Clara has always needed to be married. It has less to do with the sanctity of matrimony, but rather more connected to the paper taffeta frock modeled on Princess Diana’s nuptial apparel, and the general feeling of being the centre of attention for the day. She is sitting in the kitchen of the Cotswold dolls house she and Simon have recently purchased, eyeing the vulgar pile of presents still encased in their Peter Jones boxes. Everything is perfect from the shiny aga in baby blue to the diamond winking at her from her wedding band. Through the tiny kitchen window she sees the virgin blossom float onto the manicured lawn and instinctly touches her bouffed hair where remnants of rose confetti nestle amongst her curls. Simon softly enters the room, face flushed from champagne and excitement. He bends down and removes her shoes, her dancing days are behind her. They exchange knowing smiles, and with great effort Simon hauls his bride on to his shoulders and weaving unsteadily, knocks both their heads on the low beams, as laughing they ascend the stairs to their chintz covered boudoir.
As she hurries to open the door, Clara realizes too late that she is modeling a rather fetching clump of pureed carrot on her forehead. The Postman smiles as he points to the offending area. The root vegetable mess is a gift from Archie and his partner in crime Jake, his twin. Teatime is a battlefield and the missile launching becoming more efficient in reaching a target. Pig, the jack Russell is thoroughly enjoying the show and edges closer in the hope of a bonus. Clara releases the monsters from the shackles of their highchair prison, and ushers them into the garden with Pig in hot pursuit, trying to claim the last of the carrot from their sticky hands. She watches them toddling across the lawn and then turns to survey the warzone. Simon appears , fatigued from travel and heat and opens a beer before perfunctorily kissing her cheek and leaving the kitchen to sink into a comfy armchair, and absorb the test match. On autopilot she manoeuvres the boys through bath and storytime before venturing downstairs to prepare the next repast. She remembers the bright lights of her former life in the pulsating city and wonders why she insisted on this country idyll. In the distance she is sadly aware of the familiar hum of her husband’s snores.
Clara avails herself of her third glass of chardonnay. She is aware of teenage activity above and trying to block it out takes a large gulp of her nectar. She is lonely, although never alone. A social pariah amongst the teenage set, she is invisible to anyone below the age of twenty. Silently, (anguished nagging has proved pointless), she moves about the house, stockpiling disguarded underwear and replacing the laundered clothes outside bedroom doors. Large meals are created and consumed as if by magic with little interaction. Even Pig, now an elder statesman retreats to his basket or if undiscovered her duvet , at any chance. The constant stream of nubile, scantily dressed lovelies parading through the front door, seem oblivious to her presence but sadly not her perfumes and lipsticks, badly hidden in the bathroom cupboard. Simon has succumbed to the charms of one such darling and now lives in urban splendour, with views of the Gherkin. Staring through the kitchen glass, Clara is aware of the canopy of decaying leaves covering the browning lawn. She will have to deal with this, not a teenage sport, raking, apparently. The swarm enters the room and devours the remaining contents of the fridge. Clutching the bottle to her chest, like an adult security blanket, she slips into the garden and guiltily imbibes the rest.
Clara is startled from her drunken slumber by a persistent thumping on the door accompanied by a digit obviously stuck to the door bell. Stumbling to her feet, she is aware she is still in her coat and wellies from yesterday, when clearing the snow. Several bottles of wine had delayed her progress from kitchen to bedroom. The room is cold, the aga has long been extinguished and the air chilled further by the amount of snow piled against the window blocking her final view of the ice covered lawn. The removal men are waiting impatiently outside, blowing into chapped hands and moving from foot to foot. They eye up the kettle and harbor hopes of hob nobs. Badly packed boxes hold the memories of her life. Her sons have chosen and taken valuables to enhance their lives, and the cottage sold. The boys have selected sheltered housing to reduce their responsibilities and hopefully her drinking. Cottage now empty, ghosts free to roam, she forces open the kitchen window, and disperses the snow on the sill. Her view of the lawn finally unfettered, she sighs as she hears the delicious laughter of her past.