“Do you think we ought to go across and see if everything is OK?” asked Joan. “There are lights on upstairs and his car is on the drive.”
Bill looked up from his crossword. “Best keep out of, it has nothing to do with you and they wouldn’t thank you for interfering, you know what they say about him.”
Joan left her strategically placed gap in the curtain and headed for the hallway. She’d decided to telephone Margaret and Ted to see if they’d heard the screaming and shouting. “Besides, Margaret can hear a pin drop.”
Bill picked up his dictionary and flicked through his battered copy of the Oxford Concise Dictionary. “The last thing we need is to be known as the nosey neighbours, why you just can’t let it drop I don’t know, the next thing you’ll know is when he comes over here and bops one of us on the nose for not minding our own business.”
Margaret shouted back, “it said on Facebook that he’s known as a wife batterer, bloody disgusting that scum like that should work with children. Hello Margaret, have you heard anything from next door? It’s just that Philip and his wife were passing with the dog and heard a tremendous commotion…” Joan listened intently, nodding, humming and ahah-ing. “Well if you get to know what’s going on, give us a call, bye, yes bye.”
“Well?” enquired Bill.
Half an hour passed and the back door bell chimed. Margaret and Frank stood well-wrapped and smiling under the light from a neighbouring street-lamp.
“It’s only us” said Margaret.
“Come in, come in” beckoned Joan, “I’ll pop the kettle on, go through, Bill’s doing his crossword and there’s nothing on telly, I’ll be through in a minute.”
Margaret and Frank made their way to the lounge, popped their coats on the back of the dining room chairs and sat on the three-seater mint-green sofa.
“Has something happened?” enquired Bill.
Margaret told him a convoluted tale about missed appointments, her re-occurring gout, how and when someone who she once worked with had died and finally, she got to the comings and goings of her next door neighbours Gary and Sheila.
Margaret shuffled forward on her chair and hardly audible said “Gary, so rumour has it is a wife beater.
“There you go, I knew I was right, it said it on Facebook.” proclaimed Joan as she brought in a tray of tea and a plate of bourbon creams.
Margaret nodded in agreement and continued “well it didn’t actually say he was a wife beater Joan but someone who used to work with his wife Sheila said that she’d heard all wasn’t well in their relationship and that he could be a real bully at times. The Facebook thing was something he, Gary, wrote about Sheila, I can’t remember what it was now but you could tell from the tone that he wasn’t pleased and that Sheila was in trouble for something or other. The following week, Sheila had a graze on her face and a bruise on her hand.”
“So nothing was actually said then?” responded Bill.
Frank leapt to Margaret’s defence, “well she wouldn’t make it up Bill, not something like that.”
The conversation deepened and as the chimes of Big Ben rang out with News at Ten, Gary had been vilified and permanently branded as a violent, unsociable wife beater even if he was quite handsome and charming to talk to.
They’re all like that…” muttered Joan as she dunked her biscuit. “It’s the charming handsome ones you have to watch, that’s why I married Bill, I knew I’d be safe.”
They all laughed except Bill who peered over the top of his glasses and smirked.
Two weeks passed and Joan was sat in her sunny chair next to the conservatory window. “Well I don’t believe it. Bill, have you read this in the Daily Echo? It says that a restraining order against Sheila Fergas of blah blah blah was issued yesterday in court. Gary Fergas 38, had suffered physical violence and mental cruelty for several years from his partner, I thought he was younger than that, and had twice been treated in the past for lacerations and broken ribs. In a police statement to the court blah blah blah, anyway the top and bottom of it is that she’s had to leave the marital home and cannot go within 500 meters of him or the house.”
Bill came through to the conservatory holding a tea-towel and a dripping mug. “So it was her after all then?”
“I wonder if Margaret knows?” enquired Joan.
The doorbell rang. “Oh yes,” said Bill.
“I could never understand what he ever saw in her, someone as handsome as him could get someone much better.” said Joan.
Margaret came dashing through to the conservatory clutching her copy of the Daily Echo. “I suppose you’ve both seen it? What a shame, he’s a lovely chap, it just goes to show…”