Excerpt Four from 'A Life Lived Twice'
Angeline had taken on one of the local girls and she had made a good choice. Alicia was fast and careful, only needing the company of the radio to keep her amused. In the three hours that she worked, she got through more or less all the ironing from five large loads of washing. What was more, she folded the clothes beautifully and packed them neatly into bags so that, when Angeline returned at eleven thirty with more laundry, Alicia had done everything she had asked of her and more.
Adrian was booked in at summer school, so his mother took on more clients and made deliveries in the mornings, washing the next loads in the afternoons, ready for Alicia to iron, going out with a second delivery when she had finished.
At first, the girl came three times a week, just in the mornings, but soon she was there four full days a week, working flat out. The laundry room was large and light, with plenty of space for the extra business, but Angeline wanted to have sturdy shelves built to store the bags of laundry safely and neatly so she called in a neighbour and paid him to build some. She bought a new washing machine to add to the one she already had, choosing one that took almost twice as many kilos and which spun the clothes so well that they did not need to be hung out, but could be tumble dried for a few minutes and ironed straight away.
The mornings were the busiest time for Angeline; she got Adrian off to school and loaded the van for her deliveries. There was little time to spare, although she always made her clients feel as though she had all the time in the world to give them the best possible service. In the afternoons, as the machines whirred, she sometimes slept and sometimes did the mounting paperwork that came with the new business. This, she was good at. Then, she went out with her afternoon deliveries, making twice as many as the previous month, sometimes coming home with more than twenty envelopes containing various amounts of cash. She ran her affairs efficiently and profits were increasing. As a result, her savings account was growing fast.
On Wednesday mornings, Alicia had said she could not come and so Angeline made herself beautiful, loading the van with a few bags and setting out early, as soon as she had dropped her son off at his school.
‘I will be here at midi, my darling. Work hard and do your lessons well,’ she said.
Then, after making a few deliveries that would not wait until the afternoon, she would drive to the large house on the outskirts of the next village and pull off the road out of sight, taking two medium-sized bags to the door and knocking gently.
‘You look beautiful! I have missed you! So much time to wait!’ he said, as she skipped into the hall and teased him with her carefree attitude.
‘I am busy. I have to work. I am not rich like you, and I need new shoes. Look at these! I would like to come with beautiful shoes to see you, but there are too many bills to pay and there is no money left for me,’ she simpered.
And afterwards, when they had made love and he had told her he would do anything for her, he gave her money and she laughed, saying she could earn more in an hour, that she would not have time to come every week to see him. Then he would hand her his wallet and watch her dance down the steps, back to her husband and child, until the following Wednesday. And the next time, he would make more of a fuss of her – telling her that he loved her and could not be without her.
Angeline Roche was a businesswoman. She did not consider that she was being unfaithful to her husband, because she did not love Felix Dumas. His love making was quick and gentle, almost as though he made no effort at all to arrive at his pleasure. Then he would stare at her and say that she was beautiful and that he wished they could marry and move away to an island somewhere, where people would not know them and they could live a simple life. She would listen and think to herself that he was mad to believe she would go away with him, unless it were to live in a palace with servants and money to spend on the high life she desired. And, at the same time, she knew that he did not mean any of it, any more than she did. He was happy with the arrangement they had and so was she. Of course, now that the business was going so well and Guy had started at the hotel, there was plenty of money coming into her home and it would have been easy to put a halt to her affair. But she saw no harm in it and always thought of the fatness of her lover’s wallet, as he handed it to her at the end of her visit. She never took all of the notes; the most she had taken in the past had been the two hundred euros for the van repair. Usually she had taken one hundred euros, estimating that there were always at least five hundred left. Now she took two hundred, sometimes three. She thought this was reasonable and supposed that he did too.
After she had showered and tidied her hair and make-up, Angeline left, never forgetting to take his laundry, pulling out onto the deserted country lane and sticking to the back roads, avoiding the village.
Adrian would come out and wave to her as he said goodbye to his friends and chattered like a bird, throwing his arms around her neck, kissing her and telling her about his day. Angeline rarely spoke to the other mothers, who, it was rumoured, thought her stuck up. Of course, they were envious of her success. She did not care. Let them stare. She had a few good friends in the village and that was all she needed. If the others wanted to gossip about her and stick knives in her back, it was of no consequence to her whatsoever.
At home, Angeline would get lunch and wait for her husband to come in from work. Wednesday afternoons were leisurely and she loved to watch Guy playing with their son, while she tidied away the dishes and straightened the kitchen. It occurred to her that it had been over three weeks since she had seen her husband with a cigarette in his mouth and, although she could not be sure, she thought that he might have stopped altogether. Certainly, when Adrian put a hand into his work jacket these days, there was nothing to steal.
She would not ask him about it so soon. It would be better to wait for him to tell her.