Harry sat in his easy chair by the window. The sun slid off his balding scalp and lit the silver fringe around his ears, so it shone like a fallen halo. He shuffled the pages of the daily newspaper and gave soft snorts and grunts as he read.
“Bloody government, what are they playing at? Bring back the birch, that’d stop teenage thugs. All they ever think about is violence and sex,” he muttered.
Mabel put down her knitting and lifted her eyes to the ceiling. She gave a sigh and made for the bedroom of their small bungalow. A little sex and violence wouldn’t come amiss in their relationship, she thought as she sat on the end of the bed and looked at the wide array of photos on the dresser. Photos taken forty or more years before, when she and Harry first met and married.
She lifted the nearest one and ran her finger across the newly settled dust. Harry’s eager brown eyes looked out at her from a beach scene. It was only due to her persistence they’d made love in that very spot later that night. Beyond the sand dunes waves broke over the sand in rhythm to his slow strokes. She’d worn full-sized pink rayon knickers with a little lace at the edge, and they’d turned him on. The sight of the thongs of today would probably give him a heart attack. Even when a young man he’d been reserved where sex was concerned, she thought.
That one short episode on the seashore was the only time lovemaking hadn’t occurred on the big old double bed with the feather mattress. Mabel longed for passion, to be tumbled and fumbled in a haystack, leapt upon on bath nights, taken by surprise over the kitchen table. Harry would have been shocked to have read her thoughts. She smiled and laid a wrinkled hand on the pink nylon counterpane, patted it as one would a dog, and stretched to lift her Bible from the bedside table.
Among the yellow-edged pages her eyes rested on a pressed flower. A flush rose to her cheeks; her life had not been completely without passion. There was a summer, when Harry refused to give up his bowls night and Mabel had gone to her best friend’s wedding alone. She’d danced with a tall and slim stranger — dark curls fell across his forehead, and his brown eyes were gentle. He’d touched her lightly on the shoulder.
“Can I have this dance?’ he’d said.
Blood rushed to her cheeks and she nodded acceptance. He rested his hand on the small of her back and pulled her close. He’d smelled of pine forest and peppermint, and the heat from his breath warmed her neck.
His fingers twined about hers, he whispered, ‘You’re the prettiest girl here.’
Side by side on a hotel sofa, they looked out at the setting sun, toasted the bride, and then each other. They talked, his fingertips brushed her hand and desire, like the bubbles in the champagne they drank, rushed through Mabel’s limbs and her head spun.
He leaned into her and whispered against her cheek, ‘Your hair is the colour of corn silk and your mouth, a dewy cushion waiting to be kissed.’
Later, they’d lain on the grass in the purple shadows at the bottom of the garden. His kisses had been insistent, warm, and dry, and her heart thudded beneath his hand. They made love, and Mabel gave no thought to consequence. For her it was the want to give him something in return for making her feel desirable. When they were spent, he’d rolled onto his stomach and plucked a nearby violet.
He pressed the flower into her palm. ‘This isn’t as soft as your skin, but I’ll always think of you when they’re in bloom.’
Mabel closed the book with a small sigh and replaced it on the table. Times had moved on and the modern girl would laugh at those words.
She rose stiffly. No, my life has not been without romance or passion, not quite.
She tucked a wayward, grey hair back into place and opened the bedroom door.
“Fancy a cup of tea, Harry?”
Harry didn’t look up from the newspaper. “Yes, and a biscuit, as long as they’re fresher than the ones we had yesterday, they were too soft to dunk.”
Maureen Wilkinson is a British writer, who starts with the idea of writing a moving literary piece and always seems to end up with a dead body. Ah well, maybe some day!
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