What in god’s name is she doing here? The look of pure and utter shock on her flushed face, was something Mary simply could not hide. ‘Gertrude?’ Placing the tray of biscuits down on the table, Gertrude held her arms out wide as she approached a stunned Mary, who hadn’t blinked once since she realised it was her. ‘Surprise, give me a hug.’
‘Gertrude, what the hell are you doing here?’ Looking pretty pleased with herself, Gertrude’s arm was still around Mary’s shoulder when she took a seat next to her. ‘I thought you might miss me, and like you, I needed a change, so here I am. Great hey? It will be just like old times.’ Seriously? You are one of the main reasons I needed to get away.
‘I have been here for a week, but I thought I’d wait until today's meeting to surprise you. Noreen told me you’d be here.’ Oh, did she just? You could have waited a lifetime, and it would have been just fine with me. ‘Noreen has been so good to me. We are already besties, aren’t we Noreen?’ As Noreen blew Gertrude a kiss across the room, with the enthusiasm of a love sick princess in a fairy tale, Mary felt sick at the sight of the two of them together. ‘Yes Gertrude, you are my new right hand woman.’
Mary began to feel the room slowly closing in around her. It was suffocating, and she felt like she was struggling to breathe. ‘Sorry ladies, I’m not feeling too well. I think I’ll just step outside for some fresh air.’ Noreen and her new recruit exchanged looks of confusion, as Mary headed for the door, frantically fanning herself with a napkin on her way out.
Walking out into the sunshine, she took a few deep breaths in a feeble attempt to compose herself. OK, so, Gertrude has moved here. Followed me here. Bloody unbelievable. The nerve. She seems to have been recruited as Noreen’s little lacky, so, with any luck, they will too busy planning world domination to bother with little old me.
Her phone rang out in her pocket. ‘Hello’ Mary could hear Amy chatting away in the background. ‘Hi mum, it’s me. Just calling to tell you our flight arrives at ten o’clock on the twenty third. We should be three around midday. Is that OK?’ Mary was a million miles away in her own thoughts. ‘Mum? Hello. Are you still there?’
Mary’s attention was brought back to the call. ‘Oh yes, sorry darling. I’m still here.’ Melanie sensed something was bothering her mother. ‘What’s wrong mum, and don’t tell me nothing, I know you.’ Mary hoped it had all been a bad dream, well a nightmare really, but she was pretty sure she was wide wake, and this was really happening.
‘You are never gong to believe this sweetheart, but guess who just moved into the village? Melanie had no clue, but tried to lighten the mood a little. ‘I don’t know mum, Gerard Butler?’ Melanie could always make her mother laugh. ‘Ha, very funny darling, I wish, but sadly, no.’ Mary let out a sigh to rival all other sighs. ‘That bloody busy body Gertrude, that’s who.’
‘Oh, wow, that’s odd. Well, I’m sure it’s a big enough place, that you can manage to avoid her.’ Mary doubted it. Trying to avoid Gertrude, would be like trying to dodge bullets from enemy fire, on the battle field, after being unfortunate enough to lose a lower limb. ‘Well, we will see I guess. I better go sweetheart. Give me a call when you land at Coolangatta. Love you.’
Mary drew in another big deep breath before heading back into the meeting, which much to her surprise turned out to be both civilised and productive.
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2021