Mrs Jhaveri got home and put the kettle on. She was proud of herself, talking to an actual policeman and sharing confidences with him. Of course, Sian Morgan didn’t die of a heart attack! Or maybe she did, realising she had the wrong shoes on her feet. She suffocated a chortle in her throat. That was not funny. The poor woman was dead. But why had Mr Morgan ignored her, looked through her as if he didn’t even know her? Poor man, he must be really distraught. She decided to visit him again later that evening. She could make her famous lamb stew for him. Back home, whenever there was death in a family, there could be no cooking in that household until the funeral. Neighbours or relatives usually brought food in for the bereaved family. Yes, she would be the good neighbour and help Mr Morgan once again. He would definitely appreciate that.
Feeling happy to be of some use to him, Mr Jhaveri set about making lamb stew. As she stirred the pot, her brain dredged up memories from her last visit, when she had interacted with the Morgans more often. She remembered those trips to the hospital. Sian seemed to need her support a lot. She didn't have much help by way of family. They didn't have children. The two of them would visit Mr Morgan everyday at five o’clock. It had seemed odd, sitting there with the couple, listening to their daily patter about nothing in particular. But then she realised that Sian was afraid of hospitals, terrified even. It had taken her a great amount of courage to set foot in one. And she really had needed Mrs Jhaveri to hold her hand and walk through those double doors every day for a whole month.
When Mr Morgan finally returned home, he had been quite weak and irritable. He stopped talking to his wife for a long time. And if he did, he only shouted, accused her of being selfish and mean. He was diagnosed with depression. So once again. Mrs Jhaveri became the shoulder on which Sian Morgan could cry on. And play Bezique with. And win. She always fixed lovely teas for Mrs Jhaveri whenever she visited. Those dainty sandwiches, salmon and cucumber. Egg and Cress. Light, fluffy cakes and Earl Grey tea. Mrs Jhaveri didn’t like the tea, it smelled odd, but that didn’t matter. She was happy to be of ‘emotional’ support to Sian.
Mrs Jhaveri added seasoning to her stew and stirred. The vegetables were done and the meat was falling off the bone. Ah, the warm rich aroma of lamb stew filled the kitchen. Rani was in for a treat that evening, she thought and smiled.
But what was wrong with the shoes? Her thoughts kept going back to the shoes. She hadn’t even seen them. She had seen those pearls, though. Sian wore them often. They were almost buttery in colour. Three lovely strands of perfect roundness and glow. Surely, a similar coloured pair of shoes would set them off. Satin shoes, that had a pearly sheen as well. Not black suede. And why were they by her head? Why would Sian take off her shoes before collapsing? That did not fit any theory.
She peered out of the window and saw the police car drive away. Good, she wiped her hands on the edge of her apron and turned off the cooker. Here was her chance. She dashed out and made her way to the Morgan’s front door. The lights were on inside. She peeped innocuously through the window and saw Mr Morgan hunched in front of the television. Good, he’s home – alone.
She knocked and waited. It was a while before Mr Morgan opened the door. He smiled in a tired sort of way.
“Ah, Mrs Jhaveri,” he said. “You managed to dodge the police this time.” He winked and showed her in.
“Oh, Mr Morgan. I am so sorry about this tragedy.” Tears sprung to her eyes and she wiped it with the corner of her pallu. “I truly am very sorry.” She burst into tears and Mr Morgan clasped and unclasped his hands.
“Please, please,” he cried anxiously. “Sit down, Mrs Jhaveri. It’s alright.”
“Sian was such a beautiful lady. Such a beautiful heart… and soul.” She shook her head and dried her tears. “But why did the police come here?”
“Huh?” Mr Morgan started and sat down heavily beside her. “To check on her medical history etc etc… to be sure…”
“Sure if what?” asked Mrs Jhaveri.
“I don’t know. Routine work, he said. Since she died in a public place.”
“And are you okay? How are you eating? Who’s cooking for you?”
Mr Morgan looked surprised. “I’m fine, thank you for asking. I can cook. I’ve been cooking all these years.”
“Really? You cooked instead of Sian?” asked Mrs Jhaveri, shocked.
Her husband had never entered the kitchen. Rather, she’d never let him. It just wasn’t right for men to be in a kitchen. It was okay for them to cook and all, but who did the clearing up after, she had always argued. So best to draw the territorial lines early on in the marriage. TV remote, his. The cooker, hers. So Monica had been right, after all. Men were different in this country.
“Yes,” Mr Morgan laughed. “Sian never entered the kitchen. She couldn’t tell a peach from a plum!”
“But… but she always made such lovely sandwiches and cakes for me…” She felt she had to defend Sian somehow.
Mr Morgan threw back his head and laughed. “Marks and Spencer, my dear. You never realised that? No? No wonder she loved you!”
Mrs Jhaveri stared at him. He stopped laughing and his eyes glinted angrily. “Sian, bless her soul, was not as perfect as you thought her to be.”
She shifted in her seat. One did not speak ill of the dead, especially one’s own wife. His eyes filled and he looked away.
“Don’t listen to me. I’m too upset.”
“Yes, yes, of course. I’ve made some lamb stew for you. Do you remember?”
Mr Morgan smiled kindly at her. “I do,” he whispered. “The hospital. Some things do happen for the better.”
Mrs Jhaveri stood up. “I must go now. Have to pick up Rani from school. We will come to the funeral tomorrow. The cleaning woman told me.”
Mr Morgan looked up, frowning. “Cleaning woman? Oh. Aah, you met her?”
“Yes, I came by yesterday. So did Mrs Jones.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. She's actually a distant cousin. Helping me out.”
"I see," said Mrs Jhaveri. No wonder she behaved like she owned the place.
The telephone rang just then. “I’ll see myself out,” said Mrs Jhaveri and walked away.
To be continued...