‘Brenda, this is butter! You know I can’t eat butter with my heart.’
‘It’s not butter, Gerald, it’s a new low fat spread.’
He grunted. ‘In that case it’s probably full of additives.’
‘I think it’s rather nice.’ Brenda helped herself to another slice of bread.
‘You’d want to watch it, you’re getting a bit chunky around the middle.’
Brenda paused, the bread halfway to her mouth.
‘And you should leave short sleeves to younger women. Flabby skin is not very attractive.’
Brenda stared at her husband in dismay and slid her bread back onto the plate.
‘I need you to go to the pharmacy for my prescription,’ Gerald continued, ‘and pick up some antacids, those chops last night were very greasy.’
‘But I grilled them,’ she protested.
He fixed her with a look. ‘Well, something disagreed with me, Brenda, I’m not making it up.’
‘Of course not, sorry.’ Brenda stood and started to clear the table.
‘I’m not finished,’ Gerald barked.
‘Sorry,’ Brenda said again and sat down.
‘I want you to drop off my grey suit at the dry-cleaners’ I have an important lunch tomorrow and press that new white shirt.’
Brenda resisted the urge to tell him to say please.
‘So I won’t want dinner tomorrow night, just a salad or something light but none of that processed rubbish.’ Gerald Mulvaney stood up, took his suit jacket from the back of the chair, and patted her shoulder. ‘Don’t spend all day in front of the television, there’s a good girl.’
Brenda clenched her fingers around her tea cup. Just once Gerald had come home early to find her watching the TV and he hadn’t let her forget it since. After he’d gone, she walked out to the mirror in the hall and studied the tops of her arms. They didn’t look that fat, she thought, pinching the skin mercilessly but she still went upstairs to change her top.
Eighteen Months Later
‘My feet are killing me!’ Jan Richardson led the way into the coffee bar and flopped into a seat, dropping her bags at her feet. ‘Get me a latte, Viv.’
Viv dumped her shopping next to her sister and went to fetch two coffees and two custard slices. ‘Where to next?’ she asked when she returned.
‘I saw the most amazing red sling-backs in Brown Thomas.’
‘Can you afford them?’
‘Oh, who cares? Its ages since I bought anything.’
‘You bought that Louis Vuitton clutch bag last week’ Viv reminded her.
Jan made a face. ‘That doesn’t count, it was in a sale – oh my God!’
‘What?’ Viv turned to see who Jan was staring at.
‘I can’t believe it,’ Jan whispered, ‘Its Brenda Mulvaney.’
Viv turned to study the slim brunette in a sleeveless, short black sundress that showed off toned smooth arms and shapely tanned legs. ‘You need to get your eyes tested,’ Viv retorted, ‘you thought that was dowdy Brenda Mulvaney?’
‘I suppose you’re right,’ Jan admitted, ‘but she’s a dead ringer for her.’
‘After a makeover maybe. Remember her husband, what was his name? He wouldn’t let her wear make-up and made her dress like a nun.’
‘Gerald,’ Jan replied, nodding.
‘God, yes, Gerald! What a hypochondriac! He always had poor Brenda cooking special meals and buying him diet this and low-fat that. What was wrong with him anyway?’
‘High blood pressure or cholesterol or something, I don’t know. I remember being over there one time and he was sitting in his chair reading the newspaper, barely said a word to me. Anyway, me and Brenda were chatting over a cuppa and the next thing he says – no excuse me or anything –
“Brenda there’s a piece here that says blueberries are very good for lowering cholesterol.’
‘”Oh really?” she says, ever so polite. “Yes,” says he, “Check out your cookbooks and see if you can find a suitable recipe, will you?”
‘They’d probably be more beneficial raw,” she says, “you could have them on your bran flakes in the mornings.”
Well.’ Jan shook her head as she remembered, ‘he was furious. “Is it too much trouble to make me something, then?” he says. “I’d have thought you’d do anything in order to improve my health.”’
‘Oul eejit,’ Viv retorted. ‘I’d have got down a cookbook alright and hit him with it!’
The two women looked up to see the brunette smiling down at them delightedly. ‘I thought it was you!’
‘Brenda?’ Viv breathed, staring at the beautiful creature in amazement.
‘Brenda your hair, your make-up, you look fantastic! Jan stood up to hug her old friend.
Brenda laughed. ‘Thanks, I thought it was time for a change.’
‘Come and join us,’ Viv insisted, pulling another chair over.
Brenda sat down between the two sisters. ‘I’m so glad to see you both again, it’s been too long. Wait till I tell Gerald.’
‘How is Gerald?’ Jan asked, not meeting her sister’s amused glance.
‘Not too well, I’m afraid. He had a stroke a few months ago.’
‘Oh, Brenda, I’m so sorry!’ Viv said. ‘Was it serious?’
Brenda sighed. ‘He’s totally dependent on me, I’m afraid and he can’t really communicate.’
Jan shot her sister a guilty look. ‘That’s terrible, how on earth are you coping?’
‘We muddle along. We have a wonderful nurse, Mark, who comes in morning and evening to help and luckily Gerald was insured so money isn’t an issue.’
‘Well, give him our best,’ Viv said.
Brenda smiled bravely. ‘I’ll do that.’
‘Gerald? Gerald, I’m home! You’ll never guess who I met, Viv and Jan Richardson.’
Gerald grunted from his chair by the fire.
‘I hope you’re hungry,’ Brenda continued, cheerily, ‘I’ve got the makings of a huge fry-up for you.’ As she spoke she took lard from the fridge and dropped a chunk into a frying pan. ‘I won’t have any, of course, got to watch my weight, haven’t I?’ She smoothed a manicured hand down over her flat stomach. ‘You know my back is aching after carrying all that shopping. I must ask Mark to give me a massage, he’s great with his hands, isn’t he?’
Gerald grunted in the background, his eyes bulged and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead.
Brenda walked over and patted him on the head. ‘You are going to be a good boy and eat up now, aren’t you, Gerald? You don’t want to make me angry again. You know I only want what’s best for you, don’t you? And if you’re a good boy I have something special for dessert, a new recipe I found for you. Its blueberries with butter crumble, topped with cream and ice-cream.’ She crouched down in front of him so that she could look straight into his eyes. ’I call it Blueberry Fool.’
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