Gloria slept. The doorbell rang and she groped for the sleep button of her alarm clock. The doorbell rang again and once more she reached for a button to turn it off. As her searching fingers ventured across her bedside table, they knocked a glass of water to the floor. Now she was well and truly awake.
She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. She looked down at the sodden carpet and sighed.
The doorbell rang a third time and realising her mistake, Gloria clambered out of bed. She stood in the middle of the puddle as she pulled her dressing gown off a nearby chair. She struggled into it as she headed to the front door.
The doorbell rang a fourth time.
‘I’m coming, I’m coming.’ Gloria shouted, adding under her breath, ‘This had better be important.’
She reached the front and could make out two figures through the frosted glass. Their features were mangled by a pattern of leaves etched into the glass.
Gloria knew who it was. She took a deep breath and opened the door.
Miles away, a man washing his car watched as the black uniformed platoon silently, although not subtly, marched through the village. They rounded the corner and filed out of sight. Abandoning his car in favour of his curiosity, he started after them with his sponge still in hand. One by one, they were climbing into a van parked under a lamppost. It was a black van with black tinted windows. As soon as the last member of the platoon was inside the van, the two passengers sat nearest to the rear doors, pulled them closed and they drove away at high speed. The van turned right around and began driving back toward the onlooker. The front windscreen was also blacked out. He wondered if that was legal. The van sped up and was bearing down on him. He dropped the sponge and threw himself out of the path of the van. It rocketed passed him through the village square.
He picked himself up off the ground and watch the van disappear out of sight. He looked down at the sponge. There was a muddy tire track running straight over it. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his mobile phone and dialled a number. He waited until someone picked up and said ‘Hello, it’s Harry. We may have a problem.’
Annabelle and Emma sat in Gloria’s kitchen while she changed. They sat in silence. Emma looked at her sister. Starved of human contact, she would have expected Annabelle to want to do all the talking, but she seemed very comfortable with silence. For Emma, the wait was torture. Eventually Gloria bustled in looking more than a little flustered. Emma immediately felt better and said ‘I’m so sorry we woke you.’
‘Oh, don’t be silly, this is much more important.’ said Gloria.
Gloria stepped in front of Annabelle who craned to look over her shoulder. Gloria hugged her and stepped back holding her by the arms. She realised that she didn’t have Annabelle’s full attention. She turned to see that her sister was staring through the patio doors at a cat in the garden.
‘Annabelle has a question.’ prompted Emma.
Annabelle’s question couldn’t have been further from her mind. She was enthralled by the cat as it sinuously worked its way across the lawn.
‘Nothing, you couldn’t answer I’m sure.’ Gloria offered.
‘Well, we called Frank and he was reluctant to talk about it, but I think he’ll come round.’
Annabelle climbed off her stool and walked into a slow crawl moving towards the large glass doors, mimicking the lithe and twisting motion of the feline.
‘Is that your cat?’ Emma asked.
‘No, it must be a neighbour’s. It treats our garden like a big green litter tray.’
Annabelle’s face was close enough to the door that her breath misted up the glass, momentarily obscuring her view of the cat. She panicked and lost her balance, bumping into the glass. There was no pain, but plenty of surprise. The cat was startled and stopped in its tracks. It stared briefly at Annabelle and fled the garden.
Gloria moved to Annabelle’s side and asked ‘Are you OK?’
‘She’ll be fine, but she needs you to answer a question.’
Annabelle watched the empty garden intensely and barely noticed as Gloria knelt down next to her.
‘What did you want to ask me, honey?’
Annabelle said nothing. Emma was getting sick of waiting and volunteered ‘She wants to ask you where babies come from.’
‘I beg your pardon.’ said Gloria turning back to face Emma.
‘I have brothers and I have sisters’, Annabelle said to the garden as much as anyone in the room, ‘but where are our parents?’.
Thank you for reading.