Maurice and Annie were in the middle of a blazing row when he had a heart attack and died.
At first, as he lay on the floor, Annie felt numb, not really believing quite what had happened.
The row itself, like so many of their rows, had been about something so utterly and pathetically trivial, Annie couldn’t even remember what it had been or why they were rowing. But, that was how it always had been with Maurice, when he had some drinks in him.
Maurice was a bully, a foul-mouthed, short fused, tyrannical bully.
And now Annie was sitting here by Maurice’s body, him still smelling of beer and Annie of washing up liquid, in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. Annie and Maurice’s rows were always moving about, she followed him, he followed her, making points, scoring points, hurting, wounding, scorching, burning, searing and Annie always left at the end of it all, wondering what exactly what she had done or said wrong.
For about an hour, Annie just sat there, numbly muttering to Maurice’s crumpled body things like ‘I didn’t mean it, I really didn’t mean to say that, you poor stupid old thing, I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t have said that.’
But it was all far too late. Maurice, the office bully, who married the office tart, because no-one else would have him, was dead. As a dodo. On the floor. In the hall. At the bottom of the stairs. And soon, by Annie’s reckoning, anyway, he’d start stiffening up.
‘Oh, help,’ thought Annie.’
‘Now what?’ wailed Annie. Aloud, this time.
Annie decided she couldn’t go on doing nothing, forever. Besides, she was getting cramp in her hip.
She scrambled to her feet, stepped over Maurice’s body, limped to the phone in the hall and dialled 999.
Annie was calmer now as a voice asked her which service she wanted. By the time Annie had answered, her voice had changed. She was colder now, more like the vixen, who always rowed with Maurice. ‘Ambulance,’ said Annie, in a steely voice and when they came on, she told them Maurice was dead, gave the address and her phone number. The girl at the other end made a note on her pad about how calm Annie had sounded.
The ambulance came. They took Maurice away.
Annie was left with the ‘now what?’ question back in the front of her brain.
She rang her mother, who said ‘good riddance.’ She’d had a glass or two that evening as well. Annie hung up and started to cry.
A cup of coffee and a stiff brandy later, Annie went up to bed and cried herself to sleep.
All the rest of the days to the funeral passed in a kind of a haze and the only relief was when the nice young vicar came round to talk things through.
He’d never met Maurice, of course. Maurice wasn’t the church going sort. Nor was Annie, it has to be said. When the vicar had left, Annie felt much better, stronger all round, in fact. More able to face the fact of being a widow.
And that vicar, he seemed rather nice, too. Not married, either. Annie had wormed that much out of him.
At Maurice’s funeral, Annie put on a bit of a show, black always was her best colour and, for a supposedly grieving widow, she went, some said, ‘rather too far.’
Not that Annie minded what anyone said, even when she made a bee-line for the new vicar.
Annie was back on the road.