Our house in Positano, is quite close to others, but isolated by a long stairwell which leads to abandoned gardens just above the sea. Neighbours rarely live in the houses, coming on occasions for weekends or for the two weeks in the August holidays, so we feel quite alone. The stairwell at night leads into darkness, lit only by moonlight and the shadows of bougainvillea moving in the breeze.
There is nothing but the silence of the sea for company...
A long, long time ago, almost fifteen years to be precise, I was in Positano in the early summer holiday. I was still young enough to be naive about opening doors to strangers. That night, I was the only adult in our house and had three sleeping young children upstairs. A film had just ended on TV, and on opening the door from our lounge room to the large dining room, I was detained from getting the glass of water in the kitchen before retiring, by what I believed to be animal noises outside in the garden.
I approached the moonlit hall entrance to listen closer.
I was used to cats yowling and the scamper of small animals in the night, but this was slightly different and curiosity got the better of me. A scuffling, groaning sound came from behind the door. For want of something better to imagine, I thought it might be two dogs having it out on the steps and thought I could scare them into leaving our garden.
I turned on the light in the hall and opened the ancient wooden door, just a chink, to peer outside.
I slammed it back shut straightaway and double locked it my heart thumping madly.
What I'd expected to see and what was there, were as far apart as the moon and the sea. Smack leaning against the door, was the back of a man dressed in a blue striped polo shirt obviously embracing someone.
Well, I let all my rage out and yelled at them that they could find another place for their canoodling. There was no need to trespass in private property.
There was no response from them and after a while I couldn't tell if they'd actually left, so I ran upstairs on to the outside top balcony which overlooked the stairs to see if I could spy them. They were quite calmly leaving the gate. The girl following the man someway behind.
The following day, I received a call from a neighbour in the alley behind our house, with whom I was only on 'Bongiorno' terms. She asked if she could drop by with her sister-in-law because they wanted to talk to me about something.
Seated in front of that very door, the upset sister-in-law thanked me in person because my timely interruption of the little scene on my porch had prevented a friend of her husband's from violating her daughter, a young teenager.
The man (a neighbour), believing the house uninhabited, had led the girl there with the surmise of showing her something. After my intervention, he told her not to say anything and to walk away. She was too shocked to react. Unfortunately I couldn't help more by testifying, as I had only seen him for the second before I panicked, but she was grateful that things had not gone any further and they eventually pursued the matter in court.
Guess whose scared to open the door at night now?
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