This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1100 words.
Benny finally got out of the flat less than ten minutes before Mr Hall returned home. Keith hung up his jacket in the hallway, and walked through to find his wife sitting in a pink dressing gown that he didn’t remember ever seeing before. But he failed to notice her new hairstyle, or the very good make up job she had done earlier that day. She stood up and went into the kitchen, popping something into the microwave for his supper. When the bell went off, he went through and eyed the plate of unappestising brown stuff. “It’s just a microwave lamb hot pot tonight. I have been busy today. When you finish that, we need to have a talk”. She walked out, holding a glass of something that looked like whisky. He didn’t bother to mention that he had already eaten a curry during his break at work, just shovelled down a few mouthfuls of the hot pot, and dropped the plate in the sink.
Keith slumped into the armchair, hoping his wife wasn’t going to go off on one of her nagging sprees. He hadn’t expected what came next. “Keith, we both know this isn’t working. We’re like strangers, for Christ’s sake. When did you last ever speak to Darren? And what about our daughter? I don’t think you have ever phoned her since she moved. You can’t just walk through life in a dream, love. I think it’s time to face facts. You should move out, maybe live nearer to where you work. I know you won’t miss me, and I sure as shit won’t miss you. I need a new life, be myself again. I can’t do that with you around, so I am calling it a day. I checked, and we have almost two grand in savings. I will go to the bank tomorrow, and get you half. You can cancel the direct debits for the housekeeping and bills, and you will have more than enough to get by”. She sat back, expecting an argument.
Keith felt the relief flood over him. Many times in the past ten years he had thought about just leaving. But he felt responsible financially, if not emotionally. Recently, he had thought about sharing a house with Vijay from work. He was struggling to pay the mortgage on a two bed in Harmondsworth, and had asked Keith if he knew anyone looking to share. That was only three weeks ago, so might well still be available. The prospect of not having to face his nagging wife every evening filled him with joy, but he tried to disguise it. “Will you manage alright? You know, with your carer pay for Darren. You will have to get a job again, I reckon. She was nodding as he talked. “Oh I will be alright. I have something lined up. I won’t need anything from you, I’m pleased to say”. Keith suddenly smiled, taking Beverly by surprise. “OK then, I will pack a bag to take into work, then get the rest of my stuff later. I will give you an address to send on my post. All being well, I should be out of here by Sunday evening”. That had shocked her. Expecting protest or tantrums at the very least, she certainly hadn’t expected such ready agreement. She looked away, and muttered “Good”.
When Benny got back to the flat, he could hear giggling and laughing as he opened the door. He wondered if Nan might have one of her fancy men there, even though it wasn’t Friday. Carefully glancing around the door to the living room, he saw her sitting on the sofa with another woman. Spotting him, she called out “Come in, Benny love. Come and meet Sophie, soon to be Sophie Bright. Sophie darling, this is my lovely grandson, Benedict. We all call him Benny though”. He walked over and shook the old lady’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Sophie”. She pulled him forward, and kissed him on the cheek. Nan carried on. “Sophie is going to be staying for a while, so you will have to take the sofa. She is going to be one of the stars of our new website, and work with me on some new films. She was Dolly back then, you will have seen her on those old ones, you know, Tony’s VHS stuff. But we have changed a bit since”.
He couldn’t place the little old woman from the films, but nodded. “Oh, right”. She was small compared to Nan, quite thin, with a very wrinkled neck. Her bright white hair was smart though, and she obviously looked after herself. He sat opposite, feeling shattered after such a long day. Sophie gave him a smile. They had obviously been drinking, as he could tell from the almost-empty bottle of brandy on the table, and the two glasses. She spoke carefully, trying hard not to sound slurred. “I hope that I don’t put you out, Benny. I feel bad about you sleeping on the sofa. I am happy to curl up on it myself you know, I’m only little”. Benny tried to sound unconcerned. “Not at all, it’s no problem. You take my room. Besides, I might be moving out soon”. He turned to Nan. “Mrs Hall said I can move in there, be close to Noddy, and the work. Save keep going backwards and forwards to their place”. Nan didn’t pick up on any implications that had. She just smiled, and turned to her old friend. “Well, that works out perfectly then”.
As he stood up, Nan spoke again. “Don’t rush off anywhere love. Don’t forget you have to take more photos of me. And you can do some of Sophie too. She has brought some lovely old undies; girdles and all sorts. We will get changed, once we finish our drinks”. Benny groaned. “Nan, I’m really tired. You wouldn’t believe what I have had to do today. Let’s do it in the morning”. Nan wasn’t having any of it. “It’s not even ten yet, plenty of time. We have been looking forward to it, haven’t we, Sophie?” Her friend had her glass to her mouth, but nodded anyway, spilling some of the booze onto her chin. They downed their drinks, and he set up the tripod, after placing a fresh memory card in the camera. He could hear them squealing like a pair of twelve-year-olds in the bedroom, as they put on their outfits.
He had a full day tomorrow, and a feeling it was going to be a long night.
To be continued…