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“He keeps her tucked up in there, like something shameful.  What does he do with her? He must be sex-mad, a pervert.”  Carole stretched to watch her next-door-neighbour’s new wife through the window.

“Or maybe that’s what they’re like?” Her friend Sue emphasized ‘they’re’ as though the neighbour was a convict, a member of some condemned tribe.

“Well I was thinking the same thing.  It might be normal in ‘er country to stay cooped up like that.  That’s why he’s ended up with ‘er, you know, ended up doing what he done.”

“What…you mean…?”

“Exactly, you know buying her off the thingy, he wouldn’t have gotten an English girl to stay at home scrubbing skids out of his dirty undies would he?”  They both laughed.

Carole and Sue were stood next to each other over the kitchen sink, leaning like gargoyles to watch the Thai woman as she pegged out her washing in the next-door yard.

Carole’s voice changed, “You have to feel sorry for her though.”

Sue looked at her with her eyebrows raised, wondering at how serious she was being.  “It makes me sick!” She exclaimed when she realised Carole was being serious. “See what she’s pegging out there, I bet he bought her that, it’s sickening, it should be illegal.”  The young woman was pegging a thin vest on the line, the lettering was on the other side, with the morning sun shining through they could read the words.

“You are one in a million…” Carole voiced, “Maybe he loves her?”

“Loves her…?”

“Well you know, maybe he was over there anyway, and he met her out of the blue.  Maybe he didn’t buy her.”

“But look at her, she don’t look happy.”  They both stood and watched as she finished hanging the washing and stood at her back-wall wiggling a finger in the air trying to catch the attention of a lazy cat.

“She’ll probably do that for his dinner tonight!”  They laughed again and turned away from the window.

“You’re a bugger, drink your tea before it gets cold.”  They sat down at the small rectangular table with low sides, their legs uncomfortably poised like they were riding side-saddle.

“All I’m saying Carole – and you know both of ‘em better than me ‘cause I don’t live next door to ‘em, thank God – but I doubt she speaks proper English, and I doubt she finds ‘im attractive, so what do they do all night if not…”  They sipped their tea.

“Well there’s one way to find out isn’t there?”

“What buy us selves a Thai and get her doing our housework?”  They chuckled again, “You could have her Monday to Wednesday and I’ll have her Thursday to Saturday, give her Sunday off.”  Sue bent over laughing at her own joke.

“No, I didn’t mean that, we should ask her.”

“Well you can go round into their sex-den I’m staying here.”

“I’m serious Sue; let’s ask her in for a cup of tea.  She’ll be starved of company, he’s on the buses till nine most nights.”  Sue didn’t look convinced but her friend was already up, fiddling with the keys at the backdoor.

“Are you sure?”  Carole stepped out into the yard without answering.  “Yuhoo,” Sue heard her shout over the wall and then silence.  A few minutes later Carole stepped back in shivering.

“It’s sunny but it’s bloody freezing.”

“What did she say, is she busy boiling his sweaty vests on the hob?”  Before Carole could answer the front door went, a knock so timid and unassuming they knew immediately who it was.

“What if she don’t speak no English?” She whispered.

“Well why is she at the front door if she didn’t understand what I said?”  A few seconds later Carole blustered back into the room with the Thai girl, for that was what she was, a girl – no older than eighteen or nineteen.  She looked as though they had disturbed her mid-job – unbuttoned cuffs, hurriedly unravelled sleeves.  She fiddled with her hair.

“This is my friend Sue…Sue this is my next door neighbour who I was telling you about she’s called…Mo.”

“Oh I had a cousin called Mo.”  Sue replied.

“No it’s Au.” The girl said her voice loud and shaky. She seemed to speak as though she’d just discovered she had the ability, as though she’d been condemned to silence.

“Oh…that’s a nice name.”  Carole cooed and went over to the kettle, “I bet you drink coffee do you, everyone drinks coffee abroad don’t they?”

“No tea please.”  Carole shot a glance at Sue.

“So where is it you’re from?”  Sue asked with a shaky voice.

“Thailand, I come from the south, near the coast.”

“Oh you speak very good English.”

“Well I was studying English at university before I came here.”  Sue gulped her tea too quickly and almost choked, Carole chuckled as she walked over.

“Here you go; a cup of tea.  So what’s it like living here eh?  Different to Thailand I bet?”  The girl just nodded.

“And ‘im, how does he treat you…good?”  Sue asked and Carole gave her a gentle slap on the arm and a stern frown.

“Harold?  He treats me very well.”

“Oh right, I bet he treats you all the time eh, takes you out?”

“I can travel on the bus here for free, because it is his job.”

“Well yes, but I mean, is he a good husband?”

“Yes very good.”  She grinned, as though she was enjoying the interview.  The girl was somehow more fragile than women Sue and Carole knew, her skin and hair seemed carefully stuck on with glue.  She was a slender child, flimsy in her construction, as though a strong gust of wind would destroy her.

She held her cup with both hands and sipped quietly and the other women were suddenly stuck for questions.  Her smile was so convincing, so disarming.  And yet…there was something in her eyes that made them feel as though they had already rescued her, like she’d been waiting all this time just for someone to make her a cup of tea.


Dave Schofield is a poet and short story writer living in the UK and half way through my Creative writing MFA.  He loves art, photography and cookery.  Read more at  


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