(Prompt: write about an interesting person you’ve met this year. I’ve cheated as I met my character 3 years ago, but I don’t know her very well and I think she must have an interesting story to tell.)
There’s Mary again, wondering slowly around the pool in the late afternoon sun. Loose trousers and sleeveless top, with sandals on a leather-skinned frame and slightly arched upper back, checking the sun loungers are tidy and the path is swept free of leaves, before returning to her sun-soaked seat and a newspaper. I wonder if, as she’s gazing up at the building I am observing her from, she recalls when all of it was her home, and she had more than just a flat on the ground floor.
Shortly after I moved in, Mary told me that it used to be a hotel, owned by her parents. The tree I look out onto sheltered her on hot days as a baby in her pram. Last year, on Remembrance Sunday, she told me of how, during the Second World War, she used to race her dad down to the basement, where the lower ground floor flats are now, to seek safety from the bombs. She recalled how, when her family could no longer afford to run the hotel, it was sold off and the company converted it into lots of flats, like mine; too many flats, Mary said. I’ve never heard her mention a husband, but I think she referred to a daughter once, and grandchildren, not that I’ve seen them.
I often see her slowly strolling to or from the shops, or waiting for a lift to a concert; she plays the double base, and I wonder how on earth she lugs the great heavy thing out onto the front steps because she must be almost 80, if not older, judging by her war memories. Seeing her wander around the garden comforts me, almost as though, so long as she is her, this building will be a nice place to live because she keeps an eye on it, and all who live here.