Or how I learnt to stop worrying and love the bubble

Act One, Scene Eleven

Cuthbert’s bedroom. CUTHBERT is pacing. HILDA is seated, sewing.

Cuthbert: Have you heard anything from her?

Hilda: No, dear.

Cuthbert: Has anyone?

Hilda: No, dear.

Cuthbert: Have you found out where she lives?

Hilda: No, dear.

Cuthbert: What about Butterwood’s file?

Hilda: I told you: Butterwood’s file is closed – even I can’t get access to it.

Cuthbert: In the name of Klute, where can she be?

Hilda: She’ll turn up again, you’ll see. Don’t let it worry you.

Cuthbert: But what if she doesn’t? What if she was lying when we spoke? What if she finds me repulsive? What if this black eye is the truest expression of her feelings?

Hilda: Oh, what if? What if? Man up and grow a pair, will you? I saw the way that girl looked at you as she left: she loves you and there’s no doubt about it. We will find her or else she will find you, you just have to give these things time.

MARY enters, escorted by GUARDS.

Guard 1: My lord, this woman here claims to be from Dr Butterwood, bringing you this week’s lab work. Shall we detain her?

Cuthbert: Mary!

Guard 2: Do you know this woman, my lord?

MARY violently shakes her head.

Cuthbert: I mean, um, Mary … merry … Merry Klutemas to one and all. All must be merry. Guardsmen, you may take the evening off, go with my wishes and spread the word of good tidings.

Guard 1: (looking uncertainly at GUARD 2). Uh, thank you, my lord.

(GUARDS exit).

Mary: Merry Klutemas? That’s the best you could do?

Hilda: Oh, that’s fairly standard; his best has to be when he tried to explain why his bed sheets were soaked.

Cuthbert: I had upset the water jug. Anyway, do we have to bring up ancient history?

Hilda: Ancient history? It was last Tuesday. (Aside to MARY). Suffers from nightmares, the poor dear.

Cuthbert: Yes, thank you, Hilda. Mary, this is Hilda, my nurse; Hilda, this is Mary.

Both: Pleased to meet you.

Cuthbert: Now, nurse, don’t you have some sewing or something to do?

Hilda: Oh, yes, got it right here.

Cuthbert: …In the other room.

Hilda: All right, I’ll leave you too lovebirds alone. Just don’t stay up too late.

(HILDA exits.)

Cuthbert: Hello, Mary, I was worried I wouldn’t see you again.

Mary: Cuthbert, I have to say goodbye.

Cuthbert: What?

Mary: I’m sorry, Cuthbert, I have to go away.

Cuthbert: What? I … why? Is it something I’ve done?

Mary: (laughing). No, Cuthbert dearest, it’s not you it all, don’t even think about something like that. I love you, you know that.

Cuthbert: I…

Mary: You do know that? (pause). Oh, Klute, I’ve done it again, I’m moving too fast. I’m sorry, Cuthbert, I didn’t mean to scare you…

Cuthbert: Oh no, Mary, don’t be absurd. Nothing you can do can scare me, not after… (He gestures to his eye). And, you know that I love you too. Now, why do you have to go?

Mary: I can’t say much – Butterwood’s sworn me to secrecy – but I will say that we’re leaving the Bubble.

Cuthbert: What? Mary, that’s suicide, you know that.

Mary: It’ll be dangerous, yes, but Butterwood knows what he’s doing – he is a doctor. But there’s more: if Butterwood is right, this could change the nature of Durham forever

Cuthbert: That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?

Mary: Maybe so, but I have no choice: I owe Butterwood so much; I need to help him with this.

Cuthbert: But it’s suicide. No one has ever left the Bubble and returned alive.

Mary: That’s not true. What about the refugee camp on the hill? They’ve survived in the wasteland.

Cuthbert: Yes, and it drove them insane. The odds are certain – there’s no hope out there.

Mary: That I refuse to believe. If Butterwood believes there is something out there, then I have hope. I’m sorry if you think otherwise.

Cuthbert: But why take the risk?

Mary: Because what is there for me here? No hope, no joy, trapped in this hellhole with nothing to look forward to save a watery grave. At least out there, there might be something.

Cuthbert: I was hoping there might be something here.

Mary: Oh, Cuthbert, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Look, I’ve said I love you, and I mean it, what more is there that I can say? It’s just, I can’t live in this place anymore, I feel like I’m suffocating, you must understand.

Cuthbert: (extravagantly). Oh, of course I do. Who are you talking to? The son of an ignorant father and a neglectful mother, still tied to a nurse seventeen years after I learnt to care for myself, playing the smiling host to an array of drunks, perverts and madman. You are the only ray of sunlight into my prison, and I don’t think I could go back to life before you.


Mary: (quietly). Come with me.

Cuthbert: What?

Mary: Come with me. If you can’t bear this place, leave it. We can leave Durham, leave the Bubble, find a new life out in the wasteland.

Cuthbert: Oh, Mary, I would love to but I can’t just run away with you. Wherever I go in Durham, my father will find me.

Mary: But we’re not going to be in Durham, we’ll be beyond even his reach.

Cuthbert: You don’t know how far he would go to get me back.

Mary: I thought he hated you.

Cuthbert: Oh, he despises me, but I’m useful, and if I disappear he’ll lose face, so he can never let me go.

Mary: And you won’t try?

Cuthbert: I would, I truly would, if there was a possibility of success, but it truly is futile. You must understand.

Mary: I don’t, but I know that you’ll have your reasons, and I respect that. (Pause). I’d best be off.

Cuthbert: Okay, unless, maybe, you’d like to stay the night.

Mary: I don’t know: Butterwood wants to be off early tomorrow morning.

Cuthbert: Well, maybe just five minutes then?

Mary: If it’s only going to be five minutes, there’s not much point. Oh, go on then.

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