NO, OUR BEST CHINA’S IN THERE!!!
Mr and Mrs Privet, of number five Dorsley Drive, were anything but normal. They had been normal only a few weeks earlier, but they were now as crazy as those incarcerated in the local loony bin.
On the outside, Mr Privet, a tall, bald and incredibly thin man, appeared quite normal, but just beneath the surface, barely hidden, he was a seething mass of nervous ticks, idiosyncratic behaviour, peptic ulcers and, above all, just plain looniness. As well as suffering from the same mad ways as her loopy husband, the extraordinarily fat Mrs Privet was also suffering from the dreadful infliction of hearing voices in her head. She might hear them at any time of the day or night, and would oftentimes jump up in her bed, screaming in a most alarming way, giving her husband such a fright he would begin shaking uncontrollably. It was a most dreadful state of affairs altogether. Despite suffering from these awful conditions, Mr and Mrs Privet tried to continue living as normal a life as was possible, but hardly a day went by without one of them experiencing a mad interlude that would make most normal people simply roll over and die.
Before I continue with my story, I must also tell you about their son Box, Box Privet. This child (the veritable apple of their eyes) was, like his father, of a tall and incredibly thin physique. At times, this trait would cause him to be the butt of jokes and jibes by his classmates and acquaintances. However, he paid little or no attention to them, because his mind was always set firmly on the love, the passion of his life – electronics. Upstairs, in his small bedroom, Box would work for hours on end with his soldering iron, long nose pliers and tweezers, creating, crafting bringing his new ideas to life. It was a lonely existence, but he loved it.
I have already told you how Mr and Mrs Privet had been quite normal only a few weeks earlier. In all truthfulness, the Privet’s had been one of the happiest families in their entire estate of mock Elizabethan detached houses. But
now they were mad, living in fear for their lives, the happy and contented existence they had so enjoyed, in tatters, a shambles, a mere shadow of what it had once been.
You see, the Privet’s had been hiding a secret, a big secret. And while it had been contained and suppressed, as they felt is should still be, they had been enjoying that happy and contented life, but from the moment, the very instant this secret, this terrible secret had escaped from its place of incarceration, a private boarding school going by the name of Hagswords, their happy and carefree life had come to an abrupt end.
This secret, this big dark secret was in reality a young girl, an orphan, the Privet’s only niece, going by the of Harry Rotter. She had actually been baptised Harriet, but from an early age had insisted that everyone call her Harry.
Let me tell you about Harriet – Harry… She was the boldest, cruellest, nastiest child you could ever be unfortunate enough to meet. To look as her, with her flowing locks of golden hair and a face that appeared so innocent, so angelic, one might easily be fooled into believing that butter could last forever in her mouth without melting. But she wasn’t an angel, no, the unfortunate truth, the terrible truth was she was an out and out scoundrel, a bully who had no respect for anyone but herself. Bullies can and so very often do make the lives of those living around them as miserable as hell – Harry proved to be no exception to this rule.
While Harriet – Harry – had been safely ensconced in her school everything had been just fine, and the Privet’s had been able to forgot about their troublesome niece, but from the moment she broke out, escaped from that high security ‘special’ boarding school, and found her way to the home of her only living relations, the Privets, their lives changed forever.
“Excuse me, please,” said Harry, ever so mannerly when Mrs Privet opened the front door, “I am your only niece. Will you please put me up for a few days?”
“Its young Harriet, isn’t it?” said Mrs Privet, patting her nervously upon the head. “Are you on a school break?”
Ignoring the question while resisting the urge to kick the condescending woman in the shins, Harry smiled, and said, “I prefer to be called Harry, if it all right with you?”
“Yes, yes, that’s fine,” said Mrs Privet as she ushered Harry through the doorway, looking up and down the road, to see if anyone had been following her. The road, however, was deserted. “Please go into the front room,” said Mrs Privet. The cat made a mad dash past Harry, through the open doorway.
Harry entered the room. It reminded her of Hagswords – far too much stained glass and wood panelling for her liking. “Sit down, sit down, Harry, and make yourself comfortable,” said Mrs Privet. “I will go fetch you some lemonade, you must be so thirsty after your travelling. Then I will go tell your uncle the good news.”
Leaving Harry alone in the room, Mrs Privet returned to the hallway where she opened the small door under the stairs that led down to the cellar, a den of sorts. Calling her husband, she said, “Dear…. we have a visitor…”
“Who is it?” a voice called up from below.
“It’s your niece.”
BANG. There was a sound like a baldhead striking a beam in the low slung ceiling, and then there was silence.
“Did you hear me, darling?”
Mumbles from below.
Mr Privet began speaking, and in a hushed voice, he asked, “Are you sure it’s our niece – THAT niece?”
“Yes, dear, it’s young Harriet – I mean Harry, Harry Rotter.”
“Harriet or Harry – you should know what sex they are.”
“He, she’s a girl, she just likes the name Harry – shortened, you know.”
“I don’t know if I know anything anymore,” Mr Privet grumbled as he made his way up the narrow staircase, “having to deal with your ‘unusual’ relations. Puffing and panting, Mr Privet emerged from the cellar. “Where is she, then?” he barked, looking up and down the hallway.
“I put her in the front room.”
“Our best china’s in there!” he hollered, storming down the hallway and then bursting into the room like an elephant was chasing after him. Inside, he found Harry carefully inspecting a piece of their hand-painted fine bone china.
“That’s an heirloom – but it’s not worth anything,” he muttered, eying Harry’s canvas shoulder bag with suspicion, while also trying, but unsuccessfully, to close the battered door.
“Not worth anything?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No, not a penny…”
“Can I have it, then, as a keepsake?”
Almost choking on his words, Mr Privet fumbled to find others, words that might save his prized china.
“I… we…we can’t give it away… we promised your Granny, on her death bed, that we would always treasure it…”
Studying his face, particularly the sweat beading upon it, Harry searched for signs of deceit. “Okay,” she said, “it was just a thought.” Then scanning the room, she added, “There must be loads of things amongst all this rubbish that you don’t want.”
“No, no, everything’s spoken for,” Mr Privet squeaked in reply. Then changing the subject from their prized possessions, he asked Harry the reason for her visit.
“Oh, I have already told your wife,” she said, “I will be staying with you for a few days…”
This time Mr Privet almost choked on Harry’s words.
Mrs Privet, carrying a tray with a tall glass of lemonade upon it, entered the room, “Everything all right?” she asked, smiling innocently at them.