“That student girl - Marilyn is it? – gave me a very funny look this morning,” said Jonathan as he handed Sophie a pack of roast chicken and stuffing sandwiches. Jonathan had invited his daughter to lunch in the park, as it was such a lovely day. He had told her that he thought they didn’t do enough socializing together. She had rolled her eyes and agreed with a small degree of reluctance. She agreed with him. Now that her mother had left them, she felt that she needed to spend more time looking after and enjoying her father. Jonathan had nipped to Marks and Spencer and loaded up with sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and drinks. But inviting Sophie to neutral ground in the beautiful open space of the local park had nothing to do with the coincidental nice weather.
“Maxine, it’s Maxine,” corrected Sophie. “What did she say?”
“Nothing at all. I was on the mobile and she pulled this awful face as I tried to say hello. Strange girl.” Jonathan wiped mayonnaise off his lips.
“She’s okay. They are all okay. Well, this is nice, Daddy, can I go on the swings after lunch.” Sophie laughed and Jonathan joined in. The he composed himself to tell her about Annie and Chico. What a double whammy of trouble to explain that her mother was back in Maple Court and that Chico was the live-in lover.
“Sophie,” Jonathan said slowly, wincing as if he was walking on broken glass, “I have something to tell you.”
Sophie dropped her sandwich into the plastic container. “Oh my God, you’re getting married to the deli dragon. Tell me it’s not that.”
“No it’s not that. It’s your mother.”
“Not something trivial like a fatal accident,” Sophie threw in sarcastically.
“It could be worse than that. She’s back. In Maple Court. In the second floor flat,” said Jonathan in staccato mode. A short distance away from them, children were enjoying the playground, birds were twittering in the trees, an aeroplane was flying overhead and the sound of road traffic hummed from the road. But the silence from Sophie was deafening. Then she exploded.
“Are you telling me that, that, that cow is back? She’s back? She’s back living under the same roof as us? As me? When? How?” Sophie was animated. “Wait a minute. She’s in the second floor flat. That’s where Chico lives. Oh my God. That cow has moved in with him and she’s back to rub our noses in it. Well she’s in for one hell of a catfight. How could you let this happen?” Sophie was staring hard at her father, her eyes fixed unblinking on his. He was blinking like a madman because of embarrassment, nervousness and just being plain uncomfortable.
“Sophie, I have been agonizing about how to break this to you. It’s not great for me either. I thought she’d gone for good but obviously not.”
Sophie stood up and in a rage that he father had not seen since the tantrums of his two-year old daughter, she flung her sandwich with all the power and might of an Olympic shot-putter. No sooner had it hit the ground that several birds swooped down to fight over it. A woman, passing by with a Chihuahua on a lead, stopped and glared at Sophie. “Excuse me,” she shouted in a Lady Bracknell way, with that slight yodel noise at the back of her throat, “littering is not something a young lady should be doing. Think of the other park users.”
Sophie walked a few paces towards the woman and screamed at the top of her voice: ‘Mind your own bloody business, you interfering old goat. I was feeding the flipping birds, if you must know. You should go to Specsavers and take your little rat with you for company.”
Jonathan was trying to hide his face and turned sideways on the bench in a bid to distance himself from the scene.
“Can’t you keep your grandchild under control?” said the woman to Jonathan. He stood up and walked over to join his daughter.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about you blind old bat,” shouted Jonathan. “Watch out or the birds will have that piece of scrag end on the lead when they’ve finished their sandwich. Clear off.” The woman looked shocked. She bent down and picked up the Chihuahua before storming off, a red mist like Ready-Brek seemed to envelope her.
Jonathan and Sophie looked at each other, their serious faces melting into smirks, then huge smiles before both clutching each other in fits of belly-aching laughter.
“I have never been so rude in my life,” said Jonathan in a more composed moment. “And I have not seen you in a temper like that since you were a toddler.”
“I am so embarrassed. We’d better get out of here. She might have called the police,” said Sophie as they packed the picnic things into a carrier bag.
“Come on, granddad,” giggled Sophie, “we have to put on a united front to sort things out with Chico and the Cow. We don’t want them messing up our lives. She’s tried to do it once and she must have some ulterior motive to come back again to Maple Court. As for him, well you can’t judge a book by its cover. What a loser if he’s shacked up with her.”
Jonathan agreed in principle, if not in the use of language. “We need to get to the bottom of this, but we must do it carefully to avoid any unnecessary grief, at least for the two of us. In the meantime, my girl, we’ll have less of the granddad. By the way, did you remember I’m out tonight with Dot?”
Sophie gave him a raised eyebrow look and an “hmmm’ noise before kissing her father on the cheek and she then went back to work. Jonathan returned to the flat. He decided not to take the lift, in the interests of good health and exercise. On the way up stairs, he overtook Maxine who seemed to be struggling with a large sports bag.
“Would you like some help?” asked Jonathan.
“Oh, no, I’m fine, thank you,” said Maxine, a little red-faced and puffing slightly.
Jonathan walked on, unaware that Maxine was sticking her tongue out at him. She wasn’t really struggling with the bag but the dog inside was struggling to get out.
As Jonathan turned the key in his front door lock, he could have sworn he heard a yelp from somewhere close-by.