Short Story – 14 – THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR

This was written a couple of years ago, so not quite so relevant now….

The couple next door?  Oh, don’t go asking me about them.  Well, of course, everyone does, don’t they?  I mean people are always nosy, aren’t they?  You know how it is, they see them on the telly and can’t help but wonder what they are really like.  But you know me; I don’t like to talk about it.  Besides I had to sign so many pieces of paper when I started here – oh, it must be twenty years ago now, soon after Bert died.  I never really read them, but the man told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should not divulge (yes, that was the word he used – why didn’t he simply say ‘talk about’?) any details of either my work or the clients I cleaned for.  Well, you know me – I never gossip – and can keep a secret as well as anyone.  Bert, used to say I was the soul of discretion, God rest his soul. 

Now where was I?  Oh, yes – the couple next door.  Well, all I will say is that they are nothing like you see on the telly. It is a strange arrangement here.  I live and work mostly at number 11.  I have a tiny flat round the back.  The houses are much larger than they look from the front and number 11 is almost twice as big as number 10.  But since the cuts Dave brought in, I now clean in both houses.  Hmmm…only thirty quid a week extra too, and I am supposed to do it all in eight hours, twice a week too.  Not quite the minimum wage, is it, but I don’t complain.  I go in and clean Madam’s private kitchenette, bathroom and their bedrooms.  Bedrooms in the plural, mind you.  They don’t sleep in the same room – not like Dave and Samantha did.  But they used to actually live here, in number 11. It’s a much bigger flat than next door and what with the kiddies number 10 would have been too small.  There is a connecting corridor between the top floor flats so the public is none the wiser. Tony and Cherie (stuck up cow if you ask me) lived here too, while Gordon slept over in number 10 while he was Chancellor, and when he took over as the boss.  Lovely wife he had mind you, too good for him by far, if you ask me. And do you know she was the only one who ever had time for me.  She always asked how I was and if I needed anything.  None of the others ever spoke to me; not the bitch Cherie, or Samantha (another one ‘too important for their own good’ if you want to know) or George’s wife or of course Mrs. Phillip either.  No, none of them ever spoke to me.  Too high and mighty to talk to a mere cleaner.

And as for her, Madam, why she doesn’t even smile.  She just brushes past me if she is in the flat – it’s as if I don’t even exist.  And messy.  My Goodness is she messy.  Clothes all over the place, slung on the bed, or the chair.  Knickers on the floor sometimes too.  And shoes?  Now Samantha liked shoes, there is no denying that, but she always had them lined up on those rails in her wardrobe, all in neat rows like.  But this one – just kicked off anywhere on the floor.  Sometimes I even have to crawl under the bed to reach one.  And me with my bad back too.  No consideration for others I say.  Now her husband – what’s his name.  oh yes, he’s a Phillip too – just like my Phillip here in 11, nice man he is, polite too – always says Good Morning to me he does.  No, her Philip, Madam’s Philip, he sleeps in his own room.  Smaller than hers of course.  But he is very tidy, his suits always put back on the hanger, and his shirts all neat in the drawers.  And this will make you laugh, his socks are folded in pairs in one drawer and his underpants all lined up in another, he even has them in two piles; white ones and black ones. 

I don’t think they ever sleep together.  Not that that is any of my business, but you can’t help noticing the state of the beds, can you.  Both doubles of course, but his is barely disturbed.  He sleeps on the left side; the right pillow is never creased.  Now Madam’s bed is quite different.  She must kick the duvet off in the night, it is usually on the floor along with half of her clothes.

Did you know, they have a laundry service?  Both houses.  They have a large wicker basket in the hallway, and everything dirty, or what they consider dirty – not the same thing at all – is dumped in there along with sheets and towels and they are dry-cleaned or laundered twice a week.  All wrapped in cellophane too.

They each have their own bathroom as well.  En-suite they call it.  I have a tiny shower cubicle and toilet in my flat, but it’s nothing like what they have.  All marble sinks and gold taps – and the baths.  You could almost swim in them baths.  And they have all these water jets too.  Mind you, makes it easier for me to clean.  Now he, her husband – that Philip.  He never uses the bath, he is a shower man.  Well, he is in business you know.  He leaves the house early in the morning.  Madam uses the bath, and she uses this expensive bath oil.  Leaves a nasty scum mark round the edge I can tell you.  She’s one of those people too who always leaves the top off the toothpaste.  I mean, how hard is it to put it back on.  Cherie was the same, never put the lid back on and a dribble of dried goo there for me to clean on the sink.   They slept in the same bed, Cherie and Tony, no problems there I can assure you. 

But I meant to tell you.  She.  Madam. She keeps a diary.  It’s in her bedside cabinet. It’s one of those posh ones in white leather with a little strap and a lock.  I had one like it as a child once.  I never wrote in mine.  But she does.  Now, this is really naughty.  There is a lock on her diary, but it isn’t locked.  And once or twice I have had a peek.

Now, even though I am, you could say, at the heart of Government, I am not really that interested in Politics at all.  They are all the same underneath, and in my job I get to see them as they really are.  Not that they are so different from us at all, even if they love to act as if they are, so high and mighty.  ‘Everyone gets to sit on the throne at least once a day’, as my Bert used to say.  And I am the one who gets to clean their thrones.  Not that I mind that really, what with me Marigolds and a bottle of bleach it don’t bother me none.  They are all a bit stuck up if you ask me.  Not like normal people at all.  Oh, except her – Gordon’s wife.  She was nice, the only one who ever really talked to me in twenty years. 

But, back to Madam’s diary.  She didn’t write very much most days, lots of initials which I never understood.  But I do remember a couple of entries.  Just after Dave announced that ‘referender’ thing she wrote that this was her big chance, she’d been waiting patiently for years but now she saw her way clearly.  And after that big vote she wrote “Hooray – now for it.”  Then when she became the big boss, she said it was the best day of her life.  What about her wedding day, I thought?  But she added she had better watch out for Boris, better tie him down. Now what was the phrase she used.  Very unladylike I thought, but then you should have heard the words that Cherie used.  F…ing this and F…ing that all day long.

She, Madam, said it was better to have Boris pissing out of the tent than in.  Not sure what she meant by that, maybe she meant the marquee they sometimes have in the Rose Garden, but surely where he goes weewee is none of her business at all.  But the worst was after the last election.  She was furious alright.  You could see where the pen had gone right through the page in a few places.  She said it was all the TV’s fault, that she hadn’t had the chance to explain how wonderful she was going to do that Brexit stuff.  UNFAIR she wrote in big letters, and underlined it again and again.  She even called Mr. Corbyn a ‘you know what’ but the writing was so bad and it looks like she had spilt a few drops of tea or something on the page, made the words hard to read. It might have been a card, or a cad – but I think I know what it really was.  Very un-lady-like.  But then a day or two later she was back to her usual self. “Determined to hang on” she wrote, “they won’t get rid of me that easy.”

Anyway, look at the time I must be going soon and as you know I don’t like to gossip.  That man asked me not to divulge any details and I have been as good as my word.  No, it doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I won’t tell you any details.  Except to say, they aren’t at all like you see them on the telly, the couple next door that is.  In fact, hardly anyone even knows what I do for a living.  The soul of discretion, my Bert used to call me.