Now Mara, as I have indicated, is a Bitch. Some might simply call her "wealthy and discerning". The thing is, she doesn't carry that air of royalty about her. She rarely seems to be happy though, with the service provided, and she is always the one to mobilise her neighbours and make a complaint. She is about 85, and does everything for herself, but is slow and purposeful and watchful, almost as if she wants something to be wrong so that she can make another complaint. One of those people who seem to enjoy being miserable.
Mara has a newspaper delivered every day. The newsagent writes the resident's name on each one and puts the papers in the Royale's lounge area, because it's the closest room to the street that he can access at 5am each morning. Most of the residents are in there fairly early to collect them, and only a couple of papers are still waiting for their owners by 9am.
In a village with this many people, things don't always run perfectly. Sometimes the pharmacy is late delivering headache tablets. Sometimes the caterer brings an extra container of cranberry sauce. Sometimes, a paper would be missing. These things happen. We paid little attention to it and just advised the owners of the missing papers to get in touch with the newsagent.
But over time it became just one person's paper missing - Mara's. And she was Not Happy, complaining that the papers were being left in an unsecure area, and that the newsagent insisted it was being delivered, so that it must be being stolen. I believed the newsagent - one phone call from Mara would have been memorable enough for him to check specifically for her paper as he delivered each morning. So being fairly active, she began staking out the lounge room, and whom should she catch trying to return her paper at 7am but Ruby, thinking nobody would find out she'd been reading it.
Ruby and Mara are next-door neighbours. This was not going to be pretty.
Mara confronted Ruby and said, "If you want to share my paper, you can pay half the cost of it." This, I thought, was very generous and accomodating of Mara. It was quite unlike her. The Mara I knew should have simply boiled over in fury for the theft. But Ruby was indignant and not having any of this idea, claiming that she hadn't been stealing the paper, but that she had only accidentally taken the wrong paper that day. Funny, someone had accidentally taken Mara's paper every day for weeks. I wonder whom it could have been! Silly Ruby. A half price newspaper was a good deal. Apparently that was still more than "free" and so not of interest for her at all.
And so it began. Ruby had a habit of collecting the unwanted cakes, biscuits and fruit from other tables' serving plates at each mealtime, wrapping them in a napkin and taking them to her room. Mara dug her heels in, and began telling her entire table to either eat them or put them on their own plates, simply to stop Ruby getting them. Her tablemates did as she asked. Ruby scowled a lot in that direction. A great deal of food ended up in the rubbish while Mara kept her smirk in place.
I was sure that the next round could happen at any time. And I sincerely hoped that when the proverbial **** hit the fan, that I was somewhere nearby in a ringside seat.