By the time Sunday night had come round Marge had decided to act. She went to her room early that evening, leaving Mr Threlfall to his letters and Mrs Threlfall to her final glass of sherry before bed. From inside her bedroom she could hear the two of them whispering together and this time it seemed to be going on for longer than usual. For her part Marge went over the events of the past months and tried to sort them out into some kind of order. She knew exactly what she would say to Mr. Threlfall in the morning and with a bit of luck she would be in a solicitor's office by afternoon. With a clear conscious Marge turned out the light and went to sleep.
But Marge overslept. It wasn't on purpose - she just couldn't seem to wake up on time. At first she heard Mr. Threlfall in the bathroom and decided to get up. But then she thought she would wait until he had gone downstairs. It would be better to talk to him after he'd had his cup of tea. So Marge stretched out in the bed and waited for the sound of the toilet flushing. But it never came; she must have drifted off to sleep again for the next thing she heard was the Hoover going up and down outside the bedroom door.
Marge jumped up and got dressed in a flash and found the lady right outside the bedroom door doing the dusting.
"I hope I didn't wake you with the vacuum cleaner but it is my day for cleaning upstairs you know. We did have a woman who used to come in, but she proved to be difficult. It's so hard to get good people these days, isn't it?"
"And if I miss just one day then everything seems to get most terribly out of kilter. I'll be trying to catch up with my cleaning and ironing and next thing I know hubby'll be home and I won't have starched his collars. I'm a firm believer that housework should stop when hubby comes home. Well, dear, they're out at work all day, so they don't want to be bothered when they come home at night, do they?"
Marge shook her head.
"Why don't you pop downstairs and put the kettle on and we'll have a nice cup of tea. And maybe even a little glass of sherry. I don't see why I can't have my 'elevenses' a little early today. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha."
Marge went into the kitchen and made the tea and put a bit of bread under the grill for her toast. God, she was dying for a ciggy but she'd noticed that Mrs Threlfall didn't smoke until after her dinner, or lunch as she called it, and Marge didn't really like to light up all by herself.
She was putting a bit of margarine on her toast when she heard the lady calling from upstairs. "Coooo--eeeee, Coooo---eeee."
Marge went to the bottom of the stairs. "What is it?"
"I wondered if the tea was made yet?"
"Yes, it's brewed, do you want a cup?"
"No dear, I'll better do it myself."
Mrs Threlfall came down with the sherry bottle in her hand. She took charge of the tea pot and the cups and began to pour. Marge hadn't like to say anything but the lady always forgot to put the milk in first -- putting it in afterwards made the tea taste all stewed. At first Mrs Threlfall went on again about how she used to have a woman in three times a week to do the dusting, "They're so terribly expensive now, they want the earth. And to be quite candid one girl they sent along ....well, there was a distinct odour."
She looked around and then confided, "And my dear, most of them are Irish, you know."
Marge snapped, her back up a little, "Yeah the Irish go in a lot for scrubbing, don't they? I mean, that's all most of them have got, haven't they?"
But the lady didn't seem to hear or even look at Marge anymore. She'd been chattering on all morning ever since Marge had bumped into her outside the bedroom door. But now she was on her second glass of sherry and playing around with her biscuit so that at one point Marge thought she was going to dunk it in her tea. But the lady caught herself at the last moment.
"My hubby and I were having a little talk last night. You know, after you went to bed."
"Well it's entirely up to you, but my hubby thought that you'd be more comfortable if you moved into a nice little hotel. They're some very clean places just outside the city and they're not too terribly expensive."
"Now its entirely up to you. But we did wonder if you found it a trifle cramped here....a room you could call your own would be nicer....until things have smoothed over."
"But what about this solicitor...I've got to see him?"
"Well, I did have a talk with my hubby about that...he's a busy man, working long evenings, and he has so many business interests...but, well, I'm sure he'll made an appointment soon."
Marge suddenly felt the shivering creeping back into her stomach. "You mean you don't want me any more, is that it? I'll go now if you want."
"Oh dear, its not like that at all. I don't want....its just that my hubby, he said that..."
Marge had risen from the table and was running upstairs to her room. She heard the lady follow her into the hall and shout up to her, "Cooo..eeee, Marjorie, coooo...eeee, now be a good girl, do come down and we'll talk all about it."
But Marge was already collecting her things off the dressing table and stuffing them into her handbag. Just then she heard the front door open and Mr Threlfall's voice shouting. "Where is she?... Well, get her down here. She's not stopping in this house a minute longer."
Marge snapped her handbag shut and ran over to the door to listen. Mrs Threlfall sounded frantic going "Shhhhh! Shhhhhh!" as she tryed to keep her husband from shouting.
"Its all over this morning's Daily Post. Photographs, statements, the lot. They've set the trail date for the end of the month. You know who she is, don't you? That little bitch has been lying to you all along, you stupid, stupid woman. I could see right thought her the moment I set eyes on her. D'you know what she's involved in? Well, do you? Do you?"
And all the time Marge could hear Mrs Burgess going "Shhhh. Shhhh. Soft pedal. Soft pedal."
Funnily enough Marge didn't feel scared of Mr Threlfall any more - he was no different from all the others, and Mrs Threlfall well, she was just a soft old lady.
"You know what she's involved in, do you? You bloody stupid woman, do I have to write it on the wall for you? Do I?"
Marge heard the lady begin to cry and Mr Threlfall's feet on the stairs. She put the chair under the door knob and went over to the open window and looked out.
"You stupid soft woman. Do you know who you've let into my house? I don't know why you brought a tart like that here in the first place. You're soft in the head, that's what you are. No bloody common sense. A wardrobe full of sherry bottles. Bringing all sorts into the house. First the Jehovahs Witnesses and now this."
Marge could hear that the lady was sobbing really loudly now but that didn't seem to deter Mr Threlfall.
"You've always been soft in the head. Pretending Eric Coke is your nephew, as if I'd have a half-wit child for a relative. And look what you've done now. You'll have us splashed across the front of the Echo. Well, you'll soon see. You'll soon see who you're new friend is....you bloody stupid woman."
Marge leaned out of the bedroom window. It looked like a long drop, but a few feet away, just below the bathroom window, there was a drainpipe. Marge crawled onto the window sill and, keeping one hand on the frame, leaned over and grabbed for the drain pipe.
Mr. Threlfall was kicking at the bedroom door.
"Open up, open this door at once. I'm calling the police if you don't open up. This is private property. See...she what you've done, you bloody stupid woman. You are in a condition of trespass. This is the very last straw, I'll have you put away this time. Open up, you are committing an indictable offence in law. Damm you. Open up."
Marge hooked her arm around the pipe, let go of the window sill and suddenly she was away, half falling, half gliding down the pipe and into the garden. She ran to the bottom and scrambled onto the brick wall. Then she was over and running, running towards the factory.
Free, free at last, free away from that awful stuffy house with all its ornaments and stupid whispering. Marge ran on and on without ever bothering where she was going. She was free. She was really going to help Cullen this time and no one was going to hold her back.
Contact F. David Peat