(photo by Dawn Johnson on Unsplash)
THE VISIT by Sally Stackhouse
Standing on the banks of the *River Am, her small thatched cottage was just the right size for Marianne in her retirement. It comprised two large bedrooms and she was determined not to let the spare bedroom become the junk room as in all her previous houses. It was to be the guest bedroom with lovely pictures of the sea, decorated in elegant blues and teal colours. The duvet cover had matching pillow slips and the sanded pine floorboards were enhanced with perfectly co-ordinated rugs. A large windowsill held a vase that she filled with fresh flowers from the small cottage garden.
A phone call from her daughter brought good news. She wanted to come and visit with her new husband. It was only six months ago they had married, a small affair due to Covid restrictions but now they were allowed to visit and stay over, Kathryn and Joe were coming for a week’s visit in the summer. Even if the English weather didn’t quite hold up to its promise of a ‘flaming June,’ Marianne was sure they would find enough delights to enjoy along the country lanes and riverside pubs.
She couldn’t wait, counting down the days on the calendar, the weeks flew by and finally the day came. Kathryn had kept her informed by text of the progress of their journey. Marianne couldn’t help being a worrier especially as the motorways were notorious for delays due to road works, accidents or breakdowns and they had a couple of hundred of miles to travel before they reached her. She’d spent all week preparing food, freezing cakes and biscuits, knowing Kathryn and Joe were so busy with their full-time jobs they didn’t have much time to bake or cook anything more than an evening meal.
Looking out of the window was a pointless exercise as the trees were in full foliage, the hedgerows overgrown, so Marianne opened the leaded glass window and leaned out to listen for the sound of a car engine. There it was, the gentle whirr and hum told her that the time fast approached. Marianne flew out of the front door, arms outstretched as Kathryn got out of the passenger side.
They hugged as if they would never let go – it had been so long without this level of comfort and affection, Marianne felt the tears brimming.
‘Oh mum, don’t cry.’
‘They are my happy tears, darling. This is the best present ever!’
Marianne separated and clapped her hands as she turned her attention to Joe.
‘Come here, son-in-law,’ she ordered Joe.
A shorter hug ensued as she felt a bit strange hugging a male person especially one who was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals.
‘I’m so looking forward to spending time with you and getting to know you better.’ Joe winked at Marianne and smiled at Kathryn.
Oh yes, thought Marianne, this one is a keeper. He is so good for my daughter. It’s about time she found a good man. She’ll be very happy in this marriage; Marianne could feel it in her bones.
Ushering her guests inside, she whipped the tea towel off the plate of lemon drizzle (her daughter’s favourite cake) and started to pour tea out. Eating and talking, laughing and catching up the afternoon soon drifted away. The sun started to set as they sat outside sipping cold drinks catching the last rays of sunshine and watching the twilight descend.
As they prepared for the night, Joe disappeared to have a shower, Kathryn took her mum’s hand.
‘Tell me the truth, mum. What was the result of your last blood test?’
‘They’re fine, dear, absolutely fine,’ came the reply. My sodium was normal, so was my potassium and cholesterol. Blood pressure was also perfect. So, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all behind me now and as long as I continue to eat healthily and stay as active as I can, I’ve got a few more years in me yet.’ Marianne lightened the mood with a small tinkle of laughter.
Joe re-entered the room, freshly shaved, hair slightly damp, he looked at Kathryn with a question in his eyes.
She nodded. ‘Mum, we have news. We want to move nearer to you. Joe can work anywhere there is broadband and I have transferrable skills. We’ve sold our house and can start looking straight away.’
More happy tears, the joy Marianne felt made this the best day of her life.
*The River Am is a fictional river borrowed from a radio series broadcast in the UK called ‘The Archers.’
Word count: 795