Thursday, 10 April 2008
Michael struggled up the hill from the market with his bags of groceries getting heavier with every step. Parking in the village was never easy at the best of times but on market day it was a nightmare. The small official car park filled up very early with shoppers who had travelled down from the remote hillside farms.
Every week Michael promised himself that he would set off earlier so that he’d have more chance of finding a good parking space but every week was the same, Sonny refused to get out of bed before sunrise and always insisted on at least one pot of coffee before their shopping trip. This morning should have been different, Sonny was in Barcelona visiting his friends who were over from England, so with only himself to organise Michael should have been in plenty of time for a prime parking space. But trouble with his car meant that he was late again and the nearest place he could find to park was just opposite Mrs Hale’s house.
Loading the groceries into his car Michael glanced over the road. He thought it was strange that he hadn’t seen Mrs Hale at the market this morning and even stranger that her curtains were still tightly drawn. Closing the boot Michael looked up again and thought that he saw the curtains twitch at the bedroom window.
Crossing the road Michael walked over to her house and gently knocked on the front door. The poor thing must be poorly he thought, maybe she’s having a lie-in. Checking his watch Michael knocked again, a little louder this time, with still no response Michael made his way back to his car. Maybe I’ll ask Gloria to look in on her this afternoon he thought and tentatively starting the engine he made his way slowly down the hill towards the garage to get the mechanic to have a look at his car. Sonny would want picking up from the station tomorrow and Michael didn’t want a repeat of this morning’s fiasco with the starting motor to happen again.
Clara moved quickly back from the window and sat heavily down on her unmade bed. Her bedroom, like the rest of her house, was simply decorated. With no pictures on the walls or ornaments cluttering up the shelves it looked more like a holiday rental than a home. Her parents’ house had been full of clutter. Every ornament lovingly dusted each week, all the pots and pans in the kitchen gleaming and the small Persian rugs beaten over the washing line in the loving tendered garden.
Her Mother had kept a fine home, everybody said so, even at the end when she was old and tired she would struggle with the mop to wash the kitchen floor every morning. But Clara was more like her Father, too busy with her career to be interested in homemaking.
This was the first house since her parents died that Clara could call home. Her tiny flat in London had merely been somewhere to store her clothes when she was working for the Dept. Years of living out of hotel rooms had made her long for a place that she could call her own.
Sitting all alone looking at the bare walls Clara realised that her new life was under threat. She had spotted Michael's car when she had gone to draw back the bedroom curtains this morning. Was he keeping her under surveillance, and why did he knock at her door? He probably wants me to know that he has recognised me thought Clara. What does he want from me?
The shrill of her phone made Clara jump. ‘Clara how are you? The sun still shining out there is it? Bloody miserable her in London, typical spring day, sunshine and showers they said on the BBC but we’re still waiting for the sun’
‘Justin, lovely to hear from you, do you have any news for me about our Mr Angers?’
‘Yes Clara you were right, Michael Angers was in the service before taking early retirement in the mid nineties. I’ve done a bit of digging on your behalf and must admit that he has had a colourful life since he retired.’
‘What do you mean colourful’
‘Nothing sinister my dear, after his dear old Mum died he bought a Bed and Breakfast in Brighton. Did very well by all accounts, that’s how he met his partner, Sonny used to stay at Michael’s place when he was performing on the south coast.’
‘Performing? Was Sonny an actor?’
‘Not quite, Sonny Lansford’s stage name is Monica Tension and Miss Tension is a very successful Drag Queen’ said Justin laughingly
‘’So you see Clara unless you have upset the Gay Mafia I think that your little secret is quite safe.’
Putting down the phone Clara walked around the house opening up all the curtains to let the golden Spanish sun flood the rooms with its honey light.
What a fool, she thought, what a fool to think that Michael could possibly want to expose her. After all what is the worst he could have said, ‘Clara Hale used to work for the Security Services. ‘Big deal, for all he knew she might have worked in personnel or admin, how could he possibly now that she had been an agent? In her relief Clara realised just how foolish her worrying had been.
Like a lot of people forced into retirement, Clara now realised that her job had somehow defined her and without the job her life was somehow diminished. People looked at you differently when all they saw was an old woman. They didn’t take the time to see what it was that made the woman what she was. And the danger she thought was that she had started to become what people expected of her. Poor old dear, lives on her own, eats on her own, just sitting out the end of her days in the sunshine.
Well no more of that nonsense, thought Clara, today the day that this little worm well and truly turns. I’ve not worked all these years just to wait for death in Spain. I’ve come here to live and enjoy what ever time I’ve got left, not waste it worrying about the past. Life is for living and from now on Clara Hale is going to live life to the full.