The Uninvited

Angelica was tired.  She struggled up the hill towards her terraced house, where she could settle into her old armchair with a nice cup of tea and a digestive biscuit.  She dug her key out of the pocket of her anorak, and opened the front door, sighing as she slipped out of her shoes and went in, stopping on her way to the kettle to turn the TV on.    She put one tea bag in her unwashed mug, flicked the switch on the kettle, which was already almost full of water, as she'd only used a mugful since filling it this morning, then made her way to her small room and flopped into the saggy chair.

She sighed as she realised that the channel-changer was still on top of the TV, and the programme was just a boring current affairs thing.  She'd have to get up again.  Oh well, she'd have to in any case, to pour the water onto the teabag.

"I'll just sit for a bit."  She said to herself.  She always talked to herself when she was alone.  So she talked to herself a great deal, as she was almost always alone.  She lived alone, and had done since her mother died, thirty two years ago.  She worked alone, travelling from office to office doing her various cleaning jobs.  She did have the opportunity to talk to people, as everyone else does, she just chose not to.  She could easily strike up conversations with her fellows in the bus queue, or with her fellow passengers.  She could, if she felt inclined, exchange the odd word with the soon to be homeward-bound occupants of the offices she cleaned, but she did not feel inclined.  The truth is, she hardly noticed their presence.  Sometimes she was so oblivious to their presence that she spoke to herself as she went around, with the vacuum cleaner or the duster, or the bin liners.

She heard the click of the kettle switch and pushed herself up, and trudged into the kitchen, made her tea, and picked up the packet of biscuits.

Then she stopped.  And looked at the packet.

"Eh?" she said.  She looked more closely at the nearly empty packet, because she could have sworn that it was almost full last night.  In fact she was certain of it,  because she had only bought it yesterday, at the convenience store next to her bus stop, on the way home, and she certainly hadn't eaten any more than two.        

Angelica was ruled by her habits and routines.  She only ever had one, or rarely, two biscuits with her homecoming cuppa.  Any more than this and she would spoil her dinner.  So the number of biscuits missing from this packet was unexpected…and alarming.

She stood where she was, looking at the packet and trying to remember if there might be a reason for this sudden and unexplained deficit.

"P'raps I didn't buy a new packet yesterday."  She said.  "P'raps I just thought I did."  She shook her head.  "Yeah, that must be it.  Cracking up, I am." And she carried on again and walked into her room.

And then she froze.  She dropped the mug, which went crashing to the floor, sending scalding hot tea up in a small fountain over her calves and feet.  The television was off.  She gasped, only partly due to the pain of the hot liquid which was already cooling as it soaked into her thick tights.  There was a woman sitting in her chair, reading a book.

She stood, just looking.  Her hands had crept up to her mouth.  One was still holding the biscuits, and was tightly clenched.  A thought crossed her mind, that she needed to sit down or else she would collapse, but she couldn't sit down because the reason she needed to sit was occupying the only chair in the room.  A nervous half-giggle squeezed though her clenched teeth but didn't quite make it past her tightly clamped lips.

She wasn't alone, so she did not say what she was thinking, which was. "I'll go in the kitchen and when I come back there'll be nobody here.  I'm just tired, that's all."  She backed, slowly and silently to the kitchen door, never taking her eyes off the person in the chair, who had not even looked up from her book.  She hadn't even flinched when Angelica dropped the mug of tea.  That was strange.

She closed the kitchen door behind her, as quietly as possible.  Now alone again, she felt it was safe to talk again.

"It's a ghost.  But I don't believe in ghosts, do I?  Hang on though, ghosts don't eat biscuits, do they?  What if it's a burglar?  But it hasn't taken anything.  Except nearly a whole packet of biscuits.  Maybe I should call the police.  But I'd have to walk past it to get to the phone, wouldn't I? "  She stopped talking, and stood looking around the kitchen, for a possible weapon, or something to defend herself.

"I'm just being silly," she said.  "I'll go back in and it'll be gone

She shook her head again, then steeled herself to open the door.  She peeped, ever so slowly, round the door jamb, and saw, with a huge sigh of relief, that the chair was empty.

She stepped further into the room and looked around.  Nobody.  No-one there at all.  Then she looked down at the packet of biscuits still in her tightly clenched fist.  It was still nearly empty.  So that was still a mystery.

"I tell you, Ange, you're cracking up in your old age, girl."  She muttered.  She untwisted the top of the packet and worked a biscuit free.

It was halfway to her mouth when she heard footsteps on the stairs.

The End

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