I was starting to enjoy the quiet now the Adam was gone. I missed him terribly but I hadn’t noticed until it stopped how noisy the house had become in the months previously. Not because Adam was noisy but because it had been a way of him filling the silence. As we had started to talk less and less, he had put the TV on to fill the distance. Whatever room we were in together had acquired a TV. All except his office.
Eventually the only time we were talking was when we were out and it wasn’t to each other. Unknowingly I was finding a way to ignore completely that Adam and I were beginning to talk less and less because I had my germ-busting secret mission filling my time.
As we alternated dinner parties over the next few week’s things went from bad to worse.
Through stealth and careful monitoring, I managed to make my way through most of the rooms in each home. There was evidence on more than one host and hostesses mattress and inside various pillowcases that left much to be desired.
At the time though I didn’t realise I was unhappy. I’d found a way to actually enjoy these evenings. My mission was clear. These people needed to be saved from themselves.
So secretly every time we were invited out to dinner, I cleaned the houses we were invited to.
It had been surprisingly easy. As the dishes were removed and collective blood left the brains and settled itself to the job of digestion and alcohol absorption, no one really noticed as I left the room. No one commented on the size of my bag. It was weird, but I was weird so no news there. No one really noticed the late arrival of the coffee either, which now became my designated job, a special assignment allocated to me after my rough treatment of Eileen’s precious dinner service and as her new ‘hilarious’ punch line to my perceived bulimia “Sending you to make the coffee is a great way of keeping your head out of the toilet darling”.
As any group becomes more and more drunk, the quieter ones seem to vanish anyway and time takes on it’s own continuum.
Mention coffee to a group of ten drunks and you will get maybe two takers. By the time you walk back in with a pot of freshly brewed aromatic Arabica and some tiny biscuits, you can guarantee that a least six will have convinced themselves that they said yes.
Add Cocaine to the scenario which Gareth had started to do with Freddy’s help as a secret and stupid ‘protest’ against Eileen’s tyranny, and you’ve got at least two people who will rant on for ages, if you forget the sugar.
Fortunately drugs had never been Adams thing. Seeing his cousin sent down for fifteen years for trafficking drugs when Adam was nine had a lasting effect on him and one of the main reasons he’d gone into medicine. He was ‘disappointed with Gareth’ for a while but it didn’t last.
So I was on the clock if I was going to get it done before anyone noticed I was gone. It never failed to amaze me just how much grime seems to lie unnoticed beside the cooker in an average kitchen. To me in my purposeful state these people could qualify for the Ecoli Olympics.
Yet their kitchens were a shrine to the nations obsession, with all things food.
They were definitely my favourite.
It’s unbelievable how tidy, yet filthy they were. People will mention their mess in an off hand jovial way, whilst not really believing what they say. You never cross the threshold of a home only to hear “Oh please excuse the dirt”.
People just don’t see it for themselves but to me, since beginning my crusade it was obvious.
Once in the kitchen, I knew that I had a maximum of half an hour before I was missed.
Well I say me that was missed but actually I mean the coffee.
I got away with it for ages. I had removed soap scum and degreased for months undetected. My big bag you see. Best thing I ever bought.
But my greatest challenged remained unconquered.
More than anything else she ran her home as I suspected she ran her sex life. Eileen definitely did not like the idea of people wandering unchecked outside her strictly designated areas.
The house they lived in was at the end of the village in a slightly elevated spot on a lane with eight other listed Georgian townhouses alongside it. Each house had a high walled front garden with the obligatory gravel. There was enough room for ten cars at the front but as we were all villagers too, we’d all walked to the party.
They had moved in five years previously and had been re-decorating floor by floor. At various dinner parties they had walked us through their thoughts, then talked us through the drawings, then shown us the work in progress and finally the finished result. The last room to be done was the master bedroom and every time I had been shown this room the en-suite bathroom door had been firmly closed. There was no reason to open it. The house had a bathroom on every one of its four floors.
Since I begun my secret cleaning, I had suggested popping in on more than one occasion but this was always met with firm rebuttal and we were then swept en masse out of the area to the waiting pigs trotters on the dining table downstairs.
It drove me to distraction. I had to know what lay behind that door but it wasn’t going to be easy.
Regardless of the months we had known one another, regardless even of the parameters of personal space, Eileen would trot along behind me like a Messerschmitt in the wake of a spitfire.
It never exactly got to a dogfight but we weren’t far off.
I would attempt
Distraction ”Is that Gareth calling you from downstairs?”
Deviation ”Oh I think I dropped an earring.”
Diarrhea, clutching my stomach and making a dash from the bedroom toward the en-suite.
But with lightening speed Eileen would get between me and my goal and waggling her finger she would herd us back downstairs.
As I’d cleaned my way through our other friend’s houses, the contents of Eileen’s bathroom had consumed me. What was that woman hiding?
I knew that whatever lay behind that door must be a veritable treasure trove of filth and this meant that it would take all of my cleaning skills and products from my top shelf.
These were my Internet ordered, truly hazardous ones.
Industrial strength cleaners. In the wrong hands they could be dangerous but for me, they were safe.
As the evening wore on a most unexpected thing happened to me. I found myself quite enjoying this evening. I’d been chatting to Eileen’s sister Kathy, a “wild card” single. She was up from London staying for a week. She worked for a mental health charity in their campaigns department and we’d been having a chat about the challenges they faced with funding. She was really committed and also hilarious. She knew her sister better than anyone and together we were getting quietly pissed and laughing at all the bullshit. “We should have lunch while I’m here” she said ”Then I can tell you all about Eileen’s past. Don’t believe her holier than thou bollocks, she’s full of it” I really liked Kathy.
A vague feeling of guilt became stronger and harder to ignore. What I was doing was crazy and impossible to explain. If any of them found out it would be the end of our friendship let alone Adam’s reaction. No the products in my bag would stay bottled up and unused.
Then Moira’s mobile phone rang.
Moira was the other “wild card” single and had been wooed by Eileen, into a friendship she seemed slightly uncomfortable with.
Her discomfiture was entirely academic to Eileen. The facts to her were clear. Their children attended the Independent school a couple of miles outside Leebury and Moira’s husband David was a famous actor doing what all famous actors should have been doing that night, filming with Julia Roberts in Scotland.
The phone call was from the nanny.
Moira’s daughter had fallen out of her top bunk bed and in the nanny’s opinion, broken her arm. The nanny had sensibly wasted no time and was calling Moira from the car to tell her they were on their way to the Hospital and for Moira to meet them there.
Moira dissolved into floods of tears.
Eileen immediately ordered Gareth to run Moira to the Hospital. A feat made obviously impossible as he stood up and promptly fell backwards pissed and laughing.
This served to heighten Moira’s distress and desperate to save face and secure her position as Moira’s new best friend, Eileen seething, announced that she would do it.
You could see that Eileen wasn’t overly thrilled. Moira had let the side down already by not bringing her famous husband with her. Eileen had already mentioned to me privately that evening, that with the BAFTA’S coming up she had high hopes of being included on David’s table, so she rushed to cover her irritation with a breathtaking, if slightly forced smile.
And with that they were gone.
The ease with which the opportunity had arisen was staggering. I tried to ignore it but I had to know what was behind that door. This was my only chance. I had to take it. I made my excuses to Kathy and grabbing my bag from the hall I made my way upstairs.
My heart was pounding as I climbed the stairs. I reached floor after floor tiptoeing past the children’s bedrooms.
I needed to focus. With a sweating palm I turned the handle to the master bedroom. Slowly and savouring every step I approached the door to the bathroom. I was there.
I opened the door and in the darkness felt around for the light switch. I found it. I was trembling in anticipation. I turned the switch.
Slowly I tried again. Still nothing. There were trailing wires and boxes of tiles clearly the new en-suite was in the final stages of redecorating.
How could I clean it, if I couldn’t see it? I opened the door to the bedroom as wide as I could. I couldn’t turn back now.
I knew it was there. The dirt had to be there. Why else keep it so secret. There was no other explanation for the secrecy. I opened my bag in the reflected light from the bedroom and choosing carefully, I selected the products I needed.
I poured them one by one into the toilet bowl, which I knew had to be filthy and slipped on my marigolds with a delicious shiver. The products mixed together and began to fizz, a lot. I hadn’t used them before so had no idea if this was normal but no matter.
It was then that I heard a distant belch. Then after a pause, another one, this time a little closer and followed by a prolonged fart.
It was Gareth.
I tried to move and couldn’t. He was going to catch me red handed, cleaning his bathroom.
How would I explain this?
Well you can’t explain it can you. There was nothing else to do. I grabbed my bag, ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed.
Wheezing heavily Gareth stumbled in and staggered into the bathroom.
Although obviously used to the lack of light, due to the building work, his blood alcohol seemed to be impeding his progress. From my vantage point under the bed, I heard him opening a cabinet in the bathroom smashing a bottle in the basin in the process. The unmistakable sound of Gareth snorting cocaine was followed by a pause then
“Where are you, you fucker” he growled. I froze. Did he know I was under the bed?
Then he said “AH HA GOTCHA! This‘ll give ‘em a laugh”
He knew. He’d found me. It was all over.
But it wasn’t me he’d found.
As I peered out from under the bed, Gareth walked out into the bedroom grinning and holding the largest vibrator I had ever seen.
“Eileen’s best friend eh? The sanctimonious cow doesn’t know I know about you, does she my Phallus friend. Let’s take you downstairs and give everyone a big laugh eh?” And with that he took his cigar out of his mouth and turning threw it into the toilet bowl behind him, where it connected with my chemicals. There was a searing blue white light then nothing.
I was told afterwards that the explosion could be heard for 3 miles.
I woke up in hospital two days later.
I’d lost two days but Gareth had lost the tip of two fingers from his left hand and had to have skin grafts to his right. Possibly the part that had annoyed Eileen the most, was the reason for his skin grafts.
The heat from the blast had welded the vibrator to his palm. The police cordoned off the area and evacuated the neighbours for their own safety. Most of the village was assembled by the time Gareth was wheeled the length of the lane on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance. His arm in a splint and the welded vibrator still attached to his hand.
Adam divided his time between visiting my hospital bed and Gareth’s and sat grim faced while I gave my statement to a young PC who to her great credit didn’t laugh once.
Although the anti-terror unit decided not to pursue it, It didn’t prevent Kate nicknaming the whole episode “Operation dildo”
So there it was done and dusted, to use a cleaning analogy.
Still we’d all come out of it more or less alive. Gareth was healing and he and Eileen had retrieved their favourite bit of my marriage, Adam and taken him to a ‘place of safety’. I was feeling a little sorry for myself and I was wondering what else could go wrong. I was having a bit of a wallow in selfpity and I hated myself for it but it was true.
I filled the kettle and the phone rang. It was my sister Lucy “ Hi Sarah,” she sounded quiet. “Hi luce how’s things?” She paused then “Oh there ok. Listen, if Adam doesn’t mind, can I come over to yours tomorrow night?”
I still hadn’t plucked up the courage to tell her that Adam had left yet. I just didn’t think it was fair to Mum and I really couldn’t face telling Mum.
“Um… sure are you ok?” “Yes fine it’s just the girls..” She trailed off, my twin nieces Amy and Phoebe were quite a handful and Lucy was shattered most of the time because they didn’t sleep much and were into everything.
“Are they ok”
“Yes well…yes except.. well, the thing is, it’s Amy. She’s been diagnosed with Autism”