Kay wasn’t surprised when she discovered the husband, Robert, in a corner of Edith’s garden, another friendly ghost. He never spoke, just lifted his cap in greeting. She started to listen out for his faint whistle and quite liked the smell of pipe smoke that drifted over the fence. Besides Kay, the only visitors to Edith’s garden that were not from another dimension were birds, insects, and the hedgehog that they fed with cat food.
Kay started a new part-time job six months after moving in. Three days a week was enough to avoid dipping into the money she had made on the sale of her old house, and it meant she could look in on Edith more often, and help her with shopping and other chores.
It was Kay who found Edith slumped in her armchair. She’d knocked and rang the bell for at least five minutes before she ran back to fetch the spare key Edith had given her, “For emergencies,” she’d said. She was still wearing her nightdress and slippers, mouth open as if mid-snore, eyes closed, her white hair a fluffy halo.
Kay telephoned the emergency services and Edith’s daughters, who arrived all at once, the ambulance with a flashing blue light, the daughters with tears and hugs.
“What would we have done without you?” they said. “Nobody would have known.”
A few weeks later, the house was cleared of furniture and a ‘for sale’ sign went up. Kay missed the sound of Edith through the adjoining wall: switching on her kettle, her footsteps up and down the stairs, the sticky back door closing with a squeak. All that was left of Edith was Maurice the ghost cat.
Kay watched prospective buyers traipse in and out for months, and she wondered if the house would ever be sold. But it was and, not long after, the building work began. She cursed the crashes and bangs as builders demolished walls. Muffin ran off when they arrived at eight and did not return until they went home around six o’clock. They parked their vans so close to Kay’s drive that she couldn’t see traffic coming as she tried to edge her way out and reverse back in.