Who's Who 20: Webbing

She always killed spiders. She’d been raised to kill spiders. Her mother killed spiders. Her grandmother killed spiders. Generation after generation of women in her family had raised the tea towel, slipper or newspaper in defence of their homes. Probably while the closest male ancestor rolled their eyes, turned up the TV or noisily rustled his paper.

She’d always killed spiders, but this one had appeared late, at a safe distance, in the spare bathroom. She had her en suite, spider free. With underfloor heating, a spacious shower and a bidet that her friends kept finding hilarious when she gave them the tour. The main bathroom was basically just for storing spare cleaning products, towels and, as it turned out, a spider.

She couldn’t blame it. The weather outside her innovatively insulated walls was pinballing between seasons. It was no longer a case of Winter Is Coming. Recently it was more Winter Is Indecisive.

Since buying the new place, on the private road which all the lifelong villagers seemed to treat like a spider in their own bathroom, she’d been told by numerous visiting contractors she needed to keep all the vents open. Which had basically turned them into spider flaps. They were certainly large enough and they were often surrounded with wisps of webs come the morning, visible in the crisp dawn frost.

“They always get spiders at that end of the village,” the woman in the off licence had told her. “Big buggers as well. You’d expect them to carry your dog off.”

She’d looked up her postcode online. The street view hadn’t been updated in years. There were rolling fields instead of a house. Ghostly traces of webs visible between the long grass. They were here first

With all her new walls so fresh, she’d been trying to resist the old family trick of squashing the eight-legged invaders where she found them. Instead she was working on a catch and kill policy. Taking them outside in a glass, setting them on the ground and then flattening them. Hoping it would serve as a message to other spiders. Only, if anything, it had enraged them. Challenged them.

She’d found brave strays, or possibly charging kamikazes, making a beeline towards her in the kitchen or after she’d collapsed for the night in front of the TV. One had even come up through the plughole in her shower.

It’d been difficult not to imagine them accepting some commission or warrant with her name on out there. This latest one had arrived with a whole new tactic.

The morning after it first appeared, she’d noted through bleary eyes that it hadn’t moved. Maybe it’s dead, she decided. It stayed there for two whole days. Back to the wall, spindly legs never twitching. Dormant. Then a small mass appeared behind it. Pale to the point of pearl transparent. A tiny, dark spec at the centre of it. It’d laid eggs in her house.

The old family instinct had told her to remove it, to kill it, but something stayed her hand.

Her youngest sister was pregnant. Lucy. All photo filter fire and modern, hashtag fury. She’d marched pregnant and proudly shared the fact on her feed. She was already preparing to breastfeed in public, telling waiters and managers she’d better not get any trouble. Lucy was a middle class martyr in waiting. Hoping for the right cause to single her out as its prophet or mascot.

She’d baked cakes for the homeless. Run through mud and obstacles for a better education system. Come up with clever slogans about referendums and crooked elections. She loved everyone except her eldest sister.

Much like the rest of her family, Lucy had sided with Ian after the split. Lucy had flocked to his side so fast she’d caught herself wondering if her was the father. It was more likely her little sister just could resist an underdog. Even if it did mean treat her big sis like some deviant school bully. It was one of the reasons she’d moved here. Hoping her family would chase her. Apologise to her. Only they hadn’t. As far as she could tell, they’d barely even noticed.

Now, here she was, a complicit midwife to a home invasion, watching the eggs grow on her bathroom ceiling. The black heart shifting, dividing.

Maybe this is it, she’d wondered. Maybe this is the how they finally win.