Leonora has had enough of her arrogant, pettifogging husband, and aided by an income she has accrued from knitting pornographic dolls, has escaped and gone to Eastbourne, a place she knows from childhood holidays.
Chapter 2 (part 2)
She then began to reinvent herself as Maggie Brown. Trawling round the charity shops she bought bright sweaters and blouses and even found a pair of new jeans in her size. She then went to a small hairdresser, where she had her hair washed and cut short in layers. She smiled at the result. Maggie Brown looked her age, which was actually 36, rather than the insipid downtrodden ageless woman she had been.
Meanwhile Bertram had returned to an empty house, with no sign of Leonora, and no sign of dinner. He was annoyed, puzzled, and after an hour or so, somewhat anxious. It was then he found the note, which Leonora had placed inside the fridge attached to a Supermarket Ready Meal.
“I’ve had enough of your arrogance, pettiness and constant belittling of me. I have gone to Scotland and have no intention of coming back”
“Stupid woman”, thought Bertram, as he slammed the Lasagne in the microwave. “She won’t last long on her own. She’ll soon come back, tail between her legs”
The microwave pinged and he burnt his fingers taking the film off. Cursing he emptied the meal on a plate but was not impressed by the gloopy mass.
He lasted a week before he discovered that shirts neither washed nor ironed themselves and that meals required more organisation than he had imagined. And food was so much more expensive than he had realised.
One day at work he confided to a colleague that he was in a bit of a mess as his wife had suddenly had to go and help with her mother, who was critically ill. He even admitted he was not really au fait with the washing machine.
Betty had long admired this precise, orderly man and was only too pleased to go along and help.
Her visits became more and more frequent and lasted longer and longer. Bertram pondered.
“I don’t think Leonora is going to come back” he admitted to Betty. “Not that I want her, she’s no great loss”.
He stopped. Leonora had not really been unsatisfactory. But he was lonely.
“I wondered, Betty, perhaps if you could ……….” He stopped, a note of query in his voice. He had never felt so uncertain of what he wanted to say.
“Of course I could” said Betty, putting her arm on his as they sat together on the sofa.
Leonora, or Maggie as she was now, had eventually found permanent work as a waitress in one of the big hotels and her new friendly personality, and her ability to organise her work to a timetable made her an asset to the Hotel. She soon rose to Head Waitress, and later to Restaurant Manager but
Positive that she had had enough of men, she avoided all attempts to entangle her romantically or sexually.
The years rolled by, as years do. Maggie had stayed at the Guest House, and become close to Glynis, the owner, and was happy to make her home there in a sea view room up on the third floor. Glynis sent her off in the mornings with a good breakfast, and unless Maggie was working late they shared an evening meal. The two women enjoyed walking in the sea air, but both being hardworking and on their feet all day, preferred to sit and read, or watch TV together in the evenings.
One very hot summer, Maggie saw that a Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Winters had booked in for a two-week holiday. As soon as she saw them at dinner, she knew it was her Bertram. Old, greyer, and with a lot less hair, he still managed to look the neat, dapper little man she had known. She wondered if he would recognise the Leonora he had known in the new, quietly striking Maggie. She didn’t know his companion, but she looked far from being a diffident little mouse!
The couple went out all day, enjoyed dinner at the Hotel each night and sat in the lounge where on three nights a week they were entertained by a pianist. They retired upstairs each night about ten o’clock, which was when the bar began to get more animated.
On their last day, as Bertram and Betty checked out, Maggie approached them.
“I trust everything was to your liking, Sir? Madam? You’ve had lovely weather while you’ve been here”. She nearly fell down at Betty’s reply!
“It’s been just perfect, hasn’t it, Bert?” said Betty
“Everything was splendid, thank you, we have had a lovely holiday” Bertram replied, looking hard at Maggie.
Maggie felt her stomach clench, but began to relax as Bertram picked up their suitcase and turned to go.
“Come on, Betty, my dear” he said, “let’s go and say goodbye to the sea” and he put his arm round her shoulder.
Then he turned, and said quietly
© Gillian Peall