Since the day Ray had left, Mary had organised her life around a schedule of events she tried to stick to. It was how she coped with the loneliness his absence imposed on her.
She spent her mornings tidying up the house, she’d never cope if Ray or anyone turned up and her house was not spit-polish clean.
If the day was sunny there was washing to hang, and the garden was always in need of her attention, though the hour or so she’d spend out there didn’t seem to be benefitting it.
Mary preferred when she was in the garden to find a spot where she could hide. Sometimes behind the hydrangeas, often in her fernery as her previous neighbours had a habit of finding her and wanting to discuss the most inane things like the fruit fly in their tomatoes or whether or not to use rose spray before or after the yearly prune.
Today she decided to sit in her front room, read, and watch for any activity from her new neighbour. Underneath it, all Mary was a curious woman and her new neighbours were a source of curiosity.
She took her seat beside the side window where she thought she could discretely keep an eye out for anything going on.
Her book was a memoir by an American author about her childhood abuse. The local librarian had suggested it as a few patrons had read and recommended it. Any book with the word ‘secret’ in the title intrigued her, and so far she had enjoyed the story, as troubling as it was.
There had been no movement next door since the man had left. She began to wonder about her new neighbour. She imagined that Mrs Vera Hyphenated would have the best furniture in which to store her expensive and beautiful ornaments, framed citations from Prime Ministers and trophies attesting to her skill in playing bridge and maybe even an accomplishment on the harp she had seen entering the house the day before. Mary’s mother had a beautiful china cabinet, which was destroyed one year when the flood went through her house. She had always admired it and hoped to acquire it when her mother died, but it was not to be.
There was so much of the past now lost, destroyed or simply forgotten and she wondered why time changed so much.
She looked up to see Mrs Hyphenated coming out her side door. To Mary’s horror, the woman turned left out of her drive and headed towards Mary’s front gate.
Mary immediately went into a panic and dropped her book, and rushed to her room. Knowing it could be a few seconds before the woman knocked on the door, she grabbed her brush and ran it through her hair. She checked herself in the mirror, quietly cursed herself for her lack of makeup, but truth be known she rarely used any nowadays. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw the age lines creeping across her brow, and the deepening rings under her eyes. Old age sucks she said to herself then checked to make sure she hadn’t slopped anything down her shirt while having breakfast. All seemed to be the best it could be.
She heard the knock on the door and upon opening it found her new neighbour standing there with her hands full.