She stood at the kitchen window of the little cottage I had rented by the woods, looking through the thick, autumn mists which had descended on the house overnight, watching it swirl and blur familiar objects into unfamiliar, indistinct shapes outside.
"No wonder that England has so many ghost stories"
Being brought up in the arid cityscape of Tel Aviv, this was the first proper English, country mist she had seen outside the cinema, and it made a deep impression on her. Having a Yemeni mother and a Polish father, she was a rare creature - an Arabic Jew. I did not realise quite how rare she was until a little later, though. She turned from the window and said in a steady, steely voice:
"If you ever try to harm me, my sister will come from Israel and get you. That is a promise."
I was surprised and somewhat shocked by this statement - I had no intention of deliberately harming her at all, and I could only think that this threat was a result of a late-night conversation she had with her sister the previous night - carried out in a squeaky, childish voice as if talking to an uncomprehending pet. I guess that the times when her voice reverted to adulthood was when she was explaining her new living arrangements to her distant sibling, but I could only guess, not being a speaker of Hebrew.
She had - basically - invited herself to stay at my isolated house, having previously conducted a long-distance relationship with me from a squat in central London, and it was just unfortunate that within the first 2 days of her moving in, I was booked on a 3 month tour of Europe, leaving her to fend for herself in a strange house in a strange country. She was just beginning to realise - with the onset of autumn - just how strange it was.
Something must have happened to her on the edge of the woods when I was away, for when I returned she was a changed woman. She had told me that a figure had come to the windows of the cottage at night on a few occasions, but I had just assumed that it must have been one of my neighbors making a ham-fisted attempt at keeping an eye out for her, as I had asked them to.
Within three days of my return, she began complaining to me if I arrived home from work after six at night, guessing - correctly - that I had been having a quick drink with friends in town who I had not seen for 90 days, catching up on news and gossip. After the 4th night, I had to sit her down and tell her that she must remember that I had not chosen to live with her, I had merely offered her a roof for when she was evicted from the London squat, I had never had any intention of living with anyone, being quite happy on my own in my late 30s. This did not go down very well, and she made me promise to drive her back to London the following day with as many of her possessions as I could fit into the car.
No amount of reassurance could dissuade her from moving out, so I found myself driving toward Oxford Street one evening with her in the passenger seat, stuck firmly in traffic which was moving slightly slower than walking pace. It suddenly dawned on me that this was the night that the Christmas lights were to be switched on in the shopping metropolis, and as she lived in New Cross, it would take me about 3 hours to cross the commercial part of London to reach it.
I asked her if she would mind catching a tube to New Cross for obvious reasons, and she was out of the of the car without a word and disappearing into the pedestrian throng on the pavement outside. I breathed a sigh, then turned the car down into Parliament Square then out onto the main Western exit which lead to the M4.
About two and a half hours later, I had parked the car in Bath and was sitting in my friend's wine bar, having a quick chat and drink with him before continuing the last 15 miles to the country and home.
When I arrived in the little hamlet at the bottom of the steep hill, I saw that a light was on in the house, and peering through the window, I saw her sitting quietly, watching TV as she waited for me to come home.
She had got straight out of my car and straight on a tube to Paddington; from Paddington to Bath and from Bath - via bus - to the hamlet, and had arrived back long before I had. She had let herself into the house by climbing the roof and going in through a skylight, leaving herself locked in until my return.
I unlocked the door and walked in. She sat there impassively, and I said, "If I had known you were coming here, I would have given you a lift." She did not seem to see the funny side of it.
Without taking her eyes from the screen, she said, "My sister could not come in time."
That was when she bit me.