There was blood on the carpet.
It was just another door out of the countless I had knocked on that morning. Reciting “hello ma’am can I trouble you for some spare change, we’re raising money at school for cancer.” If you raised over $50 you got a voucher for the school canteen, and I was already over half way there.
The lady that opened this door was old, like a Grandma, with white hair curled up into a bouncy bob; her eyes were a brilliant blue, and her lips were painted a bright red. She grinned at me and started talking before I could open my mouth.
“Hello deary, gosh you must be hot out there walking around in this heat! Would you like a glass of lemonade? Freshly squeezed this morning!”
I stared at her, my mouth hanging open dumbly.
“I, uh-“ suddenly I remembered the Tupperware box I was holding and raised it up to my chest. “Hi we’re raising money at my school for cancer, do you have any change you can spare, miss?”
She smiled down at me kindly. “Why of course deary! What a beautiful thing you’re doing; please come in and sit while I find my purse.”
She turned and walked away into the house. I stood where I was, unsure if I should venture into a stranger’s house. Noticing I hadn’t followed, the old lady turned and beckoned me with a wave of her hand.
“Well come on deary, don’t be shy! There’s still that glass of lemonade!”
I turned it over in my mind if my mother found out she’d be furious. But on the other hand, I was pretty thirsty. So I stepped into the cool relief of the house.
“Oh, do you mind taking off your shoes deary? It’s so hard to keep the carpet clean.”
Obediently I slipped my runners off and left them by the front door nce you stepped out of the entryway the floor was covered in a lush, pearly white carpet, and when I stepped onto it my feet sunk in deliciously.
I followed the old lady down the hall and into a sitting room. She directed me to sit on one of the two three-seater lounges that framed either side of a long glass coffee table. As I sat she tottered off again, and looked around at the strange room I found myself in.
The walls were covered in framed photographs of all different sizes, people of all ages stared out at me from behind the glass, most looked happy, but some were surprised, even scared. I wondered why this old lady had so many photographs of people who clearly weren’t her relatives. Did she take them?
Apart from the photos, the room was sparse, save for the antique fireplace in the middle of the back wall.
“Here we are deary,” the old lady came in holding a tall glass of lemonade. My mouth watered at the sight. She placed the glass on the coffee table and left the room again. “Now to find my purse!”
I put my box of money on the couch next to me and reached for the glass. Something behind the glass caught my eye, a splash of colour on the white carpet. I leaned over and squinted through the glass table. There was a stain on the carpet. Red.
I jumped back when I realised what it was. Blood.
There was a splatter of blood on this old lady’s white carpet, underneath her glass coffee table. My head whirled; how did it get under the coffee table? What happened? Why had the old lady not cleaned it? Surely she knew it was there she would have had to move the coffee table back over it!
I was frozen, staring at the blood, now the most obvious thing in the room.
The old lady appeared in the doorway. “Come on, deary, drink up! It’s not poison!” she laughed.
I glanced at the lemonade, suddenly suspicious of it.
The old lady waddled in and sat on the opposite couch, a heavy purse in hand. “Now let’s see here,” she murmured to herself.
I slowly reached out and picked up the glass of lemonade, my gaze continually flying back to the blood. For some reason I was scared she would see it and think I had done it and yell at me for staining her nice white carpet. I took a tentative sip; cool, delicious lemonade slipped down my throat. Immediately I gulped down half the glass. Gasping, I placed the glass back on the table. I saw the blood stain again; was it bigger?
The old lady looked up, smiling. “I knew you had to be thirsty! I’ve almost got that change for you deary.”
I smiled at her. “Thank you.”
“It’s no trouble at all! Are you hungry? Maybe some biscuits?” The old lady was grinning at me while her hands leafed through her purse.
“Oh, no thank you ma’am, I have to get going, I need to be home for lunch.” I didn’t want to be in this old lady’s house anymore.
“Of course, deary, of course! I wouldn’t want your mother to worry about you! Ah, here we are!”
She held out a wrinkly hand, a handful of coins on her palm.
I reached across but stopped before my hand touched hers.
“Go on, deary,” she grinned at me. There was lipstick on her teeth. She shook her hand and the coins jingled.
Glancing between her manic grin the coins, I reached forward again.
The blood stain lay between us.