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Open Features: A D-I-Y Marriage - Part 11

...Mrs Snaps would be a full-time, traditional housewife. She would cook, clean and generally cater for her husband’s needs. In return her husband would provide her with a very generous sum of money every month. She would follow closely the routine worked out over many years and now set out in detail in the folders....

Muriel finds out what life would be like with Cyril.

Brian Lockett's serialised story will continue in Open Writing tomorrow.

In her own bedroom that evening Muriel curled up on the bed and stretched to pick up from the floor a bulky gusseted manila wallet which she had earlier dropped there.

The file.

She might have guessed from their first meeting that there would be a file. Cyril’s working day was governed by files of the old-fashioned, pre-computer type, so it seemed a natural progression to extend this to his private life. Thick wodges of clearly labelled folders, some kept together with an elastic band some colour-coded (key on inside flap), some cross-referenced to other folders. Cyril seemed to have reduced his life to this particular file without which, Muriel guessed, he would not be able to function.

“If I change any of the procedures,” he had explained as they walked back to the bus stop, “I will issue an immediate amendment. But it doesn’t happen very often. You, as a theatre nurse, Muriel, I know will particularly appreciate the need for order, stability, certainty and continuity.”

He clearly expected her to be reassured by this but for some reason she hadn’t been and now, at past 11.30, she flicked through. No way was she going to read every word, but before she drifted off to sleep she had a pretty accurate idea of what it would be like to be Mrs Cyril Snaps.

Mrs Snaps would be a full-time, traditional housewife. She would cook, clean and generally cater for her husband’s needs. In return her husband would provide her with a very generous sum of money every month. She would follow closely the routine worked out over many years and now set out in detail in the folders. He would be willing to discuss with his wife proposals for changes to or extension of the rules and criteria, but it should be understood that he would always have the last word. She would be allowed a private and personal life, provided it did not conflict with anything in the file.

Thoughts of Cyril and his proposal preoccupied Muriel for the next few days. In his case the proposal had nothing special - certainly nothing romantic - about it. To him there seemed to be little difference between ‘I propose we close our Sheffield branch’ and ‘I propose we spend the rest of our life together as man and wife’. Then there was this age thing. Did the personal, private life he was prepared to allow her extend to relationships of what he would probably call a well, you know nature? Or did he genuinely believe that her hormones - like his, if they had ever existed - had just ceased to function?

Then there were the alternatives. Reject Cyril (who would probably not have too much difficulty finding someone else, given his generosity and despite his weirdness) and what lay ahead? Was she ready for a couple of cats and cosy carpet slippers?

She rang him on Thursday.

“Can we talk about redecorating my bedroom?” she asked.

“Of course we can,” said Cyril. “I have some leave coming up, I can tackle it then. And you didn’t get to see my workshop, did you? It must have slipped your mind.”

“Workshop? Ah, yes. You’re right. Things did seem to happen in a bit of a rush. I must have been swept off my feet.”

“I quite understand. When do you want to come round?”

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