Simon Parke  
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Cadbury runs an errand

CHAPTER 6

You will remember that in the last episode, Mrs Post heard about the hole from David, and about a meal for two at the Manor; Jane walked down Long Lane and we heard all about the gymnasium that would never now be. Patricia shone as Billy disappointed; Inky blushed with delight, and Dr Hafiz and Cadbury talked about the army.

The phone was ringing at The Palace, where Algernon Key was trying to get some sleep. A determined Mrs Post let it ring and ring and ring. It was good the authorities were dealing with the hole, but as Chair of the Parish Council, Alky should at least be informed.

‘Algernon would sleep through a large plane crash, involving multiple explosions,’ said Mrs Post to herself wryly, as she finally put the phone down. She had let it ring for two whole minutes, so felt she had made her point.

‘I know you’re there; and if you’re not going to answer, you must suffer.’

With her ringing duties done, Mrs Post now held an envelope up to the neon light, and tried to read the address on it. It was a most poorly written affair – the scrawl either of a child, or just someone who was a bit mental.

‘Good morning, Mrs Post!’ said Cadbury. ‘Where do you want me to start?’

‘Talk of the devil!’ thought Mrs Post.

Cadbury did an hour’s cleaning for Mrs Post every morning. She had done this ever since she was 14, and in those days, she had really looked up to Mrs Post.

‘I wish I could be all organised and certain like her,’ she would think longingly, all those years ago.

And in a way, aged 19, she still did. Mrs Post sorted everything, and she sorted nothing.

Cadbury was in a state of some anxiety, however, after what happened at the Post Office yesterday. In short, she had entered the forbidden room. She hadn’t known it was forbidden. It didn’t say ‘Forbidden’ on the door, or anything like that, and anyway – she’d only popped her head round. But my oh my oh my! What a telling off she’d had from Mrs Post! A total blowing up! She’d never seen Mrs Post so angry. Cadbury hadn’t wanted to come in today at all. She really hated people being angry with her, and always blamed herself.

‘Today I want you to go to The Palace,’ said Mrs Post. She seemed a bit calmer now, which was a big relief for Cadbury.

‘Are you no longer angry with me?’ asked Cadbury. She had to ask.

‘Angry with you?’

‘Yesterday you were very angry with me for going in that room.’

‘Silly girl, Cadbury. I wasn’t angry with you yesterday. I don’t get angry.’ said Mrs Post.

This was so completely untrue that Cadbury’s brain didn’t really know what to do with it.

‘It’s just that in someone else’s home,’ continued Mrs Post, ‘you don’t open doors. Or rather, not all the doors. Not the forbidden ones.’

‘I see.’

‘But as I say, I wasn’t angry. I don’t get angry.’

It was still completely untrue, but because she had now said it twice, been repeated and emphasised, Cadbury began to believe it – and it was a great relief.

‘Now, I want you to be a good girl,’ said Mrs Post, ‘and make sure that Mr Key gets this note. Do you understand me? Mr Key must get this note.’

Cadbury quite understood – Alky must get the note, and Cadbury must get this right; mustn’t do anything wrong again.

At that moment, Jane entered the Post office. She noticed both the fear in Cadbury’s demeanour, and the jaw of Mrs Post, locked in a grimace. Did they know about the hole she had just encountered in the High Street? Was it common knowledge? It was clearly a large hole, and one requiring correct diagnosis. What on earth had caused it?

It was unlike Cadbury to be so rude. She almost pushed passed Jane on her way to the door, as though she couldn’t get out fast enough. In fact, Cadbury shot out the shop like a rabbit released from a trap. She wanted no more lecturing words about ‘opening doors’ and ‘forbidden rooms’, and was very pleased to be in the High Street again. Now to The Palace! As she started her journey, she passed Mrs Pump and Patricia, who were joined in conversation.

‘Oh, Mrs Pump,’ said Patricia, ‘just to let you know that things are sorted.’

‘Oh really? And which particular things would those be?’

‘With Lord Jo, I mean.’

The two had met by chance at the gate of Mrs Pump’s cottage.

‘You spoke on the phone?’ asked Mrs Pump.

‘Well, the good thing was, I didn’t actually need to in the end. We met by his car, as he was leaving.’

‘As chance would have it,’ said Mrs Pump, suspiciously.

‘As chance would have it, indeed,’ said Patricia. ‘And everything’s fine. We’re going to have supper together tonight.’

‘Supper together tonight??’

‘All a bit of a rush, I know, but he was for sooner rather than later. Men!’

‘I don’t want to disappoint you, but I think you’ll find Lord Jo’s eating alone tonight,’ said Mrs Pump.

Cadbury heard no more, rushing on like a busy and bubbling stream in spring.

While Mrs Pump and Patricia were engaged in friendly banter, the Kid was down stream – but not down hearted. The earth smelt wonderful this morning, and her little fire crackled in the surrounding damp. Her best happiness came upon her like the stealthy light of dawn. It would come surprisingly, like someone never met until now, who turns up from nowhere, and is entirely kind and brilliant! The Kid had wondered about writing this letter for a while. It seemed a way to move forward. If you can’t talk, and somehow she couldn’t, then you must find other ways. That’s as obvious as an otter – and she had once seen an otter in the river. She had duly dropped the letter through the door of the Post Office last night.

Another thing was also obvious: she must return to the hole in the road very soon. Even tonight perhaps? She regretted being so frightened by Alky. Experiences did sometimes trigger fear in her, but she found herself increasingly able to recover her nerve. Next time, perhaps she would stand her ground in the face of hostility or derision. It would be easier if she could speak, of course. But she would return to the hoe tonight, definitely. She wished to feel again its ripped and jagged edges, and gaze into its darkness. Was she mad to wish this?

*

Alky, however, wished only to sleep. Ring, ring, ring! Knock, knock, knock! All morning! All day! Would no one leave him alone? He dragged himself from his bed, and like a wasp with a headache, appeared from the upstairs window. ‘Who is it?’

‘It’s Cadbury, Mr Key. I have a message for you from Mrs Post.’

‘Why does no one let me sleep?’

‘She said it was very important, Mr Key.’

‘Why do people insist on waking me up all the time??’

‘She just said it was urgent, and that I must give it to you,’ said Cadbury, not wanting another telling off.

Overwhelmed with outrage – for this wasn’t the first time, this had been going on for years, and a man could only take so much – Alky threw a bedside lamp at Cadbury, and then a flower vase, hitting her first on the leg, and then on the side of the face. Cadbury staggered back, holding her face, as the warm crimson tide broke through her fingers. The letter dropped from her hands, which would make Mrs Post absolutely furious. But Cadbury knew only that she must make her legs work, and get far away from this bad place. And this is what she tried to do; she hobbled and lurched down the path, as fast as she could.

Alky made his way down the stairs. He didn’t quite know what had come over him, but there was really no need for a fuss. Hopefully the stupid girl had learned her lesson and all was well. And really, was it a crime to want to sleep?

By the time he reached the front door, Cadbury was gone, leaving only the blood-stained envelope, lying on the ground. Alky looked around briefly, to see if the girl had fallen in the flower bed or something. Not that he was a very committed gardener. He then bent down, and picked up the stained envelope.

‘Let me see, let me see,’ he said to himself, as he put on his reading glasses.

Once he’d opened it, he was furious to discover his sleep had been murdered for nothing more important than news of a hole he’d both already seen – and already forgotten about! Ye Gods!

(That’s how Algernon lived, by the way – by forgetting. He’d even forgotten about Cadbury, who by this time had stumbled down the road a little way, and fainted in a ditch. He’d forget his own funeral, that one. Though who knows – maybe in death he’d remember? Remember everything. Yikes! Let’s move quickly on!)

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