So just when was I beginning to get some work done (apart from my bloody chair keeps going down as I’m trying to type. I have to keep pumping it up and pfffffff, I’m going down again and not in a fun way. And weirdly it used to be, didn’t it? Can’t think of anything worse now. I’d want to squirt it with Milton first. I mean look what happened to Michael Douglas. HPV people!)
Anyway, just as I’m beginning to start writing important articles again for Country Matters like ‘Should Dogs Be Allowed on The Bed?’ and a cut-out and keep guide to Trug Making, forgetting all about the neighbours and their strange and treacherous goings-on, this happens:
The bloody removal lorry that took the Smiths away a few weeks ago is BACK and so are the Smiths, complete with their strange ruddy child and incontinent Dachshund. Si and I twitch behind Vita’s curtains unable to believe our eyes. They are moving into the house two down from their old one. A really lovely couple we know had been allocated the house because it was easier to get to GOSH (Great Ormond Steet) with their special needs baby. “They’ve been sent to Shepperton.” Says Si. “And now we know why.” Teflon Fiona looks up and waves. We are forced to wave back. Shepperton is twinned with Chernobyl for social life and architecture (but slightly less radiation).
Si gets on the blower to Buck. He and Mandy are watching from their window, too. Buck has ‘intel’. Apparently, the residents barricaded the entrance to the married patch in Catterick – they didn’t want traitors living there. Si hangs up and there is a pounding on our front door. We look at each other. “You go.”
Si: “No, you.”
Me: “This is your shitty line of work. Nothing to do with me.”
Si sighs and pads down the stairs to open the door. He looks through the spyhole. “It’s Dr Nick.” He calls up the stairs and I start inhaling again.
Nick: “Jesus, let me in. I can feel her laser beam eyes boring into my back.” Si bundles the doctor in and puts the chain on the door.
Nick: “That year seemed to go in no time. It seemed just like weeks since they left.”
Me: “Did you speak to them?”
Nick: “No. I was putting the bins out when they got out the car. I didn’t know what to do so I strode over here with purpose, avoiding eye contact at all costs. I thought she was meant to be in jail.”
Si: “Trial’s not til next month.”
Nick: “And she was definitely selling stuff to the Russians?”
Si: “Yup. We’ve got surveillance of the last 30 ‘drops’.”
There’s a knock at the door. Sienna comes out of the kitchen from drawing and wants to answer it. We all tell her she can’t. Dr Nick looks through the spyhole. “It’s Mandy and Buck.” He puts his hand to his chest to calm his racing heart.
Mandy: “Quickly! Hurry up!”
Nick closes the door behind them. Now what?
I scoop up Vita from her, awoken by the visitors and we settle down in the sitting room, while Si makes tea.
Buck: “I’m not living next to traitors. End of.”
Nick: “Innocent until proven guilty?”
Buck: “With respect Nick, if you’d seen the file… That woman’s put 100s of lives at risk, including Prince ‘Arry; she’s f*cked up loads of counter-terrorism operations all over the world and made hundreds of thousands while she’s at it. I hope they throw away the key.”
Si: “I’d like to see her head on a pike outside the Tower, like in the good old days. But we have to act normally, especially as none of the wives or you Nick are meant to know anything.”
Me: “What? I didn’t know that.”
Si: “I told you not to tell anyone. I made you swear on the Bible!”
Me: But I’m not religious. I didn’t tell anyone… But I Might have posted it on Facebook. But that’s all.”
Buck / Si: “What?!”
Mandy: “I didn’t tell a soul, Buck.”
Buck: “Well done, pumpkin.”
Bloody Mandy is so disloyal. Talk about throwing me under the bus.
Nick: “I told loads of people because Nessa didn’t tell me it was a secret.”
I glower at him. “I’m joking,” he says. He squeezes my thigh until he becomes aware Si is staring at him and awkwardly coughs taking his hand to his mouth. I look at him. There is something, isn’t there? I feel noticed. I can still make men spontaneously grip my thigh! Dr Nick and that new brain surgeon in Fiona’s old house, they could have a thigh each. Is it okay to think that? Yes, I tell myself, smiling at Si, who is currently holding court. He’s hot too when he shuts up. But he does go on and on… He’s speaking in acronyms now. “JSOC, SO2, SO4, MOD..”. Some days I think I’m Lynn and he’s Alan Partridge in the Army. ‘Er. Lynn, report to the cutlery drawer. There seems to be a problem with pieces cutlery occupying the wrong territory. The spoons have invaded the forks and the knives have annexed the teaspoons. Would you like to explain how this happened?’ And I say: ‘Yeah, I tipped the cutlery basket into the drawer, slammed it shut with my butt and it just sort of happened.’ And the blood would drain from his face as he tried to process the sort of person who would do something that. The sort of person he had married.
The doorbell sounds and we all stare at each other, panicked (yes, even the trained killers). Si asks me if it’s another one of my Amazon deliveries but I shake my head. “Vains” he says, which is our very mature game where whoever says vains first is exempt from doing a particular task, usually nappies. I habitually win but today I have lost the door. Urgh.
I peer through the spyhole. “Is it Granny?” says Sienna. I shake my head. It’s the TRAITORESS. I rush back into the sitting room. “I can’t do it. Maybe she’ll just leave?”
Si: “Go! Act normal.”
Mandy: “That’s a bad idea for Nessa.”
Everyone laughs. I need to have a word with that so-called friend. I walk to the door about to turn the handle but I freeze. I don’t need this stress. This isn’t my gig. I turn around.
Si: “Open the bloody door!”
I open it. A quick peek and there’s no one there. I let my shoulders drop from around my ears and close the door, but a running shoe stops it from shutting. I push on it. I don’t want her in. “Ow!”
Me: (out loud) “Go away!”
“Oh. Come in. Sorry. I thought you were in Africa saving lives.” I open the door wide and standing before me, instead of Dr Nick’s wife, Anna, is FIONA.
Arghh! I run from the door. Everyone in the living room, including Sienna, whispers to me: “Act normally.”
I run back to the door and say I was in the middle of my HITT. I finish with some star jumps as she regards me.
Fiona: “In your slippers?”
Me: “Yes. Welcome back. Seems like no time at all.”
Fiona: “Catterick was lovely but it’s good to be back. Looking forward to Book Club. Mandy said you were hosting this week.”
The blood flows to my face and my cheeks start to burn and that’s when I hear myself say, “Mandy’s just in the sitting room. Come in and say hi.” Because if I’m going to be thrown under the bus I’m taking every other bastard with me.
Me: “Look who it is!”
Everyone jumps up and there is a chorus of ‘hi’s’ and ‘how are yous?’, their voices a little higher pitched than usual. Mandy is particularly shrill. ‘Hi! That’s great you can make book club. I put the message on the Patch Facebook page and it must have automatically come to your email,” she says looking at me pointedly. But that doesn’t wash with me because I’m going to have to host a Russian double agent at Book Club now and I didn’t even want to host bloody Book Club in the bloody first place.
Me: “Mandy was just saying how much she missed Basil. Now you have your dog sitter back.”
Mandy’s eyes flash at me. “And your babysitter. You know how fond Nessy is of little Fenella.”
Fiona: “Ah, well I’m ahead on that one. Vaselina’s coming to work for me fulltime.”
Fiona: “Gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse.”
And, in that moment *poofff* goes my newly arranged childcare – enabling me to WORK – and the entire Patch’s babysitting.
Will this woman stop at nothing?