Saturday, October 24, 2015

A journey - part 4

"Why don't we girls take a cruise? Who all are game?"

"Hmm, sounds interesting. What month do you have in mind Carol?"

"How about next month? There is a cruise ship stopping here, we can book tickets. A month long cruise with the best luxury money can buy. Aaaah, I think it is well deserved."

"Count me out, I get terribly sea sick," said Rosa.

"Alanah why are you so quiet? something on your mind?"

It was the regular bridge and lunch date the women had at the retirement complex up the golf greens. Alanah usually enjoyed the company of her friends. Today she was occupied with thoughts of the past and the future.

"Hmm no no. I am right here with you all. What was it you were discussing? A cruise.. heavens no! I am not going on any cruise. Especially with cantankerous old ladies like you," she laughed gently and evaded the topic.

Her eyes met across their table to a man seated at the far end. He had grey hair, a weathered and swarthy tan, smoking a pipe he sat reading the newspaper. He tipped his head at her and smiled. She looked away and chided herself at being so childish. The rest of the afternoon was smooth with laughter, shared memories and some community gossip.

"Hello there, I hoped to speak to you back there,"

"Oh hello. Yes, yes, I did see you at the greens the other day,"

He smiled. It was a gentle smile not revealing much apart from white, even teeth.

" I am Bob, I am new here. I was wondering if you would be free to have lunch with me?"

Alanah looked at her watch, "Oh hi Bob, I am Alanah. Uhmm it is time for lunch, why not," she said.

He laughed a hearty infectious laugh, " No, no. I didn't mean now. I will ask you out properly. This is no way. Give me your number, I will call you,"

A bit taken aback, a bit flushed, she felt also a bit foolish. Yet the laughter pulled her and she decided to get into the game. "Do you have a pen?"

"No, but I have a great memory,"

"Well then, here goes, 99-563-8435"

"I will call you," said he as he drove past.

She smiled and entered the supermarket for her weekly groceries.

It had been fifteen years since she had been out with a man. She had not missed the company. The initial years she was busy with the upkeep of the garage and Lila was young as well. She had her hands and mind full and the hours in the day seemed less. But now things were different.

She had sold the pump to a good price and invested the money wisely. Lila had a life of her own. The days were long but she prided in sticking to a routine and kept herself physically and mentally occupied. She had her garden, her friends and most importantly, she had Hazel. The thought of the dog made her sad. Hazel was not keeping well at all. She would have to take her to the vet and put her to sleep. Alanah was preparing to mourn again, to say goodbye.

She put on a record that evening. She had forgotten how well she sang and how much she loved music. With Pegaso at home, music was never far. There was always a record playing, or he teaching the Ukulele to Lila. She missed it, she thought now. With her wine she sat in her kitchen going through the old pictures. Hazel sat on the rug, eyes closed, laboured breath. She would miss her pitter-patter steps down the stairs, following her around the house, getting the newspaper, her snores on her bed, her warm coat and her soft breath. She continued to look at the album and she let herself get lost in those faraway memories.

The ring of the phone startled her. She looked at the watch, it was 8 in the evening.

"Hello," she greeted, keeping her voice steady.

"Hi Alalanah, this is Natalie from the vet clinic. Have you decided yet? I am sorry to rush you like this, but the more she stays, the difficult it will get for her. I hope you understand,"

"Oh yes of course, Natalie. I am sorry, I did mean to give you a call today, I guess I have been evading this. Uhmm, I will bring her in tomorrow, is that okay? One more night with my Hazel"

"Yes of course. I will set things up for 9 tomorrow morning. I am sorry Alanah. Goodnight."

She put down the receiver, closed the album, checked the doors, switched off the lights and slowly walked up the stairs with Hazel. That night, after many years, Hazel put her head on her lap. She had stopped doing this since she was a pup. Alanah was awake most of the night, talking to Hazel, telling her about the wonderful new place she would be going to.

She woke with a start, it was just before 6 in the morning, her alarm had not set off yet. She must have slept off. She looked around her. "Hazel, Hazel" she called out gently. Getting out of her bed she walked down the stairs still calling out for her.

Hazel lay by the door, alone. she didn't move, didn't look, just lay there with her breath coming in spurts.

She was a big dog to carry, but Alanah managed. While driving to the clinic she called Natalie. They were ready for her when she reached. She got time alone with Hazel to say her final goodbye and then they injected her to ease all pain.

It was a totally empty house Alanah came back to. She put down her keys, her sunglasses and her bottle of water on the table top near her front door. She removed her coat and hung it and all the time her ears were alert to the footfalls of an eager pup who ran to welcome her in , familiar to the homecoming sounds. She took the small, ornate box of ashes that she had got back from the crematorium and put it up on the mantle next to the family pictures. Hazel would stay there from now. She must call Lila and let her know, but not yet. Let her have some more time.

It was then that the phone rang. She looked at the time, it was 9.

"Hello Alanah, Bob here. I did remember your number," He laughed a soft laugh.

to be continued...