Margot jangled the keys to her tiny third floor flat, still breathing heavily from the forty-two step climb, the bulging carrier bag of shopping adding to her exertions. As she opened the front door she knew that Bobby would be there, waiting excitedly on the other side. He had very acute hearing.
“I’m home!” she called from the doorway, releasing her shopping load with relief and hurrying into the lounge to envelop Bobby in a big hug.
“Love you,” she sighed.
Margot then eased into her daily routine. She removed her hat, scarf, coat, tabard and work shoes and placed each into its correct home. She poked the toes of her tired feet into comfy slippers and shrugged into her old friend, the faded red cardigan that hung from the hook inside the cupboard door. It had one button missing but that was OK as the button was safe in the pocket, wrapped in a piece of tissue. As ever, Margot checked that it was there and then, satisfied, she moved into the kitchen and flicked the switch on the kettle. She knew that Bobby had his own routine too. When she was out he spent his day dozing comfortably on his side of the sofa, his favourite place to sit. Next to her, of course. Whenever she picked him up to give him a big hug, Margot could see his imprint in the soft cushion.
She made herself busy in the kitchen, carefully putting away the shopping. The tins in the cupboard were stacked according to size, labels facing the front. They were her soldiers, lined up, ready for action. She carefully wiped down the counter top, removing every crumb, real or imaginary and every smear until the worn and faded worktop glistened in the light. She moved the tea bag tin fractionally to the left. That was better. Lovely. Just how she liked it. Always had done since she moved in on her wedding day 34 years ago. She couldn’t abide mess, or messy people. She hummed to herself. Today was a happy day. A laughing day. No tears. No angry scenes today.
Margot burbled on about some of her customers’ quirky purchases and every time she looked up, there was Bobby, looking right back, hanging on her every word. She could see the twinkle in his eyes, especially when Margot laughed. Margot laughed a lot but sometimes she also got very angry and then things got damaged. Sometimes she cried and laughed at the same time. Margot never knew what each day would bring, the laughing, or the crying or getting angry but she knew that Bobby didn’t mind.
The kettle roared away, agitating the water to the boil, angry at its enforced idleness since breakfast that morning. Margot ignored the kettle’s drone and carried on chatting to Bobby across the kitchen counter. It wasn’t much of a conversation but Margot knew he was listening. She knew that he wanted to know all about her day on the minimart checkout.
“Old Mrs. Thompson, you know, from No. 23, well you’ll never guess what she bought today?”
Bobby couldn’t guess but it didn’t matter as Margot told him anyway.
“Three packs of cigarettes, a tin of spaghetti hoops and a tin of sardines, of all things! Didn’t know she smoked. Must have her son coming to stay….”
Bobby continued to listen from the sofa, his head, as ever, slightly tilted to one side.
“…and I know she doesn’t like sardines. She told me. Perhaps her son is bringing his cat. That’ll be nice, won’t it Bobby?”
Bobby didn’t disagree.
“Tea?” she called out, followed by her habitual chuckle. Of course she and Bobby would have tea together. That’s what they did every day when she came home. Part of the routine. Margot brought tea for them both and set them down on the low table in front of the sofa. Three sugars for Margot and just the one for Bobby. Well, he was much smaller than her, wasn’t he? Margot flopped down beside Bobby, their sides pressed companionably together. It was so nice to be home. How they both loved those moments of gentle relaxation at the end of Margot’s shift. She slipped her arm around him and gave a sigh of contentment. She picked up the TV times and flipped through it to plan their evening’s viewing.
“ Oh good. Look Bobby, “Silent Witness” is on at 9. You like that don’t you?”
She sipped her tea and took a silver foil pack of pink, sugar-coated pills from her handbag. She popped a couple of her “special” tablets out and looked at them in the palm of her hand. Another part of her routine. An important part that the doctor said she must not forget. As if she would!
“….or else you may have another of your episodes and we don’t want that now, do we, Margot?” suggested the doctor in that slightly patronising, slightly over-loud voice but Margot didn’t mind.
Obligingly, Margot had said, “No, we don’t, doctor” even though she had absolutely no idea what actually happened during her so-called “episodes.” Each one started without warning when she was fully conscious and finished when she regained consciousness. She had no idea what happened in between and no desire to find out. As long as no one got hurt, that was OK with her and broken crockery could easily be replaced. So she slipped the pills down the side of the sofa where they nestled with the scores of others, mingling with a pin, a fluff-covered mint imperial and a pound coin. Part of the routine. She never forgot to do it. The doctor would be pleased. Such a nice young woman.
Margot dropped off into a peaceful light sleep, her red-cardiganned chest rising and falling gently, Bobby resting contentedly by her side, his clear eyes unblinking. He gazed up at her through the many layers of cling film that Margot had wrapped around him to keep him warm after Margot had noticed one day that he was stiff and cold. He’d been eating the pink pills that Margot hadn’t noticed had slipped through the lining of the sofa to the carpet beneath. He had a sweet tooth. Later, she added extra layers just for extra warmth and kept the heating on. Well, winter was coming on, wasn’t it? The extra layers of wrapping also helped to keep the flies away.
Margot came round from her sleep. Having a cat was such a comfort she always said as she gently stroked Bobby through the plastic. He crackled with contentment as she tickled him behind the ear. She sipped her tea, poured into her saucer, cold now and just how she liked it. She didn’t notice a tiny but well nourished fly that wriggled free from between the layers and zig-zagged its bloated way across the room to settle lazily in the fruit bowl. Meat course over, now for the fruit.
“Right, well this won’t do, will it, Bobby? Time for tea, I think.” Margot stood up briskly and walked into the kitchen.
“What would you like tonight, Bobby? Your usual, I expect, eh? “ She opened the cupboard and took out two small tins.
“Pilchards or tuna? “ She held up the tins and looked at Bobby and Bobby looked back. “Tuna, pilchards, pilchards,tuna?” She juggled the tins from hand to hand.
“OK, tuna it is.” She placed the tin to one side.
Margot picked up the spare tin opener and the tin of pilchards. She crossed the room and leaned over her husband of 34 years, sitting silently in his armchair, eyes wide open and fixed on the blank television screen.
“I’m still not talking to you,” she told him sternly, waggling the handle of the carving knife that protruded from his chest through the many layers of cling film that bound him to his chair. “You’ll have to get your own tea”! She put the opener and the tin on his lap. “You’ll have to make do with the pilchards. Bobby’s having the tuna.” It was one of her happy days so she laughed then. Bobby, Margot and her husband. Home sweet home. Her husband was happy too. He liked pilchards but his only reply as he drip, drip, dripped onto the carpet was a tiny crackle of plastic and a faint buzz as another fat fly escaped and headed for the fruit bowl