She pushed the letter between her thigh and the seat of the kitchen chair as her daughter came into the room.
“Was that the post I heard?”
“Yes, the usual rubbish. I’ve thrown it in the bin.”
“I’m off to work now.”
Jenny gave her mother a gentle kiss on the forehead, picked up her handbag, and headed for the front door.
Grace brushed her cheek as if trying to rub away the wrinkles that she was sure had multiplied since her forty-third birthday last week. Seeing her twenty-five-year-old daughter swoop up her handbag, hook it over her shoulder and then float out the front door only reminded her more of her age now she was the other side of forty.
Grace pulled the letter from underneath her leg, opened it, and began to read. It was just a few lines. She took an in-breath as her eyes scanned the page.
I’ve decided to come back to England to stay this time.
Can we meet at the station on Saturday?
My train gets in at 11:55.
No love. No kisses. Just Derek.
What could she make of the letter? Should she tell Jenny? Grace spent all day wondering what to do. She found it hard to focus. She kept putting things in wrong places. The milk in the cupboard, her slippers on the sideboard. She was flustered, her heart fluttering all day long. But this is silly nonsense.
Grace had made a special lasagne for tea, Jenny’s favourite, and anxiously waited for her to get in from work. After they’d eaten, Grace spoke.
“I’ve got something to tell you.”
“What? Nothing bad, I hope.”
“No Jenny. I’ve heard from Derek. I’ve had an email from him this morning.” She lied. “He says he’s coming back to England for good and wants to meet up at the station this Saturday.”
“Oh, Mum, that’s fantastic news. But I didn’t know he was keeping in touch.”
“No, he wasn’t. Just the occasional email.”
“It’ll be great to see him again. I’m booked in to have my hair and nails done on Friday and I’ve just bought that new outfit. I couldn’t have timed things better if I’d tried.”
“Yes, Jenny, but…..”
“Mum, I’m ecstatic. The best thing I’ve heard for months.” Jenny skipped out of the kitchen and ran upstairs, closing her bedroom door behind her.
Grace sank into the kitchen chair and sighed. Then reluctantly she loaded the dishes into the dishwasher and wiped the kitchen surfaces and then continued to wipe the cupboards as well. She felt the need to keep busy. The letter, the news, and Jenny’s excitement had completely unsettled her. What could she do?
Grace stood before the long mirror in her bedroom and ran her fingers through her hair. It could do with a little trim, but then what would Jenny think if she suddenly went off to the hairdressers? She opened the wardrobe’s double doors, stood back and gave a long hard look at all the clothes hanging there. Some she’d kept, just in case. Some she’d never even worn, and some that were definitely out-dated and needed to go to the charity shop. What ever could she wear on Saturday? She chose her blue trouser suit. It wouldn’t clash with Jenny’s new bright orange outfit, and she felt comfortable in it. Grace hung the blue trouser suit on the back of her bedroom door and then sat on the bed and reread the letter. Then she folded it up and put it in the back of the small drawer to her dressing table. Climbed into bed and had a restless sleep.
It was Saturday morning. Grace could hear Jenny already up and in the shower. Grace’s turn was next, but not until she’d downed a couple of cups of coffee to get her going. The butterflies kept welling up in her stomach, and she wasn’t sure she would be able to keep any breakfast down. Her hands were shaking, too. She hadn’t felt this nervous since she was getting ready for the school prom when she was sixteen. How foolish to be feeling this way, like a silly little school kid.
Jenny alighted from the taxi at the station, straightened her skirt and fiddled with her jacket, while Grace gave the driver some cash.
“Keep the change.”
“Come on, Mum, or we’ll be late. I wonder what he looks like after all this time. Five years, I think.”
Jenny was dancing about on the pavement as if it was on fire. Grace couldn’t help but notice how beautiful her daughter looked with her hair neatly styled and her new clothes. Grace brushed her own hair back off her face and thought, it will just have to be okay. There’s not much I can do about it at my age.
“Jenny, there’s something I want to tell you.” Said Grace as she tried to keep up with her exuberant daughter.
“Not now Mum, we don’t want to miss him, do we?”
The two women hurried through the station to the entrance of the platform where a train had just arrived.
“There he is. As handsome as ever.” Jenny waved as she jumped up and down like a child seeing Father Christmas coming on his sleigh. Derek hadn’t changed a bit. Some grey around his temples but otherwise the same tanned face and broad smile.
Derek waved back.
“Look Mum, he’s carrying a bouquet of roses. How gallant of him.”
Jenny ran forward and grabbed Derek’s elbow. Derek shrugged Jenny off, his beaming face looking straight ahead at Grace as he handed her the dozen red roses.
“I’ve missed you so much.”
“Me too.” Said Grace.
Derek held Grace’s shoulders and kissed her gently on the lips.
Jenny stood a short distance away, an onlooker to this drama that was unfolding before her eyes. The crowd of travellers jostled her as they passed, but she didn’t notice, all she could see was Derek and her mother kissing. Her mouth dropped open as tears filled her eyes and blurred her vision. She staggered forward on weak feeling legs, unable to comprehend what was happening. During the short time it had taken for the huge station clock to loudly ring out its twelve soulful chimes telling the bustling hoards it was midday Jenny’s life had fallen apart and her mother’s life had just begun, or so it seemed.
Jenny couldn’t stand it any longer. She stormed over to the couple who were now staring lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll make my own way home. I’ll spend the night at Kerry’s and then I’m moving out. I don’t want to see either of you two ever again.”