That’ll teach me! And possibly, that’ll teach Fiona Hagerty, though I doubt it.
You may have been wondering why I haven’t written anything for a while. I have to tell you, I thought Fiona Hagerty was to blame, but it turns out in a way I was too. After my last entry, there was a knock on the door, less than an hour after I had posted it. It was Fiona.
“How very lovely to see you again,” she said.
I wasn’t sure if she was being sincere – past experience suggested not – but there was no point deliberately antagonising her, so I was civil in response.
“You too. It’s been a long time, Fiona.”
“So here are your worst fears being confirmed. Feeling wretched? Embarrassed at being caught out being so public about our relationship?”
Truthfully, yes. Fiona had been the bane of my life all through primary school, particularly because our mothers had been friends and therefore assumed that we were, and then I had the misfortune to be in her class at secondary school too. It was a relief when she went off to university in the north of England, only returning very occasionally and I saw very little of her. But she had been careful in her bullying and for all my complaints, nothing had happened to stop her.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I just dropped by to let you know that if you say anything else in your blog about me or any of the friends I’m making in this back-of-beyond village, I’ll tell everyone all about you. And it won’t just be about your pathetic biscuit-making efforts. It would be such a shame, having to move now, when your house would only fetch a fraction of its value, always assuming you could even find a buyer. Bye!” She turned and walked away without waiting to hear my response.
My response, though, was silence. As you can tell from the gap in blog entries. We’ve all done things in our childhood that we’d rather not share with our adult friends (or at least I hope we all have. I did, at least.) and Fiona could certainly be relied upon to spread all the malicious stories she wanted, and any denials I issued would just come down to the usual me versus her, and she always had a knack, even at the age of 6, of including just enough truth in her version to get away with it. So I said nothing, I wrote nothing, I tried to carry on in the village as usual, and every now and then I’ve seen Fiona on the other side of the road when I’ve been out walking to the post office or similar, and she’s just smiled and walked on. The threat she made was enough to keep me quiet. Because part of her comment was quite accurate – house prices even in villages are not great and it’s really hard to find buyers with the banks being so reluctant to lend money. If she made life in the village untenable, it would be hard to escape unless I went to live with Ronnie.
I asked Verity what she would do, but she’s still swinging between bouts of extreme listlessness and going out partying with much younger friends from one of her charities. “I doubt it would be that bad,” was all she said. “I’ll still talk to you.”
So I was stuck. Until last night. Last night the OH decided we hadn’t been to the pub for dinner for ages, so we sauntered down the road for a meal out. There was an Aunt Sally match going on in the pub garden, but fortunately we were early enough that they didn’t need the tables inside and there was room for us. We had just placed our order, when in walked Fiona with a man I didn’t recognise, though possibly she’s snared a husband. The OH noticed my mood change dramatically and asked what the problem was.
Not the least fazed when I told him. “Come on,” he said. “Realistically, what harm can she do? You know lots of people in the village who all know what you’re really like” (‘lots’ is a slight exaggeration but there may be an element of truth. I suppose) “and she’s only just moved in.”
However, my frozen stance must have given away to him how unconvinced I was. So instead, bless him, he took the bull by the horns. He turned round and addressed Fiona.
“I don’t know what you think you know about my wife, but I’ll thank you not to come round threatening her. You don’t know what you’re dealing with in this village, we’re a loyal bunch.”
Fiona didn’t seem the least bothered initially. “Oh, you must be the husband. Well, yes, you’re certainly loyal. Impressive, under the circumstances.”
I was chewing the inside of my lip and my knees were trembling under the table, but the OH carried on. “And what circumstances would those be?”
“Her daily liaisons with Joe. Everyone knows about them, so I assume you do. Every morning she’s down there. I wouldn’t have thought she had it in her and goodness knows what he sees in her, though with his wife away most of the time and so flagrantly unfaithful, perhaps he feels obliged to compete with her with whatever he can get. But good for you, sticking by her.”
After the initial shock of the accusation had worn off, I wondered how the OH would react. Belief? Argument? But no. He really is a star. He slapped Fiona round the face, a good hard slap that resounded so loudly they probably heard it out in the garden.
“I don’t know where you could possibly have got such a bizarre idea from, but you are clearly either deluded or malicious. I think a slap answers in either case. Any more lies you’d like to spread about my wife, think twice. I shall be more than happy to repeat the treatment.” He turned to me at this point. “You know, I’m not sure I’m hungry anymore. Shall we go?”
And we left. I was still shaking slightly and astonished that neither Fiona nor her friend had any response to the OH, but perhaps they were as shocked as I was. Fiona certainly was not used to be contradicted as a child. But it seemed for once her rumour-mongering skills had let her down.
“Just ignore her,” the OH said on the way home. “This story about Joe is patently untrue and to be honest, if there’s going to be a rumour about you, I can think of worse people to be associated with. Just don’t let her win. If I were you, I’d write one of your blog entries about tonight so that everyone knows all about Fiona. It’s about time she encountered a little resistance.”
The more I think about the story that Fiona was going to spread, the more amused I am. It is as the OH said so patently untrue that how Fiona ever thought she could use it to manipulate me, I don’t know. It serves me right for thinking that she would win in this instance, because she most certainly hasn’t. I really must learn not to be so pessimistic!