I hopped the fence which divided the two concrete gardens, and rapped on the red door. The woman who answered me was not who I’d expected. She was hunched over, struggling to lift her wrinkled eyes from beneath the mop of silver hair which tumbled around her, and stammered as she spoke.
“Oh yes. I have it here. Come in!”
I was in the house. the light was warm, the temperature was warm! This was a home.
The woman led me to the kitchen, where i spotted my package. But where was the plant? where were the tomatoes? I simply had to ask.
“What happened to your tomato plant?”
“Well..” said the lady confusedly, “It fell from the sill and the stem was snapped. I ate one of the tomatoes, but it was quite sour.”
My heart sank. Nothing lives in the alley.
“How did you know about it anyway?” she said in an alarmed tone.
“I, erm, spotted it across the alley. It was really very bright.”
She looked scared, she looked uncomfortable, she looked carefully across at me.
“I should be going.”
I had wasted my one chance of being welcomed into the home.
The tabby surveyed the yard. The neighbour’s blinds were shut. The alley was inescapably grey.