Chapter 33: Radcliffe Hors d’oevres.
On the morning of this interlude, the sky just outside Edna’s luxury skylight was filled with the sound of those annoying wood pigeons – you know, the ones that just will not go away. Madame Genevieve Dubois ran her scarlet painted talons up Edna’s tree-trunk legs. She grimaced at the flaky skin under her fingernails, Edna did not notice, she was wrapped up in the delight that her long lost lover had delivered to Curmudgeon Avenue. Officer Legend had given the impression that the stolen rent money was lost forever, and intelligence from France regarding the ‘Black Widow of Rocamadour’ had not reached the ‘most wanted’ board of Whitefield police station. Genevieve was quite safe under the luxury roof of Number One, Curmudgeon Avenue.
‘I know you say you have been, but the two of us? Up here? Unnoticed?’ She pouted.
‘Ever since that imbecile who calls herself my sister moved Harold in, I’ve had no other option.’ Edna said, in whispered tones. Ah yes, it was all coming back to Genevieve now, she heard all about Harold when she was living next door on the day of her first romantic exchange with Edna. As they lay there, the memories flooded in. Edna debated if she should tell Genevieve about Maurice, he was around in those days – and had even tried to murder her six months ago. Which was a coincidence, because Genevieve was wanted for murder herself.
There had been nothing more sophisticated to Edna in the 1980s than having a French neighbour. She remembered the day they embarked on their romance like it was yesterday. The sky was greyed by clouds that looked like blackberry fool, and now Genevieve was back, returned to Curmudgeon Avenue, although Edna had no idea of her fugitive status.
‘Maybe you’re right, Genevieve. I’m sorry I said no last night, but it was just so sudden seeing you there on the street.’
‘You mean you’re willing to leave Curmudgeon Avenue and be together again?’
‘Oui, Edna, let’s move to France’…
‘Well, it might not be the best day to make the…’
‘Qu’est-ce que c’est?’ Genevieve interrupted, Edna could not resist that French accent.
‘It’s Edith’s birthday today’ said Edna. Poor Edna. That turtle neck jumper could not protect her now.
Meanwhile downstairs, Harold had a surprise for Edith. ‘What time did you say everyone was coming round, Edith?’
‘Oh I just got a text off Ricky, they are going to the off licence they shouldn’t be long.’
‘Well, I’ve got a surprise for you, Edith’ Harold said, with a wobbly head.
Now in that snapshot, that moment, Harold had wanted to know what time people were coming, why did he want to be alone? What’s the surprise? Edith’s mind naturally and incorrectly turned to marriage. So many presumptions, all of them wrong.
‘Edith, you’ve drifted off… how old did you say you were this time?’ Harold was as subtle as a brick. ‘Are you ready for your surprise?’
He disappeared into the kitchen and bobbed his head out with a very pleased with himself look. He then reappeared in the front room brandishing a dinner plate, as round as Edith’s disappointed face. On the tray were…
‘Are they Mini Cheddars?’ Said a disappointed Edith.
‘Not just any old Mini Cheddars…’ said Harold.
‘And is that Primula cheese spread on top of them?’
‘These, Edith are Radcliffe hors d’oevres.’ Harold was so pleased with himself, he even developed a French accent – they had no idea that that made two French accents in Curmudgeon Avenue – how farcical!
‘Radcliffe what-you-say?’ Edith said. All she could see was crackers and cheese spread.
‘Hors d’oevres! Try one Edith!’
And so Edith popped one of the cheap buffet fancies in her tiny cake hole. It was surprisingly more-ish. She took another, and Harold did something he should not have. He smacked her hand.
‘Don’t be eating all the party food before everyone has got here, Edith! I want everyone to see my signature dish.’
Edith burst into tears. Where was Edna when she needed her? She could just imagine her sister berating Harold: ‘Signature dish my arse!!’ But where was Edna? Edith knew she had been hiding from Harold, but she had managed a running commentary on every self-righteous thing that he had said since moving in. Right there, on Edith’s birthday, it struck her. Was she willing to suffer a life with Harold smacking her hand without her sister Edna to protect her? And where was she? Harold meanwhile was waffling on with himself, offering Edith a stick of celery. Edith did not hear him, it was not until the guests let themselves in through the back door of Number One Curmudgeon Avenue (how uncouth!) That Edith re-joined the conversation.
‘Alrite Edith!’ Said Toonan, greeting her as though she was a long lost auntie. ‘They didn’t have no Prosecco in the offy, so I had to get you Lambrini.’ She announced her unwrapped gift to Edith, flopped down on the chair and cracked open a can of cider. It was 11AM. Ricky Ricketts had entered the scene without even saying hello or happy birthday to his mother. His head was now in the fridge.
‘Did you not get the beers in, Harold?’
‘That’s your department, Ricky. You said you were going to the off-licence, I’m in charge of the buffet. Would you like a Radcliffe Hors d’oevres?’
‘No thanks, Harold. I’m allergic to Primula. Remember, mum? Leroy Legre had to lend me a cheese and beetroot butty on the school trip to Chester Zoo. I came out in a rash near the penguins. It was all because his mum used Primula. Lazy cow, not grating proper cheese.’ Ricky Ricketts turned his nose up at Harold’s buffet, and all things processed. His mother just nodded vaguely, her mind still on her missing sister.
‘What’s this about cheese butties? I’m starving’ Said Wantha, holding up the rear with her mother, Patchouli.’
‘Radcliffe hors d’oevres?’ Said Harold.
‘Those are Whitefield Vol-au-vents. Actually Harold’ Said Patchouli ‘We used to put them together quick on Hillock when we had nothin’ else in!’
Well, Edith’s birthday party got into full swing. Harold sent her out to the off licence for more booze, and when she returned with her blue plastic bag weighed down with cider and wine, all the Radcliffe hors d’oevres had gone. Mrs Ali had arrived with samosas, so all was not lost. It wasn’t until they set up a game of beer pong in the back yard that Edna appeared in a cloud of chiffon and silk scarves. Her nose was exceptionally vertical today at the sorry scene ensuing at Curmudgeon Avenue.
‘Here’s your birthday present, Edith.’
‘Oh, thanks, Edna! Where have you been hiding?’ Edith, so pleased to see her sister, she gazed up her nostrils with her very slightly boss-eyed stare. Edith ripped open the rectangular shaped parcel to reveal a photo frame. Behind the glass, sat a face that had been subject to one of those cheap makeovers and was cuddled by a soft misty filter. The face was perched on interlaced fingers holding up its chin. Far too much makeup had been applied, particularly to the slightly parted lips. There was no mistaking. However, the upturned, ugly nose right in the middle. Edna had presented Edith with a framed photograph of herself for her birthday…
‘Something to remember me by Edith…’ Edna said in theatrical tones.
‘Remember you? Are you dying Edna?’
‘No Edith, I am moving to France!’
Oooooo! Moving to France!? Well, that is the end of The Terraced House Diaries (Book One of The Curmudgeon Avenue series) but do not worry, as I am away for the next two weeks, my fab author colleague Ahava Trivedi will be guest posting for the next two weeks about her great HOPELESS HUSBAND series.
And following this, I will be sharing sample chapters from book two of The Curmudgeon Avenue series, The Harold and Edith Adventures.
Happy reading, Samantha xx