Friends With Benefits…Chapter 1…Rainy Days & Mondays

It was Tuesday morning, gray and raining, as Betty Slocombe ran for the bus. She

dodged puddles and raindrops in her little plastic rain hat. It was 8 a.m.

A car horn blared. Betty stepped aside; usually if a car horn sounded, it was

followed by a wave of rain water being sprayed from a passing car. The car slowed

to a stop and beeped again. Annoyed, she turned round to see Stephen Peacock

pulled up and motioning to her. He rolled down the window, "Would you like a lift

to work?" thankful to not have to race to the bus stop in the rain, she accepted.

"I brought you a coffee," he offered.

"Thank you, Stephen. That was very kind of you..." her voice trailed off, "You're a

little out of your way, aren't you?" she asked a little suspiciously. Then she noticed

his condition: red-rimmed, puffy eyes; clothing disheveled; mussed hair; badly in

need of a shave; smelling of alcohol, stale cigarettes, and B.O.; very sullen.

"Stephen! What's happened to you?" Betty about choked on her coffee.

"Well," he started, "I believe my wife is done with me. I think she's found someone

else."

"You two go through this about twice a year. What makes this time different?"

"When I arrived home from work last night, she was standing on the front steps.

My clothes had all been packed and were waiting for me. She'd had all the locks

changed and moved that single man Bill from our Bridge Club into the house. Since

the house is in her name, there's little I can do. I've got everything in the boot."

"Oh, I am sorry. Where did you go after that? Where 'ave you been until now?"

They were within a few blocks of Grace Brothers.

"I went to the pub looking for you; I didn't see you so I had a few gin and tonics. I

tried ringing a few people but no one had room, so I slept in the car." His features

were soft, not looming and foreboding like at work. She felt sorry for him.

"I don't go to the pub on Monday. Parkinson is on on Mondays. Why didn't you

ring me?"

"Pride. Embarrassment. I figured you would think I was only ringing you because

I was drunk. Maybe I didn't want work people to know what's going on." His voice

sounded so far away, like a narrative of someone else's life.

"Stephen, we're friends! If you go into Grace Brothers looking like you do right

now, everyone is going to know something is going on!" Then she mustered her

Betty's-in-Chargeness, "You're not going to work looking like that, are you? You

are tore up from the floor up."

He tried to sound in control, "I'll wash up in the Executive wash Room. I'll just go

up the service lift..."

Betty dug into her purse, pulled out her house keys, jingling them.

"Here, take the keys to my house. You go in and put your stuff in there. Go and

take a hot shower and get a proper shave. There are flannels in the bathroom

cupboard and anything else you need, just look around. There is coffee in the pot on

the kitchen worktop. I unplugged it before I left, but it should still be hot." She

handed the keys to Stephen.

"Thank you, Betty." He smiled a little, his face looking a little less melancholy.

"When I get to work, I'll sign you in. I'll tell Rumbold that you are down in

stationery picking up sales books and then you are going up to accounts to fix a pay

problem. Good thing it's the last day of this pay term. Drop me here and off you

go." He pulled over and she glanced at him, smiling, "As long as our stories are

straight, it'll be all right. Now pull yourself up by your socks! See you in a bit."

"You are a lady, Mrs. Slocombe. Thank you." He drove off as she trotted up the

sidewalk the remaining block of her journey.