Muriel licked the tip of her thumb and rubbed at a spot on her living room window.
“I’m just looking at that Fiona Mc Bride’s house, Tom; have you seen the state of her curtains? They look as though they haven’t been washed in a month of Sundays.”
She pulled the sleeve of her cardigan down and, hooking it over the heel of her palm, proceeded to polish away the streaks of dried spit.
Fiona came to her front door to take in the milk; quarter past ten and she was still in her dressing gown. Muriel smiled sweetly and gave a little wave.
“Mucky devil,” she muttered to herself.
“Now you know me, Tom,” she called out. “I like to keep myself to myself; don’t normally pry into other folks business, but I can’t help but notice these things; some people just don’t appear to have any standards when it comes to taking pride in their home.” She cupped her hand around her ear and glanced over her shoulder to check if Tom was paying attention.
“Are you listening to me? It wouldn’t do you any harm to buck your ideas up sometimes!” She craned her neck to see what he was up to in the kitchen.
Just then the telephone rang; she hurried into the hall to answer it.
“Hello sweetheart; it’s our Mary, Tom, she’s calling all the way from Australia.” Muriel stretched the cord as far as it would go; it just about reached the kitchen door, allowing her a glimpse of him in the kitchen.
His eyes widened as he glared at her.
“Sorry love,” she whispered into the receiver, “your Dad’s a bit tied up at the minute, but never mind him. How’s the new baby doing, I’ve missed you both since I got back, can’t wait to come over next year. Dad’s sorry that he didn’t come with me now.”
Half hour later she was still nattering on, “I know, I know; I was only saying to your father how nice it would be for us to move over there, I could help with the children while you go back to work.”
She pulled a clean, freshly ironed, handkerchief from her apron pocket and began dusting the telephone table while she chatted.
The sound of a chair scraping her newly scrubbed kitchen floor grated on her, she brought the conversation to an end. “Well bye-bye for now love, it was lovely to hear from you; I’ll tell Dad all your news. He’ll be sorry he couldn’t drag himself away to speak to you.”
As Muriel stormed into the kitchen, she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck bristle.
“What have you been up to now, you stupid little man?” She slapped the back of his head. “Have you been trying to loosen that string again?” She bent down to check the binds on his hands and feet.
Tom’s eyes pleaded with her.
“It’s no good you looking at me like that,” she snapped. “You should have thought about that when you brought that floozy in here while I was off helping our daughter in her time of need.”
Tom tried to move his lips, they were parched and cracked, but the gag was too tight for even the slightest movement.
“Imagine,” Muriel shouted. “Imagine! Taking her into my bed! My bed!” She repeated the exclamation, her voice rising in pitch.
Wagging a finger, she harangued him further.
“You knew I had just changed those sheets; 600 thread Egyptian, cotton! And my new quilt cover, I saved for a year to buy that. Oh how could you, Tom?”
Tom’s eyes closed.
“Well it shouldn’t be long now,” Muriel sighed. “You’ll be joining her in her nice new bed soon.”
She gazed out of the kitchen window to the bottom of the garden. The new patio looked lovely with the central feature of freshly planted roses.
“They say blood and bone meal are good for roses,” she added absently.
Patting the thinning patch on the top of his head, “imagine our poor Mary’s shock when she hears that her Dad has run off with his secretary,” she murmured.