How to Play Well

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Beverly wouldn’t have been nowhere near tempted to head for the butterfly if she’d known what was going to happen. If she’d had any idea, she would have stayed indoors where it was safe rather than slowly opening the patio door so that she could run barefoot towards the shrubbery at the bottom left of the garden. She wouldn’t have waved to the bumblebees as she passed them, smelled the flowers that she trailed her hand through in passing, and wouldn’t have come to the fence on which the most beautiful, butterfly was trembling, and over which the man was watching her.

She didn’t see him at first, intent as she was on the butterfly, but as soon as she did, she knew that he was a stranger and she remembered the words her mother had drilled into her: stranger danger!

‘Hiya, what’s your name? Mine’s Chris,’ said the stranger as soon as he’d seen that she’d noticed him.

‘Ag, no.’ Beverly’s eyes had become panic-wide and the word danger was blaring so loud inside her mind that it left no room for anything other than monosyllables to make it to her mouth.

The man could see whites all around her blue irises. A pretty effect, he mentally noted, but she’s a fawn about to run. Slow her down. Gain her trust. Say something funny. He smiled and opened his mouth to speak but before he could do so, he heard a voice behind him.

‘Chris, what’re you doing up there? Come in the house and help me move these boxes upstairs.’

‘Hey, sweetie. He pushed himself away from the fence and, still holding on with both hands, turned. ‘I’m just meeting our neighbours; come say hi.’

The woman smiled and walked towards the fence with an expectant look on her face. She knew, from experience, that moving into a new neighbourhood was tough and so they both tried to get to know the people in the houses around them as quick as possible.

Chris let of the fence with one hand and held it out to his wife, who took it and jumped lightly up to join him on the bench he was stood on. They both then peered over the fence that let on to the neighbour’s garden.

But, in the few seconds that had elapsed, the woman in the cornflower-blue dress was gone and the only things they could see moving were a butterfly heading for the azaleas and the curtain behind the closed patio door swaying as if a breeze were playing across it inside their neighbour’s house.

Behind that curtain, sat Beverly, head down, rigid with fright. Her play date with the butterfly was over. She squeezed her eyes shut, but not in time to stop a single tear from escaping and plopping onto her cornflower-blue dress.

Neighbours

I can’t talk about people close to me just in case they find out what I think about them.

Now isn’t that a startling statement!

Why wouldn’t I want to open up my heart to the people around me? I mean, I find it easy to say all sorts of things on a public forum so why not to neighbours?

Oh, wait – I got it. There’s a big difference between talking about myself and talking about other people. I’m not scared to tall you about me, I’m scared to tell you what I think about you.

Why? Well maybe because I don’t like everything about everyone. There are some kinds of things I dislike about people and even some kinds of people that I downright don’t like at all.

Don’t worry, you’re not one of those people. I like you simply for the fact that you’ve read as far as this. If you haven’t read this far then I probably don’t like you. But that’s okay, because you’ll never find out.

Unless someone tells you.

Uh-oh!

But really – what’s wrong with me telling someone that I don’t like something about them? I think it’s because I care what people think about me.

Maybe.

Let me have a think about that …

.

.

No, it’s not quite that. It’s more related to fear and power.

Explain? Okay, let me try. When I have power over someone then I don’t care what I say about them. If they have power over me then I care what I say because if I say something bad and hurt them then they have the power to hurt me back. And I don’t want to be hurt. I’m afraid of being hurt and so I try to be nice.

Oh my gosh, I never realise that I was so screwed up!

And I don’t even want to think about what constitutes power and I why I would want to be unkind to people I think I have power over. Arghh!

Taken Hostage by the Neighbours

I’ve snapped this shot covertly. It shows the neighbours at the end of our close. They are guarding what they think is the only way for me to get out of here.

See how they pretend to chat comfortably? Notice how they are apparently just standing around, taking the air?

No. They are holding me hostage for their own nefarious purposes. They know how shy I am. They are fully aware of how reticent I am to engage in conversation. And yet they stand there – thinking that they are blocking my only means of escape.
Well, more fool them! All I have to do is slip into the back garden, scale the 6ft tall fence, break my way through the trees and undergrowth, dodge the cars whizzing down the highway and I am free! Free!