Copyright is held by the author.
IT WAS strange to sit up in bed and smell coffee coming from the kitchen and realize I wasn’t the first person up. I liked the idea of a hot cup of coffee waiting for me downstairs. But for so long it had been my kitchen and my kitchen alone I’d grown accustomed to doing the coffee and everything else on my own.
Steam sifted out through a half-closed bathroom door as I passed it, tugging my housecoat over my pink, cotton nightie. I usually wore pajamas, long ones that covered my legs because I often kicked the covers off in the night. But they were all in the wash. Everything it seemed, was in the wash. That’s how it is when someone else moves in with you. Your routine changes and life is never the same.
In the kitchen, he stood looking bewildered at an open cupboard and turned to face me. “Morning.” A soft smile curved at the corners of his mouth. “How did you sleep?” he asked.
“Good morning,” I mumbled reaching for an empty cup. “Mmm, I love the smell of coffee in the morning. Thanks for doing that.”
He leaned down and gave me a peck on the cheek. “No problem. I don’t know where you keep everything or I would have made you breakfast too.”
“It’s okay,” I said squeezing past him in my tiny kitchen to get the milk from the fridge. “I hardly ever eat breakfast anymore, but I can make you something if you like.”
“No, thanks. I’ll grab something on my way out. There’s a Timmies just around the corner.”
“Alright love.” I don’t know why I added the “love.” I never called anyone “love” — ever! But it seemed right that I should call him that.
He left me alone then, went upstairs to finish dressing and I sipped my creamy coffee and browsed through the obituaries in the paper. It was my least favourite thing to read, but essential at my age to know who was still with us and who wasn’t. It simply wouldn’t do to meet someone in town and ask about their husband only to find out he’d passed away a week ago.
So, The Post kept me up to date and if it didn’t I had Millie Freeman across the road. She knew everything about everybody and she kept no secrets, even the ones people asked her to keep. Once you learned that about Millie you never told her anything that was a real, true secret. You only told her the stuff people would find out eventually anyway. Such a gossip that woman!
He came back to the kitchen pushing an unruly flap of black hair in place over his brow and yanked a suit jacket off the back of his chair. “Now, I have a late appointment today, so if you can wait, we’ll make dinner together when I get home. I’ll pick up everything we need and a bottle of wine, okay?”
“Okay. That sounds lovely.” I smiled back at eyes so blue they reminded me of the ocean. Not an ordinary blue, but blue-green, light in some places and darker in others, as if the depth of their colour somehow held the depth of his soul. He stood there, gazing at me, his tall frame filling the doorway. He was dressed up today, professional looking in his grey suit and yellow Michael Kors shirt with matching tie. It had been ages since I’d seen him in that suit not since . . .
“Red or white?” He asked with some insistence as if it weren’t the first time he’d posed the question and I realized I’d been lost in thought.
“Oh! Whatever you like. It doesn’t matter to me. What are we having, chicken, fish, beef?”
“Never mind. I’ll just get one of each. We can put one away for another time.” He bent down and grazed my cheek again with the softest of kisses and I pulled him in for a hug.
His arms around me felt wonderful; warm, safe and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I wanted to ask him to stay home today; to sit with me and talk of old times, to look through the pictures, like we’d done last night. But he was fidgety and I sensed, anxious to be on his way. I let him go and called out as he headed for the door. “Have a good day,” hoping it would truly be a good day for him, wishing with all my heart that he would be happy and successful and find fulfillment in whatever it was he was doing today.
“See you later,” he called out as he pulled the door closed behind him.
And then I was alone.
Not even a cat to curl up at my feet or a dog to walk. “Perhaps I should get a dog,” I said to the room as I pushed back from the table. “No, too much trouble carrying all those poop bags around and some days I don’t feel much like the kind of walk a dog would need.” I’d had this argument with myself before; several times.
The mail would be in the box by now. Jerry always came before eight. Such a nice man, Jerry. He had a smile for everyone and he never crossed over the flower beds like that substitute who came when Jerry was on holidays. Jerry wore one of those Fitbits. He showed it to me once and said he clocked in over twenty thousand steps a day on his route. I shouldn’t wonder since he does nearly the whole village every day.
As I pushed open the screen door, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, across the road on Millie’s front porch. Oh dear! I should have waited to get my mail. Now she’ll want to talk. She’ll invite me in for coffee and I’ll never get away. I have things to do. The laundry for one, so I can wear pajamas tonight and not this ratty old night gown. I simply do not want to be sitting in Millie Freeman’s kitchen all morning.
But she didn’t ask. She simply waved and called out. “Morning Sarah. Nice having your Joe home, isn’t it?”
My Joe! My Joe! Whatever did she mean? Joe’s been dead for nearly ten years. The woman had gone bonkers!
She must have seen my frown, though how she could from all the way over there I don’t know, but she came toward me before I could answer.
“Are you all right Sarah? You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine Millie. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I crossed my arms over my chest — a clear sign I didn’t want her to pry or worse yet to come inside. I didn’t want to sit at her place and I didn’t want her sitting at mine. I had things to do.
“Well, when I said that . . . about Joe being here? You got a funny look on your face.”
“Millie,” I looked her straight in the eye. “You know that Joe’s been dead for years don’t you? Are you trying to find gossip where there is none?”
She laughed then, her insidious little giggle that she always did when she was about to impart some tidbit she wasn’t supposed to. It made me feel inferior, dumb because I didn’t know what she knew. And it hurt, cut deep into me because for just a moment, it seemed I was some kind of joke or something.
“No, darling. I mean Joe, your son. The tall handsome lad, who’s recently separated. The one who moved in with you because you need taking care of.”
“Oh . . . that Joe.” I pushed away the confusion and looked her square in the eye. “So that’s who that handsome man was who made my coffee this morning.”