There were two mugs on the kitchen table. The man sat with his face in his hands, elbows resting on the wooden surface. He watched the steam as it rose from the hot tea, then disappeared into nothing.
“Life’s a funny old game, isn’t love,” he said quietly, breaking the silence. “Full of ups and downs, happiness and sadness, sweet and sour.” He sighed, then reached for the mug closest to him, patterned with a blue and white zigzag. He blew on the hot liquid before bringing the mug to his lips. He savoured the moment as he swallowed. There was something about that first mouthful that always hit the spot.
“But everything feels a bit better after a good strong cuppa, isn’t that right?” He sat back in his chair and sighed again.
“Going to be a tough day, love. That’s for certain but our Sandra will be here soon. She’ll sort us out, like she does. We did well with that one, didn’t we, eh? Such a good girl. Though now she’s in her 40s I should probably stop calling her a girl. But she’ll always be our baby. Do you remember the day she was born? Right here in this house. Gosh, it was wonderful. One of the best days of my life. She was so tiny. Head full of thick black hair and you did the whole thing without any pain killers. You didn’t moan or complain. It came all so naturally to you. As did motherhood. Proper mother earth, that was you. Nothing those kids did ever fazed you. And now look at them! Sandra, some big shot in the city and Simon with his own building company. I always knew he would do well once he left school. It never did agree with him, did it? Do you remember? He didn’t fit in, didn’t enjoy it, just wanted to tinker about in the garage. Thank goodness for that Technology teacher who took him under his wing, got him that apprenticeship. Cor, the amount of times you were called into the school.” The man laughed at the memory. “You were on first name terms with the teachers, you were there so often.”
The man took another mouthful of tea. He stared out of the kitchen window into the garden where he could see the apple tree, its branches swaying gently in the breeze, the blossom being thrown through the air like confetti.
“I’m sorry if I worked too much, if I didn’t give you enough support, especially when the kids were small. I guess I was wrapped up in my career, making sure I was providing enough for you all to realise how quickly time was passing. Blink and you realise the kids are teenagers.”
He took another sip of tea.
“I hope I made you happy. I think I did. I know you made me happy. The happiest man alive, from the day I first set eyes on you. Do you remember? We were at the dance hall in town. You wore a pale pink dress with white gloves. You were the prettiest thing I ever saw. And when you finally noticed me, I swear I could hear bells ringing in my ears and had stars in my eyes. Took me all night to pluck up the courage to ask you to dance. Not sure I ever told you that. And by that point there was only time for one and then you left before I even had chance to ask your name. Lucky for me you came back again the next week.” The man took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his eyes.
“We’ve had a good life though, haven’t we? We’ve been happy and although there have been some tough times along the way, I wouldn’t have wanted it any different. With you by my side, I felt I could conquer the world.”
The man turns his head as the front door opens. “I think I hear Sandra now, love.”
“Dad? The cars are here. Are you ready to go?” a voice called from the hallway.
“Just a minute,” the man called back.
“Well, love. That’s it then. I’ve dreaded this day coming and now it’s here. I wish it was me instead of you but it’s OK. I know it won’t be long before I see you again.” The man carefully placed his now empty mug next to the still full one on the table. He stood, slowly wincing at the pain in his hip. He picked up his stick then shuffled out of the kitchen.
“Right, time to go. Time to say goodbye.”
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