She was one of those women most normal women hate. Mrs Perfect we all called her. Her home was immaculate, and I mean immaculate. Like, she always cleaned her kitchen windows and her car after each time it rained. Sometimes twice a day, maybe three. Her front garden was pristine. She mowed her lawn every time a blade of grass grew higher than bowling green height. There was never a sign of a weed in her flower beds. These days we would say she had OCD, but I don’t think that had been invented in those days. She had a little girl, who was always dressed immaculately when she left the house with her dad in the morning, but was never allowed out to play with other kids. I think she must have gone to a private school because she didn’t attend our local school.
Mrs Perfect would stand for hours washing up by her kitchen window, which overlooked our street. All our kitchens were at the front, facing each other across the street. We assumed she was washing up. What else would she be doing stood at the sink for so long?
Anyway, whatever she was doing Mrs Perfect was always up at the crack of dawn, beavering away at her kitchen sink, watching the world go by. Watching us, studying our movements, assuming things, judging us.
It was in the mid seventies. Remember them? Weird hairstyles, wedge shoes, bell bottom trousers, kipper ties, Abba and Queen.
We were all young parents on a new estate in suburbia. Our houses were all the same, well more or less anyway. When I moved from London I was warned about these new estates in suburbia filled with “London overspill” families. Like we were some sort of colony of foreigners taking over the country. I mean, was it our fault we could actually afford the new housing when the locals couldn’t? We most certainly couldn’t afford the housing in the London area, it had rocketed way out of our pockets as first time buyers, so we had no option but to move out to suburbia.
Our husbands commuted to London. We women tried to get local jobs which would fit in with school hours. Locals despised us, but at least we “London overspill” families could fraternise with each other in our new estates. And fraternise we did. We were all trying to make new friends and our children helped us get to know each other. We would meet at the school gates and walk home with our neighbours and their kids. We didn’t use cars in those days for the school run, except for those of us who dropped our kids off or picked them up on our way to and from work.
We had parties galore. Not the “throw your keys in the middle of the room” type of parties we had heard about, oh no. Not those sort of parties at all. No, these were much different parties. Parties designed to sell stuff:- book parties; toy parties; jumper parties; underwear parties; make-up parties; perfume parties; cleaning materials parties; tupperware parties. It was a good excuse to meet the neighbours and form new friendships.
Mrs Perfect was a Tupperware agent. She managed to get one of us to throw a Tupperware party nearly every month. We always felt obliged to place an order with the hostess who would get a commission on the goods she bought for holding the party. Mrs Perfect would get a commission for demonstrating the goods. She must have made a fortune. I have so much Tupperware in my kitchen cupboards I could sell it to Sainsbury’s. We all did. None of us dare not turn up at one of Mrs Perfect’s parties as we knew that for sure we would get talked about. Gossip was seemingly her second biggest hobby after people-watching.
Mrs Perfect knew everything about everyone. She knew number 14 had a new washing machine delivered last week. “About time too! Her kids never look like their clothes have been washed for a week,” she sneered. She told us number 17 had her mother staying with her so her baby must be due any minute. “Surely you must have noticed that she is pregnant?” she said knowingly when we expressed surprise. She was sure that number 16 must have split up, the husband hadn’t been seen for three weeks. “Not surprising really, he came home drunk one night and said something he shouldn’t have. Turns out he’d been having an affair with his secretary,” she grinned.
Then she would give us that knowing smile again. The one meaning she knew everything, and we all knew nothing. Whenever she smiled we were almost dazzled by her xylophone teeth. She had two almost perfect ivory sets, perfect except for the regular gaps at the top. Those gaps in her teeth used to fascinate me. I wondered why she had never worn a brace to pull her teeth together properly.
Anyway, as I said before, none of us dared to miss one of her parties. However she never hosted a party in her own home. That was a bit weird. In fact none of us had ever been in her home. We only ever saw her husband going out to work in the morning and coming home at night. He didn’t socialise with our husbands at all. Neither of them really mixed with us in any other way than at these Tupperware parties. They never even came to the New Year’s Eve parties that one or the other of us threw every year. Her poor daughter never came to any of our kids’ parties either, even though we all invited her.
But suddenly the Tupperware parties stopped. We had probably all got fed up with buying it anyway so we didn’t ask why. Mrs Perfect wasn’t seen cleaning her windows any more, although someone thought they had spotted her stood in front of her kitchen window washing up once or twice. Mr Perfect wasn’t seen going out to work any more with their daughter, or coming home. We thought maybe he had left her and taken their daughter with him. Although it was winter, the garden started to look neglected.
My neighbour next door collared me when I was out in my front garden one day in the spring a couple of months later. “Have you read the local paper?”
“Mr Perfect is in prison. He worked in a bank and has apparently been embezzling thousands. He was creating false bank accounts and transferring funds into them from accounts that didn’t have much movement on them. It has been going on for years. Presumably nobody noticed until recently. They’re now trying Mrs Perfect for aiding and abetting. Her case has been adjourned until tomorrow.”
With apologies to any of my ex-neighbours who may recognise themselves! It was the xylaphone prompt that did it! The saga has a bit of a weak ending, which I will change to a murder I think. But it is actually a true story, based on three of my ex-neighbours all rolled into the one “Mrs Perfect”.
Creative writing homework November 2015. Write a story including the word “xylophone” and also using the phrase “he got drunk one night and said something he shouldn’t have”.