This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 1375 words.
As she made the sandwiches in the cramped kitchen, Beverly Hall was thinking hard. Tomato Ketchup ones for Darren, the only thing he would eat, besides Coco-Pops. Cheese and pickle for Benny, whether he liked them or not. Darren had told her everything of course, he always did. People with his condition always spoke the truth, whatever the consequences, She liked that about her son. He was never sneaky or deceptive. That helped to make up for the harder years when she was struggling. She had never been able to go back to work after he was born. She missed the company, and hated being stuck in the house most of the time. But most of all, she missed being Beverly. She was overlooked, a housewife and housekeeper, good old Bev, as everyone called her.
She had met Keith when he was in the army, stationed close to her home in the West of England. He didn’t have much of a job in the forces, mostly driving and fixing lorries in the motor transport section. At least he was never posted overseas. He had been good looking back then, but he hadn’t aged well. The first flush of marriage soon passed, and he left the army as soon as his time was up. He wanted to move back to North London, where he came from, and it had been a shock for Beverly. Too noisy, too full-on, and lots of unfriendly people. But she had her daughter soon after, and once Kirsty was around, she at least had the company of some other young mums she had met. But once Darren was born, Keith seemed to just switch off, and leave it all to her. He was in and out of jobs for a while, and they often struggled. Then he had found a security guard job, in the cargo sheds at Heathrow Airport. That seemed to suit him, and he was still there, after sixteen years. He worked twelve hour shifts, six days a week. Adding the long commute each way, he was out of the house for almost fifteen hours a day, only getting home in time to eat dinner, doze in front of the telly, and go to bed. On his one day off, he got up late, read a newspaper in great detail, and then went to the pub for a couple of pints. She couldn’t remember the last time he had even spoken to his son. She didn’t blame Kirsty for getting married and moving away either. She had been a good girl, helped out when she could.
Noddy was too excited to eat. “Look, Benny. The site moderator approved Betty immediately. He has already started a thread, visited the website, and signed up as a member for thirty quid!” Benny munched his sandwich. He didn’t like Branston Pickle, but hadn’t wanted to seem ungrateful. On the sidebar of the site, was a box marked ‘Ask Betty’. The forum moderator used the name ‘bettysbiggestfan’, and he had left a comment, which Noddy had immediately approved.
‘My dream has come true. I need to pinch myself, to know it is really you, Betty. Thank you, thank you. More please. Never go away again, beautiful Betty”.
Noddy smiled. “I think we cracked it, Benny”.
Just forty-five minutes later, even Noddy was shaking his head in disbelief. The forum thread had close to four hundred comments, and there were already one hundred and sixty-five members signed up to the site. ‘Ask Betty’ had over ninety comments. Members were asking for specific poses and clothes, and wanting to buy photos, DVD films, even her worn underwear, tights, and stockings. The research done by both of them hadn’t come anywhere close to the excitement generated by Betty’s sudden reappearance. Noddy was doing some sums. “I have to get busy emailing the passwords, Benny. But look at this”. He held up a sheet of paper, with writing and figures on it, in his very neat hand.
US members so far. 100 X $50 = $5,000
UK members so far. 44 X £30 = £1,320
EU members so far. 21 X E30 = E630
“Benny, that’s close to six grand in under an hour, and it’s still coming in. Once the time changes around the world kick in, we can expect a lot more, I’m sure. I need to open more Paypal accounts and start spreading this money around fast, before it gets noticed. We will need more online bank accounts too, so I will get on that. You need to get started on those video transfers, and get a lot more pictures of your Nan. And I mean a lot. She has to answer these messages too, all of them”. Benny left the last quarter of his sandwich, and stood up to leave. Noddy turned, his eyes alive with excitement. “Come back later with those photos and I will explain about how to get hold of some of this money. But don’t forget, other than any sundry sales, it has to last a month, and we have to give them some content”. Benny gave him a thumbs up. “Sure thing, Nod”.
Beverly Hall was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. She was smiling, but had a determined posture, arms folded across her chest. After leaving the sandwiches, she had stood outside listening, and had only come down when she realised Benny was about to leave. On top of what her son had already told her, she had worked out exactly what was going on, and where it had got to. “Sit down, Benedict love. We need to have a little talk”. He hesitated, taken aback by her rather syrupy tone. “Can we do that later, Mrs Hall? Only I have rather a lot to do just now”. She shook her head, widening the smile. “It won’t take long, but it has to be now”. He perched on the edge of the sofa, his body language indicating he was ready to leave as soon as he could. Mrs Hall came and sat close to him. Very close. Uncomfortably close in fact.
“To start with, I want you to call me Beverly. Not Bev mind, Beverly. Mrs Hall makes me feel old, and though I might be forty-nine next birthday, I am nowhere near old, I can tell you. Now, I know that you are soon going to be getting quite a lot of money, Darren has told me how much he thinks it might be. And that’s every month. I expect you to do the decent thing, and give him a fair share. I didn’t spend the best part of the last twenty years looking after him, just so he could be exploited by other people”. Benny shifted a bit, but she just moved into the gap. “But Mrs, er, Beverly, Noddy told me he doesn’t want anything. I offered, I really did”. She slid her arm along the top of the sofa, her voice getting even softer. “He may not know what to do with cash, but he can always use new equipment. You know they keep bringing out bigger and better computers and stuff, and we don’t have the money to keep replacing them”. Benny nodded. “OK, fine. You tell me what he wants, and I will see you get the money to buy it for him”. She smiled, and Benny moved to stand. But the arm behind him rested on his neck suddenly, indicating he should stay put.
“And there’s something else, something for me. ” He was confused. “I could get you a new telly or washing machine, something like that. Or both.”. Beverly waggled a finger at him. “Is that what you think I want? Oh no. I want to be on the site; have my own feature, and my own fans. Next time you come round, bring your camera, and we can start taking the photos”. Benny raised his eyebrows. “You? What about Mr Hall, and Noddy? He will know, even if his Dad doesn’t” She smiled like a cat who had got the cream. “Leave Keith and Darren to me, Benny, and stop looking so surprised. You wouldn’t credit how well I can scrub up, I kid you not. And I look pretty good in my underwear, even if I say so myself.” She leaned forward again, her voice almost a growl.
“I really do”.
To be continued…