When the hearse pulled up outside number thirteen, my first thought was I was experiencing one of my bad dreams again. Looking at my watch it was half past three, had I really been asleep that long? Going back into the hall and looking at the grandfather clock it had stopped at ten to twelve. But it never stopped unless I had forgotten to wind it up. My last promise to Geoffrey was to always keep it wound up just like he did. Had I forgotten?
This was becoming silly; worry was becoming hysteria. The clock radio in the bedroom confirmed my watch was correct. I had slept that long and had forgotten to wind up Geoffrey’s clock unless of course, God forbid, it had broken down. First things first, was there really a hearse at number thirteen? With the utmost care I pulled the left-hand side of the bedroom blinds. There was a hearse and two more cars now.
I went into the bathroom, used the toilet, washed my hands and primped my hair, using the mirror to check my make-up, then slipped out of the backdoor and crossed the road diagonally to number nine’s side gate, entered and tapped on the French window. Instantly, as if she was expecting my call, Edna opened the door and beckoned me to come in.
Once I felt calm enough to speak, I said in a half whisper, ‘What d’you make of it? Him or her d’you think?
‘Course it could be both Marj, I mean the pair of them ain’t looked well in ages if you ask me. Anyway, go on through and I’ll bring in some tea. It’s all ready as I’ve been expecting you since before three. What have you been doing?’
Ignoring the remark on the basis I have always told her I never sleep during the day I continued into the lounge and sat in the usual guest chair. It had been Edna’s husband Freddie’s right up until the day he died. Edna felt he would have liked to know that guests made use of his chair. She used to think he kept tabs on who was in his chair from up there or down there depending where he ended up in the spirit world.
I settled myself and looked around the room marvelling that Edna kept the place so immaculate. She must spend half her life cleaning and tidying I wouldn’t wonder. Just as I was studying, the portrait of her late husband over the mantelpiece she disturbed me from my thoughts by her entrance with a tray of tea and biscuits.
‘I suppose Edna, days like this and scenes like we are seeing down the end there must bring back memories of Freddie?’
She stopped dead from where she was intending to place the tray.
‘What on earth do you mean by that Marj?’ She looked quite startled by the remark but then continued on with placing the tray.
‘Nothing really my dear it’s just you were so fond of Freddie, and I know you still miss him after all these years.’ Somehow, I felt I had accidentally struck a wrong note.
‘Actually, I’m quite glad you brought the subject up,’ She replied putting put the milk in the cups and pouring the tea on top. She handed the tea to me and a plate of digestive biscuits, from which I selected one and placed the proffered teacup and saucer on the adjacent side table careful not to spill any.
Edna settled into her seat the one positioned to accompany Freddie’s opposite me.
‘It is rather ironic Marj, but you are so wrong with your remark. You see I fully intended to tell you this a long time ago. I killed Freddie.’
A piece of the digestive I was nibbling as slowly as I could lodged in my throat and caused me to choke. I coughed violently and felt tears appearing in my eyes. Removing my glasses, I wiped them clean and said, still coughing slightly, ‘Did I hear you correctly Edna? You actually killed Freddie?’
A broad smile spread across her face as she said, ‘Well only in a manner of speaking. You see I went out on an unusually long shopping spree and forgot to take my phone, not that it would have made any difference because he never kept his with him unless we were going out. The old fool fell off the steps while cutting the hedge and couldn’t get up. He was right down the bottom of the garden, and nobody heard his cries for help.’
You could have knocked me down with a feather, I sat there, opened mouth with a half-eaten digestive biscuit in my hand. For once in my life, during numerous conversations with Edna I was gobsmacked, but felt I just had to say something, so I blurted out with: ‘Oh Edna! How awful you must have felt terrible.’
‘Not really Marj it was just one of those things, wasn’t it? I felt I deserved a day out and he had to go and ruin it by doing what I had told him not to do I don’t know how many times in the past. To be honest I wasn’t even that sad when I found him. Shocked yes but also angry but never truly sad. I imagine one or the other of those down the end of the road will be having similar thoughts ‘cos they couldn’t stand one another, could they?’
‘But what about his portrait up there, I indicated the large portrait of Freddie over the fireplace with my half eaten biscuit, surely that represented your truer feelings later didn’t it?’
‘The boys had that done not me. Of course, I played along with it when they suggested it, but I would never have done it in a million years. Can’t stand it if I was brutally honest Marj. But it’s only a painting and who looks at ‘em once they’re on the wall? You can be sure I don’t.’
Ironically Edna was right in a way. Apparently while the family were consoling their mother over the loss of their father the old lady yelled, that she hated him, went on to berate the family for not helping enough and had a massive heart attack and died on the spot.
A nice young couple with a newly born baby bought the place. I babysit for them quite regularly which helps me with an excuse not to see Edna quite so much anymore.
About the author
Robin short stories have appeared in CafeLit both on line and in print on a regular basis. He has also entered various writing competitions but has yet to get past being short listed.
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