Al walked up the street smoking and swearing. He hated students. Why did he have to put their curtain tracks down? They'd probably been partying so hard that they'd ripped the old curtains down, track and all. They didn't deserve a free service, you know, they really didn't. He rang the bell. No response. He swore, rang it again and crushed his cigarette under foot. Eventually some dreadful teenager opened up, a beard half forming and his eyes red and weary.
"Oh, hi - sorry, I've just got up," said the horror.
"Just got up? Some of us have been up since 6:30, you know."
The boy stood there.
"You going to offer me a cup of tea or something?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry, we're out of milk at the moment... actually we're out of tea as well but we've got some hot water and sugar..."
"Blimey! I'm not drinking flipping hot water and sugar! Forget it! Forget it!" and he stormed into the dive.
"Who is it, James?" called a girl's voice.
"It's the curtain man," called the tired-looking young man.
A girl appeared looking just as tired. She was still in her PJs.
"Oh, hi - sorry we've just got up," said the girl. "Would you like some orange juice?"
"Well, if that's all that's going, yes. At least it'd be better than the water and sugar your boyfriend offered," said Al reproachfully, glaring at James.
The girl poured out some orange juice for Al, who drank it in silence.
"Right, where are these tracks going to be put down?"
James and the girl invited him into the messiest room Al had ever seen. He immediately tripped over a large pile of German dictionaries and mouldy clothes.
"Sorry it's a bit of a mess," apologised the girl.
"A BIT??" exclaimed Al, looking up at the ceiling. "Vacuum up all those flipping spiders' webs!"
Al decided to start work as soon as possible. The sooner he was out of this shocking place the better.
The girl went to get some milk, some tea and some biscuits while Al worked. She returned and cuddled James in bed for a while before she said she really had to get up and get dressed.
When Al had finished Sarah went into the living room and thanked him very much for his hard work, apologised again for the mess and made him sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and some biscuits with her. He softened a little and they got talking. He changed his mind about her as he spoke to her. She wasn't the disgrace to the human race he had originally felt she was. She said her name was Sarah and that she had known James since their school days. Apparently it had been love at first sight.
Al found himself discussing personal things with this pleasant, well-mannered girl which he normally kept to himself. He talked of his wife, of how they had first met and how that had been love at first sight too. He also spoke, though, of their daughter and of how difficult she'd become. She was Sarah's age, apparently, and had once been such a delight but had now gone off the rails. She'd been that way for ages - ever since some boy had dumped her a few years back. She now walked around with died black hair claiming to be a vampire, going to illegal loud parties on local farms, getting herself arrested and saying she hated men.
"I'm so sorry to hear that. What's your daughter's name?" asked Sarah.
"She was named after me," said Al. "She's called Alex."