The Morning Room: Extract

(A short extract from midway through the play. Sarah and Ralph are discussing what to do with their mother’s jewellery )

Sarah: They’re too old-fashioned to wear. Such heavy settings.

Ralph: Have them reset. There are plenty of people.

Sarah: I’d rather have them sold.

Ralph: What?

Sarah: Sold. All my share. The house. The furniture. The jewellery. All sold.

Ralph: But why? What, for?

Sarah: Look at me. Do you really need to ask? I want the money. I want to do something with my life.

Ralph: Such as?

Sarah: Travel. See the world. Enjoy myself for once. Just a little. Don’t you think I have the right?

Ralph: But so suddenly.

Sarah: No, not suddenly, Ralph. Every day for the past thirty years. I’m sixty years old. How old that used to be! I never thought I’d live till I was sixty. If you can call it living. I’m the person everyone thinks of when they think of someone worse off than themselves. Someone with no life at all. But now I will. I don’t feel old. For once God has been merciful. He’s given me another chance. Not to feel my age. And I must take it while I can.

Ralph: But how?

Sarah: I retire at the end of March. No problems there. I’ll have my pension. Such as it is. Enough to keep body and soul together. But now I’ll have this. Whatever it brings. To take care of the rest.

Ralph: You want to sell the house?

Sarah: And split the proceeds,

Ralph: But you can’t!

Sarah: Why not?

Ralph: It’s our home. We were born here.

Sarah: Do I have to die here too? Do I have to let it run full circle? It was too big when there were the two of us. On my own I’d disappear.

Ralph: I’d be back in the holidays. As usual.

Sarah: And I’m to sit here waiting, like some unhappy schoolgirl desperate for the hols?

Ralph: You can’t be serious.

Sarah: Try me.

Ralph: I love this house. It’s almost a part of me. Whenever I dream, I picture myself here. Never the flat. Even when the rest of the dream’ s up to date.

Sarah: You can go on dreaming. There’s nothing to stop that.

Ralph: No? Not even you?

Sarah: I lived here for mother’s sake. That was one thing. Must I now do the same for you?

Ralph: I can’t believe you want to let it go.

Sarah: If you. were so in love with the place, why did you. run off at the first opportunity? Why didn’t you stay and live here?

Ralph: I had to go where I could find work.

Sarah: There are schools in Manchester. You could have found a place in one of them. You didn’t have to go to London to look for schools.

Ralph: It was different for me. You know that.

Sarah: Oh yes. Of course. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not blaming you, Ralph. The only one I blame is myself for not going too.

Ralph: I came back. Every holiday. I did my share.

Sarah: Your share’. What about mine? Both workdays and holidays. First father then mother. And I was fool enough to feel obliged.

Ralph: You did your duty.

Sarah: You’re so out of date. People don’t do their duty any more. They do what they please. But not me. I was born out of date. People ring up the surgery. They want to make appointments. I ask them what’s wrong. And it’ s not like in the old days, something broken or bruised. A well-known cure. But something in the mind. They can’t face life. They burst into tears without warning. Their heads ache for no reason at all. Their bodies are giving up on them, you see. Telling them they can’t go on. Why doesn’t mine? Why does mine let me dress it and walk to the bus stop and ride to the surgery and sit at the desk and break for sandwiches and answer enquiries and come back home and make the dinner? Why does mine let me do all that to it without saying ‘no’?

Ralph: You’re upset. Sit down. You’ve taken more than you’ll admit.

Sarah: I am not upset! Not how you think. Every day mother would ask for an account of what I’d done, and every day I’d try to find something to tell her. Some new emergency. As though I bore the brunt. Sometimes when we were especially busy, I’d have to stay late in the evenings, until all the patients had gone. Mother would ask where I’d been, and I would make a mystery of it, as though I’d done something unpredictable. Stopped off on the way home. But she knew. She’d say ‘I suppose you had to stay late at the surgery’ as though that were all that was left to me.

Ralph: You won’ t have mother to ask any more.

Sarah: No. I won’t be answerable to anyone but myself. And I want to shock myself, Ralph. Shock myself till I can’t see for blushing. Like I’ve shocked you. You don’t know what to make of it. Well good. I’ll send you a postcard from on board ship.

Ralph: From where?

Sarah: My Caribbean cruise. That’s number one on my list.

Ralph: What about your friends? You’ve still had friends. Helen’s only just left.

Sarah: Dear Helen. Two old maid spinsters together. Making a fuss over things we’d never have noticed if we’d been on our own. How did we come to be friends? When was the moment I said ‘I choose you’? There must have been one. You don’ t become lifelong companions out of thin air. But I can’t think. Like everything else in my life, she just seems to have been there.