I haven’t seen Verity for a while so it was with mixed feelings that I greeted her when she rang the doorbell frantically this morning at 8.30, moments after I had taken another batch of biscuits out of the oven.
“Oh good, you’re up,” she said as she pushed past me and headed into the kitchen. “Is there any coffee? Though frankly, gin would be good!”
I raised an eyebrow at this suggestion, but poured her a coffee, still warm from breakfast. “Are you okay, Verity?” I asked after she had practically drained the mug in one swig.
“More coffee,” she croaked.
Clearly, I was going to have to wait for her to be ready to tell me why she had come round so early in the morning for a major fix of a drug she had plenty of at home. The second mug took a little longer to go down and eventually she took a deep breath and started.
“Firstly, my mother is driving me insane. She’s supposed to be convalescing for three months, but if I have to put up with her for another day I shall probably kill her.
I refrained from comment. Mother/daughter relationships are difficult and unique to each couple. Instead, I nodded sympathetically and waited for her to carry on.
“Secondly, Max has had some sort of accident out in Spain that’s put him in hospital. Quadbiking, apparently, though he’s never shown any interest in that sort of thing before, and he’s broken some ribs and punctured a lung. They phoned last night asking about insurance details so I’ve been up half the night trying to find where Max left the policy stuff, and when I did find it, it turns out he’s not covered for dangerous sports.”
“I didn’t think quadbiking was a dangerous sport.”
“Neither did I until the hospital phoned. But he can’t fly for a least a week so he’s stuck out there learning medical Spanish. He’s only done business Spanish so far.”
“And restaurant Spanish,” I added, trying to add a little levity into the conversation.
“That’s what I said,” Verity said, an annoyed tone to her voice. “And that’s not all. I’m going to have to fly out there to nurse him once he’s discharged from the hospital, and stay there until he’s ready to fly home. Bloody man! Why couldn’t he stick to safe extreme sports?”
Given Verity’s mood, I decided not to point out the contradiction in terms and allowed her to rant on.
“And my usual card’s maxed out after trying to take Mum out to spas and things to help use up the time, so I’ve had to go through the files again this morning to find another card that still has some credit on it. It’s all such a bloody mess!”
At this point, she dissolved into a very atypical sob, so I put my arm around her shoulders, patted her gently and then said, “So what can I do to help?”
She sobbed a bit more, most unlike her, and then, with a sniff worthy of a cocaine addict, said, “I feel bad about this, because you’re already looking after Hedy for me, but can you keep an eye on Mum for me while I’m away? I don’t even know how long it will be for!”
Now, I’m quite a practical person. My first order of business was to find a tissue for Verity before she created a salty pool on the breakfast bar, or worse, and while I went on the hunt, I thought about the practicalities. But really, I was going to say yes, whatever the difficulties; it wasn’t as if we were going away, so I would be around. It would just be one extra thing to fit into my day.
“But I can’t take her off to spas and so on,” I warned Verity.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, that was more for my benefit than hers,” Verity sniffed. “I can’t stay around at home all day like you, I need to be out and about.” Now that her problem had an imminent solution, she became less emotional and more business-like. “Okay, Mum’s set up for the morning with the TV remote and the phone next to her, and I’ll make sure she’s been to the loo and got a sandwich for lunch before I go to the airport. So if you can pop in a couple of times a day, that should just about cover it. I’ll phone you from Spain, when I know a bit more.”
Verity headed off hurriedly and I got back to my biscuits. Only a little later than planned. Fortunately, I am now most proficient at making cardboard boxes and would probably get an A* in Origami GCSE if there was one, which there probably is. Perhaps I should investigate it.
Edith seemed much happier to see me at 9.45 than she had on Tuesday afternoon and took my fragrant little offerings off my hands. At the moment, we’re splitting the proceeds 50/50, which doesn’t seem quite fair to me, but then I have no other outlet and Edith did say we would review the deal in a couple of weeks. She’s got my phone number and will phone me when she’s getting low, or I can pop in late tomorrow and see how things are going.
Having freed up my hands, I headed on down to Verity’s to check on Ronnie. I have a key, so at least she didn’t have to get up. As Verity had said, Ronnie was well-ensconced in the living room, a DVD control at her fingertips too, halfway through an episode of Poirot.
“Verity bought me the boxed set for Christmas a couple of years ago and I’ve watched them before, but I can never remember who done it,” she told me. She looked very comfortable. “I can manage mostly, Verity worries too much,” she confided. “To be honest, it’s quite a relief that’s she’s gone. I mean, it’s a pity about Max and all that, but at least it gets her out of my hair. I don’t think I could’ve survived another spa day.”
Looking at Ronnie enjoying her TV reruns, I could hardly imagine her feeling at home at Champney’s. She’s quite a large lady who wears velour shell-suits from the 80s for any occasion and her trainers could do with replacing. Verity should really have taken her clothes shopping but they probably don’t stock Ronnie’s size in the sort of shops Verity prefers.
Before I headed home again, I made Ronnie a hot drink – all that sitting still is very chilling, even with the central heating on full blast – and dropped a note in at the next door neighbour. They’re all detached homes in that close, but just in case they heard anything untoward, I thought it best they had my number.
I’m going to get a Chinese takeaway for dinner, and take some of it down to Ronnie so that she gets at least one hot meal today. She may even turn out to be easier to keep an eye on that Hedonism – at least she’s unlikely to get trapped in Jenny’s house!