Jenny had been offered a promotion and she’d jumped at the chance – her own estate agency branch to manage with accommodation included. Then they dropped the other shoe, it was in Broadstairs; beautiful, quiet, but no night life, well nothing like she’d been accustomed to. It would be a complete change from her noisy, bustling London lifestyle.
As her boss Paul had remarked, “The properties are interesting – lots of Victoriana, original features. You’ll be based at the bottom of the High Street with ‘sea peeps’, as we say, of Viking Bay. You know how the old saying goes, sun, sand and sea. Lots of wonderful restaurants and cafés, not to mention all the drinking places. Come on, you’ll love it there.”
Her friends had strangely been all for it.
“You can’t turn down the opportunity, it might not come again, and we’ll come and visit and we can all go out for a drink nearby or visit Dreamland,” they’d said.
And so she moved.
So far she’d seen none of her so called friends, in the time she’d been here, and she hadn’t really expected them if she told the truth. But she’d made some new friends so her disappointment was pretty small.
Paul had been right, she did love it here. They’d given her the first choice of flats (perk of the job) and she’d found one in a newly finished, classy conversion of one of the many four storey Victorian piles – all Pugin-type floor tiles and, as part of the original features, a beautiful ceiling rose. Luckily as the flats were then nearly all unoccupied she’d been able to pick the ground floor which gave her access to part of the garden. The lower ground floor would have been ideal, but it seemed that particular flat was not on offer. It had a permanent resident who’d insisted that his flat remained untouched and in its original condition. The ground floor at least meant the majority of the stairs were the joy of the other tenants to climb. They only used their flats as holiday homes at the weekends, or for short breaks, so she rarely had any meaningful conversations with them.
As she returned home from her job one evening it was raining horses and goats, never mind cats and dogs. The wind and rain from the North Sea could really lash down when it felt like it, but fortunately it didn’t do that too often in Broadstairs.
Battling with the large golf umbrella she’d borrowed from work, she opened the front door of the building to see a man sitting at the foot of the main staircase. At first she ignored him whilst she tried not to drip all over the hallway; she couldn’t afford to have any of the tenants slip on the wet floor and claim on her insurance. Mind you it was Monday and they would all have gone back to wherever they went during the times they were not in residence.
Depositing the dripping brolly into the old Victorian hall stand, which she’d cleverly managed to buy in the nearby Scott’s furniture warehouse in Margate she turned around. He was still there.
Considering she now recognised most of the people from the other flats, and even some of their weekend visitors, she didn’t remember him. Perhaps he’s waiting for someone.
“Evening. Waiting for someone from one of the flats?”
Silence but at least a nod towards the basement.
“Oh, you want Mr. Sugător de Sânge? I know very little about him, although I do believe he works evening shifts at the hospital so he might not be back until later. So, eh, can I help you in the meantime?” Jenny said.
The visitor quickly stood up giving another nod. Chatty devil isn’t he. This may take longer than I thought. Looking at the steampunk clothing he was wearing she chuckled, he had on a ruby coloured waistcoat decorated with chains, high black boots covered in straps, and a top hat with what looked like aviator goggles around them. The rest of his attire was mainly black or dark brown and decorated with as much bling in the form of chains as was possible. But it was the cape, black and shiny with a bright scarlet lining, which just finished the outfit off perfectly.
“I thought the fancy dress party was next week,” she muttered, her back to him, as she walked to her flat door.
She turned, looking at him enquiringly, still hopefully waiting a reply.
A frown and a tilt of his head was his next response, almost verbose compared to previous efforts.
Mind you it isn’t Folk Week yet, when I wouldn’t be surprised at anything people wear – he’d fit right in then.
Jenny opened her front door and turned. The man was still looking at her expectantly. She was a sucker for an apparently deserted friend, so she tried again.
“As your friend seems to be running late, or has forgotten to tell you he’s gone out on the town, you’d better come in for a while and warm up while you wait.”
This at last provoked a reaction and he moved past her surprisingly quickly towards the kitchen where he looked at her in anticipation.
“I’ll take that as a yes then, shall I?” A tilt of the head was as much as she got.
“You’re as talkative as my Dad and he’s deaf.” Hmm, I wonder if you are too.
She turned to face him and signed ‘eat’ – ‘you’? He nodded vigorously. Right, need to face him so he can lip read.
If food was what he wanted, she’d better make something. It would have to be something basic and quick – cooking was not her strong point.
“Well, don’t know if we have much of anything in the fridge that you’d like, but I’ll give it a go. You’re not a vegetarian are you or even a vegan?”
He gave a frantic shake of the head.
As Jenny went over to the fridge and opened the door she felt her visitor standing behind her, peering at the contents. After what seemed like a couple of minutes of his usual silence but was only moments, she grew tired of waiting for him to indicate what he would like to eat. So she picked up eggs, mushrooms and some cheese.
“Well how about if I make an omelette and you can either take it or leave it, right?” She looked enquiringly at him. By now she had realised she wasn’t going to get a verbal reply. As she started to close the door he reached past her and pointed at some black pudding hidden at the back.
“Not too sure that would be quite right in an omelette, sorry.”
His face looked a little sad.
They eventually sat at the kitchen table, she eating her omelette, her visitor perched opposite staring at the plate, back at her and then towards the fridge. He was obviously not a fan of omelettes. Well at least not without his special ingredient.
Jenny decided eating virtually alone and in silence was beginning to get unnerving, and determined to have one last go at any sort of conversation, she tried again.
“Well I’ll have to call you something. I can’t very well say ‘Oi you’ so how about I try a name, and you can just nod if I get it right?”
This got an amused look.
“First we’ll try Archie?”
“Then is Charlie any nearer?”
Same result, but if anything there was a little amusement this time.
“You’re not being very helpful. This could take hours, if we have to go through the alphabet a couple of times. Can’t you give me just a tiny clue?” she pleaded showing him her finger and thumb held minutely apart.
Her visitor smiled, then opened his mouth very wide – to show his teeth.
“Ah. Now I’ve got it! You’re Vlad, the Vampire Ghost, right? Good job I didn’t have any garlic then eh?”
Her visitor smiled scarily, then gave her a double thumbs-up, just as he disappeared. A few moments later she heard loud laughter coming from the flat below.
“I suppose a blood orange might have been better than an omelette, eh?” Jenny said to the empty chair.
© 2020 June Angliss
June has had short stories published in the Weekly News, an online site, in an Indian children's magazine and local IsleWrite anthlogies.