There hadn’t been much more to add on either side so the call ended not long afterwards and Frank left to spend the remainder of the evening at his temporary home with Gloria, Peter and Davina.
Charlotte, now alone, felt lost. She and Frank had never spent a night apart since they’d got married more than forty years before. It had been a few years since they’d had sex, and it was her fault, her moodiness she admitted to herself. Frank had been keen enough to love her until he’d given up. She’d just turned her back on him – literally as well as figuratively.
Tuesday April 23 Week One – At Home – Charlotte
She didn’t sleep well again that night – her second night alone in their king-sized bed.
“Frank,” she thought, “where are you? You should be here.”
She cried bitter tears, using a box of tissues by the bedside to wipe them away.
Twice during the night, she went downstairs to make a hot drink and to read for a while, hoping that doing so might help her to sleep. It seemed to her that she’d only just dropped off when she was awakened by a shaft of sunlight warming her face, and by the noise of the bins and recycling being emptied. She realised that, with all that had happened since yesterday afternoon, Frank wouldn’t have put the bins out for collection. Too late now.
At breakfast time she remembered that it was her local history group morning. They usually met at ten in the Library. She wondered what to tell them – if anything. Then again, Penny from across the road, further down might have seen something – Frank loading up his car yesterday morning, or perhaps leaving last night and his car not being here this morning. She was almost bound to have noticed his car not being here. Charlie looked around her breakfast room. She could see that there were dishes from last night on the draining board. That would have been Frank’s job – drying the washed dishes and putting them away. She wondered how many other little jobs she’d got used to Frank doing unbidden, so much so that it was as if there were an odd-jobs fairy going around and doing things unnoticed. Well, they’d be her jobs now.
Later, she was just about to leave when she heard the letterbox flap close. She walked through and saw that there were a couple of items of mail on the mat. She picked them up, thinking that she’d open them later, but as she laid them on the hall table, she noticed the address: ‘Mr and Mrs F Barstow’. She sat on the bottom step and wept. When she’d seen the address, she’d felt like a widow must feel – seeing, for the first time, the redundant ‘Mr and’.
She’d recovered by the time she arrived at the Library, but felt a sensed of unease, as if people at the meeting would somehow see past her clothing and makeup to the deserted wife she now saw herself to be.
The brightly lit Community Room was large, rectangular in shape with high windows and wall bars revealing one of its other purposes as a community gymnasium. Plates attached high on the walls at either end held out hoops for netball. The highly polished, dark oak sprung flooring, marked out with white lines for use by indoor football and other groups, was also suited to dancing or to its present use – for meetings. Today, the caretaker had arranged long foldable tables in a horseshoe or ‘U’ shape, facing a smaller table where the Chairperson and Secretary sat. He’d also set out a smaller table near the kitchen for interval refreshments.
Entering the room, she paid her entry fee for the day and greeted other members as she passed them on her way to her usual table and companions. There was nothing in their welcome or expressions to alarm her and she fell into their conversation as easily as normal. Renee, the Chairperson called the meeting to order and Hazel, the Secretary, read the minutes of the last meeting. There were enough copies of the day’s agenda for everyone. The meeting would be following its usual pattern.
At eleven, Renee announced the interval. Members made their way, singly or in twos and threes to the kitchen end of the room. There, before the meeting, two of the members had set out, on the shelf of the hatch between the kitchen and the Community Room, canisters of powdered coffee and a supply of tea bags together with cups, saucers and side plates, milk and sugar. They’d ensured that the urn had been filled with water and switched on. A separate table provided plates of biscuits, for people to serve themselves. Charlotte was walking back to her table with her drink and biscuits when Penny approached her.
‘Frank gone anywhere special?’ she asked, ‘Only I noticed that his car wasn’t on your drive.’
“Oh God!” Charlotte thought, “Who needs Neighbourhood Watch with neighbours like Penny?”
‘Nowhere special,’ she replied. ‘how’s your Susan doing these days?’
Susan, Penny’s daughter, had left home after her parents had refused to let her bring her teenage boyfriend into the house. The lad was a drug addict. Penny mumbled an answer and Charlotte congratulated herself on her quick thinking. When Brian Hitchmough came across to her though, to ask how Frank was, she had no easy way out. She just limited her reply to telling him that they’d agreed to give each other space for a while. It shut him up.
I took this photo earlier this week (11/02/2021) at Sutton Mill Dam, St Helens, Merseyside. It was one of five shots that I took because of the frozen surface of the lake.
I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm f/2 full-frame prime lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/400 at f/9 and the ISO was 400. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.