On Saturday nights he went to the pub. Mary encouraged him to go, insisted that he go, even though she knew that there was a good chance of him coming home angry or sad. He got that way sometimes, had done so ever since… well, for a long time. She’d learned to deal with it. On Sunday morning he’d be attentive and apologetic and hung over.
On Saturday nights Polly came round and they watched telly. Especially Strictly, every series right from the start. Just the two of them, she with a glass of wine, Polly curled up on the settee next to her. She wouldn’t come if there was anyone else home, hadn’t been at all when everything was locked down and Mary had missed her desperately. Missed the insubstantial weight of her head against her rib cage, missed holding her small, cool hands.
But tonight she was here and the dancers were in flight and they gasped at the lifts, watched out for the fleckles and winced at the failures. They agreed with the judges about the dance off.
“You’d be twenty-seven today, I wonder if you’d be a dancer. Your little brother likes dancing, but not this sort. He listens to some odd music.”
Polly raised her pale little face. Her rain washed eyes gazed into her mother’s. She would never be more than nine, never dance or go to university or marry or have children of her own. Her little brother was a man now, older than she would ever be. He’d already started to do those things, God willing he do them all and more.
She snuggled back beneath her mother’s arm and the two of them dozed for a while until Polly raised her head.
“I think I should go now, Mummy. ”
“Not yet, Sweetheart, your daddy won’t be back for a while.”
“Not like that. I have to go properly. It’s time.”
“Oh,” Mary felt the sting of tears, “Oh dear.”
The tears washed away at the pale face before her and the tenuous grip on her hand vanished away to nothing.
“I love you, Mummy.”
She sat for an hour or more before she heard his key in the door. He was sober but sad. She could tell that he’d been crying too. She put her arms around him.
“Something feels different, like something is over.”
“It is,” she whispered. “I think that might be a good thing.”
John has spent forty years sitting behind a desk tapping at the keys of a computer for ten hours a day and writing about Investment Banking. Freed from the yoke of the capitalist oppressor he now sits behind a desk for five hours a day and writes about whatever he likes. Then he goes and walks the dog.