3 – LEAVING SCHOOL

3 – LEAVING SCHOOL

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNIE GRABLE - 3

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The doorbell rang and the house was so quiet that it almost made her jump. Not that she liked doorbells, especially not electric ones that pretend to play jolly tunes. They confused her, made her want to answer a phone, but her phone wasn’t ringing.

She couldn’t open the door. Social distancing had been hammered into her head by the television and she knew she was a prime likely victim if the darned virus attacked her. At her age and with her, what did they call it, underlining medical issues, she’d be dead as quickly as you might say the word virus! And although she knew she was well stricken with the years she hoped that she still had some life left for her, a future, tomorrows, loads of them she hoped. In a few days she’d be one hundred and two and she secretly wanted to at least make it past another Christmas. Then there’d be new targets, maybe another, then another Christmas.

Are you okay, Mrs Grable?” asked a voice. A lad’s voice, was it? Maybe, but she didn’t recognise it at first.

It’s your grocery box,” called the voice, “on your doorstep. I’ll leave it there if you’re okay.”

Of course! She knew the voice now! It was the lad who delivered the supermarket food that someone, a friend though she wasn’t sure who, had ordered for her, and it had been coming for the duration of the blasted lock down.

I’m here,” she called, appalled at how she croaked, sounding older than her many years, “it’s kind of you, very kind. I’ll fetch it when you’ve gone.”

That’s what social distancing involved. Waiting for kindly people to disappear before opening the door to them. It sounded dreadful: ungrateful, offensive, even rude. But that’s what she had to do. Be rude. It was the order of the day. So, “thanks very much,” she called, hoping he would hear. And he had.

My pleasure,” he called back, his voice fading as he moved away.

She heard the van drive off, and opened the door.

Are you alright Mrs Grable? Called the woman next door, over the garden fence, at least two metres (whatever a metre might be) away, so it was perfectly okay.

Yes thank you, dear,” she croaked.

Why was she croaking? Surely she shouldn’t be croaking, not yet, not until she was at least a hundred and five!

You managing, then?”

I’m fine, dear.”

What was her name? She’d never had much to do with her neighbours and this lot hadn’t been on the street for long. Had they been there when there had been all that fuss about the Millennium, as if there was something special about the nineteen hundreds turning into the two thousands. And she could tell them there wasn’t. Life went on like it always had, with the rich getting richer and the poor letting them. It was the way of things, as natural as the sun rising and setting.

It’s a lovely day, Mrs Grable, and if you want anything just let me know...” And Mrs No-name vanished into her own house before Annie had a chance to tell her she was perfectly all right and could cope all right on her own.

She emptied her box of groceries, flour, toilet rolls, sausages, milk and quite a lot more, carrying them one at the time to her pantry under the stairs. Then, when all was tidied up and put away she sat down again and looked at the window that shone a light onto a locked down world. What would mother have said if she’d had to stay at home on her own like this?

Mother had been struggling when it had come to be time for her to leave school. Back then you left school when your were fourteen, only a child really, at least these days fourteen year olds are looked on as children. Back then there was no such thing as teenagers. Just kids who, overnight when they were fourteen, became adults.

The trouble with mum was she’d had a job which hardly paid her anything, barely enough to feed the two of them, and it involved long hours in service to Captain Davidson and his wife.

Mum had told her times many when she was in a grumbling mood. “That woman, Mrs Davidson,” is what she referred to the Captain’s wife as, “common as anything, she is, but she lords it over everyone as if she was Queen Muck!”

Annie had met Gertrude Davidson and rather liked her. At fourteen and ready to leave school mother had taken her to the Captain’s big house, hoping she might get a job there for her daughter. Lady Muck was always saying she needed more help about the house, that she couldn’t cope on her own with only a woman coming in for half a day a week.

Annie’s mum, Muriel, was called a kitchen maid, which meant she slaved away in the kitchen and was chief cook, bottle washer and char woman. Mrs Davidson was supposed to do the cooking herself, but she rarely did. The only other servant (the Captain didn’t run to having a Butler or House-keeper) was old Grobbins the gardener, and he was a miserable old thing. It was very rare that anything was right for him. If it was raining it was bad for the lawns, if it was dry the vegetables would suffer, if it was hot it would burn the flowers, if it was cold the tomatoes would fall off their stalks, unripe. The weather, he was heard to say so often that the words were seared into Annie’s mind, is the enemy of gardening.

I was dragged along to that den of sin,” she whispered to the deaf window and all the world beyond it, “by my own mother, and she knew what he was like… a Captain, he reckoned to be, and captain he was of his own world… and I loved it! I recall, she tried to warn me…

oo0oo

Annie make sure your shoes are shining,” barked Annie’s mother, Muriel Stoker, “there’s nothing the captain likes better than a well turned out foot.”

They’re old, mum,” groaned Annie, “and they’ll not take a shine before falling to pieces! They leak, mum, when it’s wet.”

Always complaining, are you, madam!” snapped Muriel, “I’ve never known such a one in all my days for complaining! You know how things have been and how much shoes cost when a body’s barely got enough to feed the two of us! Now if your father hadn’t gone and signed up and then got himself shot we’d be in clover by now and folks would be coming to slave away for us!”

It was a war, mum, and fourteen years ago” groaned Annie, “and my dad was no white feather coward even if you wish he had been!”

All right, give me them shoes and I’ll see what I can do with them...”

Annie passed her worn out shoes to her mother, who sniffed them disapprovingly. “And they stink,” she said, “like old dead feet!”

How do you know what old dead feet smell like, mum?” asked Annie.

That’d be telling, that would,” muttered Mrs Stoker, putting a great deal of effort into buffering her daughters shoes. Then, “here you are! They’re better, don’t you think, only needed a bit of elbow grease. Put ‘em on and remember, when we see the Captain you just mind your p’s and q’s.”

P’s and q’s, mum, what are p’s and q’s?” asked Annie, grinning to herself.

You’ll get the back of my hand young lady, if you don’t mind out,” replied Muriel sharply, “what I mean is the captain’s got an eye for pretty things...” She had no idea what p’s and q’s meant, just that ordinary folk ought to mind them in the presence of their superiors and be happy to take what might be dished out to them. It was another natural order of things.

oo0oo

I recall that first meeting with Davidson, or should I call him Captain Davidson” mused Annie. “He’d been in the war but hadn’t got shot like my dad did. He got out of it alive, only with a limp.”

She smiled to herself even at her age when she remembered that limp. She was going to get rather closer to that limp than she cared to remember though, to be fair, she’d not minded so much back then because, truth to tell, the Captain was a kindly man, as was his lady wife, though mum didn’t ever take to her.

You just watch what you say,” Muriel said to her, rather sharply as they walked up the hill towards the Captain’s rather big house, “and don’t you go doing anything forwards with him, mark my words. He might not appreciate it if a wee lass like you is forward with him. It might be a bad sign.

But,” whispered Annie to the never listening window, “I didn’t know what she meant by that and the joy is I was about to find out!”

Outside a thrush burst into song and the sound of its music found its way through the double glazed window, and Annie smiled.

You’re not in lock down though, are you. You lucky old thing,” she whispered sadly to it, and watched it regretfully as it flew away.

© Peter Rogerson 03.05.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 3, 2020
Last Updated on May 3, 2020
Tags: Captain Davidson, limp, big house, kitchen maid, servant


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing