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CHAPTER 2: MORNING AFTER
Cassette 1 continued: New Year's Day, Hotel Kyla
Happy New Year, my darling Nyge! I wish I could ring you, but it would be impossible anyway: the lines are down because of the snow. It's drifted halfway up the downstairs windows. Stuart and Shorty are digging about a bit by the front door but they'll give up soon. Too deep. It was Elizabeth's idea. Stuart reckons Shorty is on punishment fatigues after his wife caught him last night. Sun's a bit bright for my poor head, though. It shines in on this wooden room of mine, and turns it yellow and cream. Ugh. I missed breakfast.
It smells of pine resin. That must be the new wood-tiles on the floor. They creak. The whole place groans and snaps and bangs all night. You think you can hear people in the corridor and even in the bedroom once you turn the light off, but it must be those tiles expanding and contracting with the central heating. Anyway, they're loose so I'll hide my cassettes and my engagement ring underneath. Why are you so coy about your wifey-to-be, my dear?
But you'll want to hear about the party, my love, and I have plenty of scandal to amuse you with. Maury is better, by the way. Says it's something he ate. He blames the baby carrots. That and too much of everything else, Stuart told him. Maury just had more of the cook's microbes than we did.
“Don't you ever wash your hands?” he said to Paul suddenly, through a mouthful of reindeer.
Paul took his hand out from up his tee-shirt, lifted his elbow off the table, unslouched himself and gawped at Maury. His hair stands up in clumps on top like your socks after trekking. His brain was struggling to stand up, too, but nothing happened. And that was when he was sober.
“Don't blame the chef,” murmured Elizabeth. “There's nothing but dried food in that kitchen.”
Her earrings began to jiggle with increasing intensity.
“He works miracles, considering. Where did you find those tinned carrots, by the way?”
“Odd tin. Found it.”
He almost started to smirk and you could almost see his green teeth.
“See what else I can find. Chocolate violet creams suit you?”
My favourite again. And Elizabeth will get it all from her bit of rough. If the price is giving compliments to the chef, I'll have to do without.
I wore my pink lace to the party. Stuart said it flattered my blush. I don't know what he meant. Why do you never flatter me, my dear? Manly reticence, perhaps. But you were too kind to send me on this holiday. I think of you alone at New Year and am moved at your noble sacrifice. It will be such a romantic reunion.
Louise spent all yesterday afternoon decorating the bar. You should have seen it. Three balloons and a slumped Edenfield. He has now found the viinaa (vodka to you).
“Any improvement on the tarschnapps ?” I asked him.
He sat up, after a manner of speaking, and looked blankly ahead through that heavy, Norman physog.
“Bit stronger; not much. Have water in it anyway. Maintain sobriety,” and he slumped back onto the bar.
Mandy slinkered in, in a clingy evening job with diamonds and bare feet, dialling intently on her mobile phone.
“Oh no, not out here, Masina. Games.”
So, my dear Nyge, we are cut off: snow; phone lines; cellphone reception. But I dream of you from afar, and you think passionately of me. That is true romance.
The tarschnapps is indeed very pleasant. It's a sort of brown sherry: weak, but plenty of it. I guess they keep it in tar barrels. Bit of a shock at first. Then you like it. Then you don't notice.
Shorty relaxes after a bottle or three. He's very good at electronic games. He could show Mandy a thing or two, he said. Did I tell you he's nearly seven foot tall? And Mandy is five foot nothing. So on his lap she went, with much shrieking and guffawing. Edenfield as usual affected to notice nothing. I guess she tires him out. There must be forty years difference between them. Sixteen, she is – and him an old Duke who's loaded. Well done, Mandy: you have Edenfield's ice and Shorty's slobbering, both round your neck like albatrosses. But for how long?
Elizabeth sat with her back to them, never turning once. She and Paul were playing dominoes for chocolates, and drinking viinaa from the bottle. As he sneered into her eyes, past the ciggie and over the vodka, I wondered. The lady and the tramp. Well, if she's punishing Shorty for something, he can expect a few fleas in due course, at the very least.
You should have seen Louise's party get-up. Full three-piece suit: flies, co-respondent shoes, watch and chain – the lot. I'm sure I smelled after-shave, but maybe it was the tarschnapps .
“This is nothing,” she told the third balloon (which had burst). “I haven't let my hair down, yet.”
“Very smart,” morphed Tracy through a wad of gum. She chewed that gum all through dinner. Stuart says it's a skill, like Paul keeping his fag on permanently, even while ‘doing it,' according to the male grapevine. Male machismo. Huh.
Did Tracy dress up for the party? You couldn't tell. She looked like a tied-up mailbag, anyway, with that topknot. She smells of catfood. One sniff of her and Maury started to look ill again.
Then Louise and Tracy checked out the viinaa and they did let their hair down. We were treated to a concert, of sorts. After the first rugby song, I escaped to the ladies. Staggering about, halfway up the stairs with a case of tarschnapps , were Elizabeth and Paul. She had her hand in his tee-shirt. I couldn't look.
I retired early. I believe Stuart retired early. Not together, of course. Of course not. Oh no, my dear. But I took a bottle with me and we – I mean I – drank to the New Year at midnight. I thought of you. Honestly, I did.
A knock at my door – just a minute . . .
No fry-up this morning apparently. Paul must be hung over or in a sulk - or maybe still cornered by Elizabeth. Shorty and Stuart are looking for him. I'll go and help. Nearly lunchtime and I hate cooking.Bye-bye my sweet, till tomorrow. This will be our own New Year, I promise. Your own Thomasina. Kiss kiss.
Copyright © 2003 LS
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