Part 1

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The sun shone annoyingly in his eyes as it rose behind the neat row of brick houses, backing onto a small woods, one of the few remaining green spots in the little grubby town of Eastford. As the sun rose, more and more cars began to race at breakneck speed round the sharp bend, over the hill, and then down the road that passed the house. People would never learn it seemed; many untimely deaths had been due to those stupid drivers. It wasn't as if this was really that important though. It certainly wasn't as if it could be prevented.

The mornings always progressed in the same way. They worked on a strict schedule, and it was at 6:50, like always, that Anita Redders, dressed smartly in a pencil skirt and a pale blue blouse, blonde hair billowing around her shoulders along with a thin transparent scarf-type thing opened her door and lightly sprung down the front garden. That garden with it's overgrown grass was a relic of her mother's attempts at a flower garden. Like always, she doubled back to relock the door, just to be sure, before speed walking towards the bus stop at the crest of the hill. It was only a few paces to get there, but leaving a ten minute buffer was always wise, as the 7 'o' clock bus was a fluid concept and could not be counted on to be on time, or even late. It quite often would arrive, and then leave earlier than you expected it. Far too many things were fluid concepts these days. A man could not rely on anyone or anything. Anita perched on that useless, sloping, slippery bench that one finds at bus stops and fished for a book from her bag and waited. She looked like a woman in a picture, under the yellowing and cracking plastic shade of the bus stop, except no-one would want to paint that picture, given the sad state of the bus stop. She was the only one there, and her gaze never rested on her book, but was diverted, searching, watching.

Jim, the fellow looking from his window watching all of this, sighed. He knew exactly who young Anita was waiting for because Gary Jones came to chat to her at the bus stop every morning. Each of the young people would pretend that they were surprised to bump into one another, but Jim knew what was really going on. Young people developed these unspoken agreements. It was nauseating really. It was obvious that Gary came to see her because he never caught the bus.

As expected, Gary's lanky form emerged from his mother's house and it seemed to Jim as if each of his slimy limbs were each moving independently from the others. Gary, of course, did not move quite as oddly as this, but Jim did not really like Gary, so imagined him so. To Jim, Gary looked like a bug, and he most ardently desired to squash him.

Gary sauntered over to the bus stop and engaged Anita in what Jim assumed was the same sickening flattery and flirtations that guys like Gary had used for decades to try and attract girls, and that silly girls like Anita had spent just as long putting up with and apparently, falling for and enjoying. Jim had seen it all before, especially with some of the pompous fools that had been recruited at the police station. Flirting with the secretaries, even with some of the officers. The most surprising thing to Jim was that some of these very clever women would flirt back and giggle like young Anita was just then. This little airhead of a girl was nothing on her older sister, who had been a young woman of character.

Jim's eyes wandered across the street. A beautiful BMW was parked on the curb at the opening of the cul de sac that descended down the hill that was perpendicular to the main road. This was the cul de sac where Jim lived and it had a large patch of green grass where the local kids ran around playing tag and football amongst the three small trees that were planted there. He frowned. No-one who lived in that area could own a car like that. It was a beautiful car, and it was out of place in the quaint and concrete street that Jim called home. Perhaps it belonged to the parents of that new youngster who had been coming over for playdates a lot recently. Perhaps she had slept over at one of the girl's houses and that was why the car was here so early.

The frantic woman with the megaphone worthy voice, who lived a few doors further down the decline to Jim, burst out of her front door like a bullet from a gun, but far less satisfying. Jim lived on the corner where the main road turned into the cul de sac and so he watched her waddling like a duck, with her brood in tow, up the small curve of the hill towards the main road. From here they would walk down, in the opposite direction to the bus stop, towards the local school. The party bustled and rustled, drawing Jim's attention for a long while. Janice, he thought the mother's name was, was wiping the smallest child's nose, scolding an older one for talking too loudly (whilst of course booming herself) and wiping chocolate off of another's face with her thumb. He supposed she was dropping them off at the breakfast club that the school ran, before going to work. As the bustle disappeared from view, silence settled back onto the waking street.

Jim's attention refocused on Anita as she stepped onto the bus (it was only six minutes late, which was not bad, considering.) It snorted as it pulled away from the stop and as Gary waved at Anita from the curb. Even the buses though he should be snorted at, Jim concluded, smirking as he watched Gary return to his house and the smirk remained with him as he stood up from his big, leather armchair in his bedroom. This armchair stood, turned at an angle towards the large window that faced the main road, and a small coffee table stood next to it, usually topped with a large mug of steaming tea, a plate piled with biscuits and several half-read books. Behind this set up was a large bed that Jim had laid neatly that morning, but the pride of the room was to the left of this, where bookshelves stood floor to ceiling, and wall to wall. Jim had bought and read all of these books in the last few years, although a few he had rescued from the school when they had been trying to throw out a pile of the battered ones. The bookcase was Jim's prize possession. It made his room a place of significance.

He was about to leave the window and make a cup of tea, when a movement caught his eye. A youngster with a briefcase hanging open stumbled as he moved from the wall he had presumably been sitting on. He was on the wall of the other corner house, the other guardian of this small cul de sac of houses, his friend Margaret. Jim shook his head: the disrespect of sitting on someone else's garden wall was outrageous. It wasn't even like he was one of the local blokes - the usual suspects. Jim knew everyone, and this boy was a new face. Jim frowned and jotted down the incident in his worn leather notebook and turned from the window. He was losing some of his edge. How had he missed that guy?

As Jim changed out of his pajamas (which really meant changing from one pair of black jogging bottoms and a grey t-shirt, into a different pair of black jogging bottoms, and a grey polo shirt and his maroon fleece) he wondered whether the lad had been the lover of some young girl and this was his walk of shame back home. This explanation didn't settle in Jim's mind however and the thought of his own inadequacy continued to swim around his head, resting heavily on his brow as he walked down his narrow staircase. Out of long years of habit, he ducked to avoid hitting his head at the bottom, and he went into his kitchen and began, also from habit, to stir the ingredients for pancakes together. He cooked himself seven and coated them generously in peanut butter and sat at the small round table with the sunlight shining through the large window to eat them. He would never have dreamt of eating such an unhealthy breakfast when he was young, but since his injury, it wasn't like he had much to keep fit for. You had to find your joy in the small things. Eating seven peanut butter pancakes most mornings made Jim happy. Happier.

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