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U3A Writing: The Eighth Message

In this delicious tale, narrated as a series of recorded phone messages, Patrick Hopton tells of infidelity...and retribution?

‘YOU-HAVE-SEV-EN-MESS-AG-ES,’ intoned the lady with the metallic voice. ‘MESS-AGE-ONE.’

CLICK!

‘June dear, it’s Fay Harris. I’ve only just heard about your mother; it’s so so sad. If you feel up to it we could do with your help at the bazaar on Saturday. Normally I wouldn’t bother you at such a sad time, only we’re desperately short of helpers. Perhaps you can let me know.’

BEEP!

Sorry, Madam Harris. The answer is no on both counts. You’ve taken me for granted long enough.

‘MESS-AGE-TWO.’

CLICK!

‘June, it’s Anna.’

Oh God not Anna, of all people!

‘I really need to talk to you. I know it’s a bad time for you, but I don’t know who else to turn to. Can you ring me?’

BEEP!

Sorry, Anna. You’re the last person on this earth I want to talk to.

‘MESS-AGE-THREE.’

CLICK!

‘Hello Mum, it’s me. Not back yet then?’

Darling Lara, the one person who’ll understand and stick by me whatever.

‘I thought you were looking a bit peeky when we said goodbye after Gran’s funeral. I would’ve stayed on to help you sort out her things, you know I would; but you were so insistent you could manage without me. If I’d known neither Dad nor Graham were going to help you, I certainly would’ve stayed.

Anyhow, I hope it wasn’t too harrowing and that you survived it OK. Look, it’s going to be a desperately lonely time for you now, what with Gran being gone and everything; particularly so with Dad being away so much. Why not stay a few days here with us? I know Alicia would be happy to have you. Let me know. Take care of yourself. Love you. Bye-ee.’

BEEP!

Lara dear, try as I might, you know I never feel comfortable when I visit you in your love nest. Your Alicia is as uneasy with me, as I am with her. Still, thank you for caring about me. Certainly no one else in this family does. Your father least of all.

‘MESS-AGE-FOUR.’

CLICK!

‘Hello darling.’

Ha! My caring husband. Right on cue.

‘Sorry I had to dash off to the States after the old girl’s funeral, but this business deal just wouldn’t keep. It’s still touch and go, so I’ll probably be delayed here for a few days yet. Look, can you collect my suit from the cleaners for me? I need it for Brussels on Monday. It’ll be ready tomorrow. I’ll let you know when I’ll be home. Bye, love.’

BEEP!

No, Lionel darling, I’m afraid you’re going to have to pick up your suit yourself. Or, better still, get that tart of a secretary to do it for you. She’s helped you out of it often enough.

‘MESS-AGE-FIVE.’

CLICK!

‘June, it’s Anna again. Obviously you’re still away. I do really need to talk to you. Please ring me when you can.’

BEEP!

Poor Anna, I almost feel sorry for her. But she’s her own worst enemy. Always so clinging. No wonder Guy has to get away.

‘MESS-AGE-SIX.’

CLICK!

‘Mother! Graham here.’

Now my son too! This surely won’t be an enquiry about my welfare. He must want something.

‘Hope you managed with Gran’s things all right. Sorry I couldn’t stay to help, but Cassie had something urgent on.’

Urgent! That indolent madam! A hair appointment most likely. Or did you have an important golf match?

‘Did you come across Grandad’s gold watch, by the way?’

Ah, here we go!

‘You know Gran always promised it to me. If you have it let me know, and I’ll pick it up next time we call. Otherwise, you can let me have her key and I’ll look for it myself. We’ll try and drop by in a couple of weeks time.’

BEEP!

Will you indeed! How noble of you. Still, it’s only to be expected. Like father, like son. Well I’m sorry to disappoint the pair of you, but I won’t be here.

‘MESS-AGE-SEVEN.’

CLICK!

‘June it’s Anna again. I’ve got to . . .’

God, not Anna again!

BEEP!

‘MESS-AGE-SEV-EN-DELE-TED.’

She deleted the six earlier messages in turn. Hardly had she done so than the telephone rang.

If it’s Anna I’ll scream.

It was not.

‘Mrs Baxter, about your pizza delivery. How would you like it?’

‘Hot and spicy. How else?’

There was a chuckle at the end of the line. ‘Right then, hot and spicy it’ll be. Goodbye.’

‘Hey wait! When do I get it?’ But the line had gone dead. Instantly the door bell rang.

He was leaning nonchalantly against the frame as she opened the door, still holding his mobile phone to his ear.

‘Your pizza, madam,’ he said, grinning broadly.

‘I can’t see any pizza.’

‘But you can see something hot and spicy, though . . . me.’

‘You’d better come in then, Guy darling. I’m absolutely ravenous, and ready to devour you.’

He laughed. ‘Time for that later. I’ve booked us a table for this evening – a romantic dinner for two, with a night of passion to follow. Devouring me now might take the edge off your appetite. Are your suitcases packed?’

Minutes later the telephone rang again in a house now empty.

‘I’m sorry there’s no one here to take your call at the moment,’ responded June’s voice. ‘If you’ll leave a message after the tone one of us will get back to you.’

BEEP-BEEP-BEEEEEP!

‘June, it’s Anna again.’ Sniff. ‘Oh God, I must stop crying. Please excuse me, I just can’t help it. Guy’s left me. He’s gone off with some slut. I’ve had my suspicions he was having an affair; that’s why I’ve been phoning. I wanted to know if you’d heard anything about it. No, if I’m honest it wasn’t that; I was really just seeking reassurance. Now there’s no chance of reassurance. He left a note on the kitchen table to say he won’t be back . . . ever.’

Distress turned to anger. ‘He’s damned right he won’t be back. I know where he’s taking his tart. A restaurant just phoned to confirm a table reservation for tonight. If I can’t have him, then I’m going to make damn sure no one else does. I haven’t spent fifteen years running a restaurant of my own without knowing how to use a knife. I don’t care what the authorities do to me; I’m already dead inside. I probably won’t be seeing you again. Murder is surely an insurmountable obstacle to even the closest of friendships. That’s the only thing I’ll regret about what I’ve got planned for Guy and his slut. I hope you can understand, if not condone. Goodbye, dear June. Thank you for being such a good friend.’

BEEP!

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