The noise of the telephone broke Rachel's concentration. ‘All right, all right,’ she yelled as she removed her hands from the typewriter and irritably snatched up the receiver. It was
After two days of pining, so did she.
The idea of visiting a cinema alone never occurred to
Responding to Cynthia's interrogation about the proposed trip to the cinema, Rachel professed to not being interested in going, explaining that it was
Cynthia suggested a night in might be more beneficial, sarcastically expounding the demerits of theatre managers who refused to show their films in well-lit premises. ‘So,’ she concluded, ‘if all you want to do is gaze at your beau, your best bet is to stay in.’
Rachel inserted carbon between two sheets of paper and rolled them in the typewriter. Cynthia was right. It would be lovely just spending time alone with
‘Well, he is exceptionally handsome,’ Cynthia said.
Rachel licked her lips. Didn't she just know!
She began to type, her fingers flying. ‘Don't hinder me,’ she said to Cynthia, who was lighting up again. ‘I couldn't bear to work over, not today.’
AT four-thirty, Rachel consulted her wristwatch. In precisely one hour the works' whistle would sound; one hour in which to complete the day's toil, made more arduous by Cynthia's vexatious teasing and her relentless smoking. Praying there would be no mistakes she sprinted into Eric's room and slapped the correspondence in front of him.
‘Have you checked them?’
‘Yes,’ she fibbed, glancing again at her watch. In eight minutes
‘Anxious to get off, are you?’
‘Meeting the boy friend?’
Signing his name with a flourish, Eric remarked, ‘He's a lucky man, a very lucky man!’ He ploughed through the heap, autographing the correspondence without his habitual perusal. ‘There you are, the last one. Be off with you.’
Rachel stopped long enough to seal the envelopes ready for Cynthia to stick on the stamps. Clutching the letters to her chest, she scuttled into the outer office and snatched up her coat, almost afraid that if she didn't get there on time,
Having assumed he would use his own car, Rachel was surprised to see
Eric Hudspith drew alongside. ‘I thought you were in a hurry, dear girl.’
Instead of replying, Rachel trotted over to
Shrugging into his grey Mac and adjusting his trilby, Eric queried their intended destination as if he had a right to know. His response to the news that they were going to the Odeon, was: ‘In the best seats, I hope. Our girl must be treated properly. As a matter of fact, she's earned a whit of pleasure, having taken dictation three times today without a murmur.’
Colour flooded Rachel's face as she linked
Eric finally took the hint. ‘I mustn't detain you,’ he said, looking directly at Rachel. ‘Now don't forget, dear girl, bright and early tomorrow. We must clear those export letters.’
The foreman lowered the shutters to secure his section of the building, the mechanism groaning as he cranked the handle.
‘Nothing,’ returned Rachel, alarm in her voice. The flush rose again when
‘Wish I could come with you,’ grumbled Rachel as they passed the corner shop and took the side road to the river.
They strolled up the main road alongside the River Tame; a fair name for a river, gentle sounding. One would think, without full knowledge of the immediate district, that the area would be rural, with cows grazing in the fields and picnickers on the embankment, and it might formerly have been so, before the erection of industrial buildings.
Frequently, Rachel halted to lean on the railings and study the rippling water, loath to arrive home too soon. Once there, if her mother was in,
‘Did you miss me?’ Rachel inquired sulkily, not caring that it was against the rules to pressurise a man.
Apparently failing to hear,
Now that she was grown-up and childish misdemeanours laid to rest, Rachel could not envisage transgressing at all, let alone committing crime serious enough to warrant long-term confinement, but she would not be responsible for her actions if this man, sauntering like a toff at her side, didn't get his act together.
Amy was leaning over the sink watching a dying bluebottle, clearly captivated by its feeble attempts to lift its wings. A recent discharge of Summer Bouquet had not quite masked the smell of last night's chicken curry. ‘This one's a survivor,’ she said, unfolding her body and depositing a long-handled fly swat on the window sill. ‘It's driven me crazy trying to whack it.’
‘But you succeeded, Mum.’
‘Oh, yes. Couldn't let the little beggar win, could I?’
For the umpteenth time, Rachel thanked the Lord that her parents had resolved their differences. Toby had wholly forgiven his wife for the incident with the knife, and the last few weeks had seen Amy a happier woman; still snappy, but there was logic in her complaints, whereas previously they were totally irrational. It was the coquettishness Rachel disliked, though her father didn't seem to mind.
Suddenly aware that
Amy planted her forefinger on his chin and softly uttered: ‘Splendid.’
The drama made Rachel want to puke. She filled the kettle and unhooked the mugs from the dresser, banging them on the table, then slammed about collecting milk and sugar and salad for tea while Amy sat with
As always, Toby timed his arrival for when the food was ready. He greeted
‘Yes, thank you, Sir.’
Amy's already erect spine straightened another inch.
Toby asked if Amy had told
‘Oh, I'm sure he doesn't want to hear about my tedious expedition. Do you,
‘Well, I ....’
Announcing that tea was ready, Rachel slapped down a dish of salad. The dish was cut-glass, her mother's prized possession, but Rachel didn't care. It would serve her right if it got demolished. ‘Come on,’ she directed
Amy shuffled her chair in. ‘Isn't it pleasant to have company, Toby? We must invite
Prevented from responding by a mouthful of gammon ham, Toby grunted, but he noticed Rachel's disdain and dipped his head to petition her to have patience.
It wouldn’t be easy, not with Amy displaying her most feminine attributes.
At me, Gary!
That night, Rachel examined her naked body in the looking-glass, nipping the inches of surplus flesh where her waist should be, recoiling at the hugeness of her hips. Her belly protruded, her breasts were too full, and her thighs wobbled as she swivelled to inspect her rear. Zooming away from the mirror, she grabbed her filmy nightdress: pale blue, her mother's gift last birthday, an unwise choice in view of her gross size. ‘A strict diet, Rexie,’ she cried. ‘No more chocolates or chips.’
Rex ceased cleaning his paws and gazed at her longingly, chips being his favourite food next to battered fish and strawberry ice cream. He looked thoroughly downcast when she hopped into bed.
‘You'll never have chips again, Rexie,’ she said, huddling inside the duvet. ‘You'll have to do without, like me.’ And she burst into tears, as much frustrated by the prospect of starvation as her mother's theatrical performance.