1979. Valerie is married to Keith, Senior Pathologist at a leading London Hospital. But when she persuades him to let her go with him to the Staff Christmas, she makes a discovery that rocks her world – with tragic results.
VALERIE: I’m not being silly. It’s true. I am proud of you.
KEITH: Do you really mean that?
VALERIE: Of course.
KEITH: You’re not just saying it?
KEITH: Oh. Well. Thank you.
VALERIE: I only wish I could see you doing it more often. I’ve never actually seen you at work.
KEITH: You can hardly pop into the lab, now, can you?
VALERIE: No, but I could come to the Christmas Ball, couldn’t I?
KEITH: What Christmas Ball?
VALERIE: A little bird told me about one.
KEITH: For a moment I thought you were being serious.
VALERIE: I am. It’s tomorrow. In the Staff Social Club. Doors open at eight. They’ve got a jazz band – Harley and the Quins – and a sit down dinner at nine with dancing until two. You see. I know everything.
VALERIE: Uh-uh. No information till you say we’re going.
KEITH: But we’re not.
VALERIE: Oh, yes we are. Tomorrow night is Friday night and Friday night is Party Night.
KEITH: I’m working late tomorrow. I’m covering for a colleague.
VALERIE: If you were, you’d have told me by now. It’s no good, Keith: we’re going and that’s final.
KEITH: How will we get there? I can’t drive. Not if there’s going to be drinking.
VALERIE: We’ll phone for a taxi.
KEITH: That’s extravagant.
VALERIE: Keith! You are not going to deprive me of this. We haven’t been out – not “out” out – in years. I don’t understand why you’re so reluctant to go. You always used to like parties.
KEITH: That was years ago.
VALERIE: Well, I still like them. And I have got the tickets.
VALERIE: Two tickets. You and me. Eight pounds each.
KEITH: Eight pounds??
VALERIE: Cheap at the price.
KEITH: I don’t understand. How did you get them? How did you know about it in the first place?
VALERIE: Are we going? I’m not telling till you say yes.
KEITH: I don’t see how we can –
VALERIE: Uh-uh. Wrong answer. Ten point penalty. Over to the other side and no conferring.
KEITH: Now you’re being childish.
VALERIE: Are we going?
KEITH: You can go. You’ll enjoy it.
VALERIE: So you did know about it!
KEITH: And how did you know?
VALERIE: I told you: a little bird told me. Called Lucy. She’s just joined my dance class. Lucy Wainwright. (Pause. She looks at KEITH expectantly, but he does not react) Wife of Peter Wainwright? Don’t you know Peter Wainwright? He works in your department.
KEITH: Oh. Oh, yes, of course. I didn’t make the connection.
VALERIE: Keith, we are talking about a staff ball at King’s College Hospital. You work at King’s College Hospital in the Department of Pathology. Peter Wainwright works at King’s College Hospital in the Department of Pathology. How is the connection so difficult to spot?
KEITH: (Off) Yes?
VALERIE: Why did you do it? Tell me.
KEITH: (Off) I told you.
VALERIE: Yes, but – why did you really do it?
KEITH: (Off) I told you, Valerie. I don’t have to tell you a second time.
VALERIE: I suppose I should be glad you’re not a policeman. If I’d actually had a man in uniform all these years without realising it –
KEITH: (Off) Where’s the tin opener? I can’t find it.
VALERIE: It’s in the washing up bowl.
KEITH: (Off) Ah, yes.
KEITH: (Off) Now what?
VALERIE: Do you love me?
KEITH: (Off) What?
VALERIE: Do you love me? Really love me?
KEITH: (Off) You know I do.
VALERIE: No, Keith, I don’t know you do. I don’t know it at all.
KEITH: (Off) Does it matter?
VALERIE: Yes, as a matter of fact I think it matters very much indeed. You said you loved me. When I thought you were having an affair.
KEITH: (Off) Well, I do.
VALERIE: Yes, you do in a way. But not that much. Not enough to make you think of me instead of yourself. You love me a bit. Well, that’s all right, I suppose. At any rate, it will have to do.
KEITH: (Off) I don’t really know what you’re talking about.
VALERIE: I’m living in a fantasy, Keith. A little fantasy world of my own. You’re not the only one who can do it, you know. Only this one doesn’t involve going out. In this one, you stay indoors. Oh, you go out to work, of course, but you come back home every day and that’s when you start acting out your fantasy. You see, Keith, in my fantasy I imagine I’m in a loving relationship, with a man I love and who loves me. And we do all sorts of things together. We go on holiday and we have meals out and evenings in; we even try for children – not with any success, but we try – and we keep it going for years. It’s all a fantasy, of course, and one day it will all unravel, but until then I can really believe in this fantasy world of mine. It’s quite pleasant really. What do you think, Keith? How do you think it sounds?
KEITH: (Off) Table or laps?
VALERIE: Laps. Let’s really live the high life. Dinner suit and dress to eat beans on toast on our laps.