Chapter 19 of my novel Underpainting set in the early 1990’s. For previous chapters use the link above or in Categories.
Marianne entered her house and could sense she was not alone. She knew Peter would have arrived in Paris for his lecture. Ryan had said he was returning to London. She looked in the living room, dining room, the kitchen. No sign of anyone.
Cautiously she climbed the stairs, she could hear a noise, a rhythmical noise.
As she reached the top she was sure the noise was sex, the unmistakable noise of copulation. Unusually her bedroom door was almost shut. Marianne slowly and silently pushed it open.
On her bed was the spread out naked figure of Angela, on top of her, a semi dressed Ryan. Angela looked up at Marianne and gave a wave, she put five fingers up, Ryan didn’t look and didn’t cease in his labours. Marianne backed out and shut the door, with a noticeable bang.
Sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee Marianne was furious.
“That was my bed they were on. How dare they use my bed…” she shouted at the kettle, “…what does he think he’s doing, God, AND with Angela! …Lizzie’s mother. How dare they, my bed… and what if I hadn’t come back, I’d have slept in that…” she shuddered, “…it’s like some freakish black farce, mother and daughter… what does that bitch think she’s doing?”
Angela entered the kitchen, wearing Marianne’s silk robe that Lorete had bought her at a Japanese store in Washington, and which Lorete had very slowly removed from her on their second night together. The thought made Marianne blush. Angela looked flushed and Marianne could see she was still naked underneath. The robe didn’t suit her Marianne thought.
“Don’t look so shocked”
“Well Angela! What would you think, I mean, in my bed”
“Oh, don’t be so old fashioned!”, Angela poured herself a coffee, spilling some on the robe and sat down at the table, “…this is nice” she said stroking the silk.
“What are you thinking of? What will Lizzie say?”
“Oh that’s all over. Didn’t Ryan tell you?”
“No. No he didn’t… Poor Lizzie, she must feel hurt”
“Poor Lizzie my fanny…”
“Angela, remember she is your daughter?”
“How could I ever damn well ever forget… I don’t blame her though, he is rather good… very… animal”
“Well, why shouldn’t I. You could have you know…”
“He came up here specially to see if you’d leave Peter”
“He never said, I don’t want him anyway. Ryan’s an old friend. Anyway why use my bed, and my robe! Really how dare you…”
“Oh stop going on, it was only sex. He said that he wanted you and had always wanted you, but after seeing you and Peter together he knew there was no chance. It changed his mind…”
“…so you leapt in there instead!”
“No, it wasn’t like that”
“Well what was it like, all I saw was you two, well… in full bloody flight!”
“I came round to see Ryan, he rang to say there’d been more problems with Philip and he wondered if I’d heard anything. So I came round to discuss things and well we started talking and…”
“…and you ended up in my bed”
“I suppose so”
“God Angela, you… well I’m not going into it, I’ve had enough of you!”
“Stop being so fucking pious Marianne. You think you are so bloody perfect. You’re too cold, so faultless, you couldn’t find a real man if you tried. Who’d want you anyway? Look at you, dress like a bloke, don’t give a damn about how you look. You make me sick, so what if we did go to bed? So what? What’s it to do with you, I’m sorry we’ve messed your wonderful bed… I’m sorry I’ve fucked your fancy man… I’m sorry your life is so boring, that’s what you are, boring!”
With that she flung off the gown and departed the room.
Marianne slowly clapped as if it was the end of a performance, poured another coffee and a large whiskey. She drank the whiskey. She smiled as she looked in the mirror over the sink, she thought of Lorete and pressed the silk to her face. Then she thought of Peter and then thought of Bill.
The day’s post lay on the table, one of them must have picked it up before they went upstairs. There was a letter from Lorete, hand-written on expensive hand-made paper.
I feel so happy, I feel that we can be one, I never thought I’d be so in love again. I know things are hard for you to understand yet, so many changes, please the moment you make your mind up let me know. We are one. We are strong.
Please phone, now.
With my deepest love,
Marianne took a deep breath, tore it up and threw away the pieces. She stared out of the window for what seemed ages. She went back to the bin and took out the torn up letter, placing them back together and read it again.
The noise of the shower running upstairs broke the spell.
“Not that as well” she said aloud.
There were another two letters. One in an official looking brown envelope with a black crown.
Dear Miss Mary Maddox,
Re: The Crown vs. Colin Montgomery Maddox
You are required to attend The East Midland Crown Court on Monday April 28th at 10.30am to give evidence in the case cited above…
She slammed the letter onto the table and looked in her diary. That was a teaching day. ‘Damn’ she said to herself, ‘damn’. She knew she didn’t need this, she knew this would cause problems with her mother. Marianne had never given evidence in court, what do you say?
The third letter was from Juliet Farrow College formally offering her the position of Artist in Residence with minor Teaching Responsibilities, to begin in September. She knew it was time to decide, to discuss this with Peter, no to tell Peter; for Peter to agree? For Peter to suggest she goes? Laughter came from upstairs, then more copulation noise. ‘Not again’ she thought, she wondered whether to take a bucket of cold water and throw it over them, and knew however good that would feel she was the one who’d have to clean up.
The phone rang.
“Hi Marianne, is Queen B. there? We’ve just arrived home, brought Philip back, I thought…”
“Yes Lizzie, I’ll get her. Are you OK?”
“Oh I’m fine. I wasn’t going to come up but I couldn’t find Ryan, we’d had a bit of a row, well you know. Philip’s in a bit of a bad way, and Mark’s sorting things out”
“But… Ah…. I’ll get your mother” she put the phone down and shouted upstairs, with a wicked glee, “Angela it’s Lizzie, she’s brought Philip home!”
The noise upstairs stopped and there was a scrabbling about. Angela appeared, half dressed and ran downstairs not looking at Marianne. As Marianne returned to the kitchen she heard the explanations starting.
Half an hour later Ryan was sitting at the kitchen table with Marianne, they were eating cheese sandwiches. Angela had left soon after the phone call. Ryan wasn’t sure what to do and sheepishly came downstairs. Silently Marianne made sandwiches, Ryan realised how hungry he was.
“These are nice” he said
“Good” Marianne said coldly.
Marianne reread the offer letter and put it behind the clock. She didn’t want to talk about it to Ryan, it may get to Angela before she wanted it to.
“I was sorry to hear about you and Lizzie… Angela told me”
“Yes, it was difficult with Philip and, well…”
“You could have told us the other night”
“It was awkward, I didn’t really know then” said Ryan.
“Have you told Lizzie? On the phone she said she was trying to get hold of you”
“Oh yes, we had a big row, I think we both knew”
“I hope so, Lizzie means a lot to me, to us. I know she’ll feel hurt, I don’t want her hurt more than she needs be”
“You’re old enough to look after yourself” retorted Marianne.
“Is that really true? I mean at Lizzie’s age she knows there’s more to come, more love, more people. But me, what is there?”
“You’re not that old, we’re the same age. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, anyway there’s Angela now, isn’t there?”
“I don’t know, a bit soap opera-ish isn’t it?”
“You should have thought about that before shoving your cock in!”
“I suppose I should… well things happen” Ryan said.
Marianne thought back to Washington. Who was she to talk? To judge?