She had broached the funeral with Lynne over lunch – but Lynne had refused to play ball.
Indeed she had not set foot on the pitch.
Speculative forays; mini raids into ‘real talk,’ were deflected with a flick of the wrist as Lynne made tidy incisions into her seared tuna on wilted greens.
The onset of dessert seemed to augur a change:
Of course the wrong choice in marriage is frequently devastating (spearing a prune).
But no – Lynne had launched into a cosy gloat about the misfortunes of Sandra Milford, who had appeared, pop eyes streaming and bulging, on the front page of every tabloid last month, accompanied by the humiliating disclosure that her husband, Environment Minister, Bill Cornish – had been blackmailed by a male prostitute.
The paper that had led with the scoop had been the very one that featured Sandra ‘At Home’, over four pages of fawning and froth in its Sunday supplement.
The timing can’t have been accidental smirked Lynne, spurning the cream.
They must have known that they were going to do her.
When Jessica Trotter said ‘Tell me Mrs Cornish – what’s the secret of a happy marriage?’ she must have been thinking ‘Dream on, you silly bitch – and take a shufty at pages two to ten next week’.
Of course, Sandra had been there before, although not for the contempt of the nation.
During their time at Dorlich, she had conceived a passion for graduate student Leslie Potts and had lorded it over them at parties on the arm of Leslie in his elegant apartment.
Leslie was a weed of the first rank – but his friends were the toast of Dorlich, doubtless tolerating Leslie because of his address, his cash and his car.
It was unbearable that Sandra, a dead ringer for Marty Feldman, had now made inroads into the coolest set in Dorlich – and if that meant sleeping with Leslie – well, pain before pleasure and all that.
But her time at the top had concluded when Leslie had ditched her, on the grounds that he thought he might be gay.
And even then, she clung on, didn’t she? said Lynne.
She offered to accompany him to the student Medical Centre!!!
And she dragged us to all those places where she thought he might turn up – such as BELINDA BRISCOE’S PARTY – saying ‘Well, Leslie says,’ all the time! She just didn’t get it.
And such a limpet! She must have known about Bill. I mean, you do, don’t you?
She knew and she refused to see - because she liked going to Chequers and Highgrove - talking about The Soil Association with Charles and Camilla and lecturing on organic marmalade.
And I bet if The Crier hadn’t splashed with the photos she’d BE WITH HIM STILL.
Lynne was fired up, ready to go – and she wondered if she had always been so cruel.
Sandra had been misery incarnate in the pictures – dabbing her face with tissues, plucked from her Mulberry bag.
But it was a comic, slightly pudding face and how could you really feel sorry for someone with such poached-egg eyes?
And in many ways, Sandra had not been a very nice person.
She had actually been pleased when her closest rival for the Darwin Science prize had absconded just before Finals, trashing her room and smashing every plate in the kitchen.
Heather had been unable to sit the third paper and had been awarded an aegrotat degree while Sandra was awarded the prize and its accompanying research scholarship.
She herself had been amazed, infuriated and slightly disgusted to wake up with Derek – the morning after the night before at the Broad Left Student Conference disco - to find Sandra leaning over their duvet stinking of stale wine and cheap scent, offering to find some tea.
You don’t mind, do you? I crashed out in the corner.
Which meant that SHE HAD PROBABLY BEEN A THIRD IN THE ROOM WHILE THEY WERE HAVING SEX AND THAT SHE HAD HEARD AND SEEN……………..
No – Sandra Milford had brought it all on herself, as usual – and The Crier had been acting in the best traditions of investigative journalism.
Lynne was absolutely right to sneer.
But, as the taxi approached the station and she checked the time of her train, she wondered how on earth Lynne could have segued smoothly from the travails of the wretched Milford to the verdict on her own marriage:
I’m sure that Paul really loved you once.
You learn something every day, she reflected, as the train carried her back to her own life……