Carrie had enclosed a handwritten note with the photograph – and Charlotte had read and re-read it several times, before phoning her friend. By now, Carrie was touring Cornwall on the final leg of her tour of the South West. The two friends spoke for several minutes, during which Charlotte invited Carrie to stay with her whenever, in June or July, the weather forecast for the week ahead appeared to be favourable.
The Carrie photograph had sent now occupied a place of honour above the fireplace in the front lounge.
Sunday – first day of Week Five
Charlotte stood in her dressing gown and nightie looking at the reflection of the dark shadows beneath her eyes and shrugged. She hadn’t seen Frank since he’d walked out of the dance on Thursday with Janice, her arm linking his. They hadn’t spoken to each other since before her Dorset trip – excepting only two brief exchanges at the dance group. The only knowledge that either of them had learned of the other had been courtesy of their children. She sighed.
After breakfast, she phoned Gloria and then David to check that they’d still be coming for dinner that night. She might find out something from one or both of them. Having established that she’d have a full house, she’d started getting ready before having a think about what to offer them.
She decided to cook a pork joint. She’d been to the local supermarket as soon as it had opened and bought some fresh vegetables to have with it. There had been some nice desserts on offer as well, so she’d purchased some of those too. Now, she was in the kitchen preparing. She’d dusted and vacuumed the place beforehand and laid the table. It had helped to take her mind off her unhappiness for a while; this separation business was making her feel miserable. Standing at the worktop, merely slicing things while she waited for the joint to be ready to remove from the oven, had allowed her thoughts to return to her unhappiness at the situation.
She’d thought she was self-reliant but she wasn’t forty anymore. She didn’t have the same energy. Even though she’d often shouted at Frank for being in her way, she missed his always cheerful willingness to help. She missed the times they’d been a team. She missed his smile, his voice, his presence – just knowing he was there. The other morning’s milk accident came to mind She sighed again, for the umpteenth time. She placed her elbows on the worktop, her face in her open hands and closed her eyes. On top of everything was the loneliness – the house always felt empty. Whatever effect not speaking was having on Frank, it was killing her.
“Something has to be done,” she thought, but she couldn’t think what that something would have to be. “Surely he can’t expect me to apologise. I do have some pride. He has to leave me some dignity at least.”
The oven pinged, so once the joint was out and on a grill rack, she started making gravy with the juices. She’d already peeled, sliced and parboiled some potatoes, so she put those in the oven to roast. Her next sigh was one of relief: everything was now ready for the imminent arrival of her guests bar the serving out of the food.
She waited until everyone was filling their faces with dessert before she started slipping subtle questions about Frank into the conversation. If she’d expected this to bring her comfort she’d badly miscalculated. She’d wanted to discover whether or not he’d found a house to rent, but, instead learned from Gloria that he’d be moving into a Bed and Breakfast place – with a landlady who was a neighbour of Janice. She recalled what he’d said to her at the pub on the first night of their separation – something about looking for a landlady who’d offer extras. The prospect of that, or of such proximity to Janice, gave rise in Charlotte’s breast to acute heartburn.
Gloria saw her mum’s reaction.
‘Well I’m glad, Mum. I’m fed up of playing piggy-in-the-middle between you – constantly being expected to pass the latest morsel of gossip about each of you to the other. You’re going to have to start talking to each other, aren’t you?’
I took this shot of the railway bridge that sits next to the Silver Jubilee bridge – both crossing the River Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn. The railway bridge carries, amongst other lines, the main West Coast line between Preston, Lancashire and London Euston. It’s normally impossible to photograph the bridge like this and it was made possible by the neighbouring Silver Jubilee bridge being closed to traffic until its re-opening the following day. I was particularly taken by the shadow under the arches.
I used my Pentax KP 24 MP crop sensor camera with a 35mm f/2 prime lens lens attached. The shutter speed was 1/640 seconds at f/8. The ISO was 1250. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic.