He stopped: she was howling with laughter. He looked at her.
“The coven,” she said, “I never thought of them like that, but I see what you mean. I’ve heard them cackling and back-biting. Could I become like that?”
“I’d hate to think so – and consider Tony. It looks as if he’s on the way to willingly jump off his personal cliff into an unknown future on the basis of measured hope alone”
“You’re right, I suppose,” she said, “Someone to hug you, protect you, and put you first when our children become pre-occupied with the demands of their families, friends and careers. But, then again, suppose you got dementia and I needed to go into a care home – or the other way around. We’d be back to square one -or worse.”
“True,” he said, “but in risk assessment terms, should you never get into your car because there are some clots out there on the road?”
She thought for a moment. “We’ll have to come back to that one. Have you got your list?”
“Yes,” he said,” including the questions that Paul asked, “How long will ‘getting to know each other’ need to go on for and how will we recognise when that we know enough when it comes. In my job, when we set learning objectives, we have to state measurable outcomes. My God,” he said, “doesn’t that sound cold in our context?”
“What else do you have on your list?” she asked.
“Um, red lines in terms of traits we might find impossible to live with. For example, I snore. Is that a red line?”
She giggled. “I have that down too because Ken told me that I snore. What else”
“Things like truthfulness, faithfulness, openness, generosity of spirit, sincerity, plus caring and sharing type qualities. Looking back on some of these, I’d have to confess to having lacked them in the past. I’ve had to learn hard lessons by experience. What about you?”
“That’s a good list,” she said, “my list is very much the same and most of those qualities – or the lack of them should be apparent in months rather than years.
She paused again, then teased him, “I didn’t hear anything about being good in bed!”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” he said, “I suppose that if I’d been a lot better in bed, Marjorie might have been prepared to put up with a bit of neglect. To answer your question, I don’t know. I haven’t been with enough partners to have unqualified good feedback. I’ve lived a long time now without a sexual partner. The bits and bobs are still there, but I don’t know how well they work.”
She was in hysterics laughing.
“Come here,” she said, Give me a hug.”
“Listen,” she continued as she snuggled into his arms, “that isn’t a red line issue. It’s a long time for me too, and I’m the same as you, not a lot of men to compare you against.” “Anyway,” she whispered into his ear, “it won’t take us long to find out about that side of things – but not today, and not on your bed.”
He pulled back to look into her face.
She smiled, wickedly, and winked.
They both laughed.
After talking and comparing notes for a bit longer, he went into the kitchen to switch the oven on to pre-heat. He’d taken a chicken they’d chosen at the supermarket out of the fridge earlier and had removed the plastic wrapping. While he was there, he also placed some potatoes and vegetables on the worktop ready to be prepared.
Cathy joined him in the kitchen.
“What would you like me to do?” she asked.
“What would you like to do?” he answered, “It will take a while for the oven to warm up and then for the bird to cook. The table will need setting. Do you want to look in the cupboards and find out for yourself, for future reference, where everything we need is?”
“What will you be doing?” she asked.
“I was going to peel the potatoes and prepare the veg. I usually do those in the steamer.”
“Do you like roasties?” she asked, “because you can’t do those in the steamer. And what about gravy.”
He looked shamefaced. “Frozen supermarket roasties and gravy granules.”
She looked horrified.
“You peel the spuds then and leave the roasties and gravy to me.”
They worked together as a team. She quickly found everything she needed. The kitchen suddenly seemed too small for two people, but doing things together gave her a lot of pleasure. Where necessary, she shoved him out of the way.
“Bossy boots,” he’d say, but he loved it.
As they ate, she said, “That’s what I forgot to put on my list – slurping. But at least you don’t eat with your mouth open.”
“Do I slurp?” he asked,
“Red line,” she said, “That’s got to change. I’ll keep reminding you when I hear it.”
So, it continued as the dishes were collected for the dishwasher. Clattering became a red line as did not rinsing the bits off items before they went in the dishwasher.
Afterwards, as they relaxed, they swapped details like birthdays and so forth, she asked him what he liked on television, what type of music he liked, what hobbies he had, and they shared and commented on each other’s preferences. The learning process was going well and both of them were a bit sad as the time came for her to leave.
As he opened the door for her, they kissed for the first time, tentatively at first, tenderly then hungrily. “I’d better leave now,” she said, “while I still can.”
The photo that I took to illustrate this post is of a care home in the North West of England and represents one of Cathy’s insights into issues to consider about her future with or without Steve.
My featured photo also reflects one of Cathy’s “red lines” clattering, impliedly related to loading the dishwasher.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 camera with a Fujinon XF 23 mm f/2 lens. 1/10 secs @ f/8 and 23 mm. ISO was 6400.