“Hello Cynthia, on your own again, no Maurice?”
“Need you ask. He’s where he always is these days, Linda, in the shed.”
Maurice Dibblethwaite was indeed in his shed and at that moment stepping out of a neatly ironed blue boiler suit which he hung carefully onto a wooden hanger before hooking it over a double brass hook behind the door. Satisfied it was straight he turned his attention to the table, a six sided oak table with an adzed top he had finished a couple of months earlier. He unfolded a lace table cloth, smoothed it out, placed a vase and flowers to one side and arranged the cups, saucers and plates, silver knives and cake forks. Two of everything. Finally he set down a plate of potted meat sandwiches, scones and a Victoria sponge cake.
“I’ll not see him till I go out there and shout to say tea’s ready. Even then he sometimes says to just leave it outside on a tray. Other times out he comes and for a few hours I get back the Maurice I once knew and loved…… ”
She shrugged and sighed wearily.
“Cynthia, is everything alright?”
“It’s Maurice, he’s become impossible. Take this morning. He was up at six, brought me up a cup of tea in bed like he always did and then starts baking. I mean, Maurice, baking. Then I discover my best china’s missing from the sideboard. Linda, everything in this house is slowly disappearing into the shed.”
“A scone, or a piece of cake?” said Maurice smiling across the table. “I baked them this morning specially. More tea? Oh, you haven’t touched a thing. I do hope everything’s to your liking?”
“Linda, I don’t know what to do any more. I’ll swear he’s having an affair with a bloody shed.”
“Well have you said anything, Cynthia?”
Cynthia ignored the question. “A few weeks ago I found him ripping up the carpet in the spare bedroom to put in the shed. So naturally I asked what the hell he thought he was up too. He just exploded, said it was none of my business. He even threatened me. I’m frightened, Linda. Scared of Maurice and a bloody shed.”
They both peered out of the kitchen window towards the shed, sitting at the bottom of the garden surrounded by neatly tended borders and painted in two shades of blue with blinds and pretty curtains at the windows.
“Yes, I know,” said Maurice. “They’re looking at us. I can feel it too. Saying unkind things, talking about us. They don’t understand. But I told her not to interfere. I did warn her. Now let me freshen your tea, and do help yourself to another scone. I just need to pop out for a few moments.”
Maurice rose out of the armchair and plumped up the cushion. Then he took the coat hanger from behind the door and began pulling on his blue boiler suit. He picked up his tool bag, opened the shed door and stepped out into the sunshine. “I shan’t be long,” he said, locking the door behind him.