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The voice from the open window


Sarah was fascinated by the woman who lived opposite. She was called Kate, and she seemed to be rich, although she never went out to work: indeed she rarely went out of the house at all. She had food deliveries from Fortnums. She was not good-looking, indeed she was rotund and had ordinary features. Perhaps she made her money on the stock market? But then she remarked to Sarah that she knew nothing about finances, and the only investments she understood were Premium Bonds.

But her voice, now. That was quite extraordinary. It was mellifluous, deep, husky: it slid over the consonants, it rolled over the vowels, it was sometimes frisky, sometimes brazen. What wouldn’t I give, Sarah thought, to have a voice like that. It had a whole repertoire of seduction and ambiguity. 

It was Midsummer’s Eve. Hot, sultry and dark, and everyone had their windows open. Including Kate. Sarah heard her amazing voice come floating through the open bedroom window. She knew it was wrong to spy, wrong to listen in to others’ conversations, wrong to stalk anyone. But nonetheless, she found herself tiptoing over the road, silently opening the gate, and sidling along the wall till she was directly under Kate’s window. What she heard took her breath away. 

A straightforward way to describe it was to say that Kate was making her living by telephone sex. Sarah was reasonably experienced, but even she found herself slightly shocked at some of the things she heard. She almost found herself snorting “filthy!”, but then realised it would make her sound like Mrs. Grundy.  

And after all, when she had listened awhile, Sarah realised that what Kate was doing was selling dreams: dreams of potency, of fulfilment, of the lineaments of gratified desire. It was powerful stuff. And the voice seemed to conjure into existence a moist world of fecundity. Sarah looked round Kate’s garden, and saw fruits, vegetables and flowers that were usually hard to grow here. To be sure, some of then were a tad obvious in terms of their sexual symbolism: ripe figs, large courgettes, melons, peaches. With a gasp, Sarah realised that this largesse had been brought into existence by Kate’s voice, unctuous as it was. It was as if honey had run down the walls and into the earth, and made the fruits glabrous.

Straining to hear better, Sarah took a step further and there was a splintering sound on the midnight air. She had blundered into Kate’s cold frame and broken it. The voice continued unabated - the speaker was clearly on a roll - but Sarah herself was seriously wounded. She took out her little torch and saw that one of the glass shards had cut her leg badly, and she was bleeding so much that she feared she had severed an artery.  The blood was spurting. As she shone her torch round the cold frame, she was astonished at what she saw. Huge, pulsating fruits, with a sticky sheen, glowered in the penumbra of light, and moved towards it. Before her very eyes, they swelled with her blood. If they had lips, they would have smacked them. Sarah grew faint, and fell down. She tried to cry out, but no one could have heard her above Kate’s voice, intoning encouragement and outrageous pleasures to her absent swains. 

In the morning, the postman (early for once, thank goodness) found Sarah lying half-in, half-out of the cold frame.  She was alive, but she had lost a lot of blood. The plantpots seemed full of it though. Kate said “poor thing! But do try not to damage my plants as you lift her out. After all, it wasn’t their fault.” While she was recovering, Sarah wondered if that was true. She never went near another cold frame after that, just to be on the safe side.

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