Previously in Leeford Village: Clara has had an idea what to do with the ring. Cody is becoming infatuated with Meredith Park, waxing lyrical about her to a total stranger in the pub. Linda is about to meet Allen Gomez, who is expecting to meet her sister, Sherry. Ethel has told Clara that Suptra owes a lot of money and is in imminent danger.
‘Oh, hello Nita, I didn’t expect you to be at home.’
Clara feels her face reddening.
‘It’s Sunday. My PPA time, which I never get at school. Would you like to come in?’
Nita Sangra steps to one side, exposing a long hallway, richly decorated in red and gold.
‘PPI time? Are you claiming?’
‘No, PPA. It’s time they give us to plan and assess. Three hours a week. It’s a joke! I spend at least that amount of time every night marking and planning lessons. On Sundays, I try to catch up with everything, though I never do.’
Nita can see that Clara is determined to remain on the doorstep.
‘Is there something I can do for you, Clara?’
‘It’s your uncle I’ve come to see. Is he in?’
Nita shakes her head. ‘No. It’s his day helping out at the Community Centre. He won’t be back until teatime. You could pop down there if you like.’
If you like. Clara is not sure that she does like anymore and is beginning to think her idea of what to do with the ring is a stupid one. However, she thanks Nita and walks in the direction of the Community Centre.
Agnes is filling the fish fryer with fresh oil, ready for the lunchtime opening. Sunday, the quietest lunchtime of the week, but enough business to make opening worthwhile.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
She looks up at the ceiling and wonders if other residents that live in the flats above the shops can hear it. She looks at her watch: 10:30, too early for music.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
She shouts upstairs.
‘Adam! Turn that music down!’
Since her son Adam moved back into the flat following the breakup of his latest long term (for Adam) relationship with the girl from Banfield, he has become a teenager again, staying out until the early hours, leaving his clothes wherever they have fallen and the state of the bathroom after he has used it would have the health inspectors closing down the chip shop. Working with him is fine, but living with him is becoming a nightmare.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Why isn’t Cody telling him to turn it down, thinks Agnes, knowing how her husband is usually ready with a sharp word for their son for the slightest misdemeanour.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Then a sound like a klaxon, followed by more thumps in quick succession.
‘Right, that’s it! Adam! Turn that music down!’
Agnes goes into the yard and returns with a hundredweight bag of potatoes. Adam should be doing this, she thinks. Or, Cody. Where is Cody?
The music is so loud that Agnes can’t hear herself think.
She runs up the stairs to Adam’s room, but the music is not coming from there. The music is coming from the lounge. She opens the lounge door and is met by the sight of Cody punching the air, hopping from one foot to the other, almost in time with the music.
‘Cody! What the…’
Agnes reaches over to the music player perched on top of the television and switches it off. Cody punches the air one more time, then collapses in a heap on the sofa.
‘What the hell are you doing, Cody? I thought the ceiling was going to come through!’
Cody throws his head back and spreads his arms wide.
‘Ah, it’s so good!’
‘So good? So loud!’
Agnes picks up a CD case from the floor. ‘Dance Anthems?’
‘Yes, Agnes. Some of the best are on here.’
‘Since when have you been interested in dance anthems? I’ve never seen you dance in all the years I’ve known you.’
‘I’ve never found the right music, before. And now I have,’ says Cody with a grin, before a fit of coughing takes him over.
‘You OK?’ asks Agnes, concerned for her husband’s health, if only for a brief moment.
Cody rises from the sofa. ‘Ouch!’ The pain in his lower back shoots through his body.
‘See, that’s what dance anthems does for you. Anyway, how do you know about this, this music, if it can be called music.’
‘I heard it in a shop and fell in love with it, straight away.’ Cody stretches towards the ceiling in an attempt to relieve the pain.
‘Which shop. In Leeford? No one plays this stuff in Leeford.’
‘I can’t really remember. Maybe in the pub.’
‘Well, I can’t imagine Ted or Sally playing this stuff for one moment.’
Cody sits back on the sofa. ‘It must have been a shop then. Perhaps, Meredith’s.’
‘Meredith’s? When were you in Meredith’s?’
‘I think I’ll get some frozen peas on this muscle. Do we have any?’
‘When, or more to the point, why were you in Meredith’s?’
Cody feels queasy but cannot decide whether it is from the back pain, or his wife’s interrogation.
‘I can’t say. But, hasn’t someone got a birthday coming up soon?’
Agnes smiles. ‘I’ll get you some peas. We need to open soon. Where’s Adam?’
‘Oh, he texted last night to say he wouldn’t be home until this afternoon. With some fancy woman, no doubt.’
Agnes laughs. ‘Fancy woman. I haven’t heard that phrase for forty years. Maybe you should stick to dad dancing – it’s more appropriate for men of your age.’
Clara walks though the main hall of the Community Centre to the kitchen where Suptra Singh is washing a paint brush in the sink.
‘What have you been painting, Suptra?’
‘Oh, just touching up. Keeping the place looking nice, you know.’
Suptra places the brush on a piece of kitchen roll and empties the sink. Clara watches the milky water spin around the waste.
‘What can I do for you, my dear,’ says Suptra, drying his hands on a towel.
Clara swallows hard.
‘Suptra, I hope you don’t think we’ve been gossiping, but Ethel has told me about your situation.’
Suptra dries each finger in turn, then hangs the towel over a rail at the side of the sink.
‘My situation, And what would that be, then?’
Clara swallows again.
‘The money you owe. The trouble you are in if you go back to India.’
Suptra walks out of the kitchen, into the main hall.
‘So, does everyone in Leeford know my situation, Clara?’ Suptra’s voice echoes through the empty hall.
‘Oh, no. Certainly not. It’s just that Ethel was worried and she needed to tell someone.’
Clara takes a chair from a pile of three stacked up against the wall and sets it down next to Suptra. She takes hold of his arm.
‘And, I’m glad she did, because I can help you.’
Suptra turns to look at Clara and she notices a tear in his eye.
‘Help me. How? By talking about me?’
‘No. I really can help you. With the money you owe.’
Suptra feels Clara’s grip on his arm tighten. He notices her bony hand, the fingers slightly bent with the onset of arthritis.
‘Go on then, Clara. Tell me.’
Clara takes a deep breath. ‘When my mother died, a few years ago now, she left her estate to me and my two sisters. The money, the house and its contents were split three ways. However, she also left each one of us something to remember her by. Martha had her collection of Wedgwood figurines, Dorothy had all her books and I had…’ Clara reaches into her handbag, ‘…this ring.’
She places the ring into Suptra’s hand. He looks at it for a while.
‘It’s beautiful, Clara, but how does it help me.’
‘I believe it’s worth quite a lot of money. More than you need to pay off your debt so you and Nita can go to India.’
Suptra takes the ring and holds it up to the light.
‘It’s very beautiful, Clara. But, it’s your ring. It was your mother’s.’
‘I know. But I have no use for it. It’s been at the back of a draw for years. I’d almost forgotten about it and then when Ethel mentioned…’
‘Yes. Well, I thought it could do some good. You could sell it, pay of your debt and let me have any money that might be left over.’
Suptra shakes his head.
‘I couldn’t, Clara. You might need the money to pay for George’s care at some point. Why don’t you sell it?’
‘I couldn’t sell it. It would be wrong. But I can give it to you, as a gift. To help you.’
More tears form in Suptra’s eyes.
‘But Suptra, please don’t tell anyone. Even Ethel doesn’t know about this.’
Suptra nods, slowly.
‘I don’t know what to say, Clara. I really don’t.’
Clara gives his arm a firm squeeze. ‘Just say you will, Suptra. That’s all you need to say.’
Cody is lying on the sofa, a packet of frozen peas taped to his back. Along with feeling the worsening pain, he feels guilt as he hears Agnes moving about downstairs. He reaches for his phone and sends a text to Adam, telling him he has had a slight accident and that his mother needs help quickly. Adam responds immediately, to say that he can be there in a few minutes. ‘Good,’ thinks Cody. ‘It must be a local girl he’s with, then.’ He lies back and closes his eyes. And thinks of Meredith Park.
‘I have to go. Mum’s on her own in the chip shop and it’s nearly opening time. Dad’s had an accident of some sort.’ Adam pulls on his shirt and trousers.
Meredith sits up suddenly. ‘Oh no, poor Cody. I hope he’s OK.’
‘It’s probably nothing, but I’d better go. I’ll see you later.’
Meredith smiles. ‘I hope so, Adam.’
He blows her a kiss and runs downstairs.
Catch up on previous episodes here:
For more details visit www.michaelbraccia.co.uk