Polly pressed the keys into Kate’s hand, “I need you to investigate for me.”
Kate laughed, but Polly’s eyes didn’t crinkle to match hers, “I’m serious,” Polly pressed on, closing Kate’s hand around the keys, “I need you to try them out in locks and stuff until we find out where they’re going.”
“Why me…? Woah hang on a minute, Polly - no. You know I’d help you out anyway I could, but… what am I supposed to do just wander around town trying keys in people’s locks and then bursting in if they fit asking if they’re sleeping with a bloke called Ryan?”
Polly slumped, the reality of what she was asking for sinking in, “Maybe,” she said, eyes lighting up with a new idea, “maybe you could take them to a locksmith and ask them to check where they’re for? Maybe they have a database?”
“Polly, I don’t think they do love… I think that sounds very illegal and weird. Plus, I have to get new keys cut like every month and they’ve never once asked me the address that the keys are for.”
“You get new keys cut every month? When did you last change the locks?! Kate! That’s really dangerous!” Polly exploded, momentarily distracted from her thoughts of investigation.
“Oh… it’s fine, I’ve stopped putting my address on my key rings…” Kate waved away Polly’s furious face.
“You are… you are… how are you not dead?” Polly said, staring at Kate in disbelief.
“Because then you really would be the only one left so someone’s keeping me alive for a reason.”
“Yeah, me!” Polly finally smiled and Kate felt a little thawing in the tension in her back muscles.
“So what am I going to do, Kate? How are we going to find out what’s going on?” Kate sighed, mulling over various options.
“Ok, so we sort of need to investigate…?” She said slowly, trying to think of a way to be helpful without landing herself in a ridiculous scheme like checking every lock on the high street.
“I agree. So…” Polly began talking at once and Kate groaned, “Ryan and I will both be out at work tomorrow afternoon. You come over then and do some snooping about - see what you can find and then I’ll sneak over to yours once the kids are in bed tomorrow night and we can discuss. OK?”
Polly looked at Kate with bright, shiny eyes. Kate wanted to shout NO very loudly and for a very long time but then she thought of all the money and favours and scrapings up off the floors that Polly had done for her over the years and the thought of not being there for her in this just didn’t seem like an option. Besides, how hard could it be to just pop over here tomorrow. She could have a cursory look around and then watch TV here where Polly and Ryan could afford to have the heating on. Obviously, she’d have to play hookie from work again but… who was she kidding, that was a bonus whichever way you looked at it.
“Ok.” She said, and immediately regretted her decision.
At 11am the next morning, Kate put her key into the lock of Ryan and Polly’s front door and pushed the door open. She stepped into the hallway. It was weirdly quiet without the clatter of the children or the whirr of the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer that always seemed to be on. That was the thing about six people living in a house - everything was constantly going. It made Kate feel settled and happy. She didn’t like silence and she preferred people being around to her own company.
She tucked her bag down by the hall table and looked around. She felt stupid: what was she supposed to be looking for? This was ridiculous. She didn’t know what was normal for Ryan to own and what wasn’t, so the chances were even if she did find something incriminating she wouldn’t know what it was.
Where to begin? She thought about where she might hide something if she needed to hide and then immediately realised she didn’t really have anything she’d need to hide. She supposed the bedroom? That was what always happened in films; they hid stuff down the back of the wardrobe or under the bed. It seemed unlikely Ryan would hide something from Polly in the main room they shared together but it was as good a place as any to start this stupid hunt. Kate wished she’d brought a pipe and a deer stalker with her.
She headed up stairs and slid open the big sliding doors of Polly and Ryan’s wardrobe. Inside it was immaculate: Polly hated clutter and mess, Kate would expect no less than shop levels of organisation in Polly’s wardrobe. Kate looked lamely at everything in its heaps. She pulled open a drawer and found a lot of Ryan’s underwear. Her hand half started to sift through it and then she thought about how often her sister’s husband’s bum had touched this fabric and she retracted her hand. If Ryan’s adultery was hidden in his pants drawer then fair enough; he won, she wasn’t looking in there.
She heard the front door slam downstairs and froze. Had she closed it behind her? She thought she had… was that someone coming home? Was it the wind catching it? She stood stock still; listening.
Footsteps. Those were definitely shoes on the hall floor. Kate looked around for somewhere to hide. She hoped her brain screaming fuuuuuuck wasn’t as audible to people outside her head as it was to her inside it. It couldn’t be Polly home or she’d have phoned. Kate checked her phone for missed calls and then wondered when the battery had died without her noticing. Maybe it was Polly then? But if it wasn’t… She heard the footsteps coming up the stairs and threw herself under the bed.
Maybe it was a burglar? No, what were the chances of Polly and Ryan getting broken into by two people at the same time? She held her breath under the bed and waited. Something was digging into her hip and she pulled it forward frantically so it would stop hurting her.
Just as she got it free out from under her and could relax and breathe properly into the carpet the bedroom door opened and she saw feet appearing in the doorway. Kate looked at the men’s feet approaching the wardrobe and felt the mattress sag above her as the figure - presumably Ryan? - sat down heavily on the bed above her. There was silence. What was he doing?
Just as Kate wondered how long she was going to have to lie with her nose in the dusty carpet, she noticed what she had pulled out from underneath her hip. Huh. Hidden under the bed eh? Clearly Ryan watched the same sitcoms and movies as she did.