Withheld Number

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I flinched as the end of day school bell drilled around me. I realised I had been dozing off in my Maths lesson and reminded myself never to put a DVD on past midnight again. I never was that interested in “Probability” anyway, if I hadn’t have been so tired the dull subject would have sent me to sleep. I started to pack my books into my bag and groaned as I remembered that the coursework was due in on Monday. A weekend crammed full of revision, “Great! ” Outside in the corridor, I met my friends Briony and Keighley who I had earlier arranged to walk home with.

The three of us live on the same street and have known each other most of our lives. We have been together through Junior School and High School and have become pretty much inseparable. Briony’s parents did attempt to send her to the local grammar school but it resulted in being only a temporary arrangement as she refused to go because she didn’t know anybody and missed Keighley and I so much. Normal weekends are spent with us all sleeping over at each other’s houses, although this particular weekend my Mum won’t allow it, as she knows that I haven’t completed my coursework yet.

The main topic of conversation on the way home was the annual fair that arrives in town at this time of year. Keighley was planning on meeting her new boyfriend there and had talked Briony into tagging along so she wasn’t alone. They had each begged me to come earlier in the day but I knew that I wouldn’t really be able to go as I had promised my Mum that I would babysit for the doctor’s children who live a few doors away. This had been arranged for weeks and unfortunately, there was no getting out of the situation.

I had a slight feeling of envy as I listened to them making plans knowing that the only company I would have is a television set and the family puppy. I tried to console myself by imagining all the homework I could do in the peace and quiet without any interruptions; but it didn’t really work, I would have preferred to go to the fair. I diverted my attention from listening to plans that really didn’t apply to me by noticing how cold it was on this November day.

The frost seemed to bite at my face and I was very grateful and appreciative of the fact that mum had chased after me this morning when I forgot my hat and gloves. As we approached Briony and Keighley’s houses I said “Bye” and wished them a good night even though I was aching all over with jealousy. I also arranged to call them while babysitting so they can update me on how much fun they’re having, who’s kissed who and what I’m missing. My plan was also to make them feel really guilty for leaving me bored and all alone while they’re having the time of their lives.

As I walked the 2 minute distance left to my house I listened to the autumn leaves crunching under my feet and hoped to myself that Mum hadn’t forgotten I was babysitting and had remembered to make my tea early enough to be at the doctor’s for 6 O’clock as requested. “Wait, what was that? ” My thoughts had been interrupted by the familiar sound of leaves crunching under feet but it wasn’t my footsteps. I turned around suddenly in an attempt to find the source of the noise.

I half expected it to be Briony or Keighley playing a practical joke but when I looked behind me there was nothing, just an empty, dark space on this miserable winter night. “Stop being so silly” I thought to myself and decided that the noises were probably down to one of the neighbourhood cats. My friends would have teased me and told me I was going crazy if they had been present. I would never have heard the last of it. I smiled to myself but made an effort to walk just a little bit faster.

The eerie darkness and quiet was making me paranoid and I had an uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched. My heart raced as a dog began to bark at a house on the opposite side of the road. It appeared to be barking at something or someone but I was too frightened to go and investigate. Thank Goodness I had reached my garden path. Upon arriving home I ran straight upstairs to get changed. The smell of burning pizza drifted upstairs so I assumed that Mum was cooking tea. Cooking never was her talent, hence the familiar burning smell!

As I sat and ate with my younger brother I made a list of any relevant work that needed completing this weekend. At least this way, I would be able to keep organised, unlike previous attempts where revision books and notepads have ended up strewn across my bedroom floor. Mum reminded me before I set off to make a good impression and not to have any friends round while babysitting (he is the local doctor after all). Mum mentioned that she had heard rumours that the house is huge and they have a maid to do the cleaning.

I decided that if I’m going to be looking after their children, it’s only fair to have a sneaky little look around the place. The doctor and his family only moved into our street six months ago and I am the first person he has approached to look after his children so I feel quite privileged (or maybe they were just desperate! ). I found myself wondering what the decorations would be like and whether the inside is as extravagant as the outside looks. The garden is beautiful and they have their own landscape architect (that’s a gardener to me or you).

On approaching the house I began to feel slightly nervous. I still had Mum’s “Make a good impression” comment on my mind, so had jogged the majority of the way in order to arrive early enough to be able to meet the children properly. The house is actually a converted church that has been totally refurbished and modernised. To enter the grounds I had to press a button next to the gigantic gates which are electronically operated but look very old fashioned, like they could be wrought iron.

I thought to myself that if the property was originally a church, maybe these could be the original gates intended for the graveyard and surrounding land. Possibly the couple may have wished to retain some of the key features. The gates were very gothic looking in appearance; they reminded me of some of the vampire movies I had seen previously. Above the gates; I noticed a silver cloud of mist, highlighted against the raven black sky. As the mist slowly drifted across the sky, I experienced a cold chill which made my body tingle all over.

I felt a strange sensation, like somebody was watching and examining every move I made. I remembered that I had also had this similar feeling when I was walking home. I impatiently pressed the intercom button as I was anxious to get indoors and forget these strange instincts. I was probably being nervous unnecessarily, but something didn’t seem quite right and I couldn’t work out what. I kept getting the recurring feeling that I wasn’t alone but couldn’t explain why. “Hi Frankie, come straight up, I’ve left the door open” said the voice coming from the intercom.

I heard a click and the gates gradually began to separate and beckon me inside. I expect this voice was Amanda; Briony had previously encountered the doctor’s wife at the local Post Office which her father manages. Briony said that Amanda seemed like a genuinely lovely person, but the reason that she distinctly remembers her is because she was quite surprised to see her smoking as she did not expect a doctor’s wife to have any bad habits. I was astounded at the overall length of the driveway. It took the same amount of time to reach the door as it does for me to walk up our whole street.

The gravel crunched beneath my feet as I got closer to the house. I decided that it was a shame that it was winter as I could not appreciate the views of the gardens in this black, blanket of night that surrounded me. All I was able to recognize were the eerie shadows protruding from the statues. As I marched past the sculptures, I noticed that they had been constructed from solid stone. I was aware of how heavy they must be and curious to know how they arrived here. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the statues had been constructed in the shape of enormous gargoyles.

I decided that if I ever have my own house, I would decline these imposing ornaments as they are extremely unattractive. Their monstrous silhouettes towered above me and I began to worry about the consequences of one of them toppling over. Each time I tiptoed past one of the huge structures, their eyes seemed to follow me, inquisitive to distinguish who this intruder was that had interrupted the silence. I could almost hear their thoughts; accusing me of trespassing on their territory, curious to identify what my intentions were.

I rushed past, but all the time the gargoyles maintained their furious stare, as if questioning who I was and what I was doing here on their property, an imposter who had disturbed the calm of the night. Upon reaching the actual house I noticed how symmetrical it. The building was swamped in shadows from the cluster of trees that surrounded it. It seemed very dark and uninviting but I proceeded walking regardless. The only shimmer of light was from the moon but there was something unnatural about that tonight. I arrived at the front door and entered as asked.

I shouted “Hello” but did not dare go in search of anyone in case it was perceived as rude to walk in uninvited. Luckily, Amanda must have felt my hesitation as she popped her head around one of the many doors and ushered me to “Come this way, I let the kids stay up to meet you. ” The children were sat at a table in what must have been the kitchen; but appeared to be the size of our garden and garage combined. Amanda had already dressed them in their pyjamas; they were finishing supper while Amanda was applying her make-up.

Amanda told me that luckily for me, the children had been to a play park in the afternoon and were both exhausted and ready for bed. I was secretly quite glad as my plans had not involved entertaining them for hours. The doctor entered the room and Amanda introduced him as “Mark” which I was appreciative of as I’ve always known him just as “doctor. ” The children both received kisses from their parents and were sent up to bed. Mark gave me his mobile number to contact him in case of any problems and showed me how to work the necessities (the fire, fridge and remote).

I needed his tuition as well as everything in the house was so expensive, but so complicated with it! The seats reclined, the fire was controlled by a remote and even the lights had various different settings. After the voices and footsteps had dispersed and I realised I was alone in this unfamiliar mansion, I felt a sense of unease and loneliness. I tried to occupy myself by having a general nosy around a selection of rooms, but the more I persisted, more overwhelming was this feeling of discomfort I was experiencing.

It was quite unexplained and I had never suffered from this before, but I began to feel tormented by sensations of nervousness and panic for no apparent reason. Even though I knew full well that the central heating had been activated, there was an eerie chill surrounding me. Every so often, a mysterious breeze brushed past my legs even though I was positive all the doors and windows were locked. I began to feel restless and unsettled so decided it would be more appropriate to sit next to the fire and concentrate on my course work as previously intended.

I had been writing for 15 minutes when the phone rang. I jumped initially but then smiled when I realised it would probably be Mark and Amanda checking that the children hadn’t got out of bed. I picked up the receiver. “Hello”. The only noise that greeted me was a shivering silence and then “click”, as if somebody had hung the phone up at the other end. I presumed it was somebody who had lost their signal and as it was cordless, took the phone into the lounge where I was studying in case they called back.

I was correct, after 15 minutes the phone rang again and I picked it up. “Hello”. This time I could hear what I thought was the muffled breathing of a male. “Hello” I repeated but the person on the other end hung up once more. I decided it must be Mark and Amanda. After all, they were at a party and the noise and music must be making it difficult for them to hear. I went to the kitchen and retrieved Mark’s mobile number from the fridge. I was concerned that he may be trying to contact me for something important so resolved to return his call. Hi Mark, its Frankie, have you tried calling me? ” I said. His response was “No Frankie, why has somebody been calling? ” I went on to tell him about the phone calls but told him not to worry and that it was probably the wrong number. I told him to enjoy the rest of his night but from the way he was slurring his words it sounded like he didn’t need any encouragement. In an attempt to try to solve the puzzle and confusion I pressed 1471 to try to trace the number, but the recorded answer phone message informed me that the caller had withheld their number.

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