by Robin Wrigley
A Lost Lover
Gin & Tonic
Rosie Walsh lay back in her easy chair basking in a warming shaft of April sunshine shining through the side window. Having just had her elevenses of coffee, made with milk and two chocolate digestives she was feeling relaxed and ready for a small nap before lunch.
“You alright in there, Rose?” Her carer poked her head around the door and was pleased to see that the old girl was fast asleep in her chair. The steady rise and fall of her cardigan assured her all was well.
Rose slept soundly dreaming of days gone by when Albert first called to take her out. Course she was Rose Edwards then and everybody called her Rosie even though it was in fact her second name. She was really Nellie Rose Edwards, the same as her grandmother but she couldn’t stand Nellie. Her main objection to it was the boy next door, Frank Kimber, always used to sing ‘Nellie put your belly next to mine’ whenever he saw her.
She hated that boy Kimber almost as much as she loved Albert, yet it was strange how she always dreamt about both of them in equal amounts. Funny really because she had been married to Roger Walsh right up to his death and hadn’t seen neither hide nor hair of the other two in donkey’s years.
She did have one disturbing dream where the Queen Mother made a visit to the town and met Roger pushing Margaret’s pram up the High Street and he told her it wasn’t his baby.
It was the war that messed her life up. She and Albert were going steady when he got his papers and was shipped off first to Aldershot and then to North Africa. Two months later she discovered she was pregnant. He was sunning himself by the Suez Canal and she was trying her best not to let her parents hear her being sick in the toilet.
Though she never particularly liked the family butcher’s son Roger, she knew he carried a torch for her and she was desperate. Within six weeks of returning his smiles they were married quietly in the local church.
A few tongues wagged behind her back. She was well aware that nobody believed she was four months early when her daughter Margaret Rose was born. She never knew whether her husband ever realised the baby was not his right up until the day he died.
As the years slipped by the question of who was Margaret’s father was never queried until Albert was demobbed at the end of the war. They met in the recreation ground one Tuesday morning as she was sat watching the child on the swings.
She almost fainted when Albert put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Hello Rosie, you’re looking well.” She hadn’t seen him approaching
Her face first went shock white and then bright red. Words failed her and she looked up and down the park to make sure there were no witnesses to the meeting. Margaret continued swinging, lost in her own little world while her mother fought back potential tears at the sight of the man in army uniform who was her father.
Rose continued her silence and Albert said, “I’ve been watching the little girl on the swings. She’s mine, isn’t she?” Before she had chance to reply he turned on his heel and left as quickly as he had appeared. She was going to call out for him to stop. She could explain, but the words wouldn’t come; but quiet tears did and rolled down her cheeks. The cheeks that were crimson with embarrassment, shame and sorrow all mixed into one.
She walked Margaret often to the recreation ground in the vain hope that he might try and find her again after that brief encounter, but he never did. Apparently, she found out he had left the town the next day and she later learned he had emigrated to New Zealand.
She and Roger never had any more children; it wasn’t for lack of trying on his part and she was more than a little relieved when he took up bowling and seemed to lose interest in trying to make a friend for Margaret.
Roger actually died at the bowling green. It was a grudge match against their main rivals from the next town and he missed on his last bowl. It would have won them the match and the trophy but he missed by a whisker. They told Rose the disappointment had hit him so hard he’d simply rolled over from the kneeling position and died of a massive stroke.
The whole club turned out to his funeral and many of the town’s folk; as the last surviving family member of Walsh’s butchers he was well known and liked in equal measures. Margaret, her husband and two sons escorted Rose to the funeral and they gave him a good send off. She felt confused but really not truly sad. He was a good man, a loving father to her child and she never wanted for anything throughout their married life. But like is not love.
She survived him by fifteen years living alone in the family home until Margaret persuaded her to go into the retirement home. At first she didn’t want to but she was glad that she had done so. She was able to chat to both residents and staff and it stopped her thoughts returning to Albert all those years ago. Strange as it might seem but Roger’s death somehow released her from having to be grateful to a man she really didn’t love.
Noon came and Rose slept on. The carer came back calling along the hall, “Mrs Walsh, Rosie there’s a call for you. Says he knows you well, sounds a bit like an Australian, Rosie.”
But she couldn’t wake her. She died peacefully in her sleep.
About the auhtor
Robin is a regular contributor to CafeLit and a member of the Wimborne Writers’ Group