“Thank heavens, it's here at last.” Sarah sighed with relief as she glimpsed the removal truck in her rear mirror turning into Crawford Road. She moved her car to give the driver more space to park outside the main gate of their new house.
Crawford Road in Sheffield is a narrow road with beautiful middle class homes. It is only a stride away from Meersbrook Park. It is also where the Shamiry family are to settle after moving from the Midlands.
Sarah is half Welsh through her mother and half Arab through her Yemeni father. Her husband, Norman, is half English and half Yemeni. Their fourteen-year-old son, Rayan, can only be described as a breed of three different nationalities and three generations of mixed blood and religious belief.
The dark blue removal truck made an approach for the vacant space outside the main gate, but needed extra space so that the staff could carry out their duties at ease without having to scratch any furniture or any of the neighbours’ cars parked on both sides of the narrow road.
“I think I will need some extra space,” the truck driver requested. “Can you please knock on your neighbours and ask them to move their car just a few yards so we can have enough space to unload easily?”
“I will get my son to do that right away,” she said. “I don't think it's wise that I do that at the first meeting with my new neighbours.”
Rayan went and knocked at the house next door. Moments later, a woman in her mid to late forties appeared behind a flimsy curtain then opened the door.
“Hello, young man,” she politely greeted him. “You must be the new people moving next door? I’ve recognised your mom, she's been in the house before.”
“Yes, and we are moving in today.”
“What can I do for you?”
“We need to unload the truck; the driver needs a few extra yards to squeeze the truck just in front of the gate to unload easily. Does that blue car belongs to you?”
“Yes, babe, it is our car – do you want it moved out of the way?” she offered.
“If you don't mind, please, just a few yards will do just fine.”
The bay window at the front of the house seemed in good shape, but was covered with old newspapers from the inside which appeared to have been hung since last Christmas, as was clear from the number of Christmas adverts.
The adhesive that held the papers onto the glass lost some of its gluing strength and some sheets had partially peeled off, leaving gaps anyone could peek through to the inside.
Sarah attempted to open the main door, while Rayan's curiosity drove him to cross the old dry lawn to the bay window and look inside. He saw a black cat inside the room gazing directly at him; he did not pay much attention to it at first, he was more interested in the ornamented ceilings and the fine gypsum handwork borders just below which accentuated a splendid view of the ceilings and walls inside the room.
“We are ready when you are, madam,” the truck driver said to Sarah who was struggling to unlock the door.
“The damn thing is stiff,” she jeered. “I can't open it; the key fits into the keyhole but doesn't twist.”
“Are you sure we are at the right address, madam?” he humorously asked.
“It's definitely our house,” she smiled but still struggling, almost blushed.
Maureen, the new neighbour, moved her car out of their way and into their driveway. She noticed that Sarah was struggling. She stood beside her car for a moment then walked towards the low wooden fence that separated both houses. She offered further help if needed whilst she finished a cigarette she lit, before going back into her house.
Sarah gave up and stood slightly frustrated, not knowing exactly what to do. She wanted the removal truck to unload as soon as possible as it was getting late and very cold outside, and the night would fall pretty soon.
The truck driver offered to help with the door but his attempts were to no avail; the situation was getting embarrassing for Sarah keeping the removal staff. She also began to look ridiculous in front of her new neighbour.
“I really don't know what's wrong with that door,” Maureen said in a distinctive Yorkshire accent. “Even the people who lived in the house before had problems with it, but I am sure they've changed the old lock.”
Sarah resolutely handed the keys to the truck driver to try again, and crossed the dry lawn towards Maureen for an introduction, since she had broken the ice; it was an opportunity for her to get to know her new neighbour.
“Hello, my love, my name is Maureen.” She introduced herself with delight. “Nice to have you as our new neighbours, I am sure we will get on very well. I am so glad that at last someone is moving into the house.”
“Thank you very much, Maureen, you sound wonderful and really courteous. My name is Sarah, that young man is my only child, his name is Rayan and he will be fourteen in February. My husband is Norman, he is still at work.”
She then went into the main point of the moment. “It isn't the best start to a new house, I am sure it is the right key.”
“I don't know what's wrong with that door, the people who lived in the house before had similar difficulties with the locks. I think they changed the lock three times in one year before they moved out. They were really nice; we've not been in touch since,” Maureen said.
It was almost 3:50pm on a November Monday evening. The truck driver, after a long struggle with the door, came to the two ladies and said that the keys were unquestionably wrong, and asked Sarah to make sure; he also reminded her that his working hours finish at five.
“Why don't you call the police and take their authorization to break the door?” Maureen suggested.
“I don't think they can do a lot, and if they do, we are going to be here for four days before they give us permission. Why don't you call the real estate agents or the landlord you've rented the house from just to make sure they've given you the right set of keys?” the truck driver said.
“We actually bought the house; my husband was in the house three days ago with a plumber and the carpet fitters. I'll give him a call and see. Excuse me for a moment, please,” she said as she pulled her mobile phone from her handbag.
“Hello, Norman. We've just arrived with the removal truck; I am having all sort of trouble trying to open the door – are you sure you gave me the right set of keys?”
“I am sure I gave you the right ones; I was in the house on Friday and used the same keys. Is it a red plastic key ring with the real estate agent name and the house number on it?” he asked.
“Yes it is.”
“Are you sure you are trying to open the right house in Crawford Road?”
“Oh, don't be silly, I am so sure I am at the right house.”
“OK, take this number and call a locksmith to come around and open the door for you. The lock is either too old or the key hole is getting too rusty, although I didn't have any trouble with it on Friday.”
As she ended the call, Rayan returned once again to the bay window to have another look inside. This time the black cat attracted his attention. He suddenly said, “Mom, there is a black cat inside the house,” then ran to her to take the set of keys and try his luck with the door.
Sarah was still dialling the locksmith's number, when suddenly a creaking sound was heard and Rayan shouted, “it’s open, I've opened the door, Mom.”
She cancelled the call, and made her way towards the main door with the truck driver, while Maureen, who started trembling, went into her house, paying all farewell and told Sarah that she was looking forward to meeting her again very soon and having a brew together.
Rayan went immediately to the room where he had seen the black cat; his mom was more concerned in making sure that there was nothing obstructing the removal staff.
“It isn't here anymore,” Rayan said to his mom.
“It wasn't there in the first place, honey. How can a cat get into the house when all doors and windows are firmly closed?”
“This box is marked 'Guest's Room'. Where is your guest's room, madam?” one of the removal staff asked as he came face to face with Sarah in the hall as she was trying to convince her son.
“The guest's room is upstairs, directly above that room, if you don't mind,” she said.
She had marked every box she packed to where it should go in the new house before she had sealed it, so it would be easy for her to put them where they belong in the new house.
Rayan was still satisfied that he had seen a black cat in the room. He wandered around the house from room to room to make sure that the cat wasn't hiding in any of them.
When he returned to his mom, she eventually went with him into the room where he had alleged to have seen the cat.
“There's the black cat you saw, Honey,” she said with a giggle, and pointed towards an old crumpled black T-shirt thrown in the corner of the room.
“I am sure it was moving,” he murmured disappointedly. “That's only a T-shirt.”
It was 4:45pm when the truck driver approached Sarah to attain her signature on his bill, and tell her that they'd completed unloading and needed to hit the M1 motorway southbound as quickly as they could.
The night had fallen considerably quickly and it was dark by the time the removal truck left Crawford Road. Fortunately for Sarah and her son, her husband has already contacted the gas and electricity boards to reinstall the services before they moved in.
Norman, Sarah's husband, finishes work at 5:00pm and was expected in a few minutes. It was only recently that he had moved his computer business from Birmingham to Sheffield, and it was difficult for him to take a break from work, though he did his best to prepare the new house, get the carpet laid, fix some plumbing and re-lay some of the floorboards.
There wasn't another house for the family to spend the night in; their old house was in Birmingham, so Norman had to live in a temporary, single room near the Sheffield city centre.
Sarah and her son got ready to leave and waited for him outside so they could all go out for dinner, before they returned and just arranged enough space to lay their tired bodies for the night. She would arrange the furniture the following day, or maybe days to come.
As they stood outside their new home, Maureen was standing, leaning against her door frame holding a cigarette. She once again offered to help with anything her new neighbours may require.
“Thank you very much, Maureen. I am OK for the time being. The house is so big, I think I will need weeks to get it well organised. We are going to be just fine for the night; the hard work will start tomorrow,” she delightfully said as Norman's car appeared round the corner.
The family drove away to look for a suitable place to dine, and to do some shopping for the rest of the night and the subsequent morning for breakfast.
When they returned, Sarah pulled out the key ring from her handbag. As she walked towards the main door, she remembered the trouble she had unlocking the door earlier. She smiled furtively and paid less attention. She inserted the key into the keyhole, twisted it and the door flew open.
Prior to going into the house with his parents, Rayan went to the bay window where he had seen the black cat earlier. He looked through the gap again and saw the black T-shirt. He muttered, “I am a hundred percent sure it was moving and was looking at me.” He was interrupted by his mom when she told him to stop being ridiculous
“I think my mom is right,” he muttered again. “There wasn't a cat in the first place. It must be my imagination.” He shook his head in disbelief, went into the house and closed the main door behind him.
Norman asked about their dispute, and she told him about the black cat which turned out to be a black T-shirt.
“Oh, that T-shirt,” he recalled. “I think it was left by the carpet fitter or the plumber; I saw it after they left on Friday afternoon. It's a Sheffield United away top. It must belong to the plumber, because he was talking about all sorts of football shite and Sheffield United all day. It must be his.”
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