Olive was standing impatiently outside number 14, Greenwood Drive, better known as Raymond’s house. She had a thick layer of make-up on her face, and she was doing something that Mary had told her about; called ‘casing the joint’. She was just angry that she had been waiting for almost five seconds. Honestly, would she be here all day? She’d even had the decency to knock and ring the bell.
Just as Olive reached forward to firmly press the bell for the fourth time, the door swiftly sprang open, and Olive stood stock-still. This should be the part where the dramatic fog clears, revealing the handsome, angelic form of Raymond Calzone. Olive could see exactly what would happen; maybe she should be a romantic novelist as well as a criminal mastermind.
But Olive’s vision had not been actualised just yet. There was no fog in the doorway. Straight away, Olive’s shoulders relaxed, and her face twisted into a sneer. A small boy of about eight was standing in the doorway, peering up at Olive through his round spectacles. His face was pale and thin, with a look of youthful innocence and almost ethereality about it. However, it was noticeable that he already had spots over his face. Olive didn’t even want to think about what he’d look like as a teenager. And, for that matter, she wasn’t really in the mood to think about the small boy at all. What was she, a nanny? She hated children anyway, she decided; they were all spoiled brats who watched too much television and had no respect for their elders. She was sure that this stupid child was no exception.
Alexander Calzone beamed up at his grandmother and swept a low bow. Olive thought she saw his nose brush against the floor. “Hello, Granny!” he cried. “Welcome! Isn’t the weather lovely? Oh, but we’re so happy you’ve stopped by; the wrestling’s on the television and we know how much you love it!”
Silly child, Olive thought. He was clearly some sort of idiot. “Yes,” she said dismissively. She glared at Alexander, folding her arms and tapping her foot on the step. “Well? What are you waiting for? Are you going to just stand in the way whilst I freeze to death this porch, or are you going to hold open the door like a proper gentleman?”
Alexander momentarily cast a confused eye out at the sunny, cloudless summer sky, before bouncing out of the way and holding the front door open. “I’m so sorry, Granny. Do come in,” he said.
Olive rolled her eyes and marched into the hall. About time, too. She stood grandly with her hands held behind her back and her nose in the air, carelessly observing the family photographs on the wall. Most of them were pictures of family holidays, where Raymond and Ethel could be seen standing side by side whilst the children offered them drinks or stood around holding skis and helmets, but she caught sight of one in particular. The photograph mainly showed her beloved Raymond, with the three brats around him. Raymond stood in the foreground of the beach during their family holiday to Cornwall just a few months before Olive and Ethel had fallen out for good. He was grinning widely and taking up most of the space, whilst squeezed in beside him the children looked like professional attendants as ever, but in the background she thought she caught a glimpse of herself, staring disapprovingly towards the person taking the photograph. Ethel, of course. Olive sniffed.
“Do come through to the living room, Granny,” said Alexander anxiously, gesturing the way. It had been a while since Olive had entered this house. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Olive swept graciously into the living room after Alexander and sat down on the largest, squashiest sofa opposite the television. Alexander darted with fairy-like elegance to place the large pouffe under her feet, and then stood back against the wall with his hands behind his back, resembling a butler in a posh country house.
Olive glared at him as soon as she had settled herself down, lounging back and taking up the whole sofa. “Well,” she said threateningly. “Aren’t you going to offer me a drink like a proper host?”
“Oh! Of course!” Alexander said. He pulled a slim notebook and disposable biro out of his pocket with a flourish, and flipped over several pages until he came to a blank one. “What can I get you today, Granny?”
“Gin and tonic, large, ice and lemon,” Olive ordered, grabbing the television remote and switching on the TV. “And make it in a really big glass. Not one of your little sippy cups, or whatever.”
“Of course,” Alexander said. He bowed again and backed out of the room respectfully.
A couple of seconds later, Olive heard Alexander calling up the stairs to Abigail and Anastasia, shouting that Granny had come to visit, and wasn’t that delightful? She made an angry noise in her throat, eyeing the closed door. Stupid boy; she was trying to watch the wrestling. And what was he trying to do making all that noise; give her a heart attack? Typical.
Shortly, Abigail and Anastasia, two little girls who also had pointed ears and small pale faces, walked silently into the living room and beamed at their grandmother, but seeing that she was busy watching television, said nothing. Olive angrily waved them away, and they fluttered into the kitchen to help Alexander. Olive almost forgot about them until Abigail returned, delicately carrying Olive’s drink (in the biggest glass they could find) on a small silver tray. Olive grabbed the glass off the tray a little too violently, and, glaring at the children as though it was their fault, cursed rather loudly as it spilled all over her clothes. Anastasia’s mouth dropped open and her eyes widened, and Abigail hurriedly covered her sister’s ears. Meanwhile, Alexander ran to get Olive a cloth.
A few moments passed. The children sat up straight opposite their grandmother, peering at her occasionally as she took large sips and watched the television, occasionally spitting out a mouthful of gin and tonic to scream insults at the fighters. Occasionally they would turn their heads to peer at one another, but mainly they just stared.
“So Granny, what brings you to our home?” Abigail asked politely when the adverts came on.
“Casing the joint,” Olive muttered through a mouthful of gin and tonic.
“I’m sorry?” Abigail said, blinking. She glanced at her brother and sister.
“Visiting! Visiting, rather,” Olive quickly corrected herself. “That’s right, I’ve come to visit. So…where’s your father?”
“Our father?” said Alexander. “I’m sorry, Granny, but Daddy has gone out to the pub for the day.”
Olive heaved a sigh of disappointment. She wished she had never set foot in this stinking house in the first place now.
Abigail stared at her. “Did you need Daddy, Granny?” she enquired. “Did you need him to fix one of your computer problems again?”
“Yes,” Olive lied, quickly and ingeniously.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll tell Daddy when he gets back,” said Abigail, still not breaking eye contact. It made Olive nervous. “But anyway, Granny, Mummy is just upstairs. Shall I fetch her for you?”
“Oh, no!” Olive cried. “Not…not just now. But could you tell her that I’ll see her very soon? Very, very soon? So soon, in fact, that she won’t even know?”
Without waiting for an answer, Olive stood up suddenly from the sofa, and the three children immediately bounced up from their seats as well. Olive tossed her hair and marched out the living room door.
“Yes, of course I’ll tell her,” said Abigail. “But it’s been lovely to see you, Granny. I hope we’ll see you again soon.”
“Yeah,” Olive muttered, thrusting her empty glass into Alexander’s hands. She had just enough time to mutter to Anastasia to get a haircut before she swept dramatically out the front door.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Olive scowled to herself. What a waste of time! She’d barely cased the joint at all, and she hadn’t even had the chance to see Raymond! Not to mention those rotten kids being incredibly rude to her.
Olive walked lazily down the Calzones’ front path, making sure to grind the heel of her shoes into Ethel’s precious flowerbeds, before walking up next door’s path and knocking crossly on the door of number 12, Greenwood Drive. It swung open in what seemed like less than an instant. Mary pulled back the door so that she was perfectly visible to the outside world, and a ray of sunlight conveniently lit her up. Olive stared at her.
Mary had dyed her hair bright silver, with a few dull grey streaks in various places, and had styled it in such a way that a few strands stuck out at odd angles. She was wearing an old-lady cardigan, baggy beige trousers with creases at the front and tan-coloured leather shoes, just like Olive, only there was one difference between the two women’s outfits. Underneath her cardigan, Olive was wearing an ordinary frilly blouse that she had owned for several years and which had a number of stains on it, though with Olive’s eyesight they had usually been mistaken for shadows. Mary, in contrast, was wearing a brand-new t-shirt that from the looks of things she had designed herself. It was pale pink, and in dark-pink curly script surrounding a large regal-looking photograph of Olive, were the words, ‘The Team: Mary Maggott: Co-leader and chief spy’. Olive actually had to squint very hard to read most of the words, which were quite small, although she did notice that the words ‘leader’ and ‘chief’ had been made noticeably larger than the other words.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Mary said, beaming, as soon as she spotted the shape of the word ‘what’ on Olive’s lips. “I got them made for everyone, including you; yours is in the other room. I got it in peach, your favourite colour. Do you like the photo? It was the poshest one I could find. I was going to get rid of that pimple on your nose before I took it to the man who runs that all-day t-shirt-making place, but I couldn’t quite get to grips with that Photoshop business. I hope you don’t mind.”
Olive was quite proud of that photo, but she was still annoyed that the pimple hadn’t been got rid of. Plus, her hair was rather messy. But still, what could she expect from such an unprofessional person as Mary?
“I just did it to demonstrate my commitment!” Mary said loudly in Olive’s ear.
“Mmm,” said Olive carelessly. Then she took the time contemplate on Mary’s new appearance. “Mary, to save myself from asking about a dozen questions, I’m only going to ask one: Why?”
“What?” said Mary. “Oh, you mean my hair and everything! Isn’t it wonderful? It was the closest to your colour I could get it. And I tried to get the clothes from the same charity shop as you.”
“Oh….all right,” said Olive. It was sweet that Mary idolised her, but she really needed to sort out her own identity.
“Come and see your t-shirt!” Mary squealed before Olive could say anything else. She pulled on Olive’s arm to try and get her into the house, but then remembered that her Leader probably would not want to be handled in such a way, so she apologised and politely ushered Olive into the house instead.
Olive marched straight through to the living room and immediately saw the t-shirt. It was propped up against a cushion on the largest arm-chair, stretched out, and there were two reading lamps on either side of it lighting it up, like a museum exhibit. Olive thought about asking Mary where the glass case was.
“I was going to use a glass case, but the cake dome wasn’t big enough,” Mary explained before Olive could say a word.
The t-shirt was, as Mary had promised, peach-coloured. The writing surrounding the photograph read, ‘The Team: Olive Whinging: Supreme Leader and Member-of-Honour’. A little border of marigolds, to match the colour scheme as much as possible, had been put around the edge of Olive’s photograph.
Olive smiled to herself. Mary spotted the look of mild happiness and grinned to herself. Of course, she was sure to be a co-leader now. Anyway, she’d already made the t-shirt.
Olive spent the next twenty minutes inspecting every inch of the t-shirt for something to complain about whilst Mary went to make everyone tea (the rest of the Team were in the sauna). However, even after the man from the t-shirt-making shop had ironed the t-shirt himself, Mary had been anxious for it to be absolutely perfect, so she had got it home as quickly as possible and ironed it all over again. Olive decided to ignore the t-shirt, and she thought she’d go downstairs to join the rest of the Team in the sauna.
That was when the telephone rang. Olive jumped in surprise at the long, shrill sound, and turned around to face it. A telephone ringing at Mary Maggott’s house? At this time? And moreover, a telephone at ringing Mary Maggott’s house at this time whilst all the members of the Team were in the house anyway? Who did Mary know outside the Team? Who wanted to know Mary outside the Team? What sort of mad person could this be? This was usually the hour when Mary was at her most loopy. When she did a bunch of very stupid things, like try to turn into Olive. It must have been one of her co-lunatics that Olive didn’t know about. Maybe Mary had secret loony parties when everyone else was asleep. Maybe that was where she got all of her bizarre ideas from; Mary wasn’t really intelligent enough to think up good ideas on her own, anyway. Perhaps it was a group of Mary’s distant cousins. Mary had a lot of cousins. Though it could just as easily be some people that Olive had never heard of before; she’d have to remember to explain to Mary that she’d have to give up these mysterious friends who probably would have a bad influence on her. But anyway, Olive didn’t care about Mary’s private life.
“Olive, would you get that?” Mary yelled from the kitchen.
“Why?” Olive said carelessly, picking a towel out from the sideboard and heading for the toilet with the intention of changing into her swimming costume. “It’s your phone.”
“Oh, but I’m fixing Albert and Priscilla’s afternoon tea!” Mary whined. “You know how fussy they are: Albert has to have his tea really strong, and the little cakes and sandwiches have to be in spiral shapes on a plate which is approximately twenty-three and a half centimetres in diameter, and Priscilla has to have her tea exactly three-eighths of the way between weak and normal with no tea-leaves at the bottom, and everything has to be in the shape of a flower with the tea cup in the middle and the handle pointing to her right. Oh Gosh, and then there’s their caviar! They must have their caviar, you know, and Fred has to have his three packets of crisps in cheese and onion and his pint of lager, and then there’s Augustus and Adolphus with their orange juice, and you know, they asked me if they could have syringes to suck it up with, and Hetty’s beer in her special glass….”
Olive picked up the phone, sighing, and held it to her ear. Then she remembered that it was probably one of Mary’s co-lunatics, so she jerked her head away from the receiver and gingerly said, “Hello?”
“Hello, is that Mary Maggott?” said a familiar voice. Olive stiffened.
“No, this is Olive Whinging,” she squeaked, and then kicked herself because her voice sounded so ridiculously stupid and high-pitched. She tried to remember how young people spoke these days. “Yeah, this is, like, well, like, Olive, totally.”
There was a short pause. “Sorry?” said Raymond Calzone on the other end of the line. “Olive?”
“Um, I mean, Raymond, it’s me, Olive!” Olive cried, going very red. She was now facing the kitchen, and saw that Mary was staring at her curiously as she absent-mindedly allowed several tablespoonfuls of caviar to slip into Priscilla’s cup of tea, and mouthing ‘What?’
“Hello, Olive,” Raymond said calmly.
Raymond Calzone had just got home from his favourite pub, The Loopy Swan, to find his son Alexander telling him that Granny had called, and had specified that she needed help with something to do with her computer. Raymond had immediately sat down at the computer and logged onto ‘Facebook’, and lazily had reached for the house phone and dialled Mary’s number. He was only half concentrating on what Olive was saying, and although he had no trouble hearing her rushed voice he didn’t notice how nervous she was.
Raymond had logged onto his profile, acknowledging his handsome profile photograph, and after quickly flicking through his other photographs for comments (the one of him and the kids and Ethel with Olive glaring in the background; the one with him with his arm around Ethel; the one of him dancing on the bar at the pub, etc.), Raymond begun two conversations: one with one of his bar friend, Shaun, and the other with a new friend of his. This new friend was a person who used the name ‘Lulu’. Raymond was quite upset that Shannon, a nineteen-year-old American supermodel, was not online; she hadn’t been for quite a few days now. Raymond liked Shannon very much, though he’d never quite worked out why her profile picture was a ball of wool.
“Yeah, I just came round, Raymond!” Olive gabbled excitedly down the phone, holding the receiver so tightly that her fingers would have been hurting very much if she’d have been in a state to notice. “You know, I thought I’d pop round, see you all, and I needed help with one of my computer things again, but, like, you don’t have to if you don’t want to or anything, it’s just, you know, I know that you’re just so awesome at that sort of thing, and then there’s little old me barely knowing anything!”
Raymond rolled his eyes to himself and felt like sighing loudly. Olive was just a silly old woman who didn’t have the foggiest idea about technology. Who did she think she was? Raymond had always known that Olive hated him, ever since he was a little boy.
“You see,” Olive continued. Hetty appeared in the room and noticed that there were widening damp patches under her arms. “It’s that thing again with the updates, you know…”
“You press ‘Update’,” Raymond muttered tiredly, balancing the phone between his ear and shoulder whilst he typed a reply to Lulu. How stupid could Olive get? He must have explained this updating thing to her millions of times; he couldn’t work out why she needed to call him for a reminder almost every single day.
“Oh! Yes!” Olive said, blushing. She paused. “What’s the ‘Update’ button?”
“The big button in the centre of the screen with ‘Update’ on it in bold letters.”
“Oh, on the screen? Not on the keyboard?”
“No. On the screen.”
“Right! Sorry, Raymond, you know me; I’m absolutely useless at anything to do with technology!”
“Well, and, you know, it was so lovely of you to call.”
“I suppose you need to go now?”
“Right! Well, so long, Raymond! Simply great to talk to you; you have such a lovely voice, did you know that? I don’t suppose Ethel’s ever told you that has she? She’s not very good at compliments, not like me, is she? Who do you think is better at compliments, Raymond; me or Ethel?”
“…..Oh, OK then. So, I guess I’ll speak to you soon?”
“All right! Goodbye, Raymond, Dear!”
Raymond pressed the ‘end call’ button, and then threw the phone onto the sofa, causing Abigail to anxiously scuttle in and pick up the phone to place back on the cradle. She gingerly patted the sofa cushions back into their usual perfect arrangement, before turning back to her father.
“Can I get you a drink, Dear Father?” Abigail asked, whipping a notebook and pen out of her pocket.
Raymond clicked a couple of buttons on the keyboard before answering his daughter. “Gin and tonic, large,” he ordered.
“Ooh, Hetty! Let me tell you what just happened!” Olive gabbled, though seeing as Hetty had been present for most of the conversation, an explanation probably wasn’t necessary. But apparently, one of Olive’s obsessive Raymond discussions wasn’t going to happen anyway, because at that moment, Alice ran into the room.
“Olive!” she squealed, waving several sheets of paper in Olive’s face. She looked very worried, but Olive hardly noticed.
“Alice, wait!” Olive snapped. “The Leader of the Team always speaks first. Anyway, now that you’re all here, you can listen too; you should have heard the phone conversation I just had with Raymond! It was…”
“Oh, Olive, it’s quite important!” Alice cried, waving the sheets of paper about again. “Look what I just printed off from Facebook!”
“What? You have Facebook?”
“Well, yes!” Alice said, as though it were obvious. She was still waving the sheets of paper around. “Anyway, I was just on Facebook now, and look what I found on Raymond’s Facebook page!”
Alice barely had time to finish her sentence before Olive whipped the paper out of her hand upon hearing the word ‘Raymond’s’. She stared at it for a moment…and quickly noticed the problem. She was looking at a photograph of Raymond on holiday in Hawaii, wearing swimming trunks and flexing his muscles. But for once, Olive wasn’t interested in that. She was looking at the adoring observations below, which were promptly followed by several admiring comments aimed at Raymond, which had a number of friendly, even provocative, comments in reply, made earlier that afternoon by someone called ‘Lulu’.