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Morning all!

Hope that you all had a lovely Easter despite everything that is going on in the world. Bank holidays are often marred by bad weather. How many day trips to the beach on a long weekend have been spent sitting in the car eating egg sandwiches whilst it’s tipping down with rain outside and blowing a hoolie. Fortunately the weather gods were feeling kind and the sun shone hot and bright for most of us and if we are fortunate to have outside space we were able to enjoy it. As tempting as it was to hop in our cars and enjoy the great outside, the great majority of people did as was asked and stayed at home. It’s a shame some didn’t. I read an article that the police turned back 500 caravans on the M5 heading for Devon and Cornwall at the weekend. Not only were those people totally irresposible and selfish but I do wonder where they were expecting to stay when they reached their destination as holiday parks and camp sites are closed!

Our weekend was spent mainly in the garden either giving it a bit of a tidy up or reading. Now that our garden waste wheelie bin has been emptied I could get on with a bit of pruning. Mr R got a bit carried away and decided to prune the hedgerow outside our house to make it look neater! I got him digging the borders for me but had to keep an eye on him as left to his own devices he would have dug up all of the new shoots on my perennial plants thinking that they were weeds!

Easter Sunday usually means celebrating with the family by having a roast lamb lunch. Of course that couldn’t happen this year so we ate chicken fillets in a caribbean coconut sauce instead with roast baby potatoes and green vegetables instead. Not quite the same but we will make sure that there will be a ‘better late than never’ Easter family feast as soon as we are allowed.

When not in the garden I’ve been busy writing. The storyline has now changed from the original idea but I’m rather excited about the plans I have for Maggie and Gordon. I’m keen now to buckle down and get it finished. I have to admit that I am rather nervous that it’s just going to end up in lots of rejection piles. As much as I enjoy writing my book, my intention is to see it in print and not just sitting in a folder in my laptop. I don’t have any experience in writing. Haven’t attended creative writing classes or even read a book about writing a book! At school we get the children to create a story map to help them with their creative writing. I don’t have one of those nor do I have a beginning, middle or end mapped out! I am probably going about it all the wrong way but hey ho, it’ll be what it’ll be!

Anyway, enough of me blabbering on. Here is the next instalment of Maggie and Gordon’s story.

Ooh, and before I forget, I have now numbered all of the instalments so if you haven’t read then and have a mad urge to do so – which incidently will make me very happy- then it will be easier to do so!

Maggie Thornden, where are you?

Part 11

image : gardoyen.com

It had been a week since Maggie had returned to her home in Gloucester. Everything looked familiar but Maggie didn’t feel ‘at home’. After nearly a week away she saw it with fresh eyes. It was neat and well furnished with a comfy three piece suite, bowls of pot pourri and textured wallpaper on the walls but looking round Maggie wondered how she had lived so long in a house that was the epitomy of dull. There was only one colour scheme throughout the house and that was ‘neutral’. Everything was as she had left it apart from the ironing board that was out in the kitchen and that the cushions that usually lived on their bed were piled up in a corner of the bedroom. Gordon had often complained that he couldn’t see the point of them. But then Gordon couldn’t see the point in anything that didn’t have a proper purpose in life!

Her husband had asked her whether she would like a cup of tea and rather than waiting for her to make it, he busied himself by filling the kettle and getting out cups and saucers. She’d told him that she preferred a mug and rather than making a dig at her choice of drinking vessel, he picked out a Denby mug from the back of a cupboard without saying a word.

The two of them sat at the kitchen table nursing their cups. At the café they had found it easy enough to talk to each other, but sitting there in the silence of their kitchen, they both found the words hard to come.

Had coming home been a terrible mistake?

Eventually Gordon had asked her to tell him about the days that she had disappeared from his life. Maggie started from the time she got on the bus and didn’t stop until the part where he turned up at the park. He listened intently and except for what looked like a little flinch in his expression when she mentioned Charles, his gaze stayed fixed on the empty cup in front of him.

At some point Maggie had got up to fetch two glasses and a bottle of red wine. Had she caught Gordon glancing at the clock? As a rule he didn’t approve of drinking alcohol until after six o’clock in the evening, but he did make exceptions. Those being wine with Christmas lunch and the odd pint or two at the bowls clubhouse.

Helped by the wine to loosen their tongues and inhibitions, the two talked well into the evening. The flood gates opened and Maggie vented all of her frustrations that she had been bottling up and had been too timid to share with her husband over the years. Most of her frustrations were with herself for not standing up to Gordon or being complacent and letting time slip away and with it any hopes, dreams and aspirations that she may have once had.

Gordon talked about the anger and confusion he felt after Maggie abandoned him in Cornwall. About the fear that she may have drowned and being lonely without her. It scared him that she might never return but his stupid pride had stopped him from going to find her.

“Did you want me to come and find you?” He had asked.

“Maybe a little bit of me did. Maybe I wanted you to show that I mattered to you. But mostly I enjoyed just being me.” She’d replied.

“Would you have come home with me if I’d found you?”

Maggie had paused to consider her response.

“That depends whether you had told me to stop being a silly Margaret or whether you told me that you loved me and had missed me and that you were prepared to talk and fix our marriage.”

”But surely coming to find you would show that I cared.”

Maggie had sighed. “But you didn’t come looking for me did you?”

“I didn’t know where to start. It would have been like looking for needle in a haystack. I needed to go back to work as well.”

Maggie had thrown her arms up in exasperation “For crying out loud Gordon, I left last Thursday. That at least gave you three days to at least try and find me before returning to your bloody precious job!  Did my disappearing interfere with a bowls meeting or was there an important cricket match on the TV that you couldn’t possibly miss!”

At that point Maggie had stormed out of the kitchen and gone to sit on the garden bench next to the smiling gnome with his fishing rod next to the ornamental garden pond.

And you can wipe that stupid grin off your face, you ridiculous little twat!

And with that she picked up the gnome and dropped it into the depths of the pond!

Maggie had felt much better for taking her anger out on the gnome. She had always detested it, ever since the day that Gordon brought it home from a trip to the garden centre to buy slug pellets. Maggie had made the mistake of saying that she thought it was a cheerful little chap. Since then more gnomes had appeared in the garden. Maggie decided that they all needed to go to the great gnome heaven in the sky. In other words, the local tip!

Maggie had returned to the kitchen. Gordon had opened another bottle of wine and had put a plate of cheese and a basket of crackers onto the table. Neither had eaten since breakfast and Gordon had wisely decided against asking Maggie to prepare supper as she would probably have picked up her bag that was still sitting in the hall and walked out.

The two of them had continued to talk until well past midnight. Both agreed that they wanted to make their marriage work and that there needed to be changes in order for it to do so. Shattered after a long and emotional day and after consuming two bottles of wine. Maggie and Gordon had made their way upstairs. On the landing Maggie had kissed Gordon on the cheek and went into the spare bedroom and closed the door behind her. Gordon stood momentarily looking at the door and with a sigh entered their bedroom and quietly closed the door behind him.

Maggie and Gordon had found themselves pussyfooting around each other most of the time. Although the atmosphere between them wasn’t exactly tense, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near relaxed. There were plenty of “Can I make you a cup of tea?” and “Good morning, did you sleep well?” sort of conversations. Gordon became attentive and helped with preparing meals and remembered to put the wheelie bin out on rubbish collection day. Neither which he had done for many years. Maggie sat and watched Newsnight and Question Time with her husband rather than disappearing to bed. They were both trying to make an effort with each other.

While Gordon was at work, Maggie had sorted her wardrobe and drawers . She’d made three piles. One for the charity shop, another for the recycling centre and another of clothes to keep. That pile was pitifully small. Until she went shopping she needed at least a few pieces of clothing to keep her going. Lugging the bin liners filled with the unwanted clothes into the boot of her car, her neighbour Irene had tapped on her front room window and waved.

Maggie had smiled and waved back. Blast, that’s all I need.

Irene mimed drinking from a cup. She lived on her own and would often appear at her door the same time Maggie opened hers to put milk bottles out or to water their hanging baskets. Gordon reckoned that she must have a micro  CCTV  trained on their front and back door as it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that she was always there whenever they opened a door! Maggie felt sorry for Irene as she must be lonely living in the house all by herself. The house had belonged to her mother and since Irene had never married she had never left home and ended up caring for her mother who was living with dememtia until she died a few years previously.

Maggie hadn’t been able to think of a good excuse not to have coffee with Irene, so with a sigh she locked the boot of her car and walked up her neighbour’s path and let herself in.

Irene already had the coffee things laid out together with a plate of chocolate digestives.

“Well, well Maggie Thornden, just look at you! I though Gordon had gone and got himself another woman!”

Maggie knew that Irene was fishing for answers to the reason behind her change of image and why she hadn’t come home with her husband last week from their holiday in Cornwall. No doubt she had questioned Gordon but she knew too well that he couldn’t abide Irene, thought her nosey and a busy body and would have more or less told her to mind her own bloody business and probably shut the front door leaving Irene standing there on the doorstep.

Irene must have got frustrated that Maggie only gave vague answers to her quizzing. She had said that she’d felt like a change of image and for some reason unknown to her, she had told Irene that she’d gone on a water colour painting course in Padstow. She knew that Irene smelt a rat as she would have noticed that Gordon had returned a day earlier than intended. Nothing much got past her neighbour!

Susan had phoned of course. She wanted to know everything and was especially keen to know that her parents had kissed and made up. She’d wanted things to return to normal between them and hoped that her mum had got over whatever it was that had made her act so irrationally.

After the phone call Maggie had sat down at the kitchen table and stared into space pondering.

Susan’s words resonated in her head Return to normal.

If that was going to be the case then why did she not get on the bus and carry on her journey northwards?

Because she needed to give her marriage a chance and that she needed to prove to herself that she still had it in her to be the woman she once was. To do that she had to do that here and not in Lancashire or Yorkshire or even John O’Groats.

Maggie had then got up, fetched a note pad and started to make a list.

Gordon hadn’t been long through the door after returning home from work before Maggie grabbed him by the elbow and guided him to the kitchen table where a bottle of wine and two glasses were waiting as well as a bowl of olives and cubes of cheese. Deciding that it was in his best interest not to ask for a cup of tea and a couple of Hobnobs he sat down for what was obviously going to be “a chat”. Ever since Maggie had come home a week ago he’d tried really hard to be the caring, attentive husband she had apparently been missing all these years. To be honest, he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d supposedly been doing wrong and what it was that she wanted from him. But in order to keep the peace he’d go along with being the dutiful husband and make an effort to “do his bit” to keep her happy. She was probably going through some sort of hormonal thing. Maybe he’d suggest a little trip to the GP when the time was right!

For some reason unbeknown to him, Maggie has spent most of the week sorting. There’d been full black bin bags piled up in the spare bedroom and he’d noticed that some of his clothing had gone missing. It wasn’t only clothes that had disappeared but odds and ends around the house too. His pile of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks weren’t in their usual place and the gold carriage clock that had been his Aunt Agnes’s was no longer on the window sill. There’d also been the mystery as to why the gnome was in the garden pond. He’d managed to fish it out but the little chaps rod was broken and he could see no way of fixing it! He’d decided not to rock the apple cart and mention anything but seriously, it was damn annoying and maybe he’d ask for things to be put back once the dust had settled and things had got back to normal at home.

Gordon sat down without saying a word whilst Maggie poured the wine. He speared a cube of cheese and popped it in his mouth. It’s taste was unfamiliar. Definitely not Cheddar.

“It’s Manchengo.” Maggie said before he got to ask. “It’s from Spain. Do you like it? I bought it in Waitrose this afternoon.”

“But you usually go to Morrisons.”

Maggie shrugged. “So I do, but do you know what, I fancied a change. There was so many things there that we have not tried before. I had a field day shopping!”

Gordon was imagining what the bill came to. “You’re not going to make a habit of going there are you?”

“Maybe, I haven’t decided. I might see if I can find a farmers market and get some organic, local produce.” “Oh, and I discovered a very good wine merchant whilst I was out. He recommended this bottle of Rioja. There was a discount if I bought a case so it made sense to.

Now where did I put my notebook, we have things to discuss.”

Gordon didn’t like the tone in Maggie’s voice. She sounded as though she meant business!

“Right” said Maggie, the tone of her voice sounding slightly officious. “I’ve spent the last few days having a really good think about how we can get our marriage back on track.”

Gordon did not like the sound of this at all. He took a big gulp of wine and was about to say something along the lines that there was nothing wrong with the state of their marriage but then thought better of it!

“If we want to make this work, I want us to make some changes. To ourselves and to us. I don’t like what I’ve become over the years and you’ve changed too. I want my old husband back. I want the old me back.”

“But we’re older and set in our ways. We can’t just change and be the people we used to be” protested Gordon.

“I’m not saying that we can turn back time and start behaving and dressing like twenty five year olds again. My days of drinking Pernod and orange and wearing shell suits are long gone. What I mean is that we stop being drudges and taking each other for granted. Our life together has become routine and boring. You must agree about that surely!”

Gordon wasn’t sure that he did agree with her. Couples that are together for years do get into routines and it’s perfectly acceptable to be expected. He had no complaints about the state of their marriage. There was a roof over their head, he brought in a decent wage which meant Maggie didn’t have to work so she could look after their lovely home and they got to go on holiday to her beloved Cornwall every summer. What more could a woman ask for!

“Isn’t there a saying , if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? I can’t see that we need to fix our marriage. I give you everything you need don’t I? We are who we are. We are getting old and have to accept it We can’t turn back time!”

“I’m fifty five for goodness sake not eighty five. You and I are nowhere near old yet and for your information our marriage does need fixing and if you aren’t prepared to make changes with me then in all honesty Gordon I can’t see the point in us being together anymore! There I’ve said it. I can’t carry on like this. I don’t want to be treading on eggshells with you all the time and listening to you moaning about whether the neighbours have overfilled their recycling boxes or that women are rubbish drivers. I don’t want a running commentary about the state of your prostate when you won’t go and see the doctor about it and I don’t want to wear bloody anoraks anymore!”

Gordon wasn’t used to these outbursts from his normally docile wife. They were definitely taking him by surprise.

Gordon’s eyes widened as he let out a long exhale of air through pursed lips “Well thank you for that. That’s some character assassination. Is that really how you see me?”

It dawned on Maggie that she may have been unduly blunt and harsh. She didn’t intend to hurt him.

She gave a small smile.

“Afraid so most of the time. You have to admit that you do get worked up over the silliest things. But what’s frustrating is that I stand back and just let you get on with it. Anything for an easy life, that’s me. Doesn’t it annoy you that I just nod and say …yes dear.. to you? Wouldn’t it be better if I told you to stop being a prize pillock once in a while? “

“But you are you Maggie. That’s who you are!”

“But think back Gordon. Was I always that way? Remember when we first got together. What was it that you liked about me?”

Gordon thought back to their early twenties when they first met. He remembered the young sales assistant in the independent music shop when he enquired about an LP of some obscure band. She had long shiny auburn hair tied up with a silk scarf and wore baggy dungerees and a stripy top. In her ears were huge hooped earrings that glistened as she moved her head. Her eyes were pale blue and her lips were full and painted with crimson gloss.

She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen.

He loved that she was bubbly and smiley. He kept making excuses for returning to the shop. He spent a fortune on LP’s that he didn’t really want. She made conversation easy and he was amazed when she agreed to come with him to see an indie band playing at the local pub. Was she just being kind by accepting the invitation from the shy guy wearing round wire rimmed glasses, stone coloured chinos and suede desert boots?

He had felt awkward and tongue tied at first on that first date but she had a knack of making conversation easy. He’d bought her Pernod and orange whilst he drank real ale. She didn’t laugh when he admitted playing bowls with his dad but asked if he’d show her how to play one day. He fell madly, deeply in love with her that night. He wanted more than anything to kiss her. To feel those moist full lips against his, but instead it was her that kissed him that night. A fleeting peck on the cheek as they said their goodbyes.

They were like chalk and cheese. She was the vivacious one who threw caution to the wind. He was the sensible one who thought things through rather than take risks. She knew how to charm everyone she met. His family adored her. He was studying for his accountancy exams. She sat reading quietly whilst he had his head buried in his books, made ade him tea and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly as she brushed past him.

She said little of her life before they met. He didn’t ask about her past loves. He didn’t want to think of her ever being with anyone else but he knew that first time that she stayed the night with him that he wasn’t her first. He didn’t tell her that it was his first time but if she knew, she didn’t let on but guided him gently whilst he explored her lithe body.

He’d never meant to ask her to marry him outside the bowls club of all places and had kicked himself afterwards for choosing the most unromantic setting to propose. One day he’d ask her again. Somewhere special and romantic like Paris or Rome.

But he never did.

Gordon looked at his wife.

“Everything Maggie, I loved everything about you. You made me feel alive. I couldn’t believe that you could possibly be interested in a dull introvert like me. I felt like the luckiest man alive. God, I’ve been such a fool. How do you put up with me? I was so scared that when you left you were never going to come back.”

“But I did come back Gordon. Right shall we try and fix things? First things first though. Go and get another bottle of wine and I’ll pop a lasagne in the oven. I don’t know about you but I’m starving!”