Oh the degradation.
I’ve lain immobile the bed all night and all morning. Eventually I get out of bed and fall on the floor. What I think is a stroke turns out to be the deadest leg you can get before the doctor amputates. Then pins and needles follow me as I drag my leg around the room via furniture and the night-storage heaters. In the ice-blue glare of the bathroom I see that in the space of one night I have lost my youth.
I’ll never touch another cherry.
A whole tray of scones with melting butter is what I need. I decide to make scones. I cannot find the mixing bowl. I give up. The two good cats are going crazy to get out but the bad one has not yet materialised. Their meowing is going straight through my brittle brain. I lock them in the empty-of-bad-cat boot room. I find the mixing bowl. I clean the sick out of it. As I put the scones go in the oven, my phone goes off – it’s Tom. Normally I wouldn’t answer but listen to his message instead. I do need to talk to him. The phone trips onto answer. Damn! There’s a word I once heard that perfectly describes Tom and I keep meaning to remember it for when I’m talking to him. Occasionally I’ll read it again in a newspaper and think ‘Ahh, that was the word!’ I return the phone-call and try to remember the word.
‘I keep leaving answers on your phone – you never call back.’
‘You know, it’s New Zealand. Pretty expensive.’
‘I heard George’s still paying your mobile package?’
‘That’s none of your business.’
‘No, I suppose not, sis. Well let’s keep this short, for George’s sake. You need to buy a specific lead to attach your landline to your computer. I’ll text you the name of the lead. You’re best to keep the connection time very short or you’ll be paying outrageous prices on your landline. No browsing.’
‘Marjory’s agreed to pay all phone bills.’
There’s a pause.
‘Tom, how much is this wire going to cost? Cos I haven’t got any money.’
‘You want me to pay for the wire too?’
‘It’s just – I can’t get money without working and I can’t work without the cable.’
I pull the phone back. Has Tom just stepped on an upturned plug?
‘Miriam – you’re the most self-centred bitch I know! You use people and you never stop and when they eventually get tired of it, you complain. You need to sort your life out!’
And you…!’ I try to muster myself. ‘you’re a ……. there’s a word for you, Tom!’
‘I’ll give you some words. Undependable. Inconsistent. Capricious. Fickle. Mercenary cow. You.’
Ooo. Those are good words .
Tom goes on for another ten minutes like this. I lay the phone on its back and quietly drink a pint of water while Tom’s munchkin voice has a fit 10,000 miles away.
He says he will not buy me the cable.
I’m not the juvenile Tom thinks I am – I live in a dainty cottage. I have china and silverware in the cupboard and a yellow Clio in the drive. I change the sheets and remake the bed. I open up the windows and take a deep breath. This is going to be the new, cautious, thoughtful me – driven by will-power. I will not give my younger brother the satisfaction of another lecture.
My hair is globby so I have a deep bubbly bath to try and re-hydrate myself inside and out.
After about forty minutes, when the water is tepid and I’m starting to freeze, I hear a voice at the back door.
‘I’m in the bath!’ I stupidly shout .
The footsteps are still moving. I leap out, taking most of the water with me. I grab the nearest blue towel just in time to see Kit peep around the door. That’s a nasty abusive invasion of privacy and just a bit kinky. He’s waiting to see my reaction…I can’t quite work out what my reaction is.
My reaction is that I invite him to share my towel. The bedroom is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
An hour later we are nose to nose in Marjory’s narrow bed. It has not been designed for athletics, being very springy and off-puttingly squeaky. Up close, Kit is quite beautiful. He has blue eyes set in a dark but freckly face. Even his lips have freckles .
‘I’m sorry you saw that show-down between me and Wym yesterday.’
‘I can’t really remember it.’ I say truthfully. ‘Do you not get on?’
‘We’ve never got on but it’s been worse the last few years. You know I’m the eldest brother?’
‘No, I didn’t.’
‘By two years. Well, our dad…’
‘Yes, Prop has given Wym the running of the estate. He’s going to leave it all to him when he dies.’
‘Oh. That’s not fair.’
‘It suits Wym just fine – and I don’t mind. I’m not a farmer. I admit he’s good at what he does but he uses this as an excuse to tell me what to do all the time. He’s my younger brother.’
I sympathise. Bloody younger brothers. Especially the ones who are morally, spiritually and financially superior.
‘So Wym’s got all the money?’
‘Yes, but I get to keep the title.’
The crazy egg-collecting, clog-dancing loon in wellies? is what I think.
‘Prop?’ I say
‘He’s Lord Hebbindon. My mother is Lady Hebbindon, Marquese of Toli. She calls herself ‘Marquese’ because it’s a few notches higher than ‘Lady’.’
My mind shuffles through my brain index card and finds this situation hilarious, amazing, perfectly natural and ridiculous all at the same time. If sex was top-trumps, I feel I’ve scored quite well.
‘So what’s better, being rich or being a lord? I want to know I’m sleeping with the correct brother.’
Kit jumps on me.