Cyril and Hilda’s story

Write 500 words in the voice of a character telling a story either about him/herself or another person. Try to make the narrator come to life by showing their conversational style and mannerisms, what they find interesting or significant, what delights or annoys them, and so on. Post your story to the FirstClass conference for feedback.


Cyril and Hilda’s Story

I learned of my wife’s death via a newspaper obituary.

I actually overlooked it on first skim, Hilda’s children having listed her under Danks rather than her current married name.  To readers of the Dudley News family announcements, she was the ‘devoted widow’ of Leonard Rudge and Albert Danks, ‘adored mother’ of eight (all named), ‘cherished nan’ to thirteen (ditto), ‘treasured aunty’ to innumerable more.  I could hardly expect any reference to her latterly being the estranged wife of Cyril Nock.

I nonetheless digested the news in distress.  My pal Vern, with whom I had been staying since the locks were changed, poured me a hefty brandy.

‘I feel for you, old man, I really do,’ he put the glass next to me and patted my shoulder, ‘but that harpy deserves none of your tears.  She and that grasping clan of hers bled you dry.  At least you’ll never have to see what trumped up divorce grounds she had against you.’

My hands quaked as I tipped the balming drink down my throat.  The printed words whirled in front of me.  ‘I didn’t even know she had lung cancer.’

‘Bet that lot did.   Hence they saw their inheritance slipping away and couldn’t wait to turf you out.  Eight o’clock in the middle of December and they make a man of your age homeless.  Despicable!  I’ll never forget the tizzy you were in that night.  You’re still next of kin, though, Cyril.  You’re entitled to something.’

‘I couldn’t care less about the money, Vern.  I’d rather have Hilda.’

******

I drifted back two years to the ballroom class where I was first paired with one of its more recognisable members.  Hilda had a riotous laugh and always wore pink, often dyeing her hair to match.  She was seventy-one, like me, with three sons from her first marriage, two more plus three daughters from her second.  She seemed amazed I was a bachelor (‘Fine-looking chap like you,’ she nudged me with her cigarette-free hand, ‘go on!’), but then staying at home nursing Mum all those years had left me little time for ladies.

Seven months later, I was a bachelor no more – and as dazed by the wedding as anyone.

Hilda had talked me into selling my house, the old family home.  ‘Why hang on to a place with such sad associations, darling?’

I pictured my late mum in her straw hat, tending our beautiful rose bush, before going outside became too much for her.  Back in the present, Hilda’s blue eyes were on me: pleadingly, though not entirely soft. ‘OK, let’s start afresh.’

She hugged me, then chimed her gin glass against my mug of tea.  ‘To us.’

******

‘We had our ups and downs like any couple,’ I told Vern.  ‘She could be fiery with a few gins in her.  And she was fiercely loyal to her kids and grandkids.’

I involuntarily rubbed my forehead, though the bruise from the plate she hurled at me had long since vanished.  I’d told her about her grandson scraping my car with his skateboard, and she chose not to believe me.

‘When I moved into hers,’ I continued, ‘it was my choice to put the money I got from the sale into a joint account.  I didn’t begrudge Hilda spending it on holidays or furniture for the family.  They were part of her, although none of them took to me.  She wouldn’t hear a word said against them, understandably so.’

‘She was hearing plenty against you, though, Cyril, those nights you used to go out because her family visitors made you so unwelcome in your own home.’

It was after one such visit I arrived to find the locks changed and a suitcase of my belongings deposited on the lawn.

‘It’s over Cyril.’  This time I know I didn’t imagine the menace in her eyes.  My vibrant Hilda was suddenly a cerise-haired Rottweiler, arms folded, cigarette glowing demoniacally between two upturned fingertips, flanked by her regiment of offspring.  ‘You dare try contacting me again and I’ll be straight on to the police.’

I never learned what lies must have convinced poor Hilda I was a monster.

I had nowhere to go but Vern’s, where within days I received her solicitor’s letter warning me a divorce petition were imminent.  Hilda passed away before it was drawn up, though as I discovered not before changing her will to omit me as a beneficiary.  I had, as I said, no inclination to fight the family for any legacy.

******

That was six months ago.  I’m renting a flat now.  No point buying again at my time of life.  Vern assured me I could lodge as long as I wished, but I hate to exploit hospitality.  I never returned to the dancing classes.

I did drive past my old place yesterday, for the first time since selling.  Mum’s rose bush has gone.  I miss that house.  Despite everything, I miss Hilda much more.

 

You’ll see that for the purpose of this blog I’ve gone well over the 500-word limit.  I felt the need to expand the piece and attempt to do it a bit more justice.

I aimed to portray Cyril as a kind man – a doormat actually – who strives to please others and is sad but not bitter about his situation.