A tale of three fifty-somethings
They had met at the age of five in Miss Plumbtree’s Nursery classes. Long before the days of compulsory Infant Schools -–starting at 3 ½ . Those were the days of pretty party dresses, and they ate jellies and blancmanges. Cheeseburgers and dried tomatoes hadn’t been invented.
They lived in a small Wiltshire town, when small-town people tended to stay in their small town, and marry people from that town, and eventually die there. That was the norm. You knew all your neighbours, and could play in the street. It was a quiet life.
Diana had weathered the years well, still fitting into her designer jeans and bikinis with stylish aplomb. Somehow she had never married, though the opportunities had been there. Her business had flourished. She drank too much but seemed in control of her life.
Ruth’s life had been very different, she had been widowed young, and now struggled to cope with a bed-ridden Mother and the vicissitudes of two difficult adult daughters.
Judy bulged a bit, laughed a lot, and adored her family. She still missed her children, although they had long since left to raise their own families. She was the one who had suggested a long week-end in Sidmouth, remembering happy holidays in the distant past, and feeling that the beautiful summer that the year had miraculously produced deserved a sea-side resort such as Sidmouth. So here they were. three fifty-somethings converging on a sea-front Hotel just in time for lunch. Diana had the single room. The other two shared. The Bellview Hotel was pointedly Retro with floral wall-papers, ornate iron bed-steads complete with brass knobs and crochet bed-spreads.
To begin with it was all so cheery. Running excitedly onto the beach, and paddling in a very childish way; talking nineteen to the dozen, and laughing at all the “Do you remembers” it was fun – nostalgic fun, but after dinner the following day fractures were showing. Diana had downed twice the wine of the other two and, to Ruth’s distress, made a few uncalled for remarks about Lenny, who would and should have married her if Judy hadn’t deliberately stolen him, and had now let herself go, wheras she – Diana – took care of herself and hadn’t.
Ruth said “Ooh! steady on!”
Judy frowned, ordered a double brandy, knocked it back, and in shrill brandy-tones told Diana exactly what she thought of her remarks – adding that Lenny had never really liked her anyway. Then, drawing in her tummy as much as she could she marched rockily upstairs to bed. Ruth followed soon after and found Judy blowing her nose hard and looking miserable; and who, after a few more sniffs decided to go to Diana’s room and apologise.
Diana was not in a receptive mood and when Judy tried to give her a tearful hug and say “sorry” she gave her a push. Judy, by then angry, gave her a hefty push back again. Diana’s stiletto caught in the fringe of her bed-side carpet and she crashed backwards onto the iron bed-stead, straight onto one of
the ornamental brass knobs.
Ruth was snuggled comfortably in bed when an ashen Judy slowly entered into the room, in tears and shaking.
“I’ve killed her. I never meant to – oh God! What shall I do. She’s dead.
She took two tottering steps and was then violently sick.
It was several minutes before Ruth could quieten her down and find out what had happened, and several more minutes before they could summon up the courage to creep down the corridor and open the door to Diana’s room. Picking her up proved difficult, but they managed after a struggle to get her onto the bed. She had no pulse – just lay limp. She was, without doubt, dead. Somehow they got her into her nighty and put her between the sheets. They even tidied her hair. They didn’t quite know why – it just seemed the right thing to do. They returned to their room in silence.
The next morning they went down to breakfast. They drank several cups of strong, black coffee and then went once more to Diana’s room. She lay just as they had left her. Ruth put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door-knob. But the maid was bound to want to enter eventually. This wasn’t something they would be able to hide for long. Judy would go to prison, perhaps Ruth would too. Who would look after her Mother? This just couldn’t be happening to two normal people. Should they go to the Police Station? Should they pack and leave and hope no-one would find them? Answers came too readily for comfort.
They wandered down to the beach before going – as they knew they must –to the Police Station. On a soggy breakwater they sat in misery and fear; around them the sky was a perfect blue and the sea rippled on the shore, full of sunny sparkles.
Footsteps on the shore fractured the quiet. They turned to see two policemen crossing the sands in their direction. They rose to their feet as the Law approached.
“Good morning Ladies. We believe you are staying at the Belview Hotel with a friend – a Miss Diana Walker?”
“Yes” whispered Judy
“Well it seems she’s had a bit of an accident, and I’m afraid they’ve taken her to the Sidmouth General.”
“Is she – er – “
“Yes – pretty bad. She must have had a nasty fall. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this seeing she’s your friend – but this is one of the worst hang-overs I’ve seen. The Barman had given her a bottle of Vodka to take to her room. Its empty now and the Doctor had a hard time bringing her round. She can’t remember a thing, poor lady. He said it could have killed her. Oh Miss! I didn’t mean to upset you.
Put your head between your knees and you’ll feel a lot better.”
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