Another instalment of my jottings about the Radwinter family. I’m sure this will develop into a novel but it is at a very early stage and many of the characters will change, diminish, grow or disappear completely. At the moment the story seems to be told through the voice of Thomas Radwinter, the youngest of the four Radwinter brothers. His life seems very mundane, but he has been jogging along, as one does; however, somehow by meeting his brother Paul’s fiancée Ruthie who is investigating the family tree, something seems to have changed and Thomas begone to reassess life, the universe and everything.
Rachel seems quite content in our marriage even if she isn’t content with me. I’ve learned that it was always been her ambition to get married and she had planned her fairy-tale wedding from when she was a little girl.
If I’m really honest, and I think I have to be here otherwise what’s the point of writing this, I think Rachel is not very bright but bright enough to be realistic about choosing a husband. She has a pretty if rather passive plum face, very dark hair, dark watchful eyes behind whatever fashionable frames she is wearing at the moment. She looks like her mother who is also quite plump but slightly shorter.
Rachel works at the Willows a nursing home which has come to specialise in the care of people with dementia. She works in the office but all the staff are encouraged to spend time with the residents and I am always surprised at how kind and understanding she is with them, showing a side of her which I don’t often see at home. Because, if I’m honest, as I have to be, Rachel is not always very kind to me. And to be honest, I’m sometimes a little impatient with her.
I once overheard Max and Joe’s wives talking about us. It was at a party at my cousin max’s house and I’d gone into the larder, a cupboard under the stairs to get some more beer that someone wanted and somehow I got locked in.
Everyone laughed about it a great deal when someone eventually found me. I’m sure it was in a kind way, and I’ve had to put up with a lot of jokes about it ever since, and if I was a different person I’d have just laughed and joked about it too, but I was more conscious of being a fat man trapped in a cupboard full of food and how greedy that made me seem. Every time it’s mentioned I blush and stutter and try to pretend it’s funny.
The door clicked shut and I realised what had happened and was about to call out when I heard Sarah and Jessica’s voices. I was about to call to them but then I heard them mention Rachel’s name.
I should have called out then but I was overcome with embarrassment. One of them was standing right by the door and I cowered there, imagining how ridiculous I’d look if one opened the door and found me.
“Rachel and Thomas are like an old aunty and uncle, aren’t they?” Jessica said. “They’re just so quaint and old-fashioned.”
Rachel would have been horrified. She always followed fashion and spends a fortune on new clothes and shoes and bags and stuff.
“I don’t mind her,” Sarah answered, and I waited for her to say she did mind me. “I mean she’s totally devoid of any character, but she’s pleasant enough.”
Really? Is that what people really think of my wife?
“I know!” Jessica agreed. She was standing so close to the door that I could smell her perfume through the crack in it. “Thomas is such a sweetheart, I wish he’d ditch her and find someone who’s a bit more fun!”
There was a huge crash as she dropped a bottle in the recycling box just by the door and I almost jumped out of my skin. I knocked something off a shelf and somehow managed to catch it. A sweetheart?
“He is such a darling, he’s adorable. I just wish I could think of someone who could seduce him!”
There was a babble of voices as more people came into the kitchen, a lot of noise and laughter and then silence.
Cautiously I tried the door again but there seemed to be a catch on the outside.
There was a voice as someone was putting more bottles in the box and timidly I knocked.
A man I didn’t know opened the door in surprise.
“Got stuck,” I mumbled. “Door shut behind me.”
He laughed almost sympathetically and went over to the unit where the drinks were.
I wandered over too, trying to seem normal.
Sweetheart? Darling? Adorable?
“Thomas! Where have you been? And what on earth are you doing with those chickpeas?”
It was Rachel. I looked down at the bag of chickpeas; I’d caught them when I’d knocked them off the shelf.
“Hummus,” I said and wandered through to the dining room.