I agreed, although it was embarassing. “I’ve got to go now, I think I should start getting ready soon.”
“Off you go then darling! See you in your glad rags later on!” She blew me a kiss and fluttered her fingers as I backed away through the door.
I left hoping my mother also had plans to transform herself from frazzled housewife into red carpet movie star. She had looked tired and hot all day, but I wanted her to be beautiful.
In my bedroom, Amy was aiming the camera out of the window. “While you were gone I filmed your dad walking back across the lawn. He didn’t look very happy. But it’s too dark to film anything else now. So, I think we should decide what our film is going to be about and plan it properly.”
We lay on the carpet discussing our favourite films and decided that our old house would be the perfect setting for a Cluedo style murder mystery. “Let’s call it Murder at the Manor,” said Amy. “We can make it look like everyone has something to hide.”
“Come on,” I said, “let’s see what’s in the dressing-up box.”
We ran off to the playroom to rummage through the large trunk which had once travelled the world with my great grandparents and which had, for as long as I could remember, stored various discarded garments which enlivened our games. The boys were dismissive of dressing-up, but from time to time we could still drag them from their electronic gadgets. Even now, on the brink of adolescence, they would sometimes take part in a charade dressed as grand old ladies, teetering on scuffed high heels and peering out from beneath the chiffon petalled hats which had been stuffed into the musty old chest.
Amy threw open the lid of the trunk and pulled out a torn pink silk nightdress, followed by a voluminous patchwork skirt of many colours. We started pulling on garments and assuming voices and then began giggling uncontrollably and so loudly that it brought my mother to the door. She was still in her apron and she was frowning. “Girls, girls, whatever are you doing down here? Shouldn’t you be getting ready? Everyone will be here in half an hour! I want you dressed up and downstairs on the dot of seven!”
Her commanding tone could not be disobeyed, so we quickly threw the crumpled old clothes back in the trunk and rushed upstairs to dress. In the privacy of my bedroom however, we resumed our giggling and plotting.
“We’ll dress Ben up as a charlady,” I said, struggling out of my jeans. “We’ll make him hold up a glass to the light and say, Dearie me, there are sticky fingerprints everywhere today, I can’t think what they’ve all been getting up to.”
“And then Tom can be the detective and he will walk in just as Ben is spraying polish everywhere and removing all the evidence,” Amy said, clapping her hands and jumping up and down in delight. “And there’s got to be a part for Sam, who can he be?”
“I know, I know, he can be an old gardener.” I demonstrated the part by hunching my shoulders and hobbling around the room looking ridiculous in my striped underwear and wrinkled socks. “He could be a bad-tempered old man, who always threatens anyone who comes near his cabbages and his marigolds.” I waved my hairbrush to illustrate. “Only he won’t be holding a brush, he’ll have a garden fork or a bottle of slug killer!”
Amy squealed even more loudly and the noise evoked a loud banging on the door. “How many more times do I have to tell you girls, get a move on! You’ve only got ten minutes!”
We stifled our giggles and completed our dressing, then, with blonde hair brushed back and matching black velvet alice bands, we stood like two perfect twin dolls in front of the mirror to admire our reflections. “Don’t we look lovely, darlings,” we said simultaneously and turned to make our grand entrance.