Episode Forty Five
Mary was disturbed by the knock at the door. She mistyped the last word on the document she was writing. A red squiggle under the word pointed out her error.
‘For Christ’s sake, who is it now?’ She minimised the document on the screen. ‘Come in!’
The door opened. Andrew put his head around it. Their eyes met. ‘There’s been another Nellie you should know about.’
‘Come in.’ She watched him enter. He made sure the door was closed behind him. Even tested it was shut—twice. He stood, looking at her, waiting.
She put on her most stern expression. ‘Didn’t I tell you to stop using the Nellie as a code for Trump’s tweets?’
Andrew gazed down at the carpet. ‘Yes, PM. I wrote a memo to the FCO to that effect. It must still be working through the system.’
‘Well tell them to hurry it up. It’s disrespectful to the POTUS to call his public announcements Nellies. What if the press gets to know about it?’ She snorted. ‘Whatever next? Shall we call Her Majesty’s pronouncements Lizzies?’
‘Well, as a point of fact…’ Andrew’s voice trailed away.
Andrew shook his head. ‘Not us, the yanks do.’
‘How do we know?’
‘GCHQ intercepted some messages to that effect.’
‘Ah!’ Mary considered that a moment. ‘Do you think they’ve got something on Trump’s Russian connections?’
‘Shall I ask them?’
‘Well the farrago about Putin’s interference in the election has gone on long enough.’ She stared at him. ‘Do you think Pence is fit to take over?’
Andrew’s eyes grew wide. ‘You’re not thinking…’
‘Mike might be more accommodating than the Donald.’
‘But passing on such communications, it’s…it’s….’
‘It’s what allies do.’
‘But we’d be precipitating his downfall!’
She smirked. ‘That’s what I love about you, Andrew, you’re such a sweet innocent.’ She waved casually in the air. ‘All’s fair in love and politics.’
‘I do know that, you know.’
‘Sometimes people need reminding of the fact. My enemies, in particular.’ She tittered. ‘Make sure you ask M if we have any juicy Russian communications incriminating Trump.’
‘Yes, prime minister.’
‘Now don’t go all Sir Humphrey on me.’
‘No, prime minister.’
‘Are you doing this on purpose?’
‘What, prime minister?’
‘Just get on with it.’
‘Of course, prime minister.’ He gave her the file he had in his hand then scuttled towards the door, opened it, and disappeared through, closing it behind him.
Her mobile rang. She noted the caller. Pressed accept.
‘Mary, have you got a few minutes?’
‘For you, of course.’
‘It’s the upcoming vote.’
‘I’m not cancelling it again, you know. Even after all those wrecking amendments. Think what deferring would do to my reputation.’
‘Err…not a lot.’
‘You’re not suggesting?’ Mary’s finger hovered on the cancel call button.
‘Just a bit of British humour there, Mary. You know, a joke. I’m trying to lighten the mood up a bit.’
‘It’s not funny.’
‘Of course not. I never suggested anything.’
‘You know the vote’s going to be difficult.’
‘Now Mary, there’s this rumour going around. Are you seriously thinking you can rely on Labour rebels to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed?’
‘What if I am?’
‘It’s madness! They’re the opposition! They’re leading you into a trap, can’t you see that? Look how they’ve supported the amendments. The government could fall. What then?’
‘My Plan is the way forward. There is no alternative. No turning back.’ She briefly gazed up at the portrait of Thatcher that hung on the wall. ‘I’m not for turning.’
‘That’s clear.’ There was a pause. ‘The only reason you’re still PM is your commitment to step down before the next general election. While the rules forbid an immediate new challenge, you surely can’t oppose the grassroots’ views.’
‘And what are these views exactly? One week it’s capital punishment, the next it’s foxhunting. They’re living in the past.’
‘Perhaps. But we need to consider the party as a whole. And they are overwhelmingly against your Plan. They are our foot soldiers. Lose them and we’ve lost the next election. Don’t forget, many voted UKIP until we committed to Brexit.’
‘And I was made PM to bring Brexit about, and as long as I remain PM, we will continue with my Plan.’
‘I was afraid you’d confirm that.’
‘You should be pleased I’m standing firm.’
‘There’s that to commend…’
‘I can’t hear what you’re saying.’
‘Think carefully, Mary, about hoping to get the legislation through with Labour votes.’
‘’I know what I’m doing.’
‘Let’s hope so. But please consider the party.’ There was moment’s silence. ‘Good to talk to you, Mary.’
‘And to you too, James.’
The connection went dead.
Mary’s gaze returned to the portrait of Thatcher. ‘You never had to deal with anything like this, did you?’ She opened the file in front of her and read Trump’s tweet.
* * *
Mel entered the bedroom. Aiden followed her in.
She stopped at the bed. ‘Yuk, you’ve got purple sheets.’
‘They’re mauve.’ He held his hands by his side.
‘You’re a bachelor boy, aren’t you?’
He grinned at her. ‘It’s no secret I’m single.’
She walked over to the bed and ran the flat of her hand across the bed. ‘Crumbs.’
‘You’ve got crumbs in your bed.’
‘I haven’t!’ He gazed at the bed. ‘I’ve no idea how they could have gotten there.’
‘I’m sure you don’t.’ She sniffed the air. ‘And there’s a funny smell in here.’
‘I can’t smell anything.’
Mel shook her head. Moving slowly, she hunted around the room, sniffing loudly at various things. She opened and smelt the contents of a bag under a side table. ‘Phew, this stinks.’ She held up the offending bag. ‘What is this?’
‘My gym kit. It needs washing.’
She turned back at the bed. She sniffed the sheets. ‘They don’t smell clean.’
‘I do wash them.’
Mel gestured at the bedding. ‘There’s only one pillow.’
‘Are you proposing we share it?’
‘I hadn’t thought of that.’
‘And where’s the duvet?’
‘I don’t use one.’
‘I haven’t got one.’
‘But you must freeze?’
‘I like it cold.’
She went over and looked under the bed, then tested it. ‘How old’s this thing?’
She got up and turned to him. ‘You expect me to stick around in a smelly room, dirty sheets and no covers? No thanks.’ She made for the door.
‘What does it look like?’
‘But…but I thought we had an understanding?’
‘We do. We understand you’re very much a single guy.’
‘I wasn’t expecting we’d…well, you know.’
‘It’s not as if it’s the first time.’ She gestured around his room. ‘Here.’ She burst out laughing. ‘It may never happen here.’
She moved towards the door.
‘Of course, I’m serious. You’d be too, if you’d agree to spend the night here with these arrangements. I’m not sure what I’d catch from lying on your bed.’
‘It isn’t that bad.’
‘It’s worse than bad.’ She giggled. ‘I didn’t mean the sex. Just the location.’
‘So that’s it?’
‘Well, I suppose you could come back to my place, if you want.’
‘Call an Uber, then.’
Aiden pulled out his phone and opened the app.