‘Well what on earth did you do that for?’ Sue asked, as she set the iron carefully down on the ironing board and turned it off at the plug.
Ron muted the TV and shifted in his armchair to face her,
‘Well I didn’t know did I? Thought he was gonna shoot the lot of us!’
‘With a brolly?’ asked Sue, her eyebrow itched to arch but was schooled to stillness by years of practice.
‘I didn’t know it was a brolly, did I?’ said Ron, voice laced with sarcasm. ‘It was dark…who holds a brolly like that anyway?’ he muttered, turning his attention back to the screen.
Well, apparently a 58 year old Italian tourist, thought Sue, her eyes rolling skywards as she implored the heavens to imbue her husband with some sense.
‘It’s tricky with that olive skin tone’, continued Ron, eyes still on the football, ‘especially when it’s dark. He looked like one of them lot to me.’
Ron shrugged, ‘You know, them lot…terrorists….Muslims! You can’t blame me for trying to protect our country. Even the police agreed with me; wouldn’t’ve let me go with a ticking off if they didn’t think I had a point, would they? Anyway, I’m a grown man, don’t need to explain myself to you. Only told you in case you saw it in the paper; bloody kids with their bloody camera phones. Put the kettle on, I’m parched.’
Ronsettled back into his armchair and unmuted the TV, the football news drowning out Sue’s heavy sigh.
She made her way through to the kitchen and flicked the kettle on, adding a teabag to Ron’s favourite mug. As she waited for the kettle to boil she unloaded the dishwasher and put another load of washing in the machine, struggling with the broken catch that Ron was always too busy to fix.
Sue stared out of the window as she brewed the tea, eyes following the vapour trail of an aeroplane as it made its way across the sky.
Tea in hand, she made her way through to the living room, pulled out the small side table from its nest and placed the tea carefully upon it, within easy reach of Ron’s armchair. As she straightened she looked at him; his mouth was slack with sleep, the roll of fat under his chin nestled on his chest, rising and falling with each heavy, rasping breath. Sue kept her gaze on her sleeping husband for long moments.
When she finally turned away her jaw was set and her eyes burned with a resolution she hadn’t known she possessed.
She ascended the stairs briskly, turning right at the top, past Ron’s bedroom and into her box room. She took the suitcase down from the top shelf of the cupboard and began to pack methodically; three pairs of trousers, two skirts, a few blouses, undergarments, a couple of cardigans, her travel toothbrush and a hairbrush. She took her credit card and passport from the bedside drawer and popped them into her handbag. Anything else she needed she could buy later on, she decided.
She stepped carefully down the stairs, suitcase in hand. As she picked up the telephone receiver from the hall table, she glanced towards the living room. She could just see the back of Ron’s balding pate, his head lolling to one side in his slumber. He always joked it would take a brass band to wake him from his afternoon nap. After twenty years of the same quip, it really didn’t seem that funny.
‘Laura? It’s just me….fine thanks and you?….Great, great. How are my gorgeous grandchildren?’ Sue chuckled, her smile lighting her eyes and smoothing the creases on her forehead.
‘Listen my love, I know it’s short notice but I just wondered if you fancied a visit?…No, no, Ron, just me…….really? That would be lovely. Well, I’ll get the train to Aunty Edith’s and stay with her for a few days while I sort out a flight…does that sound ok?….Me too, can’t wait. Ok my love, see you soon. Bye for now.’
As Sue placed the phone back in its cradle Ron grunted and shifted in his sleep, knocking over his tea. Sue paused for a few moments, watching through the open doorway as the brown liquid made its way slowly across the table and dripped down onto the living room carpet; then she picked up her suitcase, opened the front door and stepped outside into the bright afternoon sunshine.
The day felt sharper than it had earlier when she’d done the food shop, more in focus.
As she walked towards the taxi rank she remembered she’d left the oven on, Ron’s favourite casserole bubbling inside. It should be done soon and she hadn’t set the timer.
Oh well, she thought with a small smile as she climbed into a taxi, he was a grown man, wasn’t he?