Betty, a woman of about 60, is browsing for books in the local branch library. A group of youngsters, led by a scruffy 14 year old come in and harangue her and the library assistant Vicky, a woman in her thirties.
Betty is distressed, but despite the intervention of the library assistant, the youths continue to behave in a threatening way.
An older woman, Mair, appears from behind a bookshelf and watches the melee.
The youths get a little too close to Betty and she screams.
Mair steps over and with a combination of authority and local knowledge of the youths and their families persuades them to leave.
After they go out, still defiant, Mair is left comforting a very shaken Betty. Mair insists that Betty comes home with her for a cup of tea after finding out that there are no facilities in the library.
Betty and Mair sit and drink tea on a clean yet slightly threadbare sofa. There’s a picture of a man in his forties on the mantelpiece.
While they talk it emerges that the man in the photograph is Mair’s son, who lives in London and is gay. Mair doesn’t seem to mind that her only child will probably never have children. She seems perfectly happy on her own as a widow, with her group of friends, all women in their sixties or seventies. There’ a photograph of Mair and three of her friends in a prime position on the mantelpiece.
Betty, on the other hand, is a timid, vulnerable person and Mair is surprised to hear that Betty has lived on the estate for 40 years, almost as long as she has.
Betty’s anxious to get home, because her husband will be expecting his food on the table.
Mair probes and Betty breaks down, admitting that her husband is a bully, she has no friends, a daughter who lives away and never visits, and is so distraught she’s on the verge of a complete breakdown. Her husband also suffers from emphysema and asthma and he overplays his illness so that she has to give him complete attention and read cowboy books to him, hence her visit to the library.
Suddenly she remembers the books and that she should have been back ages ago and he’ll be furious.
Mair tries to stop her but can’t.
Later – in Mair’s living room, Mair and her three friends are drinking wine and discussing Betty’s predicament. One of the women knows her a bit. They’re a bit drunk talking about their late husbands – they’re all widows. Suddenly they look at each other knowingly and stand up, getting their coats and leaving the house.
Betty answers the door to her house and finds the four tipsy women standing on her doorstep.
Her husband’s voice demands to know who’s there. Mair and the women storm in and confront him.
They cajole and bully him until he’s so worked up he starts an asthma attack.
Betty looks on aghast.
He pleads with his wife to help him. She rushes to the sideboard and picks up his asthma pump and moves towards him.
He reaches his hand and grabs the pump aggressively but he drops it and it rolls away from him.
He gestures frantically to his wife to pick it up. She picks it up and raises her arm to hold it out to him. He reaches for it, she withdraws her arm, he’s desperate. The women look at each other and smile.
The husband collapses on the living room floor.