Rose Lane Ch 26,27
Posted: 09 March 2004
Word Count: 3668
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.
Chapter Twenty Six
The drive back to London surprised Melanie by its pace. She simply breezed home, only encountering the Hammersmith flyover before hitting traffic, her waiting was enlivened by a discussion on Radio 4 on whether or not it was insensitive for a vehicle to display a bumper sticker reading, "Make a parent smile, run over a peodophile."
It was late afternoon when she arrived home. Still very warm, it took ages to eventually squeeze her rented Punto into an available space. Matthew , of course having taken the family car away and leaving his estranged wife at the mercy of public transport. The park opposite was crammed with good looking, half naked torsos, lean, sleek limbs cut through the green of the turf. A band could be heard bouncing bass off the rooftops and a trembling soulful voice belting out ballads from the free concert by the tennis courts.
A farewell to summer it seemed to be saying and thank you for not raining.
When Melanie opened her front door, breathing in a stale smell of rotting fruit , it jammed hard against something. Melanie stepped over the obstruction and closed the door behind her.
Yep there it was a snail mail package from Australia, all the way from Auntie Jeans house.
Dougie and I went to dinner at the Steak House the other night it was all right bit noisy though. He said his wife used to like it. After dinner he wanted to come back here for coffee I said I don't think so, if I drink coffee late at night I'll never get to sleep, then he winked at me. I said I know what you're thinking Douglas Warren and I thought I made it quite clear I'm past all that. He said oh I know but I though we might watch a video, so I said alright. Only when we got back he went out to his car and came back with this video with no cover then he put it on and I nearly died. I said you must be joking I don't want to see that sort of thing at my age, it makes me want to throw up. I think he got the message cause he left there and then and I haven't seen him for over a week, not even walking the dogs, I suspect he must be embarrassed which is fine but I don't want those dogs suffering so I'll have to phone him I suppose. Miss you, love Jean.
PS: They had a funeral for that girl last week, not many turned up. I've sent you a clipping about her, there's a photo of her too. I know you didn't know her and it would have been terribly sad if you did, very odd though, they don't know what happened to her, other than she got her skull fractured , very pretty girl too, oh well that's what can happen when you're a woman on your own.
Melanie opened the carefully folded, smelly dog, newspaper clipping and her eyes fell on the photo of the attractive, fair skinned brunette staring right back at her, the name said Cheryl Burgess, but Melanie knew right away, this was indeed Tara Medway - Browne.
She shook her head in disbelief and let the paper slip from her grip and just when her emotions had ripped her to shreds with trauma and bewilderment and surely she could take now more, Melanie heard a small, whimpering coming from her spare room.
She climbed the stairs two at a time, then stood, deathly still outside the door to the spare room.
"Hello," she called out.
Again a tiny whimper, Melanie pushed open the door to find the room looking like a stage set. There was a candle burning in the corner, oddly illuminating the figures inside, shadows took up residence on the walls and the whole place had an after hours at the museum feel to it. Melanie took a deep breath and switched on the lights, then she saw her.
Elise was lying on the bed, her backpack beside her,
"Elise, Elise wake up, Elise."
She took a step closer , the girls lips were a deathly blue and her skin china white.
Elise's fist was clenched tightly around the small bottle of pills and a bottle of evian water stood opened beside her on the floor, unconscious now, surrounded by paintings and sketches all displayed about the room, window sills, mantelpieces, propped against chair backs. Elise had drawn her own version of the girl in Melanie's paintings, dozens of little copies. So many images of that haunting girl, Melanie's muse, her Tara.
"Oh God, oh no!"
Melanie grabbed the phone and called an ambulance, panic rising and any first aid training she'd ever learned now completely and utterly forgotten.
"Please be alright, come on Elise, come on darling, you've got to make it, come on now, you're going to be okay."
She tried to reassure the comatose girl.
You silly girl, she thought, why oh why were there so many bloody silly girls around. What was it with this age, you thought you were invincible, but you weren't you were just growing up too fast, too slow never right.
Oh hell, where was her next door neighbour Irish Cath the nurse? In bloody Ireland, that's where! Ahhh!
Soon her house was invaded by people, paramedics, police all asking questions, no I'm not her mother, yes I do have a number for her mother, will she be alright, is there anything else I could have done?
She rode with her in the ambulance holding her hand, willing her to survive.
When they arrived and Elise was taken in to the operating theatre, Mel sat alone in the relatives room, odd considering her role in the situation. Then the tears came, slowly at first, as though she was coaxing them out, then all at once, flooding, she sobbed and sobbed, for poor Elise and her mother, and for Tara, or Cheryl whoever she was, that poor girl who'd lost her dreams, and for herself, she wept for the silly naive, dozy girl she once was.
Chapter Twenty Seven
Elise pulled through, and a few days later Mel received a card from Nathalie.
Dear Mrs Chase,
Thank you so much for your quick thinking actions the other night, without which we know we would most certainly have lost our precious daughter. We are very sorry to have put you in such a terrible situation. Elise is fine now and is recovering well, physically that is. She will have to go back to the hospital for some time, to be reassessed . We are very grateful to you for your friendship over the past few weeks and when Elise makes a complete recovery we will let you know and perhaps you can visit. Yours sincerely
Nathalie and Abu.
Brian accompanied his mother Mary on a family excursion to visit her brother Colin.
"Why don't you come with me Bri, you haven't seen Colin and Shirley for years, they've got seven grandchildren now, isn't that amazing?"
"Mmm," muttered Brian, "Amazing."
Colin and his wife Shirley lived in Melbourne, they had a vast house in the suburb of Olinda, complete with swimming pool and a home built playground for all the gran kids to romp about in to their hearts content.
Although Colin had followed his sister Mary and her late husband out to the colonies, he seemed to have made a better fist of when it came to discovering Utopia. Colin had done well, he ran his own import/export company employing at least two son in laws with a third trying his damnedest to impress. Colin loved his Aussie life, it was thirty years since he'd emigrated and in that whole time he'd never once been back to the UK.
"No need, " he'd announce without the slightest trace of his Yorkshire accent, "This is my home now, make no bones about it."
He and Shirley were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and Mary wanted to be there.
Leaving Philip in charge at home Brian packed his suitcase and caught the over night coach with his mother all the way across the state and into Victoria.
Mary slept on the bus, a constant stream of spittle travelling down her chin as her head periodically knocked against the window. Brian stayed awake, reading and re reading his collection of plays. American, British, Australian, he was determined to direct a production of one of them for his talented troupe. Eventually the woman in the seat behind , tapped him on the shoulder and asked politely if he'd mind turning his light off. Brian nodded and slammed his book shut, seething with an inner rage that he should be forced to travel in such conditions.
Philip and Tara met up as usual and danced the night away at the latest Gay night-club, Patches , scrounging drinks and cigarettes off anyone they could charm, which was just about everyone they approached.
The poncing Pixies, they were known to some. But they didn't care, why should they , they were young, beautiful, invincible, they were us everyone else was them.
They'd struggled with the key in the lock of the Trinders family home and fallen through the door laughing and still bitching about all and sundry.
"Did you get her with the blonde wig and fat arse?"
"Oh please, what had she come as? Sad or what?"
And so they went on, indistinguishable from each other, nasty one minute, delightful the next. They were gradually turning into one. Philip so lost in his love for Brian, for his family, for Judith, for his God. Tara fed up with the men she met who lusted after her and came and conquered, the women she half fooled and toyed with.
After sharing a bottle of red wine they kissed, once, twice, three times a big mistake.
Philip took the lead, and led her right into the bachelor pad Brian had created in the garage.
"Are you sure?" whispered Tara, suddenly uncertain.
Philip nodded and pressed his forefinger to his lips.
"I can make it happen for women, I know I can." he pleaded.
Soon completely naked but for sweat and guilt Tara and Brian made an Olympian attempt at heterosexual sex, however as Tara felt Philips penis shrivel inside her she knew breakfast was going to be a feast of humiliation.
Fortunately it was long after lunch time when she finally opened her eyes, her head throbbing and the memory of the night before, flaunting its way into her consciousness with all the subtlety of a bludgeon. Half awake and focusing on the moving door she was suddenly thrust into wakefulness. There he was, filling the doorway. Brian was back and oh my, he did not like his welcome home surprise one little bit.
"Hello, had a row with my Uncle, caught the first flight back, so...anyone want to tell me what you two have been up to?"
I've got some very sad news I'm afraid. My little Jedda's been diagnosed with a kidney ailment, which would explain why she's been doing her business all over the carpet. The vet's been very nice about it, he's a lovely man, Steve he's called a bit younger than you, don't know if he's married or not. Anyway, he says Jedda will be alright for a while on medication but really if she gets any worse I should consider the only humane thing. I'm devastated we're so close the two of us, rattling about up here, I know I've still got Bobby, but it's not the same, Jedda and I have been through so much together. Oh well, I knew the day would come sooner or later, it always does. Remember when my little Coco went, oh I cried for months. Do hope you're well and not sitting at home moping, you're still young you know, you should be out meeting people, going on dates, I don't mean starting another family, Good God you are a bit old in the tooth for that, but just seeing someone or you could get a dog.
Must go, Jedda's done a wee on the veranda.
I don't want to worry you, but they've found a lump and I've got to go into Gosford hospital for a biopsy, here's the number if you get a chance, I'm going in tomorrow.
What! No! Oh no, no , no.
Melanie finally got through to a chirpy nurse on Jean's ward.
"Miss Rutledge? Yes, I'll wheel the phone over for you, London you say, what's the weather like over there, still freezing, I had to buy my first ever over coat when I was there. Jean dear, got your niece on the line."
Jean's groggy voice drifted down the transatlantic line.
"Are you alright?"
"Mmm, yeah, got to have chemo for a few months but they reckon I'm in the clear."
"You look great." remarked Mel on seeing her friend Sarah sporting the tan of the month.
"I feel fantastic, it was wonderful, did nothing but lie about reading and drinking cocktails in my tankini, marvellous for women our age, so what about you, did you manage to get away to the cottage?"
Melanie filled her in, leaving out the part about Elise staying at the cottage and finding Finlay's business card in case she went all funny and middle class and Sarah on her.
"Oh you'll never guess who I ran into the other day," said Sarah over drinks.
Mel shrugged, "Who?"
"Martin, you know, Martin Grey used to drink at the Queens Head, graphic designer, you know?"
"Oh him, right."
"He fancies you."
"Oh don't be ridiculous."
"He does, he asked after you and I said you were single and he said, really, do you think she'd be up for a drink, naturally I said yes, you were gagging for it."
"Well come on, you said yourself , if you abstain any longer you'll forget what to do and don't give me the old riding a bike adage, it's baloney, it was nine weeks after Alice was born before I even dared and when I did I felt just like a virgin, touched for the very first time as the great Madge says."
"I'm sorry Sar, I've had a fucking awful few weeks, I've slept with a bloke whose got a girlfriend, I've saved the life of a runaway with a disturbing personality disorder, I've just found out I do actually know a real live murder victim and my aunts got cancer and Jedda's dying and my marriage is over.....
Melanie's voice trailed away as tears trickled down her cheeks.
"Oh dear, here have another drink."
Once years ago, while Melanie sat patiently at the bus stop, her head buried in a comic book while Pattie dashed around doing the last minute shopping she witnessed the most awful event.
Little Tommy, the sausage dog or Dachshund as they're rightly called was a regular oddity in the town. He'd pad about on his tiny legs with a draw string shopping bag between his teeth running various errands for his Masters, the Toombeys. The ran a small toy shop near the station, little Tommy would scurry about with his bag, in and out of shops, his money in an envelope marked 'change' and his bounty fast filling up the string bag.
"Oh look at Tommy isn't he cute."
Everyone knew and loved Tommy Toombey.
'Kerplunk! Eeh, eeh!'
The dreadful thud of the car connecting with his tiny body rocked the community going about their business.
Melanie looked up from her comic, there he lay, blood and guts mixed with tomatoes and carrots spilling out of his string bag. He whimpered for a few seconds then was gone.
Mr and Mrs Toombey abandoned the toy shop on hearing of the accident and raced as fast as they could, arriving in time to reach down and scoop up his little, wounded body wrapping him in a cardigan.
"Oh my God, oh no," Pattie's sobbed joined all the others who'd seen such a terrible thing. "Did you see what happened?"
Melanie shook her head and went back to her comic.
"You're so cold Melanie Baker, so cold, so unemotional, you certainly don't get that from me."
As they boarded the bus Melanie caught a glimpse of the wine coloured pedestrian crossing, red stains streaking through the black and white lines ensuring safety when she knew this wasn't the case. She wasn't really cold, in fact she was made of goo but if she let down her guard down, she might just ooze away, and be left with nothing at all.
Sarah was truly crap in a crisis, she Oohed and Ahhed and made all the right noises while Melanie filled her in on the dramas of the past few weeks but she didn't like it whenever things got too grim, it meant she couldn't use her one and only survival rule, 'make a joke about everything' sometimes it just didn't work.
"Well there you are, told you girls were difficult, so when are your boys coming home, if they're away much longer they'll have to be quarantined." joked Sarah.
"This weekend, can't wait. "
"You don't suppose Miss Bimbos going to start having babies do you?" said Sarah, with no thought for her poor bereaved friend whatsoever.
"I don't know." shrugged Melanie.
"Bet your life he'll be there for her, all new man, changing nappies and cutting the umbilical chord."
"Matthew was at the boys births." Melanie rushed to his defence.
"Yes but only so he could video them and show off his camera skills and your privates to his mates."
"Don't be so ...disgusting."
But that was partly true, whenever anyone came round to visit the new babies he'd whip out the video and launch into a detailed directorial lecture, now the light wasn't too good here because it was getting late and Mel had been in labour for a few hours and on and on.
"Is Matthew's mother still so ghastly?" asked Sarah suddenly.
"Oh she's alright , once you get used to her."
"Remember that Christmas , we popped over for mince pies and she started banging on about artists and how piss poor they were and how you were much better off being a teacher?"
Mel and Hilda had never been really close.
"There's no shame in being a teacher Melanie, lets face it how many artists really make it? Not many, I bet."
Everyone shrugged and sipped their mulled wine in discomfort.
But she went on.
"Anyway, you know what they say, if you can't do it teach it"
"What about driving instructors," added Matthew's father David.
"Well they have to be able to drive in order to teach, goes without saying," yet he still said it.
"Actually she confessed that her David had once had an affair." Melanie confided.
Sarah threw her head back and roared with laughter.
"And can you blame him, ha ha, living with that frigid old goose."
Melanie laughed and cried intermittently.
"That's better," said Sarah, "Good to see you making light of things."
"Sarah I'm crying one minute and laughing the next, people will think I'm insane." she sniffed.
"Mmm," agreed Sarah, "Either that or that you're going through the change, cheers, let's get another bottle."
Melanie sniffed and nodded.
"Uhuh," Sarah gestured to the waiter, indicating 'just one more for the road.'
"Are you having a thing with Finlay?"
Now it was Sarah's turn to open up and reveal all.
Sarah sighed and sat back in her chair defeated.
"If only," she began. "Oh Mel, I'm such a bloody , old fool."
Melanie leant forward and held her friends hand.
"I've got a huge, monster schoolgirl crush on the poor bloke, how sad is that."
Both women began to laugh, soon they were giggling, then guffawing, struggling to breathe as the tears of levity squished out.
"You've met him, he's gorgeous and I've been feeling so old, when I get dressed I'm so cautious, like something stops me mentally from putting on a short skirt or a pair of tight trousers. "
Sarah confessed all and there was very little to confess. She admitted feeling jealous of Melanie's new found freedom and her one night stand with Oscar and while they were in Majorca all the waiters noticed her pretty teenage daughter Alice and not her. She confided that she was too scared to let go of her comfy slipper of a husband in case that's all there was, she'd missed the romance bus and been left waiting in the rain. All in all Sarah was having her own mini crisis and her best friend in the whole world had failed to notice.
"Oh Sare, I'm sorry, look at us, what are we like?"
They sat arm in arm, knocking back white wine and dolefully shaking their heads.
"Survivors, Mel, crap ones, but survivors all the same. "
"Did you ever tell Finlay how you felt?"
"Did I heck, no, I just fussed about him like a stalking Pop Idol fan, pathetic really, it's a wonder he didn't give me a slap, I phoned him once and asked if he fancied meeting up for a drink, just the two of us.....he asked me where Pete was and I said something rubbish like...he's very busy these days, working late, you know....just wondered....then I got so embarrassed I tried to back track."
"No, was he on to you?"
"I think so, he said I should give him a call when Pete was free and we could all meet up, he was trying to be subtle."
"You bloody fool."
"Then I had a few drinks and phoned his mobile and left the most idiotic message."
"What did you say?"
"Sorry, wrong number."
|Favourite this work||Favourite This Author|
Other work by Jubbly: ...view all work by Jubbly