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Stairs of Deception

Neighbours who are misguided by societal views. (Part 1)

By Penelope HenainPublished 4 days ago 10 min read
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Stairs of Deception
Photo by Aritra Roy on Unsplash

Cassie stood at the edge of the infinity pool, the shimmering water reflecting the endless expanse of the ocean beyond. Beside her, Susan, her mother, looked on with a mixture of pride and contentment. Cassie took a deep breath, savoring the moment of accomplishment. "Mum, can you believe I did this?" she asked, her voice tinged with disbelief.

Susan smiled, her eyes glistening. "Yes, Cassie, I can. You've always been so strong and determined."

Their bond was like the sea before them—calm and peaceful on the surface, but with hidden depths and dark currents that told the story of their tumultuous past. Cassie had defied the odds, achieving what so many—including herself—had once thought impossible.

The view before her, where the landscape merged with the waves of the blue water that darkened, out to the horizon, was where she would now, call home. This had only ever existed in her wildest dreams. Dreams that had been plagued by nightmares, both while she was asleep and in her waking life.

As she settled into her new beachfront apartment with her two teenage children, Mikayla and Samuel, she began to grow accustomed to the new sounds that filled her days and nights.

The walls of her brick apartment block, built in the 90s, were thin, allowing the noise of Lamina Beach Complex to seep through. The sounds of the ocean mingled with the distant music from restaurants at the foot of the hill, the weekend revelry of party-goers, and the ever-present revs, of Harley Davidsons roaring down the highway.

Once entering Cassie's apartment, it became her private retreat when she closed her front door, leaving the stairwell behind her leading from where she parked her car.

The private secured carpark became the local gossip hub, where she learned about her neighbors.

Directly next to her, she shared a common wall with a professional couple—one a doctor, his boyfriend working in fashion. They oozed class and style and were kind, having helped Cassie bring up heavy items.

Above her lived a stocky man in his 50s, often seen with a surfboard, and his petite wife, with a warm smile. Two Brazilian couples occupied the apartments beside them, their vibrant energy filling the complex with joy and laughter at all hours.

They had shown more interest in Cassie's Aboriginal heritage than anyone else, sparked by the flag she proudly hung in her private car space.

One day, as she was getting out of her car, her Brazilian neighbor asked, with genuine interest, "What is that flag you are hanging?"

Cassie informed them it was the Aboriginal flag. "That's so cool! Are you Aboriginal?" they asked.

"Yes," Cassie said with pride, despite her lighter skin. Jokingly, she added, "Land rights to my car space," noting that the other car spaces had white pieces of paper with bold black writing, "Please do not park."

"I have heard stories about how they were treated. Terrible," the Brazilian neighbor remarked, showing more compassion and interest in her heritage than others.

As they spoke, new neighbors were moving into the apartment directly below her—a conservative, handsome couple. One was friendly but quiet, the other polite with an arrogance that oozed from his demeanor.

Cassie and her Brazilian neighbor both said hello, attributing the dismissive behavior to the stress of moving in. With no lift available, Cassie, who had only recently moved in herself, knew how difficult it was. She offered to help carry boxes, but they thanked her and declined.

The couple beside them, a man and woman, were rarely seen, only catching glimpses of their car briefly at times in the car park when she left for work at the hospital.

The weeks passed, and Cassie and her children took advantage of their location, so close to the beach. They exercised in the mirror filled walls of the small gym, equipped with a running machine, a stair master and rowing machine.

They swam in the sparkling blue resort pool and relaxed in the heated spa as they looked upon the city lights that spread until it met the darkness of the sea.

They laughed with many of the other residents from other blocks within the resort and met many international travellers. Sharing stories from their homeland across the seas.

Life became, what many only fantasize about.

But only four months later, the happiness of her achievement was challenged by the sudden departure of the Brazilians. The dynamics of the neighbors’ energy changed. Joy and happiness were replaced by tension and cries, often turning into screams heard late at night.

Had they always been there, masked by the once lively sounds of music and laughter?

Which of the remaining neighbors was responsible for the alcoholic smell in the stairwell and the disturbances in the apartment block? Of course, it was Cassie. Or was it?

Curiosity to who was responsible, now became a priority to Cassie, she had never been bothered by the smell before, until she became the target accused of being the alcoholic making the unruly noise disturbing the peace of her neighbors who lived directly below her.

The quest for the truth commenced.

Her suspicion walked straight into her apartment. "Oh, sorry, wrong floor," he said as he stumbled through the door, retreating quickly when he saw Cassie's fearful face looking at him from the lounge suite where she sat.

As the door closed behind him, Cassie jumped to her feet to lock it, previously left open for her children to return from the pool. But a strong aroma of alcohol wafted at her door.

She could hear the sound of heavy, unsteady steps: thud, thud. She needed confirmation, quickly re-opening the door, she witnessed the stocky man staggering up the remaining stairs, bouncing off the walls with each step to get to his apartment.

She looked quickly to see if any other neighbour had been present, to witness the truth behind the alcohol stench in the stairwell they all shared.

But it was only her.

"So much for it not being him," she muttered, disappointed that no one was there to back her up.

Her urgency to prove it wasn't her, stemming from one evening, when her children were away interstate.

She arrived home to her empty apartment, exhausted after a big week of working long hours at the hospital.

Cassie showered quickly and retired to bed within a short timeframe of walking through her door.

She could hear her phone ringing from the depths of her sleep.The phone rang repeatedly, finally prompting her to answer in case it was an emergency regarding her children. To her surprise, an angry voice met her on the other end.

"Stop running around and yelling up there, Cassie!" the voice snapped.

Jolted awake, Cassie was stunned by the accusation. She could hear the noises and cries coming from somewhere above her as she orientated herself to time, place and who the hell it was on the other end of her phone.

The noise continuing while she listened to the angry person on the other end of the phone.

"It's late, and I can't sleep with you being so noisy!" the caller continued.

At first, Cassie thought the caller would understand it couldn’t be her, as the sounds continued.

"It is you," they insisted.

"It's not me," Cassie replied, her frustration mounting. "Now I have to go back to sleep. I have another big day at work tomorrow." She could still hear the noises above as she tried to settle back to sleep.

The phone rang again. It was the same number. Cassie answered abruptly, "What do you want now, Mark?"

"I know it's you, Cassie. Stop making noises. The neighbors are sick of you," Mark accused.

"I need to sleep," Cassie said assertively. "I gave you this number as a neighborly gesture. You ringing at this time of night is an abuse of this privilege."

She looked at the time on her alarm clock beside her bed 22:30 in bright red, informing her that she had only been asleep, no more than 20mins, having finished her shift at 2130hrs.

"We all know it's you. You're an alcoholic," he continued.

Cassie got out of her bed, she jumped up and down on the floor. "That's me now. Can you hear the difference?"

"Don't be a child Cassie" he spoke condescendingly

Cassie hung up the phone, her blood rushing through her body with a force identical to a tsunami.

Next, there was a knock on the door.

Cassie walked to the front of her apartment, calling out "Who Is it?"

"Security"

Cassie opened the door to an eerie silence, her heart still pounding fiercely.

A man with a serious face stood there, dressed in black and identified by the word "SECURITY," written boldly in white on his shirt. "There's been a noise complaint," he said sternly.

"It's not me. I am trying to sleep," Cassie replied, standing vulnerable in only her pink cotton nightie. "It upstairs" doubting her own words as the silence continued.

He looked over her shoulder into the stillness of her home, evidently seeing she was alone. "Well, just keep it down," he said before leaving.

She returned to her bedroom at the back of the apartment, where the sounds of cries could still be heard.

She tiptoed to her floor-length glass door and slowly opened it, trying to pinpoint who was making the noises above.

She could hear a conversation clearly. "I just wanted to buy a few things," a female sobbed.

"Stop spending my money!" a man retorted harshly.

Cassie turned away, uncomfortable for listening to her neighbor's private conversation, but was sure the disturbing sounds came from their apartment.

She turned her phone off to avoid further disturbances and eventually fell asleep, despite the noises continuing.

The next day, relieved not to have a double shift, Cassie drove back home to speak with the management about the previous night's events. She parked in the 10-minute bay and entered the glass doors, walking to the office desk.

"Yes, Cassie, how can we help you?"

"Last night—"

"Yes," they interrupted. "You will have to keep your kids quiet. There have been some complaints about you."

"My kids are away," Cassie explained. "I think the noise was from upstairs, he once came into my apartment heavily intoxicated."

"It would never be them. He is a respected local chaplain," they replied.

"Really? It couldn't be him, huh? Well, it's not me!" Cassie retorted before leaving. She was feeling irritated from lack of sleep and frustrated that her concern for her neighbour, was so easily dismissed.

The noises continued, and Cassie found herself eavesdropping more closely. She opted to call the police for interference, when whatever was happening up there, was clearly getting out of control.

But still nobody believed it was the upstairs neighbours.

Security knocked often, and with her kids back, she was definitely contributing to the noise.

But she wasn’t the one bashing her family. She had called the police multiple times, convinced the woman upstairs needed help, evident by her crying and pleading with a male voice that Cassie knew now, was the damn chaplain.

But still Mark was blaming Cassie.

In passing on the stairwell, Mark said, "Cassie, one of the neighbours told me you're stealing drugs from the hospital and that's why you're like this."

"WTF, get lost, Mark! Get away from me," Cassie snapped, raising her hand to signal the end of the conversation.

She rang the police, but they couldn’t help her, stating that a rude neighbour wasn’t their concern.

Cassie was becoming fearful. Her other neighbours felt for her, knowing it wasn’t her making all the noise.

They prefer to not get involved, repeatedly she was told "Just ignore him"

The body corporate ledger was filled with complaints about her, but only from one apartment—Mark’s. There were no complaints against the apartment directly above her.

Had no one else heard the cries and screams? She didn’t know exactly what was going on up there, but she was getting the blame for all of it.

Then, silence fell.

No more cries, no more screams, no more thuds.

There were no more noises.

"Thank you for keeping it peaceful, Cassie. I shouldn’t have had to have you breached so many times." the message said from the sender. Mark.

Cassie had not changed her routine, wondering herself why it was so peaceful.

Still no more cries, no more screams!

She enjoyed that Mark was now leaving her alone. Phew, that’s over, she thought. She noted the stocky man and his wife’s car were no longer there.

An energy in the air idled with curiosity and an underlying tension.

Passing Mark in the stairwell remained awkward. His partner often lowered his head in passing.

What was happening in this building? Cassie was curious.

Surely, Mark was aware he had been wrong, surely, he could put 2 and 2 together, about who had been making the noise.

It turned out that the chaplain everyone thought was a noble man, had been abusing his wife. The apartment went on sale, and Cassie observed the petite woman return with police officers.

The first few months of Cassie proving it wasn’t her, the evidence that it wasn’t her.

The truth was out, the evidence in clear plain sight.

Surely now she would be left in peace, to enjoy her home she worked hard to buy.

New neighbours moved into the apartment where the Brazilians had lived—a family of five, with three young children full of life and energy.

Cassie was happy to have a fun-loving energy back. But despite the truth being revealed.

The stage was set.

She was the bad neighbour.

CONTENT WARNING
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About the Creator

Penelope Henain

Writing has been my creative escape since I was a child.

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