“Mummy, does the boogie man live upstairs in our attic?”
“No darling. There is no boogie man, and even if there was, he doesn’t live in our attic. Why do you ask, Sam?”
“Because I can hear him walking around up there at night.” Samantha shivered as she revealed this fact to me.
“No darling, it’s not the boogie man’s footsteps you can hear. It’s probably the central heating making funny clonking noises. Don’t worry about it, darling. Now settle down, Sam. I’ll tuck you in and I’ll read you a nice story before you go to sleep.” I pulled up the covers around Samantha, and opened the book of fairy tales we had bought her for Christmas. “Once upon a time there lived a fairy princess called Esmeralda……..”
“I’ve heard that one,” said Sam, “Daddy read it to me yesterday.”
“Okay then, ‘Once upon a time there lived a little green frog, in a lovely big pond at the bottom of the garden of Princess Annika’s palace….’”
That did the trick. I read a couple of pages, and soon Samantha was sleeping soundly. I turned out the reading lamp, just leaving her little bedside night light casting a rosy glow over her lovely blond curls, and crept out of her room.
I paused at the bottom of the stairway to the attic, and listened for any sound that might sound like footsteps to Samantha, but could hear nothing, except distant mumbling and music from the TV which was on in the kitchen downstairs. However, instead of going downstairs to watch TV while I prepared our evening meal as usual, I decided to sit quietly reading in my bedroom for a while. Roger was going to be late home again tonight as he was on the late shift, so I could rustle up his dinner later. I wanted to know what Samantha had been hearing from our attic. I sat in my rocking chair by the window, and started to read the novel that I kept by my bed which I usually read to send myself to sleep on the days that Roger was on night shift, when I had trouble sleeping.
After a couple of chapters I heard it: a slow creaking noise, followed by the sound of soft footsteps shuffling across the floor above; then another sound from above, rather like a creaking door. Then it went quiet again. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. What could it be? Should I wait for Roger to come home before investigating?
Now, I don’t believe in boogie men, or ghosts. But I do believe in burglars, and squatters. And the noises upstairs definitely sounded like footsteps. Our house has a wooden-boarded attic, with a little window in the apex wall that looks out on to the roof above our garage. It could be perfectly possible for someone to break into the attic via that window perhaps, I thought. Neither of us had been up into the loft since after Christmas when we took down all our Christmas decorations, and returned them to the big box in the attic. There could be a whole family living up there now, for all we knew!
I went downstairs to find something heavy. For some reason, I thought I would be able to tackle a burglar or a squatter with a baseball bat or something. Then I had a rethink. Perhaps I should wait for Roger to come home instead. After all, the door to the attic was locked, wasn’t it? I went up again to check, but I couldn’t see the key in the lock. That was strange. I started to get even bigger misgivings. Where was the key? I decided to ring Roger on his mobile, but there was no answer, so I left him a message to ring me as soon as possible. I couldn’t settle after that, and I sat on the bottom of the stairs with the baseball bat in one hand, and my phone in the other at the ready. Preparing our dinner could wait.
Soon the phone rang. It was Roger. I went into the kitchen and told him in a hushed voice about the noises I had heard coming from the attic. He laughed. I can’t believe he laughed! He told me not to worry, and said that he would be home in five minutes.
As I heard Roger’s car pull up in the driveway, I rushed to the front door. He was still grinning at me as he got out of the car, but then he realised how upset I was, and he gave me a hug to console me.
“Come with me,” he said. “It was supposed to be a surprise for your birthday next week, but I suppose I had better show you now.”
“Show me what?” I asked.
“What’s up in the attic,” he answered.
He took my hand and pulled me up the stairs, taking the key to the attic out of his pocket with his other hand.
“There you are,” he said, as he opened the attic door. “Happy Birthday for next Monday, darling.”
I stood gawping with amazement as Roger flicked on the light.
“I have been working on this for weeks while you were out during the day when I was on night shift and sometimes, when I could manage to get up there without you knowing, even when I was on evening shifts. I have taken some of my holiday entitlement to finish it. Unfortunately, I sometimes lost track of time and had to make my escape via the attic window after you had come home and put Samantha to bed. I didn’t think you would hear me when you were downstairs cooking our dinner.”
“Well it looks lovely, thank you darling,” I said. “You know I’ve always wanted an extra bedroom up here. This will be just perfect for Samantha. Then we can think about having another baby in the nursery.”
“How about trying for one now?” asked Roger as he grabbed me and started to kiss me. We both flopped down laughing onto the beautiful pink fairy quilt spread out over the new divan. Oh it was such a pretty room, and I knew Samantha would love it. What a way to christen the new room though! Maybe it would bring us luck.