Rose Lane Ch 8
Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2003
Word Count: 3300
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.
Melanie logged on to her computer , inviting the external world right into her household.
How you doing? Dad won't let us use his laptop so we're writing from a cool internet cafe we came across in the centre of town. Weather's good and doing a lot of fishing.
Hi mum, Alfie here, I caught two turbots. Dad wanted to BBQ them for dinner but Kim said it might be healthier to go to a restaurant. Anyway we tried to do that marinade thing you do with soy sauce and ginger but Kim said it was the wrong kind of fish. In the end we went for a pizza.
Got to wind up now, we're off go karting.
What ! She checked the message once more. Melanie's battle antennae was on Amber alert. Kim! What the Fuck was Kim doing there? They were meant to be having a father/son bonding thing going on and now Kim, all of 27 was telling her sons what they could and couldn't eat. That's it Matthew, you are dead!
Melanie dialled Matthew's mobile, fury crouching on her tongue waiting for the starters pistol.
'Hello you've reached Matthew Chase's voicemail please leave a message."
Oh I'll leave a message alright asshole!
"Matthew this is Melanie, I've just heard Kim is sharing a tent with you all, this was not part of the deal. You call me back right away!"
As soon as she hung up she felt ridiculous. What did it matter, they were soon travelling to Kim's father's house , so they'd all be staying together anyway. Now Matthew would think she was jealous and needy and all those neurotic stages of separation she'd convinced herself she'd by passed. Shit! she thought, Shit, bugger, blast! That's what her mother Pattie would have said, but not Melanie.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! and a Cunt! for good measure.
Melanie thought back to the last time all four of them had been on holiday together as a family. They'd rented a villa in North Majorca, they were supposed to go with their other married friends, Paul and Lisa and their kids but at the last minute Lisa's father died and they'd had to cancel. That was it really, the buffer zone gone. All alone, no routine or familiar toys and everything started to unravel. The sniping, the sneering, full blown rows in front of the boys, sex only once after a long boozy night out when the evening had to end in some sort of physical inevitability, and as they were sharing a bed what the hell. But the desire, the urgency to disappear into each others bodies was all but gone.
Conversation dried up altogether and a truce called. Politeness the death knell of passion. The boys could tell the difference, on other holidays they'd all played games on car journeys, silly games, I Spy, Guess the animal, Guess the food, Which famous person am I. The number plate game.
But this trip felt like that uneasy transition from childhood to adolescence, furtive , yet headlong, overnight almost like the first few greasy teenage spots. Clear skin the night before, hideous blemishes in the morning, everything altered for ever. Best not dwell thought Melanie, we've all of us made our beds, it's our choice whether to lie in them or go and book a room in a hotel.
Matthew seemed to grow angrier each day, little things bothered him - really got to him. He was fanatical about cleaners, everything they did had to be perfect, not a skerrick of dust left gathering on any surface, nor stains tainting the cooker or fridge. Should he find such damning evidence all hell would break loose and Melanie knew the unfortunate domestic was probably not be long for the chop.
"So she decided these should be moved over here did she?" he screeched waving a pair of sunglasses over head like a tomahawk in preparation for scalping.
"What gives her the right, huh, does she live here? No, does she have to waste half an hour trying to find her bloody sunglasses before going out? No. What's wrong with these people why can't they just fucking clean and leave their bloody own taste at home, that's what we're paying the for her to clean, not bloody come here and change everything around!"
Some days he was just comical , the boys would snigger behind his back and roll their eyes. "Here he goes again, take cover."
Matthew ran on nervous energy, he ran around it, he ran through it and occasionally he ran over it.
Ping, now what was this?
Guess what, I'm on line. Bet you never thought you'd see the day. Got your email address from Alfie, he said I should come into the new century and gave it to me in case I ever did. Well here I am, a 21st century woman at last. Very liberating, have you ever visited the World Wildlife Foundation site yet? Very interesting. My friend Valerie says the Virtual Memorial Garden is a real treat. Like visiting the cemetery with out leaving home, which let's be honest would be a real boon for me, what with the old beetle playing up and my bad back. You can even buy virtual flowers on-line and have them delivered to the virtual grave site of your choice. Remember all those Sundays you spent as a child visiting the cemetery with your mother and Nanna and I? It was a real day out for Nanna, she loved it, she probably felt superior to all the dead people, I'm alive, you're dead.Ha ha.
It must have been so boring for a little kid, mind - you seemed to have fun jumping all over the grave stones and dancing on them. That's probably where you got your love for ballet from. We never told you they were graves, we always said they were just very big bricks in a very big garden. You never knew you were really jumping on dead people, probably would have had nightmares if we'd told you and as you were going through a bed wetting phase your mother didn't want to aggravate the situation.
Did I tell you I've had the veranda mended..again!! The roof was leaking and it's been pouring over here, well the rain got in and went all over that box of junk of yours I had to put out the back because there was no more room in my spare bedroom. Sorry about that, but a load of your stuff is absolutely ruined. Including several videos, and some old theatre programmes. Talk about spooky, there I was, searching through all your old dolls and Mickey Mouse's and would you believe it I found that old diary of yours, you remember you always kept it locked with a little key, then you lost the key and tied a big ribbon around it cause you were paranoid and thought everyone was interested in your personal life. It's all soaked through, and the papers rotting. Anyway I managed to dry it out a bit, I put it on a towel in front of the heater which was a damn nuisance because the dog kept walking over near it and I was sure she'd knock it over and start a fire and we'd all be burnt to death and no one would ever know that the cause of it all was your stupid old diary.
Oh that reminds me, read a bit in the paper yesterday, I'll send it over if I can get to the post office. Said they still haven't identified that body, which is very unusual these days don't you think, what with forensic and dental records and everything, who knows perhaps this girl had perfect teeth, probably only ate fruit and drank milk, good for her. Oh did I tell you her skull was fractured, looks like she was battered around the head. You never know Melanie, you might get a knock on the door from the Embassy officials, they might want to talk to you, they were appealing for any one to come forward who might have some information, have a good think, did you know anyone who might have been murdered about thirty years ago? Drop us a line if you've any thoughts on the matter, must go, the dogs dinners nearly done and I don't want it to boil over and stain my stove again.
lots of love Jean.
PS: Don't worry about your diary, couldn't read your terrible handwriting so all your secrets are safe shall I send it over?
Melanie instantly hit reply.
"Well done Melanie dear, you look very regal, everyone keep your heads up and march to the music, look at Melanie Baker - now she looks like a little princess. One can believe she is indeed a member of a Royal household and that, children, is what we're striving for."
And that's precisely how Melanie felt, so what if she couldn't catch a soft ball or score in basket ball or hit a home run. So what, all you bronzed outdoor, sporty kids that laughed and teased; She could look like a little princess, and what's more she had been validated by none other than the great Brian Trinder who certainly knew a real queen when he saw one. In fact the he was entertaining just such an individual the very next afternoon.
"Do you want another cup of tea Miranda? asked Brian's mother Mary.
Mary Trinder was a rather circular woman, rotund; like a kindergarten assembled Christmas angel, all toilet rolls and cotton wool. Mary's chalky, white hair trickled down her shoulders in soft waves and folds of flesh on her old neck hung over her mauve shift frock. Brian adored Mary and Mary adored Brian. Mary had been a widow for over twenty years, her darling Brian had been the buffer in her marriage to Mr Trinder, a dull, stony hearted man who had little time for frivolity. He'd never understood his son and as far as he was concerned had nothing in common with him. If only his other son, Gregory had lived. Little Gregory had died a babe in arms from an infection. In those days babies often just faded away, no questions asked, no answers required, that was the way it was. Natures natural selection process.
Bill Trinder always felt that Gregory would have been more like him, a mans man. But this odd little boy that his wife doted on, this fairy child was an alien to him. Naturally he understood how over protective his wife was after losing one child, but he'd always assumed once the boy was grown they'd have a normal relationship. But things didn't turn out like that. He felt jealous of Brian and his bond with his mother, often he'd walk into a room in his own house and the two of them would spring apart, their whispers hanging in the air. He noticed the furtive looks and suppressed laughs, he was no fool. His wife and his son were sometimes his adversaries.
Mary and her husband Bill had emigrated to Australia from Burnley, Yorkshire just after the war. Brian had only been a lad, about 8 or 9. They're weren't many in those days, not compared to the influx of Brits in the sixties with their cheap passage and worldly belongings.
Initially they arrived with Bill's old widowed mum, Hazel. Oh how Hazel hated this land of milk and honey, it was too hot, too dry, too many flies, she couldn't understand a word anyone said and worst of all, the stench of meat cooking on hot afternoons.
"They're called BBQs, Mum, Mary would say over and over again, they're very popular out here,"
"Disgusting, unhygenic, we're not natives, we've got cookers and we should all be using them, indoors."
Fortunately for all involved Hazel didn't have to endure the great outdoors for too long, she got her due calling from God two years after they arrived and departed for good.
"I'm going to miss old mum," lamented Bill.
"Mmm," Mary nodded, thinking just the opposite.
"Or a Lammington, they're home-made?" Offered Mary.
"No, Mrs Trinder, one must watch one's waistline." said Miranda gently patting her expanding tummy.
"Doesn't matter when you're over forty my dear, no ones looking anyway."
Miranda's sweet smiling face froze, set in dangerous repose and for a moment Brian thought his meddling mother's life might well be in peril. He rushed to the rescue.
"Forty! Good heavens, Ma, how can you say such a thing, Miranda's barely turned thirty."
Mary looked Miranda up and down, then sipped her tea, "Really? Must have had a hard life then."
Miranda chose to humour the old lady, what's the point in taking anything personally, she was obviously very protective of her son and viewed any friend of his as an intruder.
"I do love your hair Mary, where do you have it done?"
"Do it myself, always have done, " replied Mrs Trinder, smacking her coconut coated lips.
"Well it's very nice, very youthful."
Mary snorted into her tea.
"I'm going out back to do the garden Brian, the weeds are taking over my chokos."
Mary retreated to the garden leaving her son alone with his glamorous guest. She'd long been accustomed to the steady parade of theatrical types through her little red brick house. Oddly , she didn't mind the male visitors, they charmed her, brought gifts and flowers, complimented her genuinely on her tiny feet and family heirlooms. But the women she viewed with suspicion, especially this Miranda. Who did she think she was, coming into her home and patronising her. Thirty! What a joke, who's she trying to kid. Closer to fifty more like and as for watching her waistline, she'd left that a bit late. Oh dear, why oh why couldn't Brian be happy with her best friend Nancy's daughter Rosemary. Such a nice girl, well adjusted, a nurse, bit on the tubby side but quite a pretty face and Lord knows she certainly liked Brian, always had, ever since they were kids, when Nancy would pop over for a cup of tea bringing Rosemary along, "No biscuits for Rosemary, she's on a diet."
Rosemary would smile and giggle and stare at Brian.
But Brian didn't really take to girls like Rosemary, dull as ditch water he pronounced her and that was the end of that.
Miranda took a long drag on her More cigarette and slipped off her sandals, awkwardly tucking her feet under her body, and settling into the armchair like a vast egg in a tiny birds nest.
Miranda wanted to talk, something was bothering her and Brian sensed trouble brewing.
"So, darling, what's on your mind?" he asked as sensitively as he could.
Miranda flicked her bottle enhanced hair and leant forward, resting her hands on her knee - her expression was pained and her voice took on a conspiratorial tone.
Terry was the actor playing the King.
"Surely you can say something to him, it's monstrous the way he behaves , so self centred, the way he treads on my lines, then laughs and says sorry, Oh I could wring his leathery neck and he's struggling to reach that note it should be ah ah ahhhhh - sounds more like a chicken being torn apart by a fox the way he murders it."
Miranda did not like her leading man and when Miranda didn't like someone - they knew it.
Brian rolled his eyes in mock sympathy.
"I'm sure he'll be alright on the night, don't you worry your pretty little head darling, John's got him practising his scales from dawn till dusk, don't give it another thought."
But Miranda wasn't appeased.
"And I'm towering over him, why can't he wear stacked heels? No woman would lust after him, never mind Anna."
"Darling, we've been through this, the King of Siam goes about barefoot, always has done always will."
"Doesn't have to!" snapped Miranda.
"But everyone remembers Yul, they've seen the film, the record cover, they know, the King of Siam was a barefooted Barbarian and that's precisely how he wins Anna's heart."
Brian was not prepared to let Miranda triumph , he was going to come out fighting.
"Preposterous!" Miranda stood up now, her face scarlet and twitching. " Anna wouldn't have had the time of day for him looking like that, the whole waltz number is a joke, the audience will be in stitches they'll think they've gone to see panto instead, Snow White and the seven fucking dwarves except only one of the little bastards has showed up."
Miranda resembled a big fat red balloon just about to burst.
Brian tried another tack.
" Miranda, darling calm down, you are a statuesque Duchess on the stage, a monumental charismatic performer. All eyes will be on you, it wouldn't matter whether or not the king of Siam was played by a giant or Little Richard, or for that matter the great Yul himself, no one would notice or care, because they will all be watching you"
He paused for dramatic effect. "Comprendez?"
Miranda beamed indulging herself in the extravagant flattery.
"Tut tut, you crafty bastard, alright, we'll see shall we? " Miranda's lips coiled into a measured smile, "Go on, crack open the gin and stuff your mothers bloody tea."
As afternoon slid into evening and their laughter grew louder with every drink, Mary stayed in the garden, toiling and killing, beetles, snails, worms, anything that dared stray onto her property. She became their nemesis, the great white beast they warned their young about. Rake at the ready and pesticide her pistol. "Die you buggers, die!" and if you were a neighbour eavesdropping on this domestic scene you might well wonder as to whom her venom was directed, should you ever be called as a witness that is.
Miranda refused Brian's invitation to stay for dinner and left, planting a wet, ruby red lipstick kiss on his mouth, off she trotted back to her two bedroom flat in Cremorne, back to her long suffering husband Geoffrey, most importantly back to her beloved cats.
Brrr, brrr, Melanie's phone startled her back into the present.
Christ, she'd almost forgotten about the furious message she'd left earlier, now what, she couldn't have him thinking she was jealous.
"Look sorry.....everything's fine, I was just thrown, I didn't think Kim was going to be camping with you, I mean, how big is this tent, do you think it's an ideal sleeping arrangement. Ben is 14 remember, he notices things. "
Matthew calmed and placated like he always did. They'd rented a smaller tent for the boys to kip in right beside theirs, they loved it, such an adventure. He and Kim had the big tent, everything was just great and the last thing Kim wanted to do was upset me, she's so sorry and if it is really a problem of course she'll leave...blah blah.
Melanie felt almost like calling their bluff, alright she wanted to say, ask her to leave, I'd like that. But what was the point, if this was the way it was going to be and Kim was going to be in her children's lives then they all had to get on. What the hell, anyway Melanie loathed camping, and if Kim was fool enough to put up with a Spartan regime akin to living on the poor side of the Big Brother household, then let her.
"No Matthew," she heard herself saying. " There's no problem, just go on and enjoy yourselves, really, it's fine."