Walter huffs slightly as he carries his plate over to the sink, that was just bloody typical of his darling brother. The Corey's had that morning received news from their eldest son, Robert who was momentarily working in Bristol. According to his letter he wished to return home with his new wife to stay with them for a while until they sorted themselves out. New wife indeed? Walter couldn't help thinking. Probably some mere slip of a girl he managed to knock up and now has nothing to do with her.
One of the things he hated about Robert was he always knew the right moment to turn up. Walter had once been in service himself like his brother, however he'd quit his job at his father's say, when he'd begun to struggle on the farm by himself. So Walter came home and worked his arse off to get the farm to the stage it was now, pretty darn good. He had no doubt in his head that Robert was just going to come home and mess it all up for him.
Walter could hardly bare the conversation over dinner that night; his parents saying how proud they were of Robert and how well he'd done for himself, working as well as managing to get a wife. "It won't be long now until we hear the little patter of tiny footsteps," His mother, Emily giggled.
"Oh joy," Walter muttered disdainfully.
"You could be a little more pleased for your brother Walter," His mother hissed.
"Fine, I'm over-joyed, I'm ecstatic and just can't wait to see him and his new dear lady," He exclaimed, waving his arms about excitedly and sporting the biggest grin he could muster on his face. "Was that good enough for you?" He asked, now back to his dry self.
"If you want to be funny Walter you can do it out of my company," she replied unimpressed, glaring at him over the top of her glasses.
"You can save your laughter till the day you get married," his father spoke up firmly.
"I was married," Walter replied bitterly, not able to look at his father.
"Well you aren't anymore are you," Mr Corey replied, lighting his cigar.
"Not in here dear!" Emily fussed, waving at the cigar, coughing slightly. His father didn't move or make any attempt to extinguish the cigar, he simply glared at his wife.
"I have no plans of remarrying at the moment if you don't mind," Walter hissed, "from my experience marriage and myself don't match."
"Oh Walter, don't be ridiculous. What happened to Marie was an accident, it was nothing to do with you as a husband." Walter sighed; he was not in the mood to have such a conversation with his mother. He'd never be in the mood to have a conversation about his beloved wife's death, he was sure of that.
The conversation with his parents must have stirred something that evening. When he finally managed to get to sleep he withdrew a dream he'd long forgotten, the dream he thought he'd put well behind him…the haunting memory of his wife's death. He went through a stage when he woke up sweating every night, calling for her and he'd turn over to check she was lay next to him like she should be…only to find a cold empty space. He thought he'd got past that, but that night the dream returned to him. More vague and less distinct but he still knew it was real, he still woke up gasping out her name and for the first time in ages he turned to check if she was there, before drifting off into a more peaceful sleep.
The dream seemed to have worn him out through the night, as he over-slept next morning. When he finally appeared it was to see his mother dashing about the kitchen, flitting here and there, trying to wipe him up some breakfast with as little fuss as possible, whilst adding the odd "Really Walter, what I am going to do with you?" and "Well you definitely choose the worst morning possible to sleep in on."
"What time is Robert arriving?" Walter asked, sticking his spoon hungrily in his porridge.
"Any time now, you've father's gone to fetch them from the station. I want you and your sullen face out of the way by the time they get here. Don't want the poor woman turning up and first thing she seeing is you longing around the place." Walter rolled his eyes slightly.
"I've got far more important things to be doing than hanging round here to meet my bloody brother and some tart he's managed to stick a ring on."
"Really Walter, if I hear one more foul word come out of your mouth you'll be sleeping in the stable never mind the sitting room floor," she tuts, beginning to peel some potatoes.
"Excuse me?" He asks, unsure if he'd heard her properly. Scowling she turns to look at him, her eyebrows raised in her 'yes?' fashion. "I could have sworn I heard you say I'll be sleeping on the sitting room floor?"
"Fantastic you don't need your ears testing darling, I knew it'd be your brother who would get your father's bad hearing-"
"There is no way I'm going to sleep the floor for the next…however long!" He exclaims, cutting across her mindless chatter.
"Oh yes you will, you've been working on that cottage for nearly 9 months now, it can't be that long until it's finished and when it is you can move in there."
"No buts Walter!" She cuts across, before he can even begin. "You'll just have to work over time from now on. Now if you'll go and get some work done!" She hisses, pulling the half full bowl from under his eager spoon. Livid he got to his feet and stomped out. As soon as that bloody brother of his got there he was going to make him pay for this!
Ever since they were children Robert was always the one they favoured, he was the first one, the special one, by the time Walter had arrived both his parents were pretty sick to death of children. Walter and Robert couldn't have been more different, Walter was the ambitious one, he was the one who would work and work for what he wanted, while he brother simply got everywhere by luck. Robert cared for the little things like drink, girls, money…and somehow he always managed to get what he wanted, to Walter's annoyance.
Walter would never admit it to his parents, but Walter was quite intrigued as to his brother's new missus. It was natural to be intrigued, surely. As result Walter decided to work close to the house that morning so he could be there for when they arrived. It wasn't long until he heard the sound of his father's trap approaching the yard. As expected his overly excited mother dashed into the yard to meet their new arrival.
"Robert darling!" he heard her shriek, as his brother jumped down, before turning to assist the lady by his side.
The next words were just muttered exchanges, which Walter couldn't hear. He however had dropped his chores and was busy concentrating on the pretty lady, as he made his way towards them. He was sure he recognised her, where had he seen her before?…then it clicked…"Flora Ryan?" he murmured under his breath.
As if registering the fact someone had said her name, Flora suddenly looked up in his direction, everyone following her gaze. "Ah big ears, was wondering when you were gonna appear," his brother grins at him. "May I introduce my wife, Flora."
Smiling nervously, Flora stepped forward, offering her hand to Walter, which he accepted willingly. "April '45, the Harrington-Smythe's yearly race, surely you remember Miss Ryan?" Walter smiles genuinely for the first time in…quite a while anyway. For a moment Flora looked at him completely puzzled, as if trying to recall his face, however to Walter's outrage she seemed to find no memory of him.
"Have you met before?" Emily asks curiously.
"Well-" Walter began.
"I'm afraid I don't recall you," Flora replies timidly. Both Robert and his father seemed to find this a very amusing joke at Walter's expense.
Utterly put out Walter muttered "Maybe I was mistaken," before returning to his work. He knew he was right, she would have rejected the name Ryan if he'd been wrong, but perhaps it was best not to mention it for now.
Dinner was once more unbearable. Walter could barely kept his eyes open at the mind numbing chat. For once ever his father went outside for his before dessert cigar, which either meant he was trying to be polite or couldn't bare to watch Robert and Flora fawning over each other anymore…Walter suspected the latter. While Mr Corey was preparing to shoot himself Emily was busy bombarding Flora with questions; where she had worked? Where her and Robert met? Where she grew up? Flora was just answering this particular question when Emily suddenly gasped, "isn't that where Marie's family came from?"
"Marie's family were from a little village in Wales mother, I think you'll find Flora grew up in Ireland," Walter tutted, rolling his eyes, her geography!
"Easy mistake to make," Emily defended herself, blushing slightly as she began to serve dessert. Glaring at her husband as she saw him reappear, grimacing when he saw Robert practically pulling Flora on his lap.
"I noticed you never remarried big ears," Robert commented, smirking at his scowling brother and winking at his wife, who was pondering the size of Walter's ears…they seemed a perfectly moderate size to her.
"Oh don't get him started Robert, he'll be telling us for hours how marriage and himself don't match," Emily sighed, glaring at the younger of her two sons warningly.
"You just have to get the right woman, Walter." Robert began. "Look at Flora," turning to his blushing wife. "Smart, beautiful and most importantly she has all her marbles." Flora's face fell into confusion at this. However before she could question Robert what he meant by that, Walter had jumped up and leaning across the table pulled Robert towards him by the scruff of his neck.
"How dare you!" He growled angrily. "She was ill, but the doctors managed to cure her! Not that you'd know of course as you only bother with family when you want something-"
Walter stopped as he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, his father didn't say a word to neither of them, just gave them a piercing glare which made them both retreat instantly. Walter pushed Robert forcefully back down into his chair. "My, my big ears, you've got a temper I never knew you had," Robert chuckles slightly, receiving warning looks from both his parents, which his chose to ignore. "I hope Marie never saw that temper of yours, then of course weren't you arguing the night she fell down those stairs…?" He trailed off.
Walter just pounced, punching him hard across the face before darting out of the room. Horrified, both women sprang to action, fussing around Robert, offering him their handkerchiefs to tidy up his bloody nose. "Don't give him any sympathy Emily," Mr Corey spoke up for the first since they'd sat down to dinner. "He deserved that," he hissed, glaring at his son.
"Oh thanks, favour him over me!-"
"I think you'll find I stopped him thrashing the living daylights out of you!" Mr Corey cut across him angrily. "Yet you continued to wind him up. My sympathy goes to neither of you little buggers but your poor wife. God bless you dear," he smiles almost sarcastically, "Cause you are going to need all the good fortune you can get." With that he drains his brandy glass and makes his way upstairs.
Flora had been very curious about the happenings of her day, firstly Robert's brother knowing her, when she didn't have the faintest clue who he was and then the brother's quarrel over dinner. Well one thing she was certain of was life with the Corey's definitely not going to be dull. She didn't anything of either Walter or Mr Corey for the rest of that evening. Robert was sulking, curled up in the sitting room, brandy glass in his hand, feeling sorry for himself. Emily obviously didn't have the patience for him that night and although Flora comforted him for a moment, her curiosity drowned her concern and she joined Emily in the kitchen to finish clearing away dinner and see what she could discover about the late Mrs Walter Corey.
She wasn't sure how to approach the subject, the matter was obviously delicate however finally she picked up the courage to ask Emily. "Emily, what was the matter with Walter's wife?" she questioned timidly, handing her a couple of bowls and noting the cupboard Emily put them in.
"Ah, well it's a very quiet subject in this house, but as one of the family you may as well no the true," she whispered, checking the door to the sitting room was closed and no one else was around.
"Walter's late wife had always been…a bit…well not quite normal to put in it gently. She'd had an accident when a while ago and was never the same again. Walter of course adored her would have given his left arm to save her. Naturally he tried to do something about…her problem. He put a mortgage on the house to pay for a doctor from London to operate, to relieve the pressure from her brain. It seemed to work well enough she was back to her old self. Of course Wallace said it was codswallop, said there was nothing wrong with her in the first place. He's often like that; he believes if you convince someone they are alright then they'll get better, he thought because the doctor operated whether it had made any difference or not she would have got herself better." Emily sighs slightly, shrugging her shoulders. "He told Walter it was a waste of money." She could imagine that of Mr Corey, believed in common sense and no mucking around. "Who knows?" She shrugs again.
"But if she was alright then how did she die?…Was that something to do with her illness?" Flora asked curiously.
"Not at all, she was fine." Emily replies, folding her tea cloth and laying it on the side. "Her death was an accident. I know Walter blames himself for it but…" she trails off. "Never mind my dear. You should probably be getting your rest, you've had a busy day and I'm sure your going to have a long night of trying to get Robert to stop sulking." Emily smiles softly at her, squeezing her hand encouragingly. "You'll soon get used to the place Flora. I don't want you feeling shy or uncomfortable. I know what my men can be like and I know how to set them straight so if you have any problems then come to me." Flora smiled at her weakly.
"Thank you." With that she made her way into the sitting room to retrieve her moody husband, while Emily hummed softly to herself, making the finishing touching to make her kitchen spotless. She liked Flora, how on earth her Robert had managed to find a girl like that was anyone's guess. She was glad to see him happy…she just wished someone would come along and save her Walter from his own sorrows.
Despite Emily's words Flora was reluctant to believe she'd ever get used to the small farmhouse. She recalled the house she'd grown up in, it'd only been slightly bigger, however for most of her time there it had just been her father and herself after her siblings had left. The farmhouse consisted of five moderately well sized rooms. Entering through the front door, you entered the heart of the Corey house; the kitchen. There were two doors leading off from the kitchen, the sitting room and the pantry, which had many uses; storing food, washing clothes etc. Also leading off the kitchen you had the stairs which led to two bedrooms.
Even more difficult to get used to were the people. Head of the house, Mr Wallace Corey, was very rarely seen. He spent the whole day working at some of the fields away from the house or in town on 'business matters' whatever that meant? He'd return in time for dinner every night, which was to be set on the table promptly by herself or Emily. He was generally a quiet man and Flora was unsure whether she'd ever heard him open his mouth to do anything over than reprimand someone. When he was working near the home through the day he seemed to love it as an excuse to breath down Flora's neck and check she was doing everything to his standards. This first week he'd already managed to make Flora cry over five times, she'd never give him that satisfaction though.
Emily Corey was much more of the patient type. She preferred to teach Flora how to correct her mistakes rather than shout at her will she was in tears. Flora loved Emily, she imagined her to be quite like her own mother form the descriptions she heard of her. She kept her house to a strict timetable, everything had it's own place. She also loved to have a good grumble about her men and how untidy they were. Flora knew however she'd be lost without her boys to fuss over. She also knew that she loved her husband more she liked to let on…Flora couldn't quite understand why though.
Walter Corey was a man who carried a question mark. He was the one she was struggling most to understand, thought perhaps the one she was most intrigued about. She sometimes watched him work through the kitchen window while cooking supper. He would work non-stop all day - it just amazed her, (Robert had probably never done an honest days work in his life). Robert had the good looks of the family, the looks that made all girls swoon (herself included), but Walter had the stamina (she dreamed of, not that she'd ever tell anyone that) as the result of all the strenuous work he did. However he worked as though in a trance, not once did he look up. It was though he was thinking about something that needed absolute concentration. She couldn't help thinking he was a dreamer like herself; imaging something he desperately wished for but…it was none of her business.
Sunday proved a busy day for Flora, despite it supposedly being the day of rest. The trip to church was the first real time she went into the local village save getting off the train when she first arrived. It was a lot to take in meeting so many people in such a short time. They were all dying to meet Flora. It made Walter feel sick to watch them all surround her, while his arrogant brother introduced her, his arm proudly around her waist. Emily had spent the last Sunday boasting how her son was to return with a wife at his side. It reminded his vaguely of when Marie had been the new addition to the Corey family. They'd been just the same, swarming around their new item of gossip they depended on to brighten up their dull lives; flies around shit, he couldn't help thinking.
Sunday was also the day Flora met the extra member of the Corey family. Mrs Corey senior senior was Mr Corey's mother. Meeting her quickly explained Mr Corey's habits. She was a bitter old woman, "Reaching her thousandth birthday" both Walter and Robert had exclaimed when warning Flora about her. Walter and Robert hated to admit it but they couldn't help agreeing on one thing; the sooner she checked out the better. She lived in the heart of the village and enjoyed complaining about the price of taxes, and the young today with her senile friends, drinking pot after pot of tea, which contained mountain of sugar. However if that was not possible she loved hobbling to the park, before collapsing onto a bench then seeing how many innocent children she could trip up with her walking stick.
She joined the Corey's after church every Sunday for dinner. This first Sunday she'd grasped Flora's elbow while she'd been serving Walter's speciality (carrots) and said "Let me take a look at you then lady." She must have spent a good 2 minutes eyeing Flora up and down and muttering little comments like "moderately pretty" and "short chubby fingers, tut". Robert was sat sniggering into his dinner, while Walter yawned, bored of listening to his stomach rumble. Emily was shooting Flora a sympathetic look as she recalled a similar experience when she'd first been introduced to Mrs Corey by her husband. Mr Corey was his usual blank self, though Flora did notice he'd not attempted to escape for a cigar yet that meal and wouldn't as he knew it would lead to him receiving the sharp end of his mother's tongue.
"Turn," The elderly woman said to Flora, causing her eyebrows to shoot skyward. "Don't just stand there looking baffled girl! It was a simple instruction do as I say!" Slowly she turned on the spot. After a couple more minutes of scrutiny Mrs Corey concluded, "Well not too bad Robert." Relieved Flora continued with what she was doing.
"Not too bad?" Robert exclaimed. "Have you ever seen anyone as beautiful?" Flora blushed slightly, very aware of everyone watching Robert's hand travel from her waist down to her thigh, while Flora tried to concentrate on serving his mashed potato and Walter desperately tried to suppress the sudden wave of nausea which was overwhelming him. Yuk!
"Still hope for grandchildren, Emily," Mrs Corey mutters, her eyebrow raised ever so slightly, as she looks from Emily to the loved up pair and back again.
"Don't start getting ideas in her head, mother," Mr Corey speaks up for the first time all dinner. It was bad enough the three times he'd had screaming children in his house. The last thing he wanted was bloody more.
"Your grandmother is quite a character," Flora giggled later that evening. Mr Corey had just set off to take his mother home, so Emily and Robert had decided to give Flora a tour of their surroundings.
"I believe she's going for a new world record," Emily couldn't help giggling at her son's words. She'd been waiting for her to pop her clogs longer than either of her sons. "Well I hope father doesn't last as long as her."
"Robert that is awful!" Flora scowled, smacking him on the arm. Emily didn't reply to this, she doubted her husband would have the will to last as long as his mother even if he had the strength in him.
It was a very warm evening for the beginning of May. It was late and the sun was beginning to set. The happy couple may have found it a very romantic walk if they hadn't had Emily tagging along, breathing down their necks. After about half an hours walk they came to a little cottage, which Flora guessed was the reason Walter disappeared every night after dinner.
"He's not still working on this bloody house is he?" Robert snorted. "He's been working on it for over two years now!"
"Don't start Robert Corey," Emily warned. "If you really want to know he's not been working on it for that long, he may have started over two years ago but after Marie died he wouldn't even step in the place for six months. He started again nine months, lots of the work he had to re-do. The house didn't seem to like being ignored for six months."
Stepping inside the house, Flora glanced around, noting immediately that it was a similar layout to theirs but on a larger scale. The place was bare, no piece of furniture, nothing covering the walls and floors. Somewhere up the stairs she could hear the 'tap tap' of a hammer.
"Walter?" Emily calls up the stairs. The hammering stops and is replaced by the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. "You know I don't like you working after dark. Think of how dangerous it is up there with a candle and no glass in those windows yet. It only takes a small gust of wind and suddenly your surrounded by flames-"
"How can I help you?" Walter asks, cutting across his mother's lecture.
"They just came to show me the house," Flora replies, smiling at her sullen faced brother-in-law. "It's beautiful." She adds softly, hoping he'd grace her with just one small smile…but no, he was just as cold with her as his father was.
"It's just the same as ours, Flora," Robert sighs, running his hand suggestively up and down her back, indicating to her he was bored and wished to leave.
"It's bigger," Flora corrects him, subtly shaking his wandering off her, there was only one thing ever running through that man's head!
"Yes far too big for one person," Robert snorts.
"Now there is an idea!" Emily suddenly gasps. "Walter why don't you let Robert finish the house so he and Flora can move in here!" Walter suddenly turned very pale. He'd worked hours and hours on this house and now his mother was asking him to hand the job over to someone else when it was nearly finished so they could live there!
"Well…" Walter began, but was cut short by Flora exclaiming, "Of that would be wonderful! Can you imagine darling?" she giggles, clinging onto his arm excitedly.
"Well I suppose the two of you would make more use of it than myself," Walter mutters, trying to keep the bitterness from his voice.
"Well that settles it then," Emily adds with an air of finality. "Walter tomorrow you can give Robert the final instruction and he can get cracking straight."
And he did
Flora found herself a routine so she managed to get all her chores done without Mr Corey telling at her. Emily began to rely on her to so some of the more difficult jobs she would never have allowed her to do on her first week. It was on her second Saturday in the Corey household that she realised she would be able to cope with bloody anything they threw at her.
She had been having a difficult day. Emily had given her a pile of laundry which had to be done today as tomorrow she wouldn't have time what with church and Mrs Corey senior senior's visit for lunch. Then on top of that she was to help Robert with his chores as he had decided to have a very long lie in that morning, as well as preparing dinner. Mr Corey had given her a right mouthful that evening when he'd sat down at the table to find her still dashing around the kitchen. She could feel her temper rising as she tried to concentrate on her work and ignore Mr Corey's shouting. Finally she snapped, she knew she shouldn't have but at the time she couldn't help it.
Spinning to face him, she shouted, "I'm not a bloody miracle worker you know! If you're so bloody hungry you could always get off your fat arse to help me!" At this Emily and Robert's mouths fell open in shock, while Walter chuckled for the first time in ages. "Enjoy you dinner, Mr Corey!" She adds angrily, tipping the contents of the gravy jug onto his head, before tipping any other food close to hand on him. Furious, Mr Corey jumped up form his chair, grasping her elbow before she could pull away. For a moment they were all sure he was going to knock her into the middle of next week, instead he simply wiped his face on the sleeve before turning and storming outside.
After that if dinner was not ready promptly Mr Corey would just sit grumbling instead of complaining. That didn't stop him yelling at her other times though. He'd been ready to smack her more than once now if things weren't up to his standards. Luckily for Flora however, Emily or Robert had always been there to restrain him.
Flora had not been to the cottage since the night they decided Robert and herself would live there, but from what Robert had told her it was coming on nicely. He'd spent a lot of time on the house through the day recently, he'd often not return till the middle of dinner, it couldn't be too long till he was finished now. The down side of him working through the day however was Flora always ended up rushed off her feet trying to complete his chores as well as her own.
This particular day Robert had left before most of the house had risen. Flora was at breaking point. Today had turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, bloody typical, she couldn't help thinking. The heat was obviously going to her head. She was at the moment trying to kneed her bread dough, peel her onions, stir her stew and clean her kitchen floor at the same time. She almost jumped a foot in the air when Walter entered, dumping a sack of potatoes in the pantry.
"Have you seen Robert anywhere?" She asks hurriedly, not even glancing at Walter in fear of losing a precious working moment.
"No, why?" He asks drying, not really interested. "Don't tell me he's buggered off to that cottage again leaving you to do all his bloody work again?" Wiping her hands on her apron, she sighs and turns to face him nodding. Walter had serious trouble controlling his laughter at the sight of her. She looked as though she'd dived into a bag of flour. "Did you go for an early morning swim in a lake of flour?" He chuckles, flicking at a wisp of her loose hair, immediately surrounding her in a cloud of flour.
"I'm rushed off my feet at the moment so if you are going to stand there and laugh at me, I'll leave organising your lunch until last!"
Sulking at her moody self, Walter backed away muttering, "Can't you get mother to help you?"
"Her and your father dashed off to your grandmother's a while ago. One of her neighbour's turned up and said she was claiming to have been burgled through the night." She rolls her eyes.
"More like she's bored and wants some attention," Walter mutters.
"If you are anxious to eat your lunch then you'll have to give me a hand."
"Well that is a bit difficult, they are attached after all," he snorts. "Laugh!" He adds, tapping her on the arm.
"I am not going to laugh at your pathetic joke."
"It wasn't that bad! I've heard worse!" Feigning a scowl he began to help her prepare lunch. "I saw that smile!" He shrieks, as he notices the corners of her mouth twitch slightly. She can't refrain from giggling slightly.
"You complain of me not smiling you moody git!" He smiles coyly, before exclaiming, "Moody git! Me? Never!"
"Just around me then?" she whispers quietly.
"What gives you that idea?" He asks, trying desperately to avoid eye contact, but not really needing to, as she was as well.
"Well you were cold with me from the moment you met me. What did I ever do to you?" She questions innocently, shifting uncomfortably in the awkward silence that followed the question. Maybe he should re-jog her memory…, he thought bitterly.
"You don't remember do you?"
"Me," he replies flatly.
"Is this is why you've been so cold towards me, because I didn't recognise you from somewhere when we first met?"
Breathing out slowly from his nose he says, "Oh it doesn't matter. Forget about it." She paused from what she was doing for a moment and looked at him intently. "Robert should nearly have finished that house by," Walter adds changing the subject purposely. "I may go check up on him later."
A few hours later however Walter had completely forgotten about Robert and his promise to Flora to go check up on the house. Even if he had remember he wouldn't have had the energy after his knackering day. He wasn't sure how much more of this he could take, the prospect of sleeping under a park bench was looking more inviting than one more day of work in this hell hole. His brother seemed to have given up his chores entirely to work on the house, something that greatly annoyed Walter; he'd always made sure he had everything done before working on the house. Things hadn't been so bad before Robert and Flora had turned up, he'd had the dream of moving out of his parents house to cling onto, but now that had been taken away from him and he was sick of it all.
It was only as he tugged the thin blanket over himself that night that he remembered the absence of his brother and the desperation in Flora's eyes as she once more tiptoed up to bed without him even being in the house. His mother was convinced he was working after at the house like a good little boy, maybe he would have protested differently if it hadn't been for the spark of relief he noticed in Flora's eyes as her mother-in-law assured her this every night. He was almost certain though that this wasn't the case. It just didn't seem like his slacker of a brother to work as hard as this, even if he set his heart on something it wouldn't miss a meal and there is no way he'd be working until the early hours of the morning. As far as Walter knew he returned ages after he'd gone to sleep, if he came home at all that was. His mother had told him on more than one occasion though what a heavy sleeper he was, so he could easily sleep through him returning…
A sudden slam jolted him out of his thoughts. Glancing towards the kitchen, he pulled back his blanket and flung his dressing gown around his shoulders. It didn't take him long to figure out what all the racket was about as he opened the door to see the very intoxicated Robert Corey try to clamber up the stairs. He swung round slightly when hearing Walter open the living room door. Screwing up one of his eyes he tried to make out who the blurred figure was. Finally realising, he huffed slightly, before slurring the words "What do you want big ears?" Walter could only just make out his words, as he totted backwards and forwards on his unsure feet.
"Do I even need to ask where you've been?" Walter sighed.
"Hmmmmm…" he shakes his head slightly, well what Walter assumed was a shake of the head, it looked more like he was trying to bash some water out of his ear. "It wouldn't leave much doubt though, if you came and smelt my breath and felt how empty my pockets are."
"I don't need to come any closer I can smell the alcohol from here. It almost covers up the smell of some woman's cheap perfume…who I'm guessing left the lovely looking stocking that is hanging out of your pocket as a souvenir," he muttered dryly. "My advise to you big brother is get rid of it before mother or Flora do your laundry." Turning from him he tuts in disgust, recalling the time many years ago when he had once looked up to this man…what a fool he had been.
"Some how many hours have you actually spent on the house then?" He hisses, dreading the answer for Flora's sake more than anyone's.
"About…perhaps…you know little bro," he chortles, rubbing Walter's hair vigorously. "I don't have the foggiest."
"Just give me an estimate then," he huffs bitterly, flattening his hair down angrily.
"Maybe 5...or 6?"
"6!" Walter exclaims loudly, causing Robert to flinch slightly.
"Shhhhhhhhh," he hisses, sticking his finger almost up his nose in an attempt to cover his lips and emphasis his point. "You'll wake mummy and daddy you naughty boy."
"Never mind mother and father! What happens when your wife comes down and sees you in this state? I don't know why she hasn't kick you to kingdom come yet!"
"Flora?" he giggles in a slightly girlish manner. "That missus of mine doesn't have the foggiest clue what I get up to when I say I'm going to work on the house. She's always in a deep slumber by the time I get back…in fact she's a deeper sleeper than you big ears."
"Well we'll see how hard she kicks your arse tomorrow when the pair of us go and inspect that house. It's going to be very amusing…for me of course. And then when 'mummy' and 'daddy' find out…tut tut… you will be in trouble." Walter shakes his head, feigning a sorrowful expression which was fixed on his face.
This however was quickly wiped off as he was suddenly lunged against the wall by his brother, who at his words seemed to have sobered up slightly. "You keep that bloody mouth of yours shut! D'ya hear me!" He yells, wincing slightly at the sound of his own voice, before thrusting his knee sharply into Walter's delicate area.
"You bastard!" Walter gasps, his teeth clamped tightly down on his bottom lip as he tried to exercise the pain.
"Well if you think that hurt laddie…" he whispers viciously in his ear as he pulled him up straight, "then you really don't wanna have to find out what will happen if you so much as breathed a word of this to Flora or either Mother or Father…cause believe me son you'll never no what real pain feels like until then."
Without warning he dropped Walter to the floor and he immediately fell to his knees in agony, letting the pain pass before even attempting to get to his feet. Leaning against the table for the little support he still required he glared at his brother as he drowned a couple of glasses of water, before turning to the stairs.
"How could you do this to Flora?" He suddenly says, grinding his brother to a halt.
"I thought I told you to shut that trap of yours," he slurs.
"I'm not saying to either Flora, mother or father so you can't give me the promised beating, I just want you to answer the question…how could you do this to Flora?" He repeated after a few minutes confused silence.
"I can do whatever I wish where my wife is concerned, I tell her what to do, she does what I say, simple as cake."
"So is that what Flora is to you?" Walter hisses, feeling his temper rise again as he looked over his thoughtless brother. "Is she just someone to cook your meals and polish your boots? Do you even love her in the slightest?"
He could see the carelessness in his brother's eyes as he muttered his next words, "of course I do." Stepping back slightly as Walter closed in on him, stumbling slightly as he bumped into a chair. "I do!" he insists, on seeing the look of disbelief on Walter's face.
"You do do you?…Well I find it hard to believe you when you promised to do something for her and then spend all your time in the pub. She's worked damn hard all day while you've been off in town! She's completed all her chores and most of yours, the rest which I did I may add! I just can't believe you could treat her this way! You are so bloody lucky you know! Some people would kill for a wife like her!" He breaths in deeply, trying to control his anger. The last thing he needed was getting decked by his brother who could easily slaughter him in a fight. Besides he wasn't about to bring all…that up. He had such a wonderful wife why did he have to neglect her so…what he wouldn't give to have spent the time he had had with Marie more carefully…and here was his brother treating his wife so inconsiderately… "You've got a lot of making up to do. I'll not breath a word of this to anyone but you are going to work and work until your bloody fingers are dropping off, yes?"
Sighing in defeat Robert nodded, almost losing his balance and ending flat on his nose. Clutching onto the table for support now, he muttered "I'll do what I can to make this right."
"Well you better," Walter replied. Robert sounded quite sincere, but Walter had heard too many stories of a similar sort and he never stuck to his word…oh but this time he would. Walter would make sure of it!
Walter was foolish to believe Robert would stick to his word, he quickly realised next day he'd never be able to get through even one honest days work. No, Walter sighed as he thought to himself, he had dashed into town by lunchtime telling Flora the usual story of him going to work on the house. The thing that gutted Walter most was how excited Flora seemed about the whole thing. It was only that afternoon when she heard a certain little conversation between the woman in question and his mother.
He only caught the second half of the discussion as they prepared dinner together, even though he could tell his mother was definitely ecstatic about something and Flora seemed to be struggling to contain her glee about something.
"I'm not completely certain," Flora muttered, secretly wishing she hadn't mentioned anything to Emily just yet.
"Robert must be thrilled," Emily beamed, squeezing Flora's sticky hand with her own.
"Well actually I haven't told him yet…" Flora edged before continuing nervously. "I'm waiting till I at least know for certain…Do you really think he'll like the idea?"
"Oh I've no doubt about it my dear. Just think…a little one to carry on the Corey name," she grinned, more to herself than her daughter in law.
"Emily please, don't start running ahead."
"Dear I think you'll find I don't do much running these days, occasionally the gentle jog if I'm behind my husband's time schedule, but apart from that…" Flora laughs gently, as Emily gives her a little wink. "I won't say anything about the matter to Robert or anyone else for that matter until you tip me the wink."
"I'd definitely appreciate that," Flora replied.
"But a baby! A little grandchild…well of course after Marie died we thought it would be impossible but obviously since you arrived I knew it would only be a matter of time…" She trailed off deep in thought as she considered what her other son would say to having another baby in the house. He'd certainly find it difficult after…last time… "Well I suspect Robert has his suspicions, what with the amount of time he's been spending on the house. He's really been getting his teeth into that job, I've never known him like it before."
"Yes…" Flora mumbled wearily, "He has been spending a lot of time at the 'house'." Emily missed the obvious bitterness in Flora's voice as she uttered these words, little did the rest of the house know that Flora very much suspected that Robert's frequent absence was less to do with DIY than the rest of them has supposed.
Even Walter had missed the bitterness in Flora's voice earlier as he listened to the lady's conversation in the shadows earlier. A baby? Flora pregnant? Well he hadn't been expecting that. Obviously he'd know it was bound to happen some time or another…but he hadn't considered it being so soon, if he was completely honest with himself he'd been hoping it to happen at all.
Nevertheless the change the circumstances entirely, Robert really needed to get his act together. Flora thought he was getting right on with the house that it would be ready if her suspicions were confirmed, what would she say when she found out he'd not been doing a damn thing towards the building of the house. She'd be heartbroken…
That was his last thought as he drifted off to sleep that evening. However he didn't actually get that much sleep as he was to be awoken not even an hour later by a loud crash from the kitchen. Walter growled slightly, beginning to get sick of this lack of sleep just because his brother enjoyed trailing out into town every night to get utterly rat-arsed. Well that was it! He was going to put an end to this palaver once and for all ever if it meant he'd get a thorough beating.
Storming into kitchen he winced slightly as his eyes adjusted to the dim light in the room. "Do you have make such a noise!" He shouts, not caring this time who he woke upstairs. "This is the second bloody night in the row!"
"So he wakes you too?" A timid voice mutters, through a sob. Rubbing his eyes slightly he quickly sees it's not Robert but a sobbing Flora, her head leant on the table, as she shivers slightly in only her thin summer nightdress and shawl. The source of his disturbed sleep was on the floor besides her; a scattered mug, which by the look of the brown puddle besides her had contained the tea she'd been intent on drinking before dropping it on the floor (or throwing it as the case may be, something he wished to find out) "I'm sorry for waking you."
"Oh…I'm sorry for shouting… I thought you were someone else."
"Robert?" He nods softly, sitting down in the chair beside her. "I wish…no, once again he's not back before midnight."
"Maybe he's decided to stay at the house tonight so he can get an early start tomorrow…" he suggests, only to be cut off by Flora.
"Oh please! We both know the last place he's at is the house."
"You know?" He asks stunned.
"Of course I know!" She hisses bitterly, "Do you think I'm as dense as your brother seems to believe? Do you really think I could sleep through him desperately trying to climb into bed in his drunken state? Never mind having him breath right in my face after consuming god knows how much alcohol, then combine that with the stench of smoke, and the lovely smell of mixed perfumes from many floozy's."
Words now failed Walter as he considered the helpless woman besides him. "Have you been to the house recently?" She whispered, pulling her head off the table and leaning back and letting her heavy head droop.
"No, but he told me how much he'd done."
"I'm not sure I even want to know," Flora murmurs, shaking her head as tears overwhelmed her again. "I should have seen this coming. I should have realised after last time he'd never change. I was so stupid. He promised me!"
"Promised you what Flora?" He asks suddenly intrigued.
"He promised me after he got sacked from his last job that he'd change his ways."
"He got sacked!" Walter replied at this sudden truth.
"Yes," Flora whispers, mentally chiding herself for letting loose the secret Robert had told her not to mention. "Basically he was up too his usual ways, slacking and not doing any of his chores. Well I'll tell you, his superiors weren't having it and he got dismissed. He begged me to leave with him, said he'd change his ways and for a while he did but now it seems he's gone back to his old ways…at the time when I need him most.
Flora snorts slightly, silently scolding herself for being as stupid to believe he'd actually change his ways for her. "He has no right to treat you that way," Walter mumbles, not sure if he was ready to reveal he had a soft side to this woman he'd purposely not shown any concern or interest in from the moment he'd met her.
"Is that how you really feel?" she replies, "or do you treat your women as bad as Robert treats me or now I think about it your father treats your mother?…You Coreys are all the same."
"We aren't all like that…" he hisses through gritted teeth.
"Well you've yet to prove me wrong," she tuts slightly, recalling his indifference from the second she'd spoken to him, for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
"If that is what it'll take then I will," he replies, standing from the table, "but for now I'll return to my 'bed'…"
"Wait!" She shouts, before he can even make two paces towards the sitting room. "Maybe…maybe you could wait with me till he returns…I'll certainly need the support." With a gentle nod he settles back down in his chair, rapping his knuckles on the table uncomfortably for a moment. "Will you desist?" She hisses, sending an annoyed glare in his direction, while reaching across and wrapping a firm hand around his tapping one.
"I'm REALLY sorry!" he exclaims, waving his hands in the air, the sarcasm obvious in his voice. She rolls her eyes impatiently, breathing out heavily, resting her throbbing head on the table once again. She felt a small shiver run down her spine as a cautious hand reached out and patted her hair nervously. Pulling her shawl tighter around her, she sat up once more leaning towards him slowly, placing her head on his shoulder.
It was in this position that an incredibly intoxicated Robert Corey found them less than half an hour at which point the tension in the kitchen was almost breakable. "Well, well what 'ave we're?" he slurs, glaring in their general direction as they suddenly wrenched apart. "My own ickle bro cosyin' up with my missus, tut tut."
"Now come on Robert, don't start jumping to silly concussions," Walter retorts, jumping from his seat. "Flora and I were just having a nice little…"
"I hardly think you are the paragon of virtue yourself Robert Corey!" She interrupts, hardly thinking that Walter defending her was the best way of proving to him their relationship was purely platonic.
"You promised you wouldn't breath a word to 'er!" He hisses, staggering drunkenly towards Walter, ready to knock him into the middle of next week for breaking his promise.
"He didn't say anything to me! I'm not utterly stupid Robert!" She replies, her face reddening gradually, as she clenched her fists. "It doesn't take a genius to figure what you've really been doing all these nights and it certainly has nothing to do with that house!" She screams, lunging towards him and beating her fists against his chest in her outrage. "You made a promise Robert! And once again you broke it without even a speck of conscious!"
"How dare you speak to me like that!" He yelled, suddenly forgetting about his banging head, before pulling back his fist, landing it forcefully against her cheek knocking her to the floor and the wind out of her sails. She squeals slightly, trying to shuffle along the floor as he hovered over her again, ready to knock as much sense as necessary into that head of hers.
Flora screwed her eyes up tightly, waiting for the blow to fall, however after a good few seconds interval she daringly opened one of her eyes to peer at the sudden turn of events. Robert was the one lay on the floor now, one hand clutching at his bloody nose the other attempting to protect his stomach from Walter's foot.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Flora gratefully accepted Walter's outstretched hand as his offered to assist her to her feet. "You alright?" He murmured, patting her arm gently. She nods her eyes softening slightly as she saw the genuine concern on his face.
"You little bastard!" Robert slurs, rising unsteadily to his feet, clutching his stomach in agony. "Well I'll tell you both something!" He exclaims, grasping onto the table for support, "I don't need a shrew for a wife!"
Flora's mouth drops in outrage and she could have sworn she heard Walter click his knuckles warning…maybe this was his way of proving to her not all Corey men are the same? Before she had a moment to ponder that more Robert had began again.
"Your choice is very clear woman…you must decide between myself or your stuck up principles," He hisses, focusing in her general direction and jabbing his finger sharply at her.
"I have no choice in the matter," she mutters, her thoughts flickering to her suspected pregnancy, which she was pretty certain Robert had no idea about. "It you who must make the decision. A decision between your responsibilities or your carefree lifestyle?"
It didn't even take him a second to decide. He simply removed the eternity ring from his finger letting it slide from his hand to the floor. Turning away from her, "sod you Flora" were the last words he uttered to her as he stepped out into the cold night.