“In my humble opinion the worst thing is to have a humble opinion,” Elstree declared as she waved her glass in a circle, almost splashing whisky on Cherie’s new top. “Or to have an opinion at all. Best not to have opinions because they only get you angry.” Her forehead spasmed. “Anger is not a nice thing to have.” She stopped talking and glared towards the doorway. Fred had entered the room.
Elstree didn’t like him at all, which is to say that if she ever had the fortune to have his giblets delivered to her in a Ziploc bag she’d pop them in a frying pan with a little oil, turn the heat on full and then leave the kitchen forever.
Fred wasn’t the kind of man you were ambivalent about. You either hated his guts, as Elstree did; or you loved him unconditionally, like Cherie.
Cherie turned to face Fred and began to gush, now waving her own glass enthusiastically. “Oh, Fred – how lovely to see you. I was just thinking about you. In fact I was wondering what you were doing because it feels like I haven’t spoken to you in days!” In fact Cherie had spoken to Fred last night, extensively and expansively, on the phone.
Fred had many talents, but none of them extended to being able to end a conversation with a love-struck woman, even one he detested, like Cherie. Consequently, he had been on the phone with her for the better part of an hour listening, but not listening to the inconsequentialities that dripped from her lips like lard from a hot skillet. He twisted his mouth into a facsimile of a smile, shot it briefly in her direction, then turned towards Elstree.
“My dear …”
“I’m not your dear. Don’t call me that, you detestable excuse for a man.”
Accustomed to Elstree and her little jokes, Fred continued. “How positively divine to see you.” He unveiled his bleached teeth, and not a little gum, and posed, poised, waited for her approval.
Elstree, accustomed to Fred’s stupidity in spite of her spite, unveiled a frown that, despite its thundercloud extent, fell somewhat short of informing him of her complete absence of delight. She took a quick gulp from her glass. “Idiot,” she replied succinctly.
“I’m not sure that Elstree is in a suitable mood for entertaining, tonight, Fred,” said Cherie. “She had some rather bad news from Father earlier today and is drinking her sorrows away in the company of her sweet sister, aka: Moi.” Cherie pointed a finger cheerfully at her heart and then, reversing her hand, fluttered her fingers in Fred’s direction and sent a smile that utterly failed to assail his heart.
Fred’s own smile subsided and his most sympathetic face appeared for Elstree’s benefit. “Bad news? Darling, what can I do to help? Do tell.”
“You can get your face out of mine, you toad,” snapped Elstree.
“He’s changed his will,” Cherie said with a slightly brittle tone. “Elstree has been rather,” a touch of sadness appeared in her voice, “disinherited.”
A frown appeared on Fred’s face as he watched Elstree toss back the last of the whisky in her glass.
Cherie continued, “It seems that I have been …”
Fred’s face was undergoing a series of transformations as cogs began to turn within his mind.
” … for whatever reason … “
Slowly, inexorably, as if driven by inner machinery, Fred’s head began to turn towards Cherie.
” … perhaps not undeservedly … “
Like the sun emerging from behind clouds, Fred’s teeth began to appear from behind lips that were rising and forming themselves into a smile.
” … inherited,” Cherie declared with more than a hint of triumph. She giggled girlishly.
Fred’s smile reached its full intensity and, ignoring the sound of Elstree slamming her glass down on a table that might as well have been a million miles away, he beamed it directly into Cherie’s face.
“Darling,” he said, “what can I do to help? Pray, do tell!”