Curtains

‘One day, lad, all this will be yours!
What, the curtains?
No, not the curtains, lad.  All that you can see!’

That scene in The Holy Grail, that Monty Python film, keeps coming into me ‘ead. You see, I’m standing ‘ere in this dead posh house looking at all this lovely furniture, and it’s the curtains that I like the best. They’re lovely – a sort of heavy silk brocade in a really nice pink – dead classy. The house belongs to Hugo’s mother and it’s all dead posh. Lovely settees in a plushy velvety material, and chandeliers and all that. It must be worth a bit. I keep thinking, when Hugo and me are married and we’ve inherited this place, and I invite me mum and me aunties over and they see all this… Well, they’ll probably think the curtains are inside-out because down our way they hang the curtains nice-side-out to show them off, but I’ll have to explain this is how it’s done proper. Anyway, they’ll be dead jealous. OK, I’m getting ahead of meself here – he hasn’t popped the question yet, but he’s brought me to meet his mum. That’s a start, innit? It’s quite exciting, really.
I’ll tell you what, I’m hanging on to this one. Hugo is dropdead gorgeous. And rich, obviously! Well, he’s got this fab house coming to him when his mum dies. I can hardly believe my luck. I wonder how old she is.
She’ll be here anytime now. I’m quite nervous, actually. I wish I’d put on something smarter than this pavement-princess get-up, but Hugo said it would be fine. I’m not so sure now.

Hugo
I can’t wait to see my mother’s face when I introduce Mandy to her. ‘No, you have never heard of her before, mother, and no, she is not one of us, and yes, she was brought up in a council flat and yes, she even went to a comprehensive school.’
My point is: I am sick of people trying to steer my life. My mother blatantly assumes that I am going to marry Camilla, my cousin, because we have been friends since childhood. And of course, because she is the right sort of girl. And I get all those other women running after me, just because I am the son of a f**king duke, and they think I will approve of them because they went to some jumped-up school. They don’t seem to realise how ridiculous their one-up-man-ship games are.
I loved it when I brought Mandy to Leticia’s party. The girls were appalled. They simply couldn’t understand why I would want to get mixed up with someone so common. She turned up in exactly the right outfit: a really tarty miniskirt and ripped stockings and dreadful plastic shoes. It was wonderful. Of course, no-one can tell one’s social standing from the clothes one wears nowadays – anything can be fashionable, but one can always tell, anyway, and she just wasn’t someone anyone knew – as if that invalidated one as a person! And Mandy, bless her, she was so sweet in her innocence; she doesn’t begin to understand what a cat-fight it is to get the alpha-male.
The whole thing is emblematic of our sick, class-ridden society with its outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. The have-nots are jealous and discontent, while the haves feel guilty and threatened. And the scramble to the top brings out the worst in people.
I defy all of it. When my parents’ estate is bestowed upon me I will give the whole lot to charity and live a pure and simple life, like the Buddha. I will want for nothing. And whoever lusts after me then will want me for myself alone.

Sarah.
So, I am about to meet my son’s new girlfriend, Mandy Miller. I can’t say I have heard of her. I do hope she is a nice girl. I was surprised to hear that Hugo is not seeing Camilla any more. But he’s young. I expect he is just going through a rebellious phase. I trust he’ll come back to her eventually. Well, I hope so. The matter is rather delicate. I hardly dare tell Hugo that we have horrendous debts and practically everything we own will have to be sold when I eventually go. Poor Hugo. He’ll be lucky to be left with a pair of curtains. That’s why it is so important for him to marry Camilla.

Camilla.
I haven’t seen Hugo in years. Leticia tells me he’s seeing some awful girl who went to a comprehensive school. She tells me she was frightfully-badly dressed: ripped stockings and plastic shoes. Shouldn’t someone tell her these things aren’t fashionable any more? I can’t think what’s got into Hugo. We have been lifelong friends. Everyone assumed we would marry. Well, I wasn’t going to wait around forever. He’s going to get a shock when he finds out that I’m going to marry someone else. And who? Wait for it – Gob-Eye! Yes, THE Gob-Eye, the great rock-star! It’s so exciting! I love walking down Portobello Road with him and hoards of teenage girls come running up to us. They look so envious. And he’s all mine! And I’m having his baby!

Gob-Eye.
I suppose you think it must be terrific being a rock-star, but to be honest, I can’t be αrsed with it anymore. The music biz – it’s just a big money-machine, and I’m just a cog in it, OK, a lynchpin, but I’m going to crack up laughing when I pull out and see the whole set-up collapse around me. I’m p1ssed-off being a puppet. So I’m gonna retire. To the country.
To tell you the truth, I’m a wreck, these days. Between the cocaine and the mandies, and the various other uppers and downers, I’m all shake, rattle n’roll, and I’m not talking about a musical genre. And I haven’t even started telling you about the needle-work. I suppose I ought to go into re-hab again, but I can’t face it, frankly. Not yet. But doing drugs Gob-Eye-style is expensive. Especially when you factor in the bribe money (we won’t go into the details). My bank account might look healthy but it’s running down fast.
Just as well I’m marrying Camilla. She’s got a pile or two coming to her. With a nice bit out the back: 12,345 acres, to be precise. Well, I might have to sell off the odd patch to finance my lifestyle, but with Gob-Eye Junior coming along, I trust she’ll be pre-occupied and won’t notice. Unfortunately, with the financial crisis and price of land going through the floor, it might have to be more than the odd patch.

Mandy.
Well, I met Hugo’s mum. She was right nice. I was quite nervous when I shook her hand. It threw me a bit with her being so posh. I think I even did a little curtsy! That was a bit daft. But I haven’t been feeling my same old self recently.
Anyway, I think she liked me! She just gave me a big warm smile and looked at me directly in the face and she never looked down at my clothes or anything. Then I thought the tea was going to be dead formal, like, but we just went down to the kitchen and had a cuppa there. Then she was asking me all about my family and all but it wasn’t like an interrogation – just like she was interested, like.
She didn’t look like she was about to peg out any minute, though. She’s got another thirty years in her, at least. I shouldn’t really talk like that. It’s not very nice to wish someone dead, is it? It’s just that I can’t wait to get my hands on all that lovely stuff.
But I expect they’ve got another pile somewhere else. I know Hugo hasn’t popped the question yet, but we will have to get married, anyhow. He doesn’t know it yet but he’s got me up the stick, you see.

Sarah.
Well, thank goodness, for that. Mandy is a very sweet girl but of course Hugo can’t possibly be serious about her. I think she must have gone to a comprehensive school. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I feel quite certain that it won’t last between them. I must tell Hugo to slip her some money. It’s such a pity when one can’t afford to dress properly.

Hugo.
Oh Lord, Mandy was so embarrassing! She curtsied to my mother! What got into her? Did she realise how ridiculous she would look? The whole point was to shock my mother, not to grovel. Mother simply found it amusing. I think she even liked Mandy. I’ve gone right off the girl. She looked pathetic. I think she’s a hypocrite. She’s probably a little gold-digger, at heart. I will need to make myself scarce. I wonder what Camilla is doing nowadays. I haven’t seen her in years.

About julie_t

short story writer
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