Paul and Jane

Paul and Jane Sorrell were THE people to know in those days. Paul was the Mayor of the Borough, a local scoutmaster and a choirmaster; Jane was the owner of a small toy factory, a mover and shaker on three schools' boards of governors and, more importantly, she knew how to throw a good party.

One such party was just ending and the two pillars of the local community were shaking hands with everybody.

"Goodbye. Thank you so much for coming. 'Bye. Oh, goodbye," said Jane to each guest as they left the 1920s mock Tudor building.

"See you, old son," said Paul, clapping one of the guests on the back. "I say, why don't you bring your kids along next time?"

"Oh, no," smiled Jane sweetly, "I'm sure they'd find it terribly boring here, what with all the grown-up chat."

"Oh, I don't know - they could play with some of those lovely toys your factory produces?"

"Well, it was lovely seeing you," said Jane, turning back towards the departing guests. "Do drive safely. Goodbye."

The couple went back indoors and started the long job of tidying up and putting things away.

"I say," said Paul. "Why don't we get ourselves a dishwasher? You could turn one out in your factory and earn us a few bob? Ay? What do you say?"

"I don't think so," smiled his wife. "Now, you wash up those and I'll gather up the glasses from the bedroom."

They spent a productive time putting the house straight followed by a fun time drinking themselves silly on all the booze that their guests had bought them. As they got drunker their games became ones which would have been ever less suitable at the party which they'd just hosted.

In the morning Paul took a couple of painkillers, downed a pint of water, put on his suit and bowler hat and made his way onto the London Underground ready for his day to start.

Jane, meanwhile, was able to do a bit more around the house before the parent-teacher consultative meeting at 4 pm. The meeting was constructive: they ironed out the financial implications of tea rather than coffee being served at future meetings and they also recommended setting up a smaller body to investigate the idea of writing a possible paper on the effects of bullying in the playground.

When she returned her husband was already back.

"I've got a surprise for you, my dear," said Mr. Sorrell, "I'm taking you out tonight."

With delight Mrs. Sorrell put on her perfume, her earrings and her nicest dress and accompanied her husband arm in arm to a Moroccan restaurant.

When they returned the 'phone rang. It was Paul's sister, asking if they could look after their young daughter, Bella, for the afternoon tomorrow.

"With pleasure," beamed Paul.

"Who was that, darling?" asked Jane.

"They want us to look after Bella."

The smile that seemed so permanently fixed on Jane's face slipped.

"And you said 'yes', I suppose?"

"Of course. You know how much I like kids."

"Yes," said Jane and left the room.

The next day 8-year-old Bella arrived at Paul's and Jane's door. Paul opened it and greeted his sister and his niece.

"Do I have to stay here?" asked Bella, looking at her mother.

"You'll have a lovely time with Uncle Paul and Aunty Jane," said Bella's mum, trying to give her daughter a kiss goodbye. Bella twisted her head.

She watched lugubriously at the window as her mother drove off to join Mr. Pleasance, Bella's father, at the casino.

"Well," said Uncle Paul, rubbing his hands together, "what shall we do first?"

"I don't want to do anything," said Bella. "I'll just sit here and watch television."

"In our household," said Jane, "we watch half an hour a day and no more. You may watch for half an hour and then you'll have to do something else. Paul, you might want to chop up some more firewood in the shed."

"Oh, there's no need. We've got plenty."

"PAUL!" snapped Jane. Bella and Paul stared at  the usually-composed woman as she flipped out momentarily.

"I'm sorry, darling," smiled Jane, "but I really think the wood needs to be cut."

Paul disappeared. Jane went upstairs leaving her unresponsive niece to watch her favourite chat show.

Jane combed her hair, read her book and read through the notes on today's parent-teacher meeting. She dozed off for a bit...

When Jane woke up she looked at the clock. It was two hours since her dreary little niece had arrived and she could still hear the television on downstairs. Wretched child! Jane came down the stairs waiting to re-iterate that there were rules in their household. The child, however, was nowhere to be seen. Jane felt irritated. Bella needed to be taught not to leave the television on when she left the room - it was a waste of electricity.

She clicked the TV set off and searched around. Neither her husband nor the girl were anywhere in the house. This puzzled her.

She went outside to the woodshed. Maybe Paul was still here? He'd be able to say where Bella was.

She opened the door. Bella came belting out from within and rushed rudely past her. Inside was her husband.

"What was she doing in here?" she asked.

"I was just showing her how to chop wood," said Paul.

Jane wondered why her husband was holding his left hand.

"What happened to your hand?"

"Oh, it's nothing."

"Show me, darling."

Reluctantly Paul did. There was a long red line along the length of it and blood was issuing forth.

"Did she do this?"

"No, no," said Paul.

Jane made Paul agree to a new rule: children were not allowed in the woodshed as it was dangerous, both for them and for their uncles, no matter how much covering-up they wanted to do.

Mr. and Mrs. Pleasance arrived back at one in the morning - not quite the ten o' clock they'd promised.

"Bella? Where's my Bella C'mere!" said Mr. Pleasance, trying to give his daughter a hug. She was silent and wouldn't look at him.

"Did you have a nice time with your Uncle Paul and Aunty Jane?" asked Bella's mother.

"No," said Bella.

"'Course she did!" beamed Mr. Sorrell. "Make much money, old son?"

Mr. Pleasance laughed and said that you had to expect ups and downs in this life. He ushered his wife and daughter into their car. Mr. and Mrs. Sorrell came to wave them off. Mrs. Sorrell was smiling serenely; Bella's mother was grinning in her usual friendly manner and Mr. Pleasance was chuckling away behind the steering wheel. But Bella's and Mr. Sorrell's eyes caught each other momentarily. It was the look two people give each other who know things the rest of the world don't. And neither of them were laughing.

The End

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