The summons lay on the table. Printed on canary yellow paper it could have been an invitation for a birthday party, rather than an invite to Court one day and some distant part of me wondered if it would be as easy to refuse.
My husband was shaking his head and muttering something about it being “ridiculous” and “nothing to worry about” whilst I scanned it through numbly, not understanding the legal jargon, the accusations, or the “how” and the “why”.
It spoke of rainwater in times of storms, a field that has stood for 100 years and a house that has been there for 30. It concerned our neighbour, who’d built the house as a holiday home and who has lived in it, on and off ever since. The neighbour with whom we’d shared barbecues and aperitifs, who waved whenever he spotted the children, and who would stop his car for a chat when he saw us walking along the road. The same neighbour who was now suing us. The summons seemed as unlikely and impossible as snow in July.
When I saw the amount that he was asking for in compensation, my heart flipped, before settling back into place a few inches from where it should have been. It stuttered and jarred as I went from hot to cold; I couldn’t imagine where we, or the farm would find that sort of money.
That was if we lost the case, which wasn’t going to happen of course. My husband was adamant about that. We had absolutely nothing to reproach ourselves for and could prove it. I tried to have faith in his judgement, but all the time a little voice was nagging “but what if you lose, but what if….?” With that yellow piece of paper, I could see the ghost of life future – the time, expense and stress needed to weather drawn-out legalities. It made me tremble in apprehension.
There’s no reason to worry I told myself, no point giving in before the battle has begun, but the uncertainty and the thought that he didn’t have anything to lose and we had everything, came back again and again. I waited until my husband had gone outside then I pressed the palms of my hands hard over my eyes to stop the tears.