The First Week

The First Week by Margaret Merrilees

Book: The First Week by Margaret Merrilees Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margaret Merrilees
Tags: book, FIC044000, FA
checking out?’
    â€˜Oh no. I want to stay another night or two.’
    â€˜No worries. I’ll fix it for you. Pull the dining room door shut when you’ve finished, could you?’
    The elderly couple left and Marian sat in a corner. The sachets of butter and jam were tiny and she had to put her glasses on to work out how to open them. She spread the toast and pushed pieces of it around in her mouth, but it tasted like cardboard. After half a slice she gave up. At least the tea was hot.
    On the Reception desk she found a brochure about buses and caught a free City Clipper into town, feeling awake and business-like. Today she would work everything out. Find out how to visit Charlie.
    She had forty minutes to spare before her appointment with Simon Ingerson so she wandered into Myers. The bottom floor seemed to be all sorts of things for men. Ties, socks. One shelf was all bottles and sprays. Deodorant. That was straightforward. But there were other things that seemed to be perfume. You couldn’t call it anything else, though it had names like Leopard and Manpower. Things to make men smell better. How extraordinary. It used to be cissy for men to smell of anything other than soap. Mac wouldn’t have dreamed of using deodorant. Did Brian? It was ages since she’d been in their bathroom. And she certainly hadn’t seen anything like this in Charlie’s room.
    Perhaps it was only for gay men. She looked around hurriedly, half expecting a sign. No one was taking any notice of her and anyway, it didn’t matter these days. Look at those two girls yesterday. Nobody cared. You could be buying perfume for a gay brother or something.
    Or a gay son?
    It wasn’t true to say nobody cared. She remembered the note in the letterbox. YOU FILTHY LESOS BELONG IN PRISON.
    Why was Charlie living with them anyway?
    Marian had thought she knew about Charlie, but her idea of him seemed to have faded, disappeared.
    The idea of a gay Charlie didn’t make sense though. Surely Lee or Sam would have said? It would have come up. One of their protests, no doubt.
    Marian sniffed surreptitiously at her armpits. They weren’t the best. She should have washed again after that long walk. Or at least put on more deodorant. Evie used to have a trick, which had horrified Marian at the time, of spraying perfume directly onto the underarm material of her unwashed dresses.
    Perhaps there were free testers? But Marian wasn’t game to try it in public.
    Nine fifty. Hell. She was going to be late after all if she didn’t hurry.
    The pedestrian light at the end of the Mall was green so she crossed at a run and reached the Terrace out of breath.
    The office was in an old building cowering between its neighbours. The lift creaked and rumbled and Marian was glad to get out of it.
    Behind the desk sat a trim woman, her eyes magnified by large glasses. She was years younger than Marian, but regarded her like a motherly hen, head on one side.
    â€˜Mrs Anditon? I’m Mandy. I’m afraid Mr Ingerson isn’t in yet. He had an unexpected appointment. Can I get you a cup of coffee?’
    â€˜Thank you.’
    Mandy came out from behind the desk and bustled over to an alcove fitted out with instant hot water and a sink.
    â€˜Milk and sugar?’
    â€˜Milk, thanks. No sugar.’
    â€˜Here you are. There are magazines,’ she said, pulling a pile of dog-eared Readers Digests towards Marian. ‘Or can I get you the paper?’
    â€˜No. These are fine, thank you.’ Not the paper.
    Mandy looked at her doubtfully. Marian picked up a magazine and opened it at random.
    Stalked by a Brown Bear. My Night of Terror.
    Mandy went back to her desk and her computer.
    Marian stared at the page. Her eyes seemed to be playing up. She couldn’t get them to fix on the words long enough to get the sense. Was it real, or a story? Lost the path … couldn’t get the cigarette lighter to work …

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