This is Gillian’s response to Lois’s prompt 34 – cheese…
ANNIE AND THE CHEESE
Annie piled the dirty plates from their dinner onto a tray and took it into the kitchen. Just where she wanted to place the tray on the table was a large green carrier bag. She pushed it to one side and put the heavy tray down.
‘Fred’ she shouted, ‘what’s this carrier bag doing on the table?’
‘What?’ grunted Fred, who was busy figuring out how Wigan were going to win their League game.
‘Fred, I said. This carrier bag, what’s it doing here?’
‘Oh, that ‘ud be Jack, ‘e said ‘e’d drop a few of his first earlies in’, and Fred returned to the problem of Wigan.
Annie looked at the bag. Didn’t look much like Jack’s usual scruffy Aldi bag. It was a good strong paper carrier bag, in shiny green, with gold writing on it, and tassled handles. She peered inside.
‘Fred!’ she shouted again, and only Annie could make two syllables of his name. Fred got up. He recognised the danger signals.
‘It’s not spuds, it’s full of cheese. Packets of cheese.!
‘Must be meant for someone else’ said Fred, peering in the bag. ‘Best go round and ask next door, she knows everything, nosy old baggage’. And he retired to his newspaper.
Annie did the washing up, and then went next door, across the road, and to the neighbour the other side, though she didn’t think that poor old soul would be likely to have a bag of cheese delivered. No one knew anything.
Annie came back and looked at the bag again. Definitely foreign, she could read ‘France’ at the bottom of what was obviously an address. She emptied the bag and put the cheese in the larder, and tucked the bag behind the flour bin. She needed to think about this.
A couple of days later a postcard arrived, with a picture of white horses on the front, galloping across wide open countryside. On the back was a foreign stamp, and a message
‘Hope you like the cheese, I know how much you enjoy it. With love, Trev’
Annie sat down as her legs gave way. Her brother Trevor had died last year, in a nasty accident at work.
Fred looked at the card and stated the obvious ‘Trev’s dead. We went to ‘is funeral, down at St. Michael’s. Vicar gave a lovely talk.’
‘Can’t be him, then’ Annie closed the subject. ‘You want custard with your apple pie today?’
Annie turned the matter over and over in her mind. Trev, her older brother had always wanted to go to France, to a place he called the Camargue, where he longed to see the wild white horses, and the pink flamingos. The horses on the post card looked as if they might be wild. And the writing was definitely his.
Later on, Annie, never one to waste anything, divided the cheese into three piles. She was amazed at all the different sorts, and puzzled over some of the names on the packets. She gave each of her two girls one of the piles, in old Aldi carrier bags, telling them she had won a bit on the Lottery, and was treating them. The one she kept one for herself included a lovely big bit of Brie, her favourite. ( But she did pop a bit of plain-looking cheese to the old lady next door.)
Shelley, the younger daughter, with twin toddlers and an out-of-work husband, accepted the cheese thankfully, and asked no questions.
Sandra, who was bright and taught French at the local Comprehensive knew for a fact her mother had never put a penny on the Lottery, regarding it as daylight robbery. She had also accompanied her mother to the Undertakers, where Trevor lay in a coffin, the back of his head thankfully hidden, and both she and Annie had cried over the undoubted body of her Uncle.
On her next visit, she found the carrier bag behind the flour bin, and wrote down the address and phone number of the delicatessen in Arles.
One telephone call later, and Sandra had been assured that ‘Certainment, L’Epicerie de Pierre Charretier et Fils was in Arles, and their Fromages et Charcuterie were of the finest. The sacs they provided for their customers were undeniably of strong paper and green with gold writing. Madame would like some of their cheese?
Madame would indeed like some of their cheese, and promised to visit their establishment when she came to Arles.
Sandra, Shelley and Annie enjoyed the cheese over the next few weeks. Even Fred granted that ‘that St. Paul stuff went nicely with a bit o’ pickle.’
Annie kept the green and gold carrier bag and the postcard underneath her nighties in the bottom drawer. She wasn’t one for prayers, but she thanked Trev in her head, and there the matter rested.
But she did hope he had found the white horses.
© Gillian Peall