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The Clarkson family lived in the country near Cambridge, about half a mile from the nearest village and about a mile from the river. They had a big, old house with a beautiful garden, a lot of flowers and many old trees.
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One Thursday morning in July, Jackie came in from the garden. She was a tall, fat woman, thirty years old. It was the hottest day of the year, but she wore a warm brown skirt and yellow shirt. She went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Just then the phone rang.
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"Cambridge 1379," Jackie said.
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"Hello. This is Diane. I want to talk to Mother."
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"Mother isn't here," Jackie said. "She's at the doctor's."
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"Why? What's Wrong?"
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"Nothing's wrong," Jackie said. "Why are you telephoning? You are going to come this weekend? Mother wants everyone to be here."
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"Yes, I want to come," Diane said. "I'm phoning because I have no money for the train ticket."
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"No money! Mother is always giving you money!"
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"This phone call is very expensive," Diane said coldly. "Tell Mother please. I need the money."
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Jackie put the phone down. She took a cigarette from her bag and began to smoke. She felt angry because her sister always asked for money. Diane was twenty years old, the youngest in the family. She lived in London, in one room of a big house. She wanted to be a singer. She sang very well but she could never get work.
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Jackie went back into the kitchen and began to make some sandwiches. Just then the back door opened, and her mother came in.
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"It's very hot!" Molly said. She took off her hat and put it down on the table. She was a tall, dark woman with beautiful eyes.
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Two big, black dogs came into the kitchen after her and ran across to her. She sat down and put her hands on their heads.
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Jackie put the sandwiches on the table. "Mother," she said, "Diane phoned. She wants money for her train ticket."
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Molly closed her eyes for a minute. Then she stood up. "This afternoon I want you to get the house ready for the weekend," she said. "Oh, and please go to the village later and get my tablets."
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"Yes, Mother," Jackie said.
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Molly went to the door.
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"Mother, please wait a minute," Jackie said. "Peter Hobbs came here this morning. He's very angry with you about that letter. He lost his job, you know. Why did you write to his office? He wants to talk to you about it."
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"Well, I don't want to talk to him," Molly said. She opened the door.
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"But Mother, you don't understand. He's seventeen, and it was his first job. He's very, very angry. He says… he says he's going to kill you!"
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Molly did not answer. She went out of the room and closed the door.
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