Marion was puzzled. How did these things happen? She went over it again in her head. Marion meets hunk, hunk likes Marion, hunk meets Marion’s friend Rhona and Marion’s ex-friend Rhona goes off with hunk.
This was the third time something similar had happened and to tell the truth Marion was getting, just a little, annoyed about. Not that she introduced ANYBODY to Rhona anymore. She now barely spoke to her and, anyhow, had run out of boyfriends to introduce.
It was not as if she had any difficulty in attracting nice men - she could and did.
No, Marion was attractive, sweet-natured, friendly and self-effacing - everyone liked her; it was the keeping of friends, both male and female that was the problem. Once they met Rhona, they seemed to find her far more exciting and bubbly and lively than the gentle Marion.
The problem was that Rhona wouldn’t take the hint and find herself somewhere else to live and Marion was not forceful enough to make her go. She’d found Rhona at the Jobcentre where she was an Employment Officer and had done her usual trick and adopted the lame duck which Rhona appeared to be.
Rhona had been made redundant from her last job, but because she hadn’t been there long, wasn’t entitled to anything worth talking about in the way of redundancy pay. The result was that she had fallen behind with the rent on her flat and been chucked out.
Marion listened to her plight and felt sorry for her. Rhona’s parents were both dead and she was an only child. There was no other family she could turn to and would have to take her cat to the R.S.P.C.A if she didn’t find somewhere to live immediately.
Being the girl she was, Marion did the only thing possible and took Rhona home with her, along with Jake the cat.
Rhona and Marion got on like a house on fire, which is to say Marion provided the fuel and Rhona burnt it off. But it was fun too, while it lasted. Rhona was a complete hedonist, living for the moment and enjoying whatever came her way, which was a big departure for the more cautious Marion, who saved and planned and thought things out before acting.
Rhona appeared actually to have forgotten that the arrangement was supposed to be temporary and Marion didn’t like to say anything - it would have looked like she was asking her to leave and she couldn’t do that to her again. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t enjoy the parties that Rhona organised - and she paid for - she did enjoy them, but she wanted her life back.
It was at the end of October when Marion met Bill and as usual, she added him to her collection. Bill was handsome in a rakish kind of way and was only too grateful to Marion when she let him have the spare room. He promised it was only temporary, that he’d look for a place of his own as soon as he was settled in his new job, which should start at the beginning of November.
Needless to say, two weeks before Christmas, Marion still had her two unemployed and unwanted houseguests who were between them planning the most wonderful Christmas parties - not to mention New Year! What a wonderful time they’d all have. Marion carried on paying the bills and working at the Jobcentre whilst she watched helplessly as Rhona worked her magic on Bill.
Rhona was surprised but not unhappy when Marion told her she would be away for Christmas. “Bit of a wet rag anyway,” she told Jake, “but at least she’s left our prezzies under the tree.” What she didn’t tell Jake was that it would also leave Bill unattended for the entire holiday.
Then Christmas Eve came and Bill and Rhona were at their sparkling best.. “Shame Marion couldn’t be here,” Bill said to Rhona as they stuck up paper chains and tinsel.
“Yes,” smiled Rhona sweetly, thinking nothing of the kind. The gas-fire burnt brightly and reflected off the glass baubles on the Christmas tree.
“Phone’s on the blink,” said Bill, irritated, “dead as a dodo.”
“Probably the snow. You’ll have to go up to the pub and use theirs,” suggested Rhona, who was curled up in front of the gas-fire watching Christmas TV., with Jake in a ball on her lap. “Whilst you’re at it, you could phone the shop about the goodies for the week. They’re cutting it a bit fine on the delivery. Said they’d have it here for four O’clock at the latest.”
As she said this, all the lights went out. “Oh, what now?!” Bill exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, it’s only the fuse. It happens all the time There’s a circuit-breaker or something that’s a bit sensitive. The tumble-drier must have tripped it. I’ll light some candles - they’re a nicer light for a party anyway.”
Bill twitched the curtain. “I really don’t fancy going out in that, y’know. It’s getting quite deep.”
“You won’t be long,” Rhona purred with meaning, “and you’ll soon warm up when you get back.”
Bill shot her a glance as he shrugged on his coat. “I suppose you’re right. See if you can’t fix that circuit-whatsit while I’m out and we’ll start getting ready for the party.
Bill let himself out and Rhona shivered as she felt an icy blast from the door as it closed. She’d had a bath and was sitting in her robe with a towel around her hair.. She’d fix the fuse and then go and blow-dry her frizzy mop to some semblance of order. How she’d hate Bill to see her au-naturelle! After many minutes of ministrations with the blow-drier and styling-wax, her hair was second-to-no-one, but Mother Nature had been no friend to Rhona when she had given her rusted wire-wool for hair.
She’d have to iron her clothes when they came out of the drier too, but that wouldn’t take long. The food, when it arrived, was as instant as you could get; they just had to throw it onto plates and serve it. The booze could go on the sideboard and they could all help themselves.
She went to the meter cupboard and flicked the circuit-breaker. Nothing. She tried again. Many times. Nothing.
“Oh bugger! A real blown fuse!” Rhona’s bottom lip stuck out like a cellar step. And she’d chipped a nail on the damn fuse! Oh well, she’d just have to wait until Bill got back. Fuses was a bloke thing.
She checked the drier. Still sopping wet! Well, it wasn’t just the lighting circuit then. Bugger, bugger, bugger!
An hour later the front door banged, bringing another icy blast.
“Thank goodness you’re back!” Rhona stood up, a smile of relief about to settle onto her face froze. “What’s the matter?”
“The phone’s been cut off,” said Bill frowning.
“But why?” Rhona looked uncomprehending.
“The bill’s not been paid so service had been discontinued.” He shook the crusting of snow from the shoulders of his coat and removed it..
“But we need it! Didn’t you tell them that? Demand they put it back on...?” Rhona was beginning to raise her voice and a note of petulance had crept into it.
“...of course I bloody did! But they want nearly £200.00 to re-connect it and I don’t know about you, but I’M not paying it!” Bill put his coat on a hanger and hooked it onto the picture-rail over the radiator to dry out.
“...£200.00...?” Rhona was nearly speechless, but not quite. “What about the food?”
“Oh that was there, waiting to be picked up,” Bill was grim, “and the booze.”
Rhona couldn’t speak. She just shook her head.
“They wanted £356.97 before they’d give it to me,” Bill dropped to the chair nearest to the fire, pulling off his sodden shoes and socks. “Haven’t you fixed that circuit thingy yet?”
“I couldn’t. I think the fuse has blown altogether and I thought you could fix it.” Rhona put on the voice she kept especially for men.
“Who? Me?” Bill was unaffected. “I’m not mucking about with electricity! The candles will have to do until someone clever arrives.”
“But you have to!” Rhona cried “My hair’s not done and all my clothes are in the drier!”
“I can’t help that,” Bill retorted, “you’ll have to dry them off in front of the fire or something.”
They sat in the candle-light staring into the flames of the gas-fire, Rhona frantically trying to brush her hair straight and wind it around her head as her granny did when she was a child to try and straighten it. Then she dug out some old trousers and a shirt from the ironing basket and put them on.
By ten-thirty they realised no-one was coming.
“Did you post the invites?” Bill looked at his watch.
“Who? Me? No, I didn’t post them. Didn’t you?”
“Obviously not. Letters is a girl thing. I thought you or Marion would do that.”
“Well, it seems fairly obvious that no-one did. And why are letters a `girl thing’ ?”
“I don’t know. Just is. I suppose writing letters is a bit sissy, that’s all.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Look, I’m not up for an argument.”
After a few minutes Rhona said in a small voice, “shall we open our prezzies?”
“Okay,” Bill agreed, “there might be food in there. “ Bill hadn’t eaten for about six hours and couldn’t face the prospect of not eating for an indefinite period.
“Ooooh good! Choccies!” Rhona ripped off the wrappings, “thanks Bill!”
“You’re welcome. I don’t suppose you bought me any booze?” He ripped off the paper and opened a box containing a bottle of - cologne! “I suppose I might get desperate.”
Now for Marion’s prezzies,” Rhona picked one up. “You know, I’ll be glad when she gets back and sorts this lot out. You can depend on Marion.”
“Yes, you’re right. Dependable girl, Marion.”
They opened their presents together. Rhona’s box contained the phone bill, the electricity bill and the council tax. Bill’s contained the gas-bill, the supermarket bill and the bill from the winestore, along with a repair bill for the bedroom ceiling through which he’d put his foot whilst in the loft.