Lifted second foot on the stair. She held the tray steady against her bosom. The teapot slid slowly. The cup and saucer shifted too. Grabbed sugar bowl. Placed her chin on teapot lid and steadied her balance. Looked at the stairs. Sighed. Raised the tray slowly and held hard against her stomach. Breathed hard.
Lifted her foot on to another stair. Saw a mouse last month just at the top landing. Almost dropped the tray and broke the precious china. Her ladyship came out in her nightgown and bellowed," Perkins! What are you doing? You'll raise the dead with such noise." She looked like the dead herself. Face like a wet flannel. Hair sticking out all over the place.
Lifted her second foot on to the next stair. Darn that hole. Flesh to flesh.
Susie just behind now. Carrying another tray with the breakfast. Poked in the back with the said tray. "What's taking you so long?" said Susie.
Looked back. Pulled a face. Poked a tongue. Sighed. "Quiet or old Gripe'll be up here," Polly muttered. Moved further to the next stair. Susie stopped and juggled her tray. She fidgets in bed at night. Huddled together against the bloody cold in the attic. Her feet in the back. Her breath down the neck. Her cold hands round the waist. Skinny bitch.
Raised feet up the remaining stairs. Tray balanced between stomach and breast. Cup and saucer moved. Teapot steadied, but sugar bowl shook against left tit. Breathed hard. Eyes stared at tray and then on top stair and then the landing. No mouse. Thank God. Looked back. Susie pulled a face. Poked a tongue. Her tray chock full of breakfast. She moved upward. Her eyes hard down on the tray. Hands gripped about the thing. Feet moved. Brown carpet against Black and white of the uniform. Her cap white. Her face pale. Her lower lip bitted by her teeth in concentration.
Stand outside the door. Tray balanced on stomach. Raised hand formed into a fist ready to knock. Hesitated. Fist poised. Tray between stomach and breast. Tap gently. Want to hammer door down. However, tap gently. Tap.
Susie on the top step. Poked the back. Giggled softly. Silly cow. Tapped again No response. Tap a little louder. No response. Susie giggled. Poked the back. Hard knuckle against the wood. Tap, tap, and tap.
Susie sighed. Arms ached. Hands shook. Sniffing sound. Susie's cold. All night sniff, sniff. "Where's she got to?" Susie said. "Perhaps she's dead." Wishful thinking. No such. Tray shook. Noise of rattling. Giggled. Sniffed.
Tapped again. Teacup and saucer moved. Teapot spout touching left breast. Memories. Years since. Come on old crab. Sound of movement. Whispers. Voice behind door. From the bed no doubt. "Come in!" Susie smiled. Goofy grin. Silly beggar. Sniff, sniff.
Opened door and entered. Her ladyship up in bed; hands on knees, face stern as sour grapes. Tray steadied. Moved to foot of the bed and stared. The dull eyes peer. The lips moved. The voice reed thin said," On the side table, Perkins."
"Yes, madam," Polly said. Moved tray with hands to said table and put down gently. Stand and gaze at flannel face.
Susie entered. Sniff, sniff. Face stiff. Eyes down on her tray. Lip bit by teeth. "Here, Simmons, here, girl," said reed voice. Susie took the tray to the bed. Hands shook. Nose dripped. Face stiff as cardboard. Looked and gaped. Tray placed on bed. Hands fall to side. Face motionless. Sniffed. Her ladyship flicked fingers to dismiss. Susie curtsied. Sniffed. Wiped nose on sleeve. Polly raised eyes heavenward. Pulled a face. Poked a tongue. Her ladyship breathed daintily. Hand held silver spoon. Lips parted. "You can go, Simmons," said reedy voice. Turned head gazed. "You, Perkins, wait."
Susie nodded. Sniffed. Left room backwards. Gave a look. Giggle held in check. Door closed. Sneeze. Sniff. Cold attic. Frozen hands on waist. Feet like blocks of ice on back. Cold. Sniff, sniff down the stairs. Gone. Good riddance, silly fish-face. Sniff, sniff until out of earshot. Silence, except for the lady's slobbering lips. The hand and the silver spoon. The eyes cold as Susie's feet. Ignored until needed. Polly motionless. Feet unfrozen. Hands by side. Stiff as soldiers. No such luck. No such luck.
Copyright 2007 Terry Collett