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Open Features: A D-I-Y Marriage - Part 13

Muriel discovers that in Cyril's life controlling file the section marked The Future is empty. She decides to make her own plans.

The fourteenth and concluding part of Brian Lockett's story will appear in tomorrow's Open Writing.

The register office wedding (Bearing in mind our maturity, I think church would be a bit over the top) took place on a Saturday in mid-January. Stenson and his wife attended and Muriel’s friend from The Royal, Belinda. No-one else. Cyril accepted with his customary smirk handshakes and congratulations from the guests and his second kiss on the lips from Muriel. Afterwards they sat down to a meal at a nearby restaurant.

“Now that you are Mrs Snaps,” Stenson said, you’re eligible to attend all our major out-of-office events. Now that Cyril’s on the board.”

“I didn’t know he was on the board.” said Muriel.

“Well, he is now.” Stenson squeezed her arm. “Thanks to you.”

Muriel worked this out for herself, but decided not to raise the matter with her new husband.

She spent the following Monday at the hospital, surprising everyone by announcing her intention to leave. She kept an eye on the time, because she knew - from the file, of course - that Cyril would be home shortly after seven and would expect to be fed.

The evening did not start well.

From the kitchen she heard the door close behind him and the jangle of his keys as he dropped them into the copper bowl by the telephone on the hall table. It was when the music started and almost immediately stopped that she guessed all was not well. She hurried through and found him standing rigid and staring straight ahead. He was obviously having difficulty breathing.

“The file!” he shouted, his face contorted with rage.

“What’s wrong, Cyril? Are you ill?”

“Don’t just stand there, woman. Bring the file. Now.”

“Cyril, hadn’t you better calm down? For some reason you’ve got yourself into a state. Let me get you .. ”

He interrupted, his fury barely controlled.

“All you have to get me is the file. I will wait here.”

Muriel turned away, searching her memory for the file. Yes, it was in the suitcase she had brought with her the previous evening. She hurried upstairs to her room, fished out the file.

“Get the folder marked Music and read what it says for Monday.

She did so.

“It’s Mozart on Monday, Cyril. So?”

“But I’m not getting Mozart, am I? I am getting bloody Haydn. You forgot to change the CD. You know where the CDs are, you know which composer is for which day and you know the order in which the CDs are to be chosen for each day of the week. What is your explanation for giving me Haydn on Monday when you should be giving me Mozart?”

He was speaking like a machine gun, spitting out the words with great venom. She noticed that his hands were beginning to shake.

“I goofed, Cyril. I screwed up. I forgot to change the CD. I’m sorry, but, come on, it’s no big deal. Look, just sit down and I’ll go and make the change now.”

She remembered he had shown her the music control room, a converted walk-in cupboard under the stairs. Now she did what needed to be done and the house was suddenly surrounded by the Linz.

“All right, Cyril. Loosen your tie. You look as if you’re about to have an apoplectic fit. Come and sit in your favourite chair and I’ll pour you a drink.”

A thought struck her, and, having settled her husband and removed his shoes, she crossed to the drinks cabinet, hiding the file under her skirt. She fished out the folder marked Drinks. Monday. Chardonnay. Right.

But even as she carried a glass across to him, she knew she was not out of the wood yet.

Whilst he sipped, trance-like, she consulted the file again. Shit. Monday was chicken risotto night. Not chilli con carne.

Cyril was getting unsteadily to his feet.

“Muriel,” he said. “I’m not feeling very well. I think I’ll go to bed.”

“Very sensible, dear. It’s all my fault and I’m very sorry. You put yourself to bed and I’ll come up and check your pulse and temperature. And I think you’d better skip dinner tonight. I doubt if your digestive system could cope with chicken risotto right now. Tomorrow is - remind me again, please.”

“Fish,” said Cyril, making for the door. “If you could make it salmon I think I would be able to enjoy that after a good night’s rest and the day’s routine at the office.”

She watched anxiously as he slowly climbed the stairs. That was close. She went back into the dining room and closed the door.

Over her chilli con carne and rice Muriel took advantage of Cyril’s indisposition and went through the file. There were no folders labelled Holidays, Friends, Entertainment, Leisure. The folder marked Will contained a copy of Cyril’s will in which he left everything to her. The folder marked boldly though, perhaps, optimistically, she thought, The Future was empty. As she stirred her coffee she fought against a black cloud which refused to be dispersed.

If Cyril had made no plans for their future, then she would have to make her own.

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