Light Lifting

Catherine laid her clubs in the boot, changed her shoes and drove home. The house was still and smelled of polish. Martina must have been and gone. Catherine had hoped to catch her and ask her to make scones for the coffee morning tomorrow. Never mind; lunch with Edith at the club house had been nice and she quite liked making scones herself. There was something pleasing about rubbing in butter and pressing squashy dough into pale fluted discs.
She sat in the kitchen, her back warmed by the Aga, dust turning in an April sunbeam above the table and realised she’d not sat here with anyone for ages. She had no idea where Paul was. Probably Probus or the Kirk session or some other dull community activity. No point checking her phone to find out. No risk of an affair. No point calling Susan or Robbie either as they’d both be at work. She’d Skype them on Sunday and exchange facts for twenty minutes or so. They were doing fine down South. Gap years long gone, they both had good jobs of the kind their school had taught them to expect. The daughter in law with the glossy hair and the invisible sneer was expecting a first child in June. Catherine would be expected to visit, compliment whatever ridiculous name she gave it, coo incessantly and beg to wipe its tiny arse. Because, as everyone knows, there is only one thing a retired woman likes more than home baking and that is babies. She missed having a cat, warm, present and inconsiderate. She drained another mug of tea and wondered about gin at two o’clock. Fuck this.
When had she last tucked in her dress to swim in a river, watched the dawn, slept under a tree, woken on a beach? The years of hitchhiking, pot smoking, floor sleeping, hand to mouth, moving on. Edith and the rest didn’t know, wouldn’t understand. She wasn’t sure Paul remembered. That word “fuck” - another of the hidden things. The vocabulary she didn’t use, the opinions she didn’t share. The skills she hadn’t used for so long that she had almost forgotten them. Time to brush the rust off. She could make scones when she got back.
She left the mug in the sink and climbed the stairs two at a time. No need for a hip replacement yet. What to wear and where to go? She turned in the mirror. Hair a neat, angled grey bob and it looked expensive. Jenners, then. A stretchy printed dress and jacket should work. Body underneath still slim and fit enough to run. Nice soft handbag. Costume jewellery perhaps?
In town, she lifted 3 necklaces, palmed the glittery green one, carefully examined the other two, put them back on the stand and moved on to ask the Dior ladies about foundation. She sat, buzzing, on the 41 bus home, so alive, trying not to grin.
The scones turned out perfect and the green necklace raised £25 in the auction for a worthy and uncontentious charity, Teenage Cancer Trust was it?
A fortnight of coffee mornings dragged by before she got another chance. Her game was rained off and she barely managed not to run all the way to the bus stop.
She was fingering earrings when she saw him, over by the men’s gloves. He hadn’t spotted her but she’d seen that look before. She watched him lift three pairs and return two to the stand, then strolled across to wrap an arm round his waist. “Hello Paul”, she said.

Lindsey Henderson

March 2015