My short story collection ‘Lemon and Lace’ is free to download from Smashwords.
The second story, ‘Waiting’, is about love, loss and choice.
“No no no! You don’t know the notes of this piece at all! You’ve had a whole week to practise and you still can’t manage the left hand properly Clare – have you done any work since I last saw you?”
Clare looked down at the piano keys and let her shoulders slump forwards. She wriggled her left hand slightly and managed to look at her watch as I continued,
“I really don’t know what to do with you. Is the piece too hard for you? Perhaps you’d like me to choose an easier one?”
I sighed and thought of the cup of coffee that I was going to make before the next pupil arrived.
“Let’s leave it for this week. I expect to be pleasantly surprised by a wonderful performance next Saturday.”
As I showed Clare to the door, my son Ben dashed into the hall on his way to the garden with his football under his arm. He gave me a cheerful smile.
“Hi Mum! I think David’s outside with your shopping.”
David was struggling up the path laden with bulging carrier bags. I glanced in the hall mirror and thought, I look awful, so tired and fed up. Perhaps I should run upstairs and put some lipstick on? Oh well, it’s only David and he’s here now.
David staggered into the hall, groaning in mock agony.
“I think my arms have grown longer! Are you really going to eat all this in a week?”
“Come and have a coffee. You are kind to do all that shopping for me – it’s saved me so much time. Could you put it in the kitchen?”
We chatted while we drank our coffee and I made David laugh as I described how one of my pupils had performed “Fur Elise” this morning.
“She kept the pedal down the whole time and played all the difficult bits at half speed. I could hear her long nails clicking on the keys – she said she couldn’t cut them yet as she was going to a Hallowe’en party as a witch next week!”
I loved the way David’s face crinkled and a dimple appeared when he smiled. He had quite the kindest eyes I had ever seen and my heart gave a lurch as he reached out to touch my arm with his hand.
“Oh there’s the front door bell – that will be Laura. I’m afraid I’ll have to throw you out now, David.”
My next piano pupil thumped her way through a Mozart minuet while I looked out of the window into the garden. Ben was still out there with his football and his head was shining golden red as the sun caught his hair. Under his feet the dead autumn leaves lay sodden and slippery, waiting for him to fall.
“That wasn’t too bad, Laura. Let’s try from the beginning, perhaps a little slower and do you think the second line should be softer?”
Laura stared at the music with determination and launched into the minuet again. Her shoulders were rigid with tension and her hands were slightly sweaty, making her fingers slip on the keys.
“Oh sorry Mrs. Williams, I have practised this; I played it much better at home. My Dad thought it was really good. Mrs. Williams?”
I turned back to Laura, turned back from looking at the photograph of my husband in the middle of the mantelpiece, my husband with his glorious golden hair and bright smile, my husband whom I had not seen for three long years.
“Try again Laura dear, take a big breath and try again. Don’t forget to count!”
. . .
David took me out to dinner that evening, to a lovely little Italian restaurant on the other side of the city. As we sipped our coffee and liqueurs the conversation took a familiar turn and I felt tired and wretched.
“But Kate, darling, you promised you’d think about it and after all, three years is a long time.”
I took another sip of my coffee. It tasted bitter and I wished that I was at home. There was a sudden draught from the street as a couple left.
“Please don’t push me. I don’t know what I feel, David. I’m sorry – I know this is difficult for you too but I just can’t cope with anything else at the moment. Do you mind if we go?”
David sighed and pushed his hair back from his face. He gave me a rueful smile.
“Of course darling, come on, let’s get you home. Could I have the bill please?”
David drove me home and waited outside in the car until I had let myself into the house safely and waved to him from the sitting room window to let him know that all was well. I blew him a kiss then drew the curtain, tucking it tightly behind the radiator to shut out the cold night. I switched the light off on my way out of the room and then turned back to the soft gentle darkness.
“Goodnight my darling,” I whispered to the photograph on the mantelpiece.
. . .
On Thursday morning I was busy doing some housework when Ben’s school rang to tell me that he had fallen in the gym and had a suspected broken arm.
“You mustn’t worry, Mrs. Williams. He’s been taken straight to Casualty and is probably being seen by now. I expect you’d like to go straight there.”
I rang David immediately and he offered to leave work and give me a lift to the hospital.
“I’ll only be five minutes – now try not to worry. He’ll be fine.”
I felt comforted by his words and so grateful for his support and kindness.
As we rushed through the doors of the Casualty Department I noticed one of the nurses give David an admiring look.
How dare she, I thought. David belongs to me, or at least he’s waiting for me. We love each other but we’re waiting, waiting for…oh, how can I possibly be thinking about this at such a time? I must see Ben and make sure that he’s all right.
The nurse behind the desk looked up from her papers.
“Your name, please.”
“And is this Mr Williams? The boy’s father?”
“Oh no, this is David. Ben’s father isn’t here, he’s…”
The blood rushed from my head as I spoke and I thought I would faint. Behind the nurse I could see an old man coughing and a young woman sitting white-faced and motionless, hugging her knees.
“Ben’s father is dead,” I said. “Now can I see my son? I must see him. Is he all right?”
“He’s fine Mrs. Williams. Will you come this way please?”
I followed the nurse for a few paces then turned back to face David.
“Will you come with me? Please? I’d really like that and I know Ben will be pleased to see you. We both need you so much.”
A tiny baby sitting on his mother’s knee was looking in our direction and as his eyes focussed on us he gave a beaming smile. He held his starfish hands out and bounced up and down, kicking his legs and crowing with joy and delight.
David moved swiftly to my side and held my hand tightly as we went towards the cubicle where Ben was lying. My son looked drawn and exhausted but managed a cheerful grin when he saw us.
“I’m fine Mum. Hi David! Can’t wait to get out of here – I haven’t had anything to eat for ages. You don’t need to kiss me, Mum. Oh Mum, don’t cry!”
. . .
Next Saturday I was teaching my piano pupils again. As Clare struggled through her scales I could still hear her long nails clicking on the piano keys. Her left foot was twisted round the piano stool and her head was bent over the keys while she searched for the right notes as if in a dense fog.
“Not bad Clare! But try to finish on the note you started on.”
While she performed her piece, “Woodland Dance,” trying to conjure up elves and sprites with her playing, I looked at the mantelpiece where Ben’s photograph now had pride of place in the centre.
“Well this is much better than last week Clare – congratulations! You must have worked very hard indeed!”
Later that morning, before David delivered my shopping, I dashed upstairs to run a comb through my hair and put on some lipstick. Looking at myself in the mirror, I saw a glowing face with shiny eyes. My darling husband’s face smiled with approval from a small table in the corner of the room and I could see myself reflected in the glass as it caught the light. Trembling slightly, I walked downstairs to open the front door. I was ready for David, finally ready.