CREATIVE Candy Neubert

NWR Issue 105

Monthly Payments

Six months before, Diane came in and put the shopping on the table, exactly like that. He said, ‘The hospital rang; he’s not well.’ Straight away she knew who it was, even though they never mentioned him, ever.

She put the shopping on the table now. It was eerily the same, as if they were reconstructing a scene for the police. Her thin shoulders in the same red coat, the bags dropped to the table, Morrisons and Tesco and the green canvas one, A Bag For Life.

Brian opened the fridge and put the cold stuff away. He made tea, covering the pot with the blue tea cosy with sprigged flowers, a link with his mother. Finally he sat on the back doorstep, looking down the garden, while Diane took off her coat and her town shoes, and rinsed the cups.

She might come and join him; he’d like it if she did. She could bring the tea and sit next to him on the step, resting her knee against his, sharing his tobacco and a lighted match.
He heard the tea, poured out. The newspaper was unfolded, there was a pause; she handed his cup over his shoulder.

‘Thanks’, he said.

‘Mm’, she replied. But she didn’t join him. After a moment he heard her leave the kitchen, and presently a chair scraped the floor of the front room. She’d be sitting down in there, doing the charity shop books.

There were a lot of books this time; Brian collected them from the re-cycling centres once a month. Perhaps this time she’d find one or two for her-self. She took the first one from the nearest pile and checked the cover, front and back. Then she set it down and gazed out of the window.

It was the boy’s birthday today; of course she had remembered. Even though the boy was now dead, it was still his birthday and Brian was feeling it. He’d be thinking about it, sitting on the step with his tea. She could have sat there with him, saying nothing; even the cat would do as much, if either of them was troubled.

The garden was coming back to life, the daffodils up, the ends of the lilac fat with green. It had been the garden she couldn’t leave when they might have made a clean break and moved away. New owners would strip the house and start again. They might dig the garden over and turn it all to lawn, or add decking with an outdoor heater like the Marlows at number 26. In the end she and Brian had stayed; it was her decision, as everything was...

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