Macy woke close to lunchtime and almost rolled back over to sleep again. She forced herself to get up and have a shower. After, she dressed warmly and went down to get something to eat.
It was still raining outside.
Macy passed the afternoon watching TV, reading, doing some arts and crafts which her therapist said was good for her to keep up and drinking cups of tea.
She listened often for the crying but didn’t hear it.
After having an evening meal, she tidied the house, which was really clean all ready but since she couldn’t go for a walk she need to make herself tried. Then she took a bath.
Relaxing in the hot water scented with lavender, Macy listened to the tap dripping and the rain tapping on the window. Everything else seemed quiet. Not that it bothered her.
Letting herself drift, she cleared her head of everything.
At first, Macy thought it was the wind but then the crying became more pronounced.
Macy frowned and wondered what was going on. Maybe, she needed to go see her neighbours? It wasn’t very good to complain though. Sometimes there wasn’t much you could do when a baby was sick and crying. Still though…she felt she needed to know for her own piece of mind.
The night passed like the last one; she didn’t sleep and often she heard the crying.
In the morning, she went around to her neighbours – both middle aged couples- and asked them about the crying.
Shockingly, they knew nothing about it and the pregnant woman wasn’t due till next month.
Puzzled, Macy spoke to more neighbours, even though she didn’t really know them. She did find out that an old woman, Mrs Kettle, on the corner had a number of cats and some of them were feral which she was trying to tame.
‘Could it have been one of them?’ Macy had questioned.
‘Maybe,’ Mrs Kettle had replied, ‘but perhaps it’s her…’
‘Do you fancy a cup of tea? I’ve some nice ginger cake in.’
‘Sure,’ Macy replied.
Mrs Kettle was a short, stooping woman, with white hair in a bun and many wrinkles across her skin. Once she had a nice curvy and plumb figure but old age had made her look compact and fat. She was wearing a wool skirt, grey blouse and a knitted pink cardigan. She had a friendly and pleasant, mothering nature.
Mrs Kettle’s house reminded Macy her step-aunt’s before Macy had began to make it her own. The wall paper and furniture looked 1960’s and there was fading smell of moth balls and cats.
Macy took the second armchair and shared a pot of tea and a plate of sliced cakes with Mrs Kettle.
‘How long have you lived here?’ Macy asked.
‘I was born in this house a few years after the war ended,’ came the reply.
‘You’ve been here all your life?’
Mrs Kettle nodded.
‘So, who were you referring to? Who is she?’
Mrs Kettle stroked a ginger tom cat that had come to curl into her lap.
Macy eyed a skinny white cat with no ears that was warming it’s back by the gas fire. So far she had counted eight cats but she suspected there were more.
‘I was about twelve and it was this time of year -October,’ Mr Kettle spoke, ‘back then no matter the weather children always played out. I was skipping alone, waiting for my friends when I heard it.’
‘The crying?’ Macy jumped in.
Mrs Kettle nodded, ‘it was coming from your alleyway. I went to look and found in one of the bins a wrapped up bundle. Inside was a tiny, tiny baby still bloody. I didn’t know what to do. So, I took the baby to my mother.’
‘It died didn’t it?’ Macy asked, cutting in, though she had a feeling she knew.
‘Yes. Within an hour,’ Mrs Kettle said in a low voice.
‘And the mother?’
‘We never found her. No one seemed to know where the baby had come from.’
‘Wasn’t there an investigation?’ Macy questioned.
‘In the fifties?’ Mrs Kettle replied with a laugh, ‘around here? No one cared. It happened all the time. A young woman, out of marriage, getting into trouble and abandoning the baby.’
‘Oh,’ Macy breathed.
‘From then on, people would hear the baby crying in the alley and find nothing. Then came the rumours of a woman carrying a bundle running and wailing down the street. Us children came up with ghost stories and believed the baby and her mother had taken to haunting the alley. I stayed away after that.’
Macy finished her tea and hugged herself, not being able to believe this. Was the crying she kept hearing a ghost baby?
There was thump next to her and Macy turned to see a small, tortoise shell cat on the arm of the chair. The cat stepped into her lap and brushed against her crossed arms. Macy stroked the cat, feeling the warmth of the fur and the slight dig of claws into her jeans.
‘Would you like another piece of cake?’ Mrs Kettle asked.
Macy shook her head.
‘You live alone don’t you, love?’
Macy looked up and saw the old woman staring kindly at her.
‘I knew your aunt well. She was a dear friend.’
Step-aunt,’ Macy automatically corrected.
‘A young woman shouldn’t be alone.’
‘I like it that way. It’s easier.’
Macy looked down and saw the tortoise shell had curled in her lap was purring. She hadn’t stopped stroking the cat and Macy realised how calm she felt.
‘Her name is Precious,’ Mrs Kettle explained, ‘I found her when she about a week old. Her mother had abandoned the litter and only Precious was still alive. I hand reared her.’
‘She seems a nice cat,’ Macy responded.
‘Yes. Snow there,’ Mrs Kettle pointed to the white cat with no ears, ‘is deaf and some teenager cut her ears off. A friend saved her and give her to me to look after. And this is Toby,’ Mrs Kettle patted the ginger tom in her lap, ‘he was a farm cat who wouldn’t hunt the mice and rats! He’s a big softy.’
‘Do want some more tea?’
‘I should…Actually, yes,’ Macy said with a smile.
She hadn’t liked other peoples’ company for years but Mrs Kettle so reminded her of step-aunt and Macy felt safe here. Plus, if she got up she would wake Precious and the cat was a nice warm and heavy spot on her lap.
Mrs Kettle brought more tea and cake. They talked some more then watched quiz shows on the old TV.
Finally, Macy decided it was time to leave.
‘Take care out there,’ Mrs Kettle said, ‘a storm is coming.’
Macy nodded as she looked out of the frosted front door windows which were dripping with rain.
‘It’s been so nice to have company. Please come back anytime.’
‘I shall,’ Macy replied and stepped outside to battle the weather.
To Be Continued…