‘Of course I know how important this is.’ Trisha tried not to yell down the phone.
‘Yes, I can read! I got your letter, and I made an appointment.’ She nestled the phone on her shoulder and took some cups from the kitchen cupboard.
‘That’s not true! I always keep my appointments! I want to discuss the options I was offered in the letter.’ She juggled cups and put the last of the bread in the toaster.
‘But I have an appointment with your manager tomorrow!’ Trisha cradled the gold and white, cordless telephone receiver with her shoulder, poured water into the china tea-pot with one hand, and picked up a small appointments diary in her other.
‘No it was for the 27th!’ She corrected the voice on the line. ‘No,’ she interrupted the reply. ‘No, that can’t be right.’ The diary slipped from her grasp and landed in the cat’s water bowl. ‘Damn!’ She bent to retrieve the soggy diary. ‘No, sorry, no I wasn’t speaking to you.’ Trisha knew she should calm down. This whole mess was not her fault. DISCWIFF, (Dick-In-Sports-Car-With-Foot-Fetish,) was the villain, but he was playing dumb. ‘Let me just take a look in my diary,’ she pleaded with the girl on the phone as she peeled back the soggy pages, and then glanced at the smoke rising from the toaster. The diary slipped from her grasp again when she lunged to retrieve the toast. ‘Sorry,’ she spoke into the handset that was wedged under her chin, ‘I’ll be with you in a sec.’ There was no bread to make more toast, and she didn’t want to go without breakfast. She started to scrape the black bits off. Alan was the cause of all her misery. Even the bread shortage was down to him. She’d not had a maintenance cheque from him in weeks.
Her estranged husband had run off with TITSNOBB, (Tits-No-Brian-Bimbo,) leaving her to cope with the horrors of his secrecy, his lies and deceit, not to mention the bills, the bank, the kids, the car and the cat.
Lizabeth slouched into the kitchen in slippers and towelling dressing gown. ‘Not dressed yet?’ Trisha scolded her daughter. ‘Sorry, no, not you,’ she’d forgotten the phone under her chin. She dropped the toast and started shaking water from her diary again. ‘I was talking to my daughter. You were saying?’ She listened while pointing to her watch and mouthed silently, ‘‘get a move on,’’ to Lizabeth.
When she spoke into the receiver, her voice was louder than she intended, ‘But that’s why I made the appointment!’ She sighed and turned her back on her daughter who was pointedly ignoring her anyway. She frantically turned the dripping pages of her diary. ‘But the 25th was Monday, wasn’t it?’
The voice on the other end of the line snarled a response.
‘Of course I know what day it is today!’ she barked. ‘Here, I found it.’ She felt a moment of triumph that was so short lived it could have been measured in nano-seconds. The blue smudge was just about legible, ‘bank appointment 25th,’ was clearly written against the date of Wednesday the 27th. Which was tomorrow’s date.
‘Oh, no, I wrote it in the wrong place.’ Trisha was fighting to keep a lid on her rising panic as she listened to the girl at the bank. ‘But that’s not fair, if you could just give me a little more time. Yes I know tomorrow is the latest date for the payment, you just told me, didn’t you!’
The detached voice became sharper in her ear.
‘I am not snapping!’ Trisha snapped. The line went dead. ‘Bitch!’ Trisha threw the receiver into an untidy pile of laundry that lay on the marble-tiled floor of the kitchen.
‘Bad news?’ Lizabeth’s pale face was pinched, her voice full of condescension. ‘When are you going to get organised and get a job, Mother?’ she asked, with all the superiority that her teenage years had endowed her with. ‘You’ll have us on the streets in weeks at this rate.’
Trisha realised that her daughter’s prediction was closer to the truth than she dare contemplate. ‘Better start saving cardboard boxes then, hadn’t you!’ The words were out before she could stop them. It wasn’t her daughter’s fault they were in this mess. It was all DISCWIFF’s making. If, Dick-in-a-Sports-Car-with-Foot-Fetish, AKA her absent husband, Alan, hadn’t kept his wits in his pants they would still be a normal family. If he hadn’t gone off with TITSNOBB, (Tits-no-brain-bimbo,) to God knows where on the other side of the city, Trisha would be shopping for Christmas trees and presents this weekend. If his business hadn’t gone bankrupt, she’d be sending and receiving party invitations and choosing which ones to accept instead of getting the cold shoulder from just about all the couples she used to call friends. She’d be planning who to invite for Christmas lunch and not worrying if she could afford a turkey or have to make do with a scrawny chicken for the festive meal.
‘Eat your breakfast.’ Trisha lit a cigarette, her fourth since getting out of bed. ‘I’ve got an interview this afternoon. With a little luck...’ she left the sentence unfinished.
‘What is it this time?’ Lizabeth raised her eyebrows, ‘financial director of, Flaps Are Us, or personal assistant to the head of, Old Farts Charity Parties? After all, that’s all you’d be any good at.’
‘I’m doing my best, Liz.’ Trisha gave her daughter an acidic look. ‘I’ll get something, you’ll see.’ She squared her shoulders and took a positive drag on the cigarette. ‘Where’s your brother?’
Lizabeth shrugged. ‘How the fuck should I know?’
‘Don’t use that language, Lizabeth,’ Trisha blew smoke down her nose while she inspected her splitting nails. She glanced up at the ceiling and bellowed, ‘Robert! Get yourself down here or I’ll tell all your friends about Pouchie.’
‘You wouldn’t!’ Lizabeth’s eyes sparkled with evil glee.
‘Of course I wouldn’t, but it doesn’t hurt to let him think I might.’ Trisha’s heart tore a little more as she thought of her twelve-year-old son cuddling the old toy rabbit. Her husband was putting them all through hell and Robbie wasn’t dealing with it very well. ‘He can’t help it. He’s missing your dad.’
‘I miss Dad, but I don’t have to sleep with a battered old rabbit to make me feel better.’
‘That’s because you’re old enough to cope.’
‘Like you, you mean?’ Lizabeth sneered.
Trisha took another long pull on her cigarette. ‘Explain!’
Lizabeth sighed, shrugged and raised her eyes to the ceiling. ‘For Pouchie read cigarettes, for Pouchie read gin, for Pouchie –‘
‘Enough!’ Trisha stubbed out the half smoked cancer stick on her half-eaten burnt toast. She struggled with the lump in her throat. ‘I wish I was fifteen again, and knew all the answers like you do.’
‘I’m going for a shower.’ Lizabeth scraped back the dining chair and flounced out of the room. The slamming of the door shook the cups on the table. ‘Robbie, you’d better not be hogging the bathroom!’ Lizabeth screeched as she pounded up the stairs two at a time.
Trisha sighed and closed her eyes. Things couldn’t get more desperate. The house her parents had left to her was about to be repossessed. It was the only home she’d ever known. When her parents had been killed in a boating accident when she was in her teens, everything they had became hers. When she met Alan, everything she owned became his. She didn’t argue when he took it for granted that her money was his to spend. She loved him. Loving was about sharing, about trust, about looking after each other’s interests, or so Alan kept telling her. When he moved into her home, and her bed she gave up everything she was to be his wife, foolishly believing the sacrifice of her identity was worth it to be so cherished.
Alan had mortgaged the house in her name two years ago to raise capital to save his sinking business. She didn’t question it. She signed the papers willingly, to please Alan, who explained the benefits of having things in her name. The business continued to sink, but Trisha had been oblivious. She didn’t know about the eighteen years of lies and deceit at that stage. Alan had conned her into signing the papers for the house, like he’d conned her about everything else. He neglected to tell her he hadn’t kept up the payments for the mortgage when he left, so the debt was now severely in arrears and the hounds were baying at the door. If only she’d not left all that kind of thing to Alan, but he’d never allowed her to bother her pretty little head with complicated financial issues. What a bloody fool she’d been. If only she’d known earlier how much of a mess he’d let the finances get into. If she’d realised how much Alan …..
It was no good going over the, ‘if onlys,’ again. She lay awake every night listing them into the small hours. There were a flock of them and she counted them like other people counted sheep. If only she could get a job; if only she could pay the mortgage, the electricity bill, the rates, the school fees, the car insurance. It was humiliating to get the bus when she had a perfectly good Fiesta in the garage. If only she could get a job. If only Alan hadn’t met TITSNOBB. If only TITSNOBB had been strangled at birth! It was all that bitch’s fault!