Today there was to be no Breakfast Club. I would be catching up with Armando for coffee only. My week was supposed to be filled with days off, fireworks, writing and other artsy activities. However, I had inadvertently become embroiled in the latest pension war.
Lil had telephoned on Tuesday evening and she wasn’t happy.
‘I can’t believe him Wayne. He’s a bloody law unto himself,’ she’d said as I answered the call.
‘Who? What’s happened Lil?’
‘Marty – who else and don’t pretend you like him,’ said Lil.
‘What’s he done now?’ I said adding irritation to my tone.
‘He told me to update my look.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Apparently a few “with it” items of clothing wouldn’t go amiss. He said my dresses are more suited to old ladies. I told him I was an old lady and he was an old man.’
‘Good for you Lil. He is too much – really.’
‘He didn’t take kindly to that and added that if I wanted to go with him to the craft fair at the community centre tomorrow I’d better get with the programme. I told him to sod off. That was this morning, and I’ve waited in for either him to call or visit with an apology – and he hasn’t.’
‘Oh Lil, you should have called earlier.’
‘I didn’t want to busy the line. I’ve barely even been to the loo.’
Now probably wasn’t the best time to sell the merits of call-waiting. ‘Do you want to go to the craft fair?’ I asked.
‘Aren’t you listening? I said he won’t go with me.’
‘When have you ever done what you’re told? Why don’t I take you?’
The line went silent. I could hear the brain cogs whirling.
‘Don’t you work on a Wednesday?’
‘No, I’ve some time off this week to write.’
‘OK, yes, let’s go, you can pick me up at 1.45.’
Our plan was in place. I hoped that I was going to be there when Lil informed Marty she’d managed to make it solo, the world didn’t revolve around him, and his denial of the ageing process.
I’d collected Lil as directed and complimented her on her M&S inspired outfit of tailored black trousers and a cream wool sweater. She added a head scarf around her neck secured by a diamanté ring. Her hair had a vibrant blue hue – she’d been at the rinse again.
‘Are you looking for anything today?’ I asked.
‘Not really, it’s mostly overpriced doilies but they always have good cake. I might look for a new tea cosy but it depends on the cost. I remember when you could pick one up at a jumble sale for 5p.’
‘But this isn’t a jumble sale,’ I said.
‘Same difference,’ said Lil closing the conversation.
The community centre wasn’t busy when we arrived. Tables had been set out around the side, behind which sat expectant ware sellers. The crafts available were not the overpriced variety one finds at contemporary fairs, but what some might consider more down to earth. It reminded me of similar affairs I’d attended in the village where I’d grown up; tombolas and raffles aplenty. I usually ended up winning a soap-on-a-rope or items of that ilk. At the time I’d felt sophisticated and longed to don the soap around my neck. We paraded along the left hand side of the hall and Lil introduced me with pride to each of the stallholders she knew, as she fingered their merchandise. Her lips pursed at some of the prices. I could see the tea and cake stand getting ever closer, and my appetite rose. I shouldn’t have been hungry after a delicious mushroom omelette for luncheon, but cake passion tends to create hunger pains.
‘Shall we stop for tea?’ I asked Lil.
‘Yes, it’s starting to pack out, and I don’t want to miss out. I’ll have a cuppa, I doubt they have Assam; and a slice of walnut and date madeira please.’
I sat Lil at a vacant bistro style table and attended the serving hatch. The Battenberg called to me from its display plate.
‘You going to buy anything?’ Lil asked as I delivered our tray.
I shrugged my uncertainty as I set the table.
‘You should support the community,’ said Lil.
‘I don’t see you buying much.’
‘I am the community.’
‘And who do you think exchanged coins for your current repast?’
We laughed affectionately.
‘Actually prices are much higher than last year, but I must buy something to flaunt in front of that man,’ said Lil.
‘I’m not sure one-upmanship is a worthy occupation, although on the other hand it is Marty.’
Lil grabbed my arm and I feared I’d gone too far. She pushed the chair back and stood up. I followed her eye line and saw that Marty and Mavis had entered the hall, arm in arm, like royalty.
‘Sit down Lil,’ I implored. She sat and took my hand. She was shaking and I didn’t know whether through anger or shock. She followed her prey as they move along a couple of stalls.
‘I’ve had enough of this. I won’t be made a fool of,’ said Lil as she rose again and moved with purpose across the hall. I popped the last bite into my cake hole and followed.
‘Hey princess,’ said Marty as we approached, unfazed as ever.
‘What do you think you’re doing,’ said Lil looking directly at Mavis as she held her palm up to Marty.
‘Why, I’m attending the fair,’ said Mavis as she released Marty’s arm and put her hands on her hips.
‘Don’t mess with me – harridan,’ exclaimed Lil.
‘Attending a local event with an old friend is hardly cause for an accusation of that magnitude,’ said Mavis calmly. Her facetiousness was in full working order.
‘Don’t give me that twaddle. I never saw you anywhere near Marty until we started courting –’
‘Princess,’ interrupted Marty intending to pacify.
‘Don’t you princess me – I’ll deal with you later.’
‘And don’t call her princess when we’re together,’ said Mavis her pitch elevating.
‘Ha, so you do think you’re with him – floosy,’ said Lil in a louder tone. Attentions had been diverted from the tables full of produce, to the central floor show. Marty took his cue and snaked backwards and out of the firing line.
‘Lillian stop being so immature. You’re always so common, shouting and screaming in the streets, and I have no interest in your name-calling,’ said Mavis.
‘We’re not in the streets. You always have to go after my men. Let’s face it, you could never hang on to your own,’ said Lil sneeringly.
Mavis gasped before regaining composure and saying, ‘you’ve normally so many on the go Lillian it’s difficult to tell who your actual man is.’
Lil raised her arm as if she was going to strike Mavis but thought better of it. I was standing close enough to assist or restrain, dependent upon the need, but I didn’t think it was correct, or safe to get in the middle.
‘Listen Bellamy,’ said Lil in a lower but vicious tone, ‘hasn’t anyone told you that less is more with lip-rouge. You tend to trowel it on. Once a tart always a tart.’ And with that blow Lil flounced and spun on her heels. I thought she was going to topple over and I took her arm and led her away. Mavis gathered herself and marched off in the opposite direction. Marty was also in the wrong, but he seemed to have got away scot free. I couldn’t believe the argument ended with maquillage insults.
‘What is it with you two?’ I asked Lil as we rapidly left the building.
‘Hmm – one day I might tell you, but not yet. She is, as you know, a piece of work.’
‘You do seem to go from being as thick as thieves to screaming at each other in public. It’s odd.’
Lil didn’t answer and we walked on in silence. She wore a pensive expression.
‘And what about Marty?’ I asked.
‘What about him?’ asked Lil rhetorically.
‘Do you want to get a drink?’ I asked. I craved a Sherry – large.
‘No thank you Wayne. I’m tired and going straight home.’
Lil said she was unlikely to be at Breakfast Club when I’d dropped her at her door, and added that she’d rather have no surprise visitors this week.
I called into the café to update Armando on the latest spat. We were midway through when in walked Cyril. He joined us and we all three commiserated with dense hot chocolate.
‘You’ll be glad to have missed it,’ I said to Cyril.
‘Goodness yes. I’ve been at a church meeting and stayed for a slice of gooseberry pie.’
‘Sounds like you’d all have been better eating cake here,’ said Armando. I have to say that I admired his marketing spirit, never missing an opportunity to advertise.
‘Marty is unfortunately an insecure piece of work,’ said Cyril.
We picked up our mugs of congealing, sweet, goo and agreed. Marty and his playboyesque behaviour had to leave our little group alone, or minimally fade into the background.