by Hannah Bagnall
Miss Edney is close to her brother, Phillip. They have lived in the same town their whole lives, just a few streets away from one another. Miss Edney lives in a bungalow and her brother, Phillip, lives in a terraced house. Miss Edney lives alone and Phillip lives with his girlfriend. (He insists on calling her his girlfriend even though he is in his sixties and his girlfriend is in her early fifties. She giggles when he says ‘my girlfriend’. He always says my girlfriend with special emphasis and winks at his girlfriend as he is saying it.)
Miss Edney and her brother are not very similar but they get along nonetheless. There is a family resemblance in the way they look but they are not very similar in their personalities. In spite of their dissimilarity, they like each other very much. Phillip finds his sister very peculiar in a way that he thinks is very endearing. He laughs at her and cuddles her when she is explaining her grievances with her neighbours. Miss Edney finds her brother quite silly and naive and is very protective of him. She is also very proud when they are in public together or when her brother speaks to her neighbours when he visits. She can see that her neighbours are flattered that he talks to them. They smile and look shy and they are soft. When they are speaking to her they are brittle and aloof. They usually exchange cold and insincere smiles from across their gardens. When Phillip is visiting, her neighbours grin and wave at them both and she can see that they mean it deeply.
Miss Edney was in the pharmacy one morning and she was explaining to the pharmacist about her brother’s girlfriend. The pharmacist was very sympathetic. Miss Edney explained to him that Phillip’s girlfriend had not even lived with her own children. She had left and lived on her own, leaving her partner to bring up her children. She wasn’t even married to him and that is why she called him her partner. Miss Edney could see that the pharmacist was quite rightly appalled and that satisfied her. She couldn’t bear the woman, she told him and he nodded. Couldn’t bear her. Just could not bear her. The pharmacist couldn’t see that there was anything that Miss Edney could do about it. These things just are the way they are and what could you do? This response satisfied Miss Edney less. She was sure there was something she could do. It is all fair and well if this woman wants to be how she is on her own but she is not being how she is on her own; she is being how she is with Miss Edney’s own brother.
Miss Edney had also told the postman all about this girlfriend and he had to agree that she didn’t sound altogether good. He said that she sounded like trouble to him and Miss Edney told him that she was inclined to agree. If there is anything Miss Edney knows, it is what is good for her own brother.
Phillip brought his girlfriend to visit his sister on one occasion. She ate four biscuits from the plate and had looked at all of Miss Edney’s photos, which stood in their frames around the room, as if her living room was a gallery. She asked who everyone was and talked to Phillip about them as if she knew them based on the things that Phillip had obviously already told her. Miss Edney was angry with Phillip for sharing their family with his girlfriend who quite patently did not care for family. The girlfriend walked around their family history and told stories to Miss Edney about the people in the pictures as if she knew them better than Miss Edney did. Phillip sat in his chair smiling and proud of his girlfriend who listened to him and remembered the stories he told her about his family. His girlfriend who made his family seem exotic as they re-emerged filtered through her imagination. Miss Edney did not want to see her family re-imagined, least of all by this stranger.
She told the girl who came to do her hair how this girlfriend might be most happy telling stories about other people’s families seeing as she had deserted her own real family. Miss Edney could see that the girl thought that she was right about that and Miss Edney was content that she had hit the nail on the head.