Penny Alderman is annoying in so many ways. She thinks she's better than me, that's the real trouble. No, tell a lie, the REAL problem is she often seems to be proved right.
Her grades at school were always that bit better than mine. Her hair was shinier. She married sooner than me to someone much better off. Someone who didn't leave her to deal with a crippling mortgage and pitying looks.
She isn't better though. She cheats. She did it at school – copied coursework contributed to her good grades. She got pregnant on purpose, to trap that husband of hers. And later she cheated on him.
The final straw was the cake competition. For years she's won that. I didn't know until recently as I don't usually attend the village show. It's always on the bank holiday, and I'm needed in the Rose and Ferret on bank holidays, and weekends, and all the other times the likes of Penny want someone to cook for them instead of lifting a finger herself.
It's not just Sunday roasts and evening dinners I do, but cakes and the like. Eat in or take away. It was one of mine which won Penny the prize, I'm sure of it. Iced it up fancy she had, so I wouldn't have known except for the look on her face. I've seen that expression before.
There didn't seem much point in saying anything. Nobody would have believed me, would they? You can't prove who baked a particular cake, especially once it's been eaten – and she donated that one to the tea sales pretty sharpish. Then she said she wasn't going to enter in future. She'd give someone else a chance. Maybe she felt guilty. More likely she'd realised that with me in the know she couldn't get away with it again.
I don't like cheats, but my courses of action were limited.
You've probably heard the advice about writing letters you'll never send, to people who annoy you. The idea is you rant as much as you like, swear, threaten – whatever you fancy. Then once you've got everything off your chest, you'll feel better. Perhaps even decide you've over reacted. It doesn't work. Writing to Penny just reminded me of every single thing she'd done to annoy me.
Slightly more satisfying would have been to write the letter AND send it. That was tempting, but not realistic. Somehow I couldn't tell her all that to her face, and signing the thing and shoving it through her door was beyond me. That's why people like her keep getting away with stuff, isn't it? Nobody dares put them right.
The thought of not signing did cross my mind. Poison pen letters they're called, when you send them anonymously. But if I left out all the bits which would tell her it was me, there wouldn't be much virtual poison.
Real poison seemed a better bet. It's hard to get someone to eat a letter, unless they're a baby or a dog and I have nothing against either. There is one kind of paper people eat though – rice paper. That's the thin coating on the bottom of nougat and macaroons. We have a stock in the Rose and Ferret. I ordered quite a lot a while back, and make a batch of macaroons now and then, to justify doing so. I wrote on a sheet, then baked a cake, using a special extra ingredient. Penny will have to eat a slice, because once she stopped competing in the village competition she was asked to be judge. That means tasting the entries. I entered under a false name – a poison pen cake!
I know it'll work as I've done it before. My husband you see. When I said he left, I didn't mean it in the dearly departed way, not at first. His death came after I'd kicked him out. In fact right after he tasted the cake I sent him. The one with two letters. A faked note, on scented notepaper, rested on top of the box. 'Something sweet for my sweet' it said and was apparently signed by his mistress. Another, written on rice paper and signed by me was baked into the bottom. That one said, 'I know you cheated on me with Penny. I don't like cheats'.
The one I've written to Penny, and which I've baked into the bottom of my entry, says much the same thing. Judging starts just about now, so she'll be dead within minutes.
You know, I'm feeling better already.
(c) Patsy Collins