A Day in the Life Of…
What's Martha's day really like?
A Day in the Life Of…
A hand crept
out from under the covers to clamp down on the chirpy greeting of the digital
alarm clock. The covers folded back, and Martha sat up on the edge of the bed,
her toes automatically searching for her pink slippers.
morning, is it?" a male voice groaned from the bed.
you not to stay up all night watching those war films," Martha said,
pulling something from the back of the door and tossing it to John, and not
attempting to keep the smugness out of her voice.
wasn't films," John said patiently, grunting when his towelling
dressing gown landed on top of the bed. "It was a film. And a
damned good one at that."
have been, to keep you up that late."
Martha padded downstairs to the small kitchen and put the kettle on. She looked
wistfully at the grill pan, and instead took some cereals out of the cupboard.
John's blood pressure had been rather high last week when he'd gone to the
doctor, and John, now in his mid-fifties, had expressed to her his worry about
his health and they had decided to give up his normal bacon and eggs for
breakfast in favour of the healthier cereals.
Milk and bowls
were laid out next to the tea and John came down just as she was pouring tea
into the pot. Ever since their anniversary trip to Paris a couple of years ago,
when Martha had told him she felt they'd been drifting apart, he had tried to
show her more often that he loved her. He wasn't a man of words, so to him,
that meant an extra couple of hugs a day, and he went over to where she stood
at the counter and wrapped his arms round her.
and leant back into his arms as she made the tea. John's idea of romantic and
hers differed a wee bit, but he was a good man, and she appreciated his
attempts to try. The hug done, John went over to pour cereal into his bowl.
Small talk, mostly about family and the garden, followed over breakfast and
then Martha hurried around the house doing little jobs like washing up, folding
the laundry, watering her plants and dusting before scooting upstairs to make
the bed and get ready for work. With her job, she was never quite certain how much
time she would have to do her own chores, so she liked to have the house tidy
before she left in the morning.
Summerdown just before eight, Martha hurried into the kitchen to find Giles
just finishing off his toast.
morning, Martha. How are you today?"
she said, pulling off her coat. "It looks bright out there, but the wind
is chilly. I hope it doesn't rain, John wants to work on those new flower
supposed to," Giles called after her, as she carried her coat through to
hang it up in the utility room. When she returned, Giles had retreated to the
study. Martha fed the cats, loaded up the dishwasher and then went upstairs to
collect the first batch of washing.
At nine, the
builders arrived to continue working on the new house, and Martha's kettle was
on again, making tea en masse for the crew. It would be nice for Buffy and
Angel to have their own home - they certainly deserved it - but in the
meantime, it fell on her to contend with all the mud and dust that
resulted from the building site at the back of the house. She wondered if she
was actually wasting her time trying to keep on top of it all.
arrived when she was talking to the builders, and Martha noticed that before
she got out of the car she was zipping up her jacket. An odd thing to do when
arriving home… unless she had something to hide. Cheerily trying to distract
the foreman while Buffy scurried into the house, she wondered where the young
girl had been so early.
She heard the
postman's van arrive while she was hoovering the hallway, and she turned the
machine off to go and see what he had. Opening the kitchen door, a young man
with an unruly mop of dark hair stood waiting, three parcels and a package of
letters tied up with string in his arms. Her usual postman, Mick, had taken his
wife to Blackpool for a few days, and this younger employee was covering for
Geoff," she said, taking the packages out of his hand. "Anything to
one, Martha." the young man said, holding one package back and waiting
while she deposited the rest onto the kitchen table.
the new baby this morning?" she asked him, squinting at the screen because
she had left her glasses on the drainer, before busily signing on top of the electronic
device thrust in her direction.
Didn't get much sleep last night," he grinned, beginning to retreat to the
van. "But the girls are helping out now they're old enough."
should," Martha agreed. "Tell Jane if she wants anything from the
market to give me a call, will you?"
thanks, Martha." Geoff climbed into the van. "I'll do that."
the extra parcel into the kitchen and placed it with the others. Retrieving her
glasses, she began sorting the post into neat little piles. As a matter of form
she always checked the names on the post, but it was nearly always for Giles.
Buffy got the occasional letter, usually from Italy, and Angel almost never got
anything. Just then, Buffy burst into the kitchen, a blue shirt clutched in her
see," Martha said, reaching out for the crumpled shirt. Sickly green
smudges streaked all the way down the front. "What is it?"
blue?" Martha asked. She couldn't remember which it was, but they used
different remedies on different types of Bas.
Buffy said promptly. "When one of those pushes you down and sits on you,
you don't forget what it looks like."
sure," Martha said, distractedly poking the smudge with her finger.
"Leave it with me - I'll see what I can do."
broadly. "You're a star, Martha! Thanks…" and the Buffy whirlwind was
In a drawer
under the unit in the utility room, Martha pulled out a list. It was her own
record of all the peculiar stains she'd come across in the last couple of
years. All the successes, and failures, she'd had in removing them had been
methodically recorded. One day, she was going to write her own book on the
subject and make a fortune. She started looking for the entry for Black Bas
afterwards on her way to dust the bedrooms and change the sheets on Giles' bed
- she would do Buffy and Angel's room later when it was vacant - she heard
raised voices coming from their room. Or rather, raised voice. They were
staying in the large room opposite the stairs and at the other end of the house
from Giles' room. Buffy was shouting at Angel about something he hadn't done,
but she couldn't hear Angel's quiet response. She hurried by, embarrassed that
somebody might come out and think she was eavesdropping on them. She'd just
reached the turn in the hallway when she heard a loud thump and she
paused. Had somebody hurt themselves? Silence. She was sure they could look
after themselves, but it wasn't in her nature to not help somebody when she had
the power to do so, and she hesitated, uncertain what to do.
was the next sound she heard and she smiled to herself before going on down the
hall. It sounded like Angel had the situation well in hand, if that moan was
anything to go by. Young love - what a wonderful thing that was, and it was so
nice to see it in this house. She and John had been just like that when they
got married - though perhaps not quite so aggressive - and she wondered
where the couple they had once been had gone to. They were lucky if they got
together more than once a week nowadays. She sighed, disappeared into Giles'
room and began stripping the bed, putting more energy into it than she really
standing in the kitchen just finishing off the ironing, the phone rang. Knowing
that Giles had gone down to Westbury and that Angel and Buffy were probably
asleep, she hurried over to answer it.
Yes, this is Project Paranormal. All of our investigators are out at the
moment. Can I take some details from you and we'll call you back as soon as we
can?" Every phone in the house had a notebook beside it, for exactly this
Emerson…" Martha added the caller's telephone number to her scribbled
shorthand on the notepad. "Running down the walls, you say? That sounds
nasty. Only happens on Tuesdays and Fridays…. Got it. Yes, I should imagine it
does make a mess. Is the rug wool? You
could try a weak solution of borax, that might help." Martha stood up, and
rubbed the base of her spine. Everything ached much more than it used to.
"Thank you for calling us, Mrs Emerson. Mr Giles should be in contact with
you later on to discuss what to do next.
Yes, it will certainly be today. Thank you for calling… Good morning."
client's details from the pad, Martha carefully transferred the details from
her notes into longhand on another piece of paper. Giles would have been able
to read the original but the others wouldn't; it was best to have them in a
form available to everyone, and she took the revised version through to the
study and dropped it into a little tray next to the computer. Returning to the
kitchen, she put the ironing board away and then went to the collection of
cookery books to select one. The recipe she wanted to make wasn't one she made
very often. She couldn't resist turning the heavy book over to observe the
stain on the back of the book. Angel had squashed a very large spider under
this book during the paranormal activity that had taken place here two years
ago, and no amount of scrubbing had managed to fade the nasty mark. She'd put a
new dustcover on the book but creepily, the stain just seeped through, so she
took it off again. Giles said that happened sometimes with supernatural happenings
but it gave her the heebie-jeebies all the same.
thoughts of paranormal goings on, and young girls that used to live here,
Martha started briskly pulling ingredients out of the pantry.
Giles asked for some ham sandwiches to eat in the study so that he could carry
on with his paperwork. Buffy came downstairs to raid the pantry for coffee and
cookies and then withdrew back upstairs to be with Angel, and John came in to
the kitchen to eat his tuna salad rolls and share his lunch break with his
Angel wandered into the kitchen and went to the fridge for his blood. Martha,
coming in from the yard because she had been emptying the household bins,
smiled at him as she went over to wash her hands. "Hello Angel. Did you
microwave door Angel grimaced. "Hard to sleep with the row from the
building site out there." He leant against the kitchen counter.
She was exhausted." Suddenly realising how that sounded, he added hastily,
"From staying up all night. And not from…" his voice trailed off when
he realised he was digging himself into a hole. Martha tactfully changed the
subject onto the standard British conversation topic - the weather.
Angel sat down
at the kitchen table with his hot breakfast. Martha made two cups of tea and
sat down with him, just in time to see the last of the blood disappearing.
There were faint bruises on Angel's cheek and down the side of his neck.
Hesitating for a minute in case they were… personal… Martha said,
"Those are nasty bruises. Did you have a fight last night?"
"I let my
guard down," he replied. "Four vampires. I was fighting three but had
forgotten the fourth…" Angel paused to take a sip at his tea. "He
came at me from behind."
manage to get them all?"
yes," Angel said softly, and his predatory expression made Martha's pulse
quicken. "I got them." He was aware of Martha's discomfort and deftly
moved the conversation onto more everyday subjects. He said, "How long do
I have before our clients arrive this afternoon?"
hour and a half," Martha responded.
a shower then," Angel said. "And wake Buffy." He smiled wryly.
"Make sure you have the first aid kit ready."
laughed, and when Angel went back upstairs on his perilous mission, Martha had
armed him with a cup of coffee and a sandwich to give to the normally ravenous
girl to help prepare her for this afternoon's client appointment.
arrived exactly an hour and a half later for her children's vitamin
supplements. Martha greeted her with genuine enthusiasm, took one of the
cardboard boxes from the back of the car and carried it into the kitchen, where
she placed it on the floor. Mewling sounds were coming from the box. Giles came
out of the study to prepare the formula and when Buffy and Angel came down from
upstairs, the kitchen was filled with loud yapping.
how they've grown!" Buffy exclaimed, scooping up a particularly cute cub
and hugging him close. Four cubs scrambled out of the top of one of the boxes
and scurried across the kitchen floor, eager to explore their new surroundings,
only to be rounded up by Angel and shepherded back to the others. As soon as he
had done that, two cubs escaped from another box, and so it went on. The cubs'
mother looked on indulgently, completely oblivious to Giles' irritation over
her cubs unruly behaviour. Instilling discipline at such a young age was
unheard of in her culture.
Dowling's litter consisted of seventeen cubs. Dowager babies did not have the
ability to pass for humans as the adults did, and away from their native South
America they were not able to use the local resources to build up the store of
the right vitamins they needed. Giles was able to replicate the process and he
administered the right concoction of vitamins every five months. It was a
little awkward trying to smuggle seventeen non-human children into the house,
especially with the grounds full of workmen, but they hoped that anyone seeing
the plain cardboard boxes going in would not be suspicious - and any odd sounds
could be explained away as them containing puppies.
Giles liked to
have the whole team on hand to help with the cubs; it was quite a task keeping
them all together while they took their vitamins, and Buffy liked to play with
them afterwards. But she and Angel were very good at catching the cubs when
they escaped - which was often - and Martha was very good at feeding them the
vitamins through a little eyedropper, and usually managing to bypass the very
sharp, but still tiny, teeth. They seemed to like her tending to them, and for
anyone else they fussed and squirmed, making the job take twice as long to
complete. They had a nice little routine running. Martha would administer the
vitamins, and Angel acted as the shepherd to keep the cubs rounded up. Buffy
and Giles were the conveyer belt, ferrying cubs from box to Martha to another
box where mum stroked and soothed them. Both men found it interesting that to
them, all the cubs looked the same, but all three of the women could tell them
apart without any trouble. Giles speculated over whether it might be something
to do with how the strength of the maternal instinct had managed to transcend
the species or whether it was simply because women might be better at
With the job
complete, and having loaded the cubs back into the car, Mama Downing paid her
bill using a small diamond instead of money. Giles had never asked where she
could lay her hands on so many of them, but he suspected she had important -
and probably non human - contacts with plenty of money.
Dowlings drove away, both Martha and Giles collapsed onto the kitchen chairs.
Buffy put the kettle on and produced a flowery tin from the pantry that
contained Martha's latest batch of cakes. Angel carried the diamond through to
the study and locked it in the safe, to make sure that it didn't get misplaced.
Giles had a variety of uses for the diamonds Mama Dowling gave them, not least the
fact that the gem on its own would fetch a tidy sum to the right buyer.
The next half
hour was spent in comfortable companionship, with all four of them seated
around the table, hot drinks in readiness. Speculation was made on the future
of the Dowager cubs and the clan's future in general. Buffy recounted her
adventure with the Bas that morning, Martha told them stories about her family
exploits on their annual holidays and Giles talked about how pleased he was
that the Project Paranormal website was doing so well. It had brought in extra
work, made some interesting new contacts, and he had been able to offer advice
and solve many strange phenomena problems, all without leaving the office.
break, everyone started drifting away from the kitchen. It was a cold day, and
Martha sometimes liked to heat up some soup for her husband to warm him in the
garden. There was no rule about him not being able to go indoors, but he was,
by nature, an outdoorsy person. He'd loved to go camping and fishing in his
youth, and he lamented the fact that children had lost the freedom to roam the
countryside as they had once done, and instead had to be ferried everywhere by
car. An innocent age lost, he'd often said.
the hot soup through the family room and out of the back door. She could see
her husband working on the new beds over on the other side of the lawn, and she
left the patio to cross over to him. John looked up as she approached, and
smiled when he saw what she had in her hand.
it going?" she asked.
John said, rubbing his back as he attempted to stand up. "But I'm getting
too old for this."
chuckled as she handed him the steaming mug. John cupped it in his hands,
fingerless mittens keeping the worst of the cold at bay. "Neither of us
are getting any younger, love." She nodded at his mittens, a Christmas
present from their eldest child. "How are the gloves?"
warm," John said, blowing on the liquid and wrinkling his nose when steam
she's a thoughtful girl," Martha responded.
finishing on time tonight?" John asked hopefully.
Giles has been called away and he's got a client coming later." She
lowered her voice. "One of those… other clients… and he asked me to
hang on until he gets back."
John said, "What time is the client coming? Very late?"
six. He has to come late so the builders don't see him. Giles hopes to be back
bad, then." He sipped his soup, enjoying the warmth in his fingers and on
his lips. "I'm almost done here. Have you got anything you want me to
her arms over her chest and wished she had put her coat on. "I've got some
things to go over to Alice, if you wouldn't mind taking them." She frowned,
certain there was some more, and she added, "If you could get me a loaf of
bread that would be helpful… oh… and Angel's torn his favourite jacket again.
Would you drop it off at Maggie's and tell her it's for me? We'll get a
discount if you do that."
course, love," John said, feeling more optimistic. He liked to be kept
busy and it looked like he might get his dinner at a decent hour after all.
"What kind of loaf do you want? Brown?"
her watch. "Whatever you can get at this late hour. We have some white,
which will do, but Giles prefers wholemeal or granary. And get it from Dixon's.
The chap who's taken over Badger's place usually leaves it in too long."
ma'am," John grinned, bowing a little with mock servitude. "Whatever
in Hawaii might be nice," she called back over her shoulder as she headed
back to the house, smiling at the mental picture of herself in a hula skirt.
the kitchen, Martha found a ginger cat sitting hopefully next to the cupboard
where the tins of cat food were kept. He jumped up and started rubbing on the
cupboard door when he saw her.
early," she chuckled. "Come back later!"
over on his back in the hope of provoking her. When that didn't work, he tried
rubbing against her legs and attempted to trip her up. Martha reached down to
scratch the cat behind the ears, and eventually he wandered off down the
hallway in search of somewhere to sleep, where he could dream of fat mice in
his bowl for tea.
sauntered into the kitchen, passing Ari in the hallway, and his bruises had
almost all faded away now. "Is Buffy about?"
her head. "She went over to Trowbridge to do some shopping. She said
something about needing new clothes." She smiled when Angel groaned. "And Giles is out on a case. He's
hoping to be back about six."
when the client arrives, isn't it?"
Giles has asked me to stay on in case he doesn't get back in time."
he'll be back before that. I'm sorry that I can't take this meeting Martha, but
the client doesn't like vampires."
all right, Angel. I've done it before - though I haven't met this one
to turn to go back upstairs and said, "But you know I'm only upstairs if
you need me. Call and I'll be down faster than superman."
you," she said gratefully, not letting herself consider the possibility
that even Angel might not be able to get to her in time if she was really in
dawned and neither Buffy nor Giles had returned. Both cats had been let out to
the garden and well away from demon client as Giles had asked her to do. Martha
listened nervously as a car came up the drive, hoping that it would be Giles.
But when it pulled up at the front of the house instead of into the yard, her
heart sank. People she was happy to
cope with, but Giles' non-human clients still made her uncomfortable. She
pulled a piece of paper out of her skirt pocket and re-read it for the
hundredth time. Heir to the ninth house of Gelbath.
The ring at
the front door made her jump even though she was expecting it. She made her way
quickly to the door and opened it up.
a baritone voice asked uncertainly.
Careful not to
meet the eyes of the client, Martha said carefully, "I'm afraid he has
been called away. Would it be acceptable for you to enter and wait for
The Heir to
the ninth house of Gelbath grunted, but entered the hallway and Martha stepped
to one side to allow his tail to swing round in the hall unhindered. From the
corner of her eye she thought she could see movement at the top of the stairs.
If she could see Angel, then he was trying to reassure her of his
presence, and it gave her more confidence. "Giles asks that you wait in
the room at the bottom of the hall."
swept down the hall without a look at her, making Martha bite her lip and think
to herself, 'You're welcome' but she said nothing, and followed him down
the hall, deferring to his culture's protocol and being careful not to get any
closer than two foot behind him.
kitchen, the guest waited for her to join them and said, "You know who I
She took a deep breath and said, "You are the Heir to the ninth house of
Gelbath, and we welcome you to the residence of the third Heir to the house
of Summerdown. Could I offer you
something to drink?"
ninth heir considered that question, Martha was thinking, Please ask for
some herbal tea or ice water, and not…
he responded. "If you have some that would be acceptable."
A response was
not required, and Martha struggled with her natural urge to answer him. But an
Heir was not expected to converse with the servants, and Martha turned away to
get his drink. It made the hair prickle on the back of her neck to have a
demonic creature standing behind her, knowing he could tear her to pieces if he
so chose. But Giles had assured her that it would be awfully bad form for him
to do so, not to mention terribly expensive, but the thought made her extremely
anxious and she fumbled with the cupboard door, knocking furniture polish onto
the floor. She bent down immediately to pick it up, acutely aware that she was
carrying a few more pounds than she ought to, and that the view to the client
was definitely not very glamorous.
polish unceremoniously back into the cupboard, and picking up a bottle of good
quality bleach instead, Martha stood up quickly and poured the liquid into a
cup, trying not to think about why she was pouring it out. While
she was doing that, she heard Giles's car pull into the yard. Thank you,
unlikely beverage to the client, Martha looked up as Giles strode into the
kitchen and watched as he greeted his guest, and asked him to accompany him to
the study. Afterwards, Giles smiled at her.
you for staying, Martha. Have a nice evening, and I'll see you tomorrow."
Martha thanked him, grabbed her bag and hurried out of the kitchen door. John
was getting into the car, and she knew he had been lurking at the back of the
house in case she needed help with her unhuman guest. Her coat was already in
the car, lying across the back seat, and she slithered into the passenger seat
and belted up.
On the journey
back home, Martha recounted her recent experience to her husband, still finding
it hard to believe that she had just acted as a hostess to something that most
people didn't even know existed.
parked the car in the garage, Martha set about preparing dinner. Giles had said
that she and John were always welcome to stay and share dinner with him, and
sometimes she did - especially if she had been working very late and didn't
want to cook a second meal when she got home. But in truth, she preferred to
have dinner at her own home, with just John for company. She glanced at her
watch. She had forty minutes to get it done - that ought to be enough to make a
quick pasta meal.
thirty; Five minutes later, husband and wife were seated comfortably on the
settee, dinner and pudding adorning decorative trays perched over their laps.
Martha breathed a sigh of relief; not a moment too soon, the familiar theme
music of her favourite television programme wafted over them, and for the next
half hour there were no vampires or demons, just the escapades of the human
inhabitants of Albert Square.
and refreshed, Martha got up to carry the dirty dishes out to the sink. The
phone rang and she answered it. "Hello?"
It was Giles. "You haven't moved the bag with my potions in, have you? I
can't find it."
"You left it on the hall table, and I put it under the stairs before your
last client arrived."
did?" She could hear the relief in his voice. "That's wonderful!
Thank you, Martha. Have a nice evening."
to reply but the phone went dead. "You can answer the next phone
call," she told John as he carried his tray out to the kitchen. "I'm
She had just
finished loading the dripping crockery onto the drainer when John came into the
kitchen to help her wipe up. He turned to get a fresh tea towel from the
drawer, and for some reason, Martha was reminded of the sounds coming from
Buffy and Angel's room this afternoon. Her John was still such a fine looking
all right?" She blinked, realising that John was looking at her in
concern. "Not having hot flushes, are you?"
I…" her voice trailed away and she wondered when it got so hard to tell
him how she felt. Go for it. She took a deep breath. "Do you
remember when we were younger, and we…"
closest to the phone and went to answer it. Martha's heart sunk. It had to
be one of the kids. Their sense of timing had always been impeccable, and even
at a distance, they seemed to know when their parents might be getting up to
love! How are you?"
suspicions were confirmed as she heard her husband's pleased exclamation.
"You are? That's wonderful!" There was silence as John had apparently
exhausted his stock of conversation. When he could get a word in, he muttered,
"I'll get your mother."
chuckled, leaving the things on the drainer for John to take care of, and took
the phone from her partner's hand. She put the phone to her ear, recognising
her daughter's excited chatter and carried the phone into the lounge.
Katie. What have you been up to?"
pleased to hear that," Martha replied, wondering who this week's Mr. Right
was. Gordon? Or was it Adam? "So… Adam's in your good books, is he?"
was loud over the phone. "Adam was weeks ago, mum. Andrew is
this Andrew like?"
Martha curled her feet up onto the settee to get more comfortable. Her
youngest daughter's accounts of her love life had a tendency to be time
consuming. Katie was already well into her account of how mature/rich/clever
this Andrew was. How he had been so gentlemanly when she had met him…
up and smiled her thanks when John deposited a welcome cup of tea on the arm of
her chair and withdrew quickly. Women's talk always made him a bit
uncomfortable. He decided he'd be
better off in the kitchen, and if the call lasted for a bit he'd get the
football scores off of the internet and leave them be.
And so winds
down a normal day in the extraordinary life of Martha Louise Fletcher - mother,
wife, friend and housekeeper to Rupert Giles and the team at Project
Paranormal. Tomorrow… now that could be a different story…
Thanks to Jo,
as always, for the beta.