Sludge in the radiators was the problem – builds up over the years, all for the lack of twenty quid’s worth of boiler inhibitor.
Marjorie said, ‘Oh, dear me. Can you fix it?’
The plumber sucked air through his teeth.
‘Well….the inhibitor, cheap as chips, but the system needs powerflushing first.’
There was more teeth sucking, more idling of gaze across the marble countertops and twin ovens.
‘It’s gonna be close to a grand.’
‘Oh dear. But if we must. Can you do it now? And, I have a favour. It’s a little delicate. Could you do it in the nude?’
His squint of incomprehension turned into a gape.
Marjorie said, ‘I have a little peccadillo. To return home and find a nude, sweaty tradesman, hard at it. And I’ll just watch him work, marvelling at the taut muscles in his back as he pulls and tugs at a hard nut that’s giving him grief.’
She sighed in deepest soulful despair.
‘And me without my husband, away these past two months and no hope of his return until the depths of the Antarctic winter releases him from its frozen claw.’
The plumber swallowed. He ran a finger around the collar of his grubby t-shirt.
‘Your bloke’s away at the North Pole?’
Marjorie nodded. She glided from behind the breakfast bar. Twenty years of yoga twice a day had honed her figure into one of taut lithe grace. She put up her arms above her head for a lazy stretch that pushed forward her chest and gave him a glimpse of the firm lines of her abdomen.
The plumber’s stubbly chin was hanging open.
Marjorie said, ‘I’ll be in the lounge. Just pop your clothes outside the kitchen door if you’re up for it.’
Safe in the lounge she sighed deeply, followed by a quick watch check. It was going to be tight.
She screwed her eye to the gap between the doors. A look for fierce determination crossed the face of the plumber and he began to tear at his clothes. He stood there in his socks, this mass of pale hillocks crowning above a scrap of pink offal nestling in the spines of an upturned hedgehog.
As soon as he was back in the kitchen she scampered over and scooped up his clothes, just in the nick of time to dash into the dining room as the front door opened and in strode Valerie, ranting on her phone how she’d been stood up. It was nothing she hadn’t done to Marjorie dozens of times, and there was no more perfect revenge than sneak into the woman’s house and set up a naked surprise in the kitchen.
Marjorie bit down on her lower lip as Valerie strode into the kitchen and stopped talking mid-rant.
And this the icing on the cake – Marjorie had spent six months trying to track down the no-good plumber who ripped off her Mum only to have him pull up at the bloody lights next to her.