My Nasty Neighbours

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Authors: Creina Mansfield
neighbour would be able to hear.
    Ian nodded. ‘We were on our third number when they arrived and tried to take over the stage. That’s when the wedding cake toppled over.’
    â€˜One of the three-tier jobs? Brilliant.’
    â€˜â€¦ not quite the impression I wish to create,’ Harry was shouting. ‘One of my oldest friends arriving with his bride and your brother playing some–’
    Ian put his head round the door. ‘“Angel of Death”,’ he supplied. ‘We were playing “Angel of Death” when she walked in.’
    Helen giggled, but Harry was as unsmiling as ever. ‘I fail to see the joke,’ he said pompously.
    â€˜You always fail to see the joke,’ snapped Helen. She ripped off her pink elbow-length gloves, as if preparing for a fight. ‘I’m fed up with this,’ she began, as Mum walked slowly in from the kitchen. She must have heard the shouting, and had brought in a plate of cakes as an excuse to find out what was happening.
    â€˜I made these earlier,’ she said brightly. ‘Cherry rum cake, brandy snaps, coffee-frosted–’
    â€˜Harry’s just leaving,’ Helen interrupted, marching Harry to the door.
    â€˜Good riddance,’ she muttered as the door slammed shut.
    For a few minutes there was an atmosphere of tactful gloom. Then Mum asked hopefully, ‘Is he gone permanently?’
    That infuriated Helen. ‘Mum, stop interfering!’ she yelled. ‘When will you realise that we want our independence? We don’t want you coming round here interfering with … everything.’
    â€˜I see,’ said Mum, slowly and quietly. She put the plate down, just out of my reach and turned to face Helen. ‘And what interference would you like me to cease? Cleaning your bathroom? Ironing your clothes?’
    â€˜Everything,’ replied Helen, stooping down and picking up the cakes. The coffee frosted ones had thick, smooth icing, the crunchy brandy snaps were oozing cream.
    â€˜We’re grown up now.’ Helen continued as she thrust the plate back at Mum. ‘We just don’t need this sort of molly-coddling.’
    â€˜I see.’ Mum was still unnaturally calm. ‘Well,’ she said, heading towards the back door, ‘I shall respect your wish for independence. This is the last time I shall come in uninvited,’ she added with an attempt at dignity.
    I wanted to say something to cheer her up. I knew she was deeply hurt. I wanted her to know that I for one appreciated her attention, but she was moving fast towards the back door.
    â€˜â€¦ leave the cakes,’ I managed, but the slam of the door drowned out my words. Mum had gone.

Great Pretender
    H arry had slammed out of the front door, Mum out of the back, and now Ian started shouting, ‘So why did you send me to that hotel in Foxrock?’
    ‘Me? I didn’t.’
    He dragged me into the hall to face the messages. ‘Yes, you did. Here it is.’ He pointed to, ‘Helmly Hall, Foxrock’ in Helen’s loopy handwriting.
    ‘That’s not how I write. Look at it.’ Helen had done everything but decorate the message with flowers.
    I jabbed a finger at the message I’d written. ‘Here it is. “Hell’s Bells, nine.”’
    ‘So I’m meant to swing upside down to read that? We’re not all built like orang-utans.’
    ‘Well, whatever species you’re closest to, it’s a pity you can’t tell the time.’
    ‘You’re meant to be playing in the Hell’s Bells at nine. It’s ten past.’
    Ian was gone. Then the telephone rang.
    ‘If that’s Harry, tell him I never want to see him again and that he’s the most pompous, affected, miserable, self-obsessed–’
    Her voice followed me out the back door. I hadn’t eaten all day, and was going in search of food.

    No 10 was so peaceful and quiet after all the yelling and slamming of doors at no 8.
    ‘I played in the A team today,’ I

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