David was annoyed. He was having to work hard lately. Sarah had been a bit off. Last week they’d moved in together, into a nice flat beside the park; she had been hesitant, wanting a bit more time to “think about it”, but he’d brushed aside her reluctance. She’d been banging on about meetings of minds and whether theirs did – god, seriously? Why did some people insist on playing those games? She suited him, and he looked after her; what more did she want, silly cow? Why not just cut the pretenses and sort things out so that they could get on with life? Once she was busy with kids she’d have no time for gabbling on about “empathy” and “rapport”, and he could settle down, relax.
But now here she was, moping along beside him as they walked. He grabbed her hand, and grinned at her, forcing her to look at him and return the smile. He disliked having to make the extra effort, but he kept his frown to himself.
A girl walking her dog in the opposite direction caught his eye. A half-smile played over her lipstick reddened lips as she passed, tucking her hair behind her ear and pretending not to notice him. But she had, of course. David was good-looking. He could see it in the mirror in the morning (and in any shop window), and reflected in the admiring glances of girls in the street. Sarah used to laugh about that when they first starting dating, but she’d gone all quiet and suspicious more recently, despite his spewing all the required crap about her being the only one for him, blah blah blah. He could vomit that rubbish as convincingly as the next guy. Only she didn’t seem all that convinced anymore.
She’d even been rather taciturn when he’d begun to hint around the subject of marriage. He silently ground his teeth. He was going to have to pull out some stops on this one if he wanted to seal the deal. But he had just the thing in mind. He’d even spotted a convenient extra for his little play, sitting on a bench ahead – an old woman knitting a tiny red jumper in the morning sun, no doubt for some grandbrat. It couldn’t be a more perfect prop.
Sarah was worried. There was a knot of misgiving growing in her gut. She was more and more uncertain these days; about her life, her expectations, her choices…..David was putting pressure on her – or was he? Sometimes it felt like he was, but then in the next moment, she couldn’t be sure she wasn’t imagining things. He was so nice about things, like when she hadn’t been sure about moving in together. He’d deftly brushed aside her concerns with such worldly-wisdom, she’d felt all the foolishness of her silly doubts. What did she expect? This was real life, not some story, 50 Shades of Gray or something. He’d laughed gently at her and she’d hidden a blush. Had she always been so thick, so uncertain? She hadn’t used to think so – at least she didn’t think she had. But maybe she’d just been cocky with the confidence of youth then…
David took her hand and smiled down at her, his handsome face crinkling good-naturedly, bringing her back to the present. She smiled a rusty smile in return, feeling guilty for her apprehensions, her mistrust. At some point, she would have to stop questioning everything, he’d said, and learn to trust someone. He was right.
Marjory was enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. She’d brought out her knitting, as she did most mornings, weather permitting, into the park beside which she’d lived for 35 years. She and Don had moved in here within 2 months of coming from England, and they’d not moved since. There was no need. There were good schools nearby, and the beach within a stone’s throw. It was a pleasant neighbourhood then, and house prices had shot up over the years, to the point that she was a millionaire in assets now. Don had passed away 5 years ago, but truth be told, she didn’t really miss him. He’d been an ornery old prick. Given her the odd bash when in his cups. Nothing too bad in the scheme of things, but still, life was frankly easier without him to look after. She could sell up and use the money to do a bit of globe trotting (it was all the rage these days), but she was happy enough pottering around the garden, just enjoying the peace and quiet, the company of her cats and her kids when they came to visit, and her knitting club.
The boys weren’t far, just flatting in the city while they studied at uni. Jon was studying engineering. He’d always been a bright boy. He had a nice girlfriend. They were well-matched, and Marjory would be surprised if they didn’t end up married, with 2.8 children, living in the central suburbs. Connor was going to be a chef. She couldn’t work out where that had come from; he’d never been one to spend time in the kitchen growing up. She was fairly certain he was gay, but he hadn’t come out, at least to her. She smiled and shook her head to herself, casting off the last row of the little red jersey she was making for the local church fete. The knitting club generally made a few hundred for the church with their goods – people ate up handmade stuff these days. “Granny chic” they were calling it.
She glanced up briefly as she held up the little garment to examine her work. A young couple she’d noticed earlier were strolling toward her. He was looking intently at Marjory. She hid a grin and a roll of her eyes. She knew what he thought he saw. Assumptions. People were full of them. Being gray didn’t make you a granny, but she didn’t care to dye her hair just to set them straight.
But then she saw that the young man had started crying, slightly ostentatiously, to her mind, and she discretely observed them with more attention while tucking away her knitting. The girlfriend was looking horrified and was attempting to console him, but the source of the guilt mixed in with her expression was unclear. Snatches of their conversation reached Marjory as they walked a bit stumblingly by.
“…s wrong, David?”
“Nothing, Sar……..well……..baby brother died……Mum….heartbroken……..always hoped….grandchild…..love you, Sarah…….why wait? …..get married…….so happy…….have a baby……..”
By this time, Marjory was smelling bullshit. She knew the odour well. The cheeky bugger even had the front to look back at her over his girlfriend’s supporting shoulder and wink at her – just as if she were a co-conspirator.
But she wasn’t that. No, she wasn’t. Oh, the assumptions people made about old ladies.
She watched with sharp eyes as the young couple crossed the park and went into their flat.