Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Revelation

Dear Diary, Anne is feeling much better and able to walk easier. As a small treat for ourselves, after our almost housebound few days, we decided to go on a shopping trip to town. Not that we need to purchase any particular item, other than a few essentials for our survival ... slippers were high on that list.

I forgot to bring slippers with me; one of the drawbacks of hasty packing! Tomorrow is the first of spring and wouldn't you know it! The shops are full of spring clothes; no slippers worth their name. Oh there was a pair of towelling slip-ons, eminently suitable for the short trip from bathroom to bedroom; but barely comfortable for wearing around the house during the day. A trip out the back door to the garden for a few flowers would see them reduced to a messy blob. While I was not rude or nasty to the shop assistant I did query why shops filled their shelves and racks with summery garments when it was raining outdoors. Evidently this practice is common place. I did express my disapproval, and walked out empty handed.

As we wandered along the street a craft shop caught my attention. An idea slipped into mind. Purposely we walked into the interior of this Aladdin's Cave of crafty wonders; I found a pattern for knitted slippers, purchased needles and wool. Dear Diary, there are more than one way to skin a cat! I will make a pair of slippers, and while they too will not stand the outdoors, at least they will be all my own effort.

Anne's ankle began to throb. Lunchtime was nigh. The heady aroma of coffee poured out of a busy cafe, and as the lunch crowd had not yet left offices and work places, an early lunch made a lot of sense. A seat in the corner beckoned; after seating Anne and ascertaining what she fancied I headed up to the counter to order toasted sandwiches and flat whites. While Anne hadn't mentioned sweets my roving eye noticed a cabinet of cakes. Not for many years have I bitten into Neenish tarts; we deserved a small treat; Neenish tarts fitted into the treat category. A lovely waitress offered to carry the tray to the table once the sandwiches were ready. Dear Diary while I was thankful as balancing a tray laden with food and full coffee cups can be a scary exercise, I did wonder if she thought I may be a little dottery and unable to carry the load. In such circumstances it is best to offer effusive thanks and allow the service be carried out.

By the time I rejoined Anne the cafe was filling up. Working folk from nearby businesses and factories pushed through the open door and lined up for coffees and teas. Hot food in the bain-marie appeared extremely popular. Anne whispered that a busy cafe is a good cafe; a statement I wholeheartedly agreed with.

A well-dressed woman stood gazing around the room looking for a suitable place to sit. I stared. Surely this elegant tall slender woman dressed in a trim dress and matching coat, clothes that were seldom seen in this day and age, was Hazel Bottomly? As I leaned to ask Anne, she nudged me. When I looked questioningly Anne nudged me and in a quiet voice said the lady was none other than the widow Richard was interested in. Dear Diary, my thoughts raced!

"Anne," I said, "is that Hazel Bottomly?"

Anne looked dubious. She wasn't sure, in fact didn't know Hazel Bottomly lived in the area.

No sooner had this little exchange taken place, than the lady in question looked our way, a frown crossing her forehead. A sudden recognition registered. As she reached our table she enquired if she could sit with us. Anne and I nodded. By then Dear Diary I was agog with curiosity.

Offering my hand I introduced myself, and Anne. A small laugh escaped the newcomer's lips.

"Alice! It is you!"

"Hazel Bottomly!" I exclaimed, and introduced Anne.

We chatted and caught up with the past decades until our sandwiches arrived. Hazel had ordered, her meal arriving shortly afterwards.

Dear Diary, I was most discreet. Not once did I mention Richard, though I was eager to know how her life was.

Anne broached the subject.

"Hazel," she said, "I am sorry to hear of the death of your husband. Please accept my condolences."

Adding my sympathies I was surprised to see a smile cross Hazel's features. This was the first newly widowed lady I had seen who didn't appear sad.

"Thank you both," Hazel replied. "While my husband and I lived under the same roof, we led separate lives for the last ten years. I actually have a man friend, and once a suitable time has elapsed Derek and I will marry."

Dear Diary, Anne and I stared at each other. Thank goodness neither of us had mentioned Richard. Now we have a lot of questions for that gentleman!

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