Tonight, Tuesday, she was free. Tonight, she would be going to meet friends at the Church Hall for their weekly evening of sequence dancing. Since closing the entrance door, she had, with Ellie, seen that the money in the till had been put in the safe, checked that the power to the computing and other facilities were off. They’d finished tidying and ensuring that everything would be ready for the following day. After a final look around, they switched off the lights, set the alarm and left by the Staff exit.
The retail park was only a short walk away from the Library, so she left her car on the Employees Only car park. If she had known how the weather would change, she would probably have walked from home this morning. As usual, she left the supermarket that tea-time with more than she had gone in for, but not so much more that she would have had difficulty carrying the shop’s bags-for-life back to her car. As she reached the pedestrian-exit from the Retail Park she met George Wilson, one of her friends, as he approached, walking down the hill.
“Hi, Cathy,” he said, “Where are you headed? I’m glad that I’ve seen you. Will you be coming to the dance tonight? Beryl was hoping that you might sit with her for the odd dance that she can’t manage with her sprained ankle.”
“Hi, George, I’m just going to collect my car and, Yes, I’ll be going tonight, and Yes, I’ll be delighted to sit with Beryl. How is she?” she inquired, “Is her foot any better?”
“A lot better,” he said, “the swelling has gone down fine after resting it. She may not get up for many dances, but she’ll be looking forward to hearing all the gossip from the gang. Can I help you with those shopping bags to your car park?”
“No thanks, George,” she said, “They aren’t heavy. Tell Beryl I’ll be there and that I’ll sit with her when she needs a rest. Give her my love. I’ll see you both tonight, but I need to dash now. I need to have something to eat and to get ready before I go.”
By now they had reached Cathy’s Ford Fiesta. George waved as he continued walking to the town’s centre, a little further downhill.
That evening at Cathy’s house
Cathy Denton, an attractive 55 years old widow, lived alone in the large 1960s detached house that she and her late husband, Ken had shared until his death in 1995, ten years ago. Their two children had moved out quite some time since. Barbara, 27, a nurse now, had married David Dinsdale in 1999. Paul, 25, was still single but had been unemployed since he’d been made redundant six months previously. ‘At least they all still lived in the same town,’ she often thought.
The cul-de-sac, Mereside Close, where she lived had changed a lot since they had bought the house. Back then, everybody in the road knew everybody else. The neighbours were all about the same age and had started families about the same time. The children had grown up together, played together and had all gone to St Philip’s primary school on the other side of town near the Church. Parents in the Close had shared school-run duties. Several of her neighbours’ older children had also gone to the comprehensive school, a short walk away across the main road. Over the years though, quite a lot of the families had moved elsewhere and been replaced by young couples who were ready to start families of their own. She saw much less of the neighbours she once knew well. When she had started her family, the young wives had tended to put aside their work-lives to bring up their children, but most of them, as she herself, had later returned to work. Being a widow, it could have been a lonely place to live had she not started going to the dance sessions and made new friends. Two of her friends from dancing did still live in the Close, Geoff and Mary Heath. They would probably be giving her a lift tonight.
As she entered her house and closed the door, she turned to see Chivers, her marmalade-coloured tomcat sashaying down the stairs to greet her. While she was hanging her cardigan on the newel post of the staircase, Chivers rubbed himself against her legs, his thick, barred tail, swishing from side to side. She squatted down to stroke him, then let him lead her to his empty food dish. He’d eaten all his kibbles since she had left that morning, so she prepared a fresh dish of wet food for him and refreshed his water bowl. Leaving Chivers to decide whether the food was fit to eat, she turned to retrieve a tray of supermarket Paella from her bag and place it in the microwave oven.
While her tea was warming up, Cathy quickly changed out of her work-clothes – a cardigan, blouse and jeans – and had a shower. She just slipped her pyjamas on while she ate and loaded the dishwasher, before applying some light make-up and changing into clothes more suitable for dancing. With her height, at five-foot ten inches, her natural poise, her slim build and her long legs, her graceful looks always attracted approving looks as she danced. She manipulated her dark, shoulder length hair into a top knot which showed off her long, pale neck, and was ready to go.
While she waited for Mary and Geoff, she sat and relaxed. It had been a tiring day. Children from the local primary school, had been in for their regular Reading group. The children were generally well-behaved but, at seven or eight years old, they always had noisy moments. She was finding, in her mid-fifties, that high-pitched shrieking was a less attractive sound than when her own children had been that age. She looked across the room at the photographs on the bookshelf. There was a head-and-shoulders photograph of Ken, who’d had a stroke when he was only 45 years old. She often wondered what he would have made of her going dancing – and wished that he had still been alive so that they could have learned together how to dance. She looked at the images of holidays they had been on. She rarely enjoyed holidays now, and seldom went abroad. As she saw Geoff’s car coming to a halt outside her house, she stood, shaking off these sad thoughts, and set her mind to enjoy the pleasant company awaiting her tonight.
Because most of the action above takes place at Cathy’s house, I’ve used a photo that I took to represent the kind of house I imagine that she may have lived in.
I took this shot with my Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera using a Fujinon 10-24 mm f/4 lens handheld.
EXIF data were: 1/15 seconds @ f/6.4 and 11 mm. ISO was 250.