Before they parted, Steve said how enjoyable an evening it had been in her company and thanked her for partnering him. She told him that she had loved the evening too.
Nevertheless, they went their separate ways in the end. There were no kisses or hugs to inflame the curious eyes of Beryl and Mary who watched through the half-open Hall door. The couple had parted content with an agreement that they would be looking forward to the next weekly dance.
Saturday 23rd April Steve’s house
In Vicarage Crescent, Steve was preparing for bed. As he changed into his pyjamas he examined himself in a wardrobe mirror. He was still thinking of Cathy and how she had felt in his arms. Was he imagining that she had liked him? Memories of her smile beguiled him. For the first time in years he was beginning to imagine a different future – one in which she might be willing to be a part. I’m getting ahead of myself. What, in Heaven’s name, am I thinking? She was beautiful and very desirable though. He looked at his paunch and thought, Forget it. She was just being nice.
Saturday 23rd April Cathy’s house
In Mereside Close, Cathy was sitting on the edge of her bed, deep in thought. Part of her was savouring the memories of the evening just gone. In her mind she re-lived the experience of Steve holding her as they danced, holding her hand, feeling his arm around her. She had danced with several men – and women – in the years since Ken had died, but none of them had made her feel like this.
In the Library, she was a kind of public property, where men sometimes ogled her while she answered their questions or date-stamped books they were borrowing – seeing her as an object, a body to use. It was a place where other, more confident, men would try to flirt – usually forgetting that she knew their wives. All shapes and sizes of such men would come in – too often ugly, sweaty, smelly men with big beer bellies. Ugh!.
She’d even danced with Steve before – quite often – but it had never been like tonight.
What had changed? Was it him? She’d seen him dressed for dancing before – an open-necked black shirt, black trousers, black leather belt, black dancing shoes – like a stick of liquorice: certainly like a uniform. But that was true of most of the men – unimaginative.
This afternoon she had noticed his smile and it had warmed her room. Why was she noticing only now how good-looking he was? And why did it matter? Would he even remember their partnership? What would he have been thinking as they danced?
Dressed in just her bra and pants she looked at her reflection in the dressing-table mirror. God! she thought, What do I look like? So much that had once been pert would no longer seem desirable to any man, her stomach had now sunk South. Flabby! She shuddered as she raised her arms to see whether she had Bingo wings yet.
She sat at her dressing-table and looked at her face, lit brightly by a light over the mirror. Pasty, she decided, and where did all those lines come from?
She went back to the bed and lay on it.
‘What would he think of me if he were to see me like this? Like a beached whale?’
She knew, at another level, that her mind was running, streaking past reality.
And yet… and yet, as she re-lived the moments while they’d been dancing, she remembered thinking that he seemed to fancy her. Fancy. What a word! But he had looked at her with… with what? Friendliness? No, more than that. Affection? No, more than even that. Desire? Maybe, and she didn’t think that she’d been imagining that. Love? Hmmm. No, surely not! Much too early to be thinking about that. And yet. Stop it, she told herself. He was probably just as lonely as she often felt these days. Missing a cuddle? Perhaps that’s what it was.
But suppose he was falling for her? Am I ready for love again? she pondered.
Grief! What would Barbara say – let alone think. And Paul, Paul who had never liked Steve anyway? That would be the cherry on the pie. She could imagine his reaction,
God, Mum, that’s gross. You sharing a bed with Steve? I feel sick.
She stood to complete her preparations for bed. Now, as she remembered the dance, she realised that neither of them had really spoken to anyone else. They had been totally immersed in themselves, hadn’t they? Oh, my word! she thought, the gossip drums will be beating all night.
She turned out the bedside lights as she pulled the duvet over her, doubting she would sleep
I’ve used two photos within the post today to remind you of what types of houses I’ve used previously for these two characters to live in. As a teaser, I’ve chosen a photo to represent the Mere opposite Cathy’s house where the action in the next post will take place.
EXIF data were: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor dslr camera with 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Shutter speed 1/100 secs @ f/10 and 28 mm. ISO was 100.