A Jolly Good Show – Episode 45

NESBO didn’t wish to waste any time. He took a taxi to Coventry Road and with a fast-beating heart walked up the little path to the front door he’d closed behind him years before.

The small front garden had been paved over. The black front door was royal blue. He’d hardly lifted the knocker when the door was opened, almost as if she’d been standing behind it.

They stood for a moment, looking at each other. He was relieved to see at once that she looked well. She’d put on weight, but was plump rather than fat. Her hair was greying, and she was carefully made up.

She wore a blue shift dress, fashionable and smart.

“Hello, Judith.”

“You’d best come in.” She stepped back from the door and he stepped inside. “Go into the front room. In there,” she said.

“Yes, I know where it is.” The room was the same but changed, with different furniture, different wallpaper, pictures, ornaments. Of course things have changed, he thought to himself.

He glanced at the mantelpiece where there had been a framed photograph of a smiling young couple, standing arm in arm outside a registry office in Bolton. It had gone, of course.

There was a small table with a white, flower-patterned cloth set with two china plates and small silver-plated forks. He looked up to see Judith standing in the doorway, studying him.

“You look older. Well, of course, you are older. Your hair’s thinner but still as black. Sit down. Take your coat off if you like, while I make some tea. You’ll have a cup of tea?”

“Yes, of course. Thank you.” He slipped his overcoat off and laid it on the arm of a sofa. How long would he be here?

He heard Judith moving about in the kitchen, then she came in carrying a tray with cups and saucers, teapot, milk, sugar and a cake. She laid the tray on the table and sat opposite him. She poured tea.


“No sugar, Judith. I thought you might have remembered.”

“Well, times change, don’t they? And people change. Circumstances change.”

He sat patiently waiting. He felt that he shouldn’t appear too eager to find out the reason for this summons. He watched as she cut a generous piece of the Victoria sponge cake and put it on a plate before him.

Nesbo did not like cake. He had no love of sweet things: sugar, jam or cream. Had she forgotten, or was this slice of cake really a slice of humble pie? He began to eat the cake.

She watched him for a moment.

“What do you think of the cake?”

“It’s very nice.”

“It’s from Lathom’s.” She continued to watch him. “A local bakery. I manage one of their shops.”

“Really,” Nesbo said. What on earth was this leading to? He was not long in finding out.

Judith’s eyes were still on him.

“Ronald Lathom is the owner of both the bakery and the shops. Nice chap. His wife passed away just a year ago. He’s asked me to marry him. Another slice?”

“No, no. That was enough. Thanks.” He carefully put the plate on the table and patted his lips with a paper napkin. His pulse was beginning to quicken. He mustn’t be too hasty. He leaned back in his chair. “So what have you said to Mr Lathom?”

Nesbo was hoping and praying. Over the years he’d suggested divorce to Judith many times until he gave up. She didn’t have any objection to divorce on moral grounds, he was sure of that. He supposed it was her way of punishing him.

Judith took a sip of tea, then she said, “I’ve seen a solicitor. I can divorce you on the grounds of desertion. You’ll be served the papers next week. I take it you’ll not defend it?”

“No, of course not.”

“You agree to pay the costs. I’ll not be asking anything from you in the future. And we’ll be free of each other. Does that suit?”

He nodded.

“That suits. I hope you’ll be happy with Mr Lathom. I really do.”

She acknowledged this with a slight nod of her head.

“And what about you? Do you have someone?”

“No, I don’t,” he said.


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