Not One of Us 0

Not One of Us


Helena walked back through the village after the meeting in the rectory to plan the Best Kept Village tour. She had declined the offer of the new member, an apparent single mother who had suddenly arrived in the empty cottage at the back of the pub, to “go down the pub for a few drinks,” and was annoyed to see her neighbor and faithful henchman, Marion, accepting the invitation.

“She’s not one of us,” she hissed angrily at Marion, “she’ll probably be gone in a few weeks, her type never stays put for long.” But Marion had eagerly followed the tights and Tee shirt (really, for a meeting in the rectory, completely inappropriate) down the lane to the Jolly Miller.

Now Helena walked back to her house at the end of the green, critically surveying the gardens as she passed.  Some of the cottage gardens were quaint, she had to admit, not that she liked that blowsy Gertrude Jekyll look, but the village’s curve of stone cottages around the green and their colorful front gardens certainly drew visitors. Indeed it was the mainstay of the village attractions. Only Mrs. Binns on the end spoiled the effect with a proliferation of gnomes in various undignified poses. She particularly disliked the fishing one with his bulbous red nose and beer can at his feet.  She was annoyed to see that a real beer can, in fact two, had been placed next to him and someone had been tossing coins into his little pool. Really it wouldn’t do at all.  She would have to say something tomorrow.

She paused at the end of the row and looked back across the green.  The church and rectory gardens needed a bit of grooming. She would check that tomorrow too. The post office and general store almost buried under hanging baskets, pots, buckets and milk crates planted up with fuchsia and lobelia, was another show point.  She was glad they had taken her advice about keeping to a color scheme at least; a little restraint was necessary. Ivy, the post mistress, had been quite annoyed when she had suggested it, but no doubt about it, it was an improvement.

She crossed the lane at the end of the green and, skirting the pond, went up the smoothly raked graveled drive of her own home, Mill House. Ted was sitting out on the terrace, wine in a cooler beside him, the lemon trees in their stone containers lined up neatly along the terrace edge, and the two Labradors lying quietly at his feet.  He poured her drink and pulled the chair forward for her.

“So how was the committee?” he asked. “Did you organize the litter crews, and parking?”

“The farmers are doing the parking and that old man from the new bungalows is doing the litter, he has  a group already, they are going out morning and evening, until the judges have been,”

Ted laughed, “I saw him this morning with his pointed stick and two little girls: he is a real character.”

“He is all right,” said Helena, “I used to be on the parish committee with him; he was quite good. He has a bit of a northern accent, Lancashire I think, but at least he knows proper committee procedure.

“So all in hand then.” said Ted.

“Except for the new member, that woman from behind the pub. She doesn’t know her place, full of ridiculous suggestions – she wanted ‘something for the kiddies’. I told her we don’t encourage children. If any come they can sit on the green and have an ice cream.  Now she has gone off to the pub with Marion, to see if they can do a barbecue on Saturday evening for the committee.”

“That would be fun wouldn’t it?”

“Ted, you know perfectly well after the judging we go to the rectory for sherry and cheese straws, we certainly don’t want barbecue for all and sundry, it’ll be karaoke next. I will have to go and have a word with the committee; tell them I don’t think she will work out. We don’t want her sort on anything else, like the Harvest committee, for goodness sake. No, I should make sure she gets the push now.”

Ted said nothing. He rather liked the new comer. Mandy, she said her name was when he had met her down the lanes one early morning. He was walking the labs and she had her dog, Franny, an absurd little shih tzu  all hair and bows, on a pink lead. Since then they had met several times. She had told him about her husband killed in Afghanistan at twenty-three, and he had told her about his son, killed in a senseless street brawl at twenty-two.

She had said she was making a new life away from family and friends. “I need to remake myself,” she had said. He said it was the same for him; he needed to get away from the city and the stupid crowds of aimless, senseless, young people, find himself again.

So after taking Helena her morning tea, placing the china cup carefully on her side of the nightstand between their beds, he found himself putting the leads on the labs and jogging down the lanes to where Mandy and Franny waited for him in the big field.  While the dogs romped and chased, Mandy and Ted made love on the grassy bank, unfettered, uninhibited.

Then one evening after another committee meeting Helena came back with the news that the newcomer was leaving, “Going back to where she came from she said, goodness knows where that is, she said there isn’t enough to do here.”

“No wonder,” said Ted “you pushed her off every committee.”

“Well,” said Helena, “she wasn’t one of us, was she?”

“No,” said Ted, “she wasn’t.”