Myra loved Wednesday afternoons.
Arnold’s office worked to the same hours as the shop and warehouse. Half day closing meant that not only did he return early enough that the fireplace in the parlour could be lit, but he always returned with one or two little treasures as he liked to call them. One of three clerks in the shipping office Arnold was neither the most senior, nor the more junior and old Mr. Farnsdale was due for retirement in two years time. Besides, it was Arnold that dealt with the men and so on Wednesday afternoon there were the little treasures. Today it was a four pound tin of real butter and much to her delight a pair of authentic stockings still sealed in their cardboard packet. They were American of course, and how Myra delighted at the picture of the smiling housewife that adorned the upper side; the price in cents, not shillings. They were not exactly on ration, but supply made for its own and Myra only had two pairs visibly without runs and one of them had gone at the toe.
The kitchen neat still Myra moved the bread tin to check for crumbs. There had been a mouse in the trap that morning. Its little grey body had then still on the tiles of the larder floor it was now discarded but not forgotten, wrapped in brown paper in the dustbin out of sight but not of mind. She looked at the larder door now. Despite the door she could see where the mouse had gotten in. Know where it had scrabbled about dirtily. There she kept ships biscuit in the greaseproof paper. Three different sizes of tinned meat and twenty one jars in which carefully prepared were pickles, preserves and jams all made on the smart new gas cooker Arnold had saved for and had installed just two years before. She fetched up the matches from the spot by the best milk jug and slipped them into the pocket of her pinny. The parlour would need to warm for tea. It was cold outside and Arnold was in the potting shed, preparing for the thaw. The evening meal was to be sausages, potatoes and the last of the carrots till Friday. All dressed with her mother’s gravy (God bless her soul) that made any meal special, though Myra well knew they had it better than many in Oldbury Road. She paused before leaving the kitchen to glance once again at the larder door. The paint was a little yellowed. She would speak to Arnold about that and he would unhang the door on Sunday to give it a fresh coat. Yes, she would speak to him after tea.
In the street children were playing with more screams than laughter. Myra slipping into the parlour and twitched back the net curtains to make sure they were not abusing her little front garden, just ten by five between door and street. Satisfied she bent to the grate to light the fire already laid Monday morning after clearing the ashes and soaping the iron from Sunday. Some only used the parlour for visitors (but they had few enough of those). But here the parlour was for Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon. She had thoroughly dusted it that morning as she did every day. Indeed Myra spent the four hours of every morning once Arnold had left for work with the kiss on the cheek, the nod of the head and the three steps to the door as it was every morning, never on Sunday.
The kindling caught quickly. Myra scattered coal in the grate, careful not to spill between bucket and fire. Sunday, Myra liked Sunday most of all. The children outside ran by. They had never been so blessed and if that had once made knots in her conscience then time had mellowed that too. One, either or both of them was wrong it seemed; inside. Arnold had decided those years ago that they would not see the Doctor on the matter. To his mind to know if which of them was wrong inside would only make blame. It was better that neither knew. That was very Arnold. At times talking as she did with her sister Myra had heard that children were no daisy-bright wonders, perhaps things were better this way. Perhaps. The grate warmed the parlour quickly. Wednesday and Sunday only.
On Sunday Arnold would rise as he always did at a quarter past six by his father’s clock on the mantle (God rest his soul). Myra would, as she had every Sunday since the first after they had been married, remain in bed. For twenty minutes she would enjoy the warmth no matter the weather and Arnold would return with tea and toast. Always tea and always toast. Dark and well buttered. They would eat together in bed (and oh how later she would hunt the crumbs) and by seven they would make love.
In this and on talking to her sister, Myra felt herself lucky. She and Arnold only ever made love on Sunday morning. Church they would attend at Evensong. If they lived lives now that saw them passing to meet it seemed only at regular mealtimes and for bed, then on Sunday morning and just as regularly they made love. Myra had not been nervous on her wedding night. She had married late for her family, nearly a spinster at twenty four. Arnold, the funny little man that worked the office where her uncle (God too rest his soul)| had worked the warehouse. He had courted her at first nervously and then with only a little more confidence.
They had both been virgins on their wedding night, she believed him when he had admitted it, and there had been a certain amount of awkwardness but unlike her sister who seemed to regard the whole thing as distasteful (‘his wickedness’) Myra had come to enjoy it greatly. Indeed and over twenty years of marriage what had once been a not unpleasant duty now was something she looked forward to and indeed at times now lead. For all his reserved ways and dedication to order, Arnold had as her own vigour increased sought to match it. Working in a shipping office he was able to acquire French pornography and in the same manner he would read the instructions for anything else, had committed himself to mastering such as was described and illustrated. Her sister would be scandalised to learn of the occasions when whilst Arnold was down the stairs preparing tea and toast Myra had inspected the pornography, pressed and bound in the potting shed as he might later in the day his seed catalogues. The very thought caused her to spot. It was Wednesday however, not Sunday. Myra rose and placing the guard before the fire went to begin on the tea.
“Bother!” she said. The thought had quite put Myra’s thoughts elsewhere. Come bed and she would have to wait for Arnold’s snores before turning over to attend to herself. Her pillow had a particularly agreeable corner where the stuffing made a ridge.
The sausages she set to one side, potatoes and carrots to be peeled first. With her grandmother’s knife (God rest her soul) Myra stripped the vegetables with practised and perfect efficiency. The peelings went into the tin pig bin. No, they lived better than most. If Arnold was only a clerk then better a clerk than a labourer. And every Thursday a small postal order would arrive. Myra did not know from whom it was sent, surely not the young man for whom they looked after the golf clubs, but a lawyer most likely. One of those stiff, severe men whose wives looked at Myra rather as she looked at the wives of those as common as they ought to be. The postal order for three shillings three pence and all because in Arnold’s potting shed there was a golf bag. Myra pretended to herself it held clubs. Whenever Arnold was in the shed she knew he would open the bag and maintain what was within. He cleaned and oiled (she had smelt it upon his hands before carbolic and water had made that right again) and made sure that what was sealed, remained so. That was as much as he had said.
If one day the golf bag was ever gone and the key kept under the blue stone in the rockery was left in its place then neither she nor Arnold would wonder. That nice young man (in need of a haircut to her mind) would have retrieved the parcel and no more would be said. Such a nice young man, so mannered, so charming. Myra had liked him immediately the only time they had met, when Arnold had returned from the office with the unexpected guest. Myra paused as she remembered the young man.
Yes, she would definitely have to make up the pillow tonight.
There were sausages for tea.