Monday 12 February 2024

Mac and Nadine by Peter Lingard, a strong cup of tea

Mac Dennison was like his house – strong and dependable.  The last time someone had measured him was on his discharge from the army and he had stood exactly six feet tall.  His blonde wavy hair was a little unmanageable but for a man who liked to dress in jeans and lumberjack-check shirts, that was not a problem.


He and his wife, Anna had been sociable with several local people and there had been friends made at work.  However, Anna’s death and Mac’s decision to work for himself had cut a lot of ties.  Neighbours had died or moved away; leaving Mac with just a half-dozen people he could call friends.


Nadine Preston often invited him for dinner or, if a Manchester City game was televised, to watch the match.  After drinking four or five glasses of red wine, her husband, Bob usually fell asleep in his comfortable armchair.  Mac would then take his glass to the kitchen and chat with Nadine.  The two had a rapport more easily enjoyed when Bob was not part of the conversation.

They had been friends for sixteen years.  When the Prestons moved into a house two plots down the close from them, Anna had gone out of her way to make the couple feel welcome.  She had invited the new neighbours for dinner and Mac had been shocked at his reaction on encountering the tall teacher. He had felt he had just met the one woman in the world meant for him. He told himself he was being foolish, that he knew nothing about the woman, but her vivacious personality and un-enhanced beauty increasingly bore into his heart.

As time went by, his feelings for Nadine strengthened.  He found it strange that his affection for the slightly overweight, occasionally bespectacled woman never affected his devotion for his wife, whom he loved dearly.

Mac had often wondered what it would be like to be sexually involved with Nadine but he had never fantasised about her.  He had never substituted her for Anna.  He had noticed her body, fallen for her charm and been concerned for her welfare, but he had never lusted after her. Since Anna’s death, however, his loneliness had sharpened his awareness of the beautiful woman.

One Sunday morning, Nadine called to say that Bob had two tickets for the Manchester City versus Manchester United game and, as neither she nor their children wanted to go, the spare one was his if he wanted it.  The price of his ticket was that he had to be the designated driver so that Bob could enjoy a few libations. After Manchester City had won by two goals and Bob had emptied his bladder for the umpteenth time, the two men drove back to Altringham.

As soon as they walked into the house, Bob disappeared to hang up his sky-blue scarf and to relieve himself.  Mac stayed in the kitchen to talk with Nadine.

‘How was the game?’ she asked.

‘It was fairly even for most of the game, but then City surged in the final ten minutes and scored two goals.’

‘You seem quite pleased.  I didn’t think you cared too much about football.’

Mac shrugged his shoulders.  ‘I really don’t follow a particular team but I get a perverse feeling of joy when Manchester United loses.  Anything that puts a crimp in their day makes me happy.’

‘That’s not very sporting of you, Mac.’  Nadine took her eyes off the food she was preparing and gave him a smile that went straight to his heart.

‘I know, but I don’t care.’

‘Why don’t you open that bottle of cabsav on the counter and pour us both a glass.  If Bob joins us, we’ll give him one, too.’

Mac looked around the room, searching for a corkscrew.

Nadine realised what he was doing, ‘Oh, we moved it.  Try in the top drawer over there.’  She lifted her elbow, making sure that her greasy hands stayed over the bowl in which she was working and indicated the cabinet wherein he should look.  A curl of light brown hair fell over her eyes and she blew it back atop her head.  Mac experienced a rush of joy and saved the scene in his memory bank.

There were only the three of them for dinner.  The two men sat at the table and chatted whilst Nadine served them.  Mac watched her as much as he could.  Her calm, efficient and yet pleasing manner caused a warm glow to come from somewhere inside him.

‘You don’t have much to say for yourself, Mac.’  Bob broke a moment of reverie.

‘No.  Sorry.  I was miles away.’  Mac wracked his brain for something to say.  ‘How’s work?’ he asked lamely.

Bob smiled at him.  ‘We discussed that on the way to the game.’

‘Yeah.  I forgot.’  Mac looked across the table at Nadine.  ‘What about you?  Anything eventful happen lately?’

‘Not really.  Bob's been feeling a little off colour.  He’s off to the doctors tomorrow.’  She turned to her husband; ‘Didn’t you tell Mac about it?’

‘No, honey, guys don’t discuss stuff like that.’


Mac met and dated a few willing women.  It amused him to think he was a sought-after commodity.  One woman stood out from the rest.  Judith was a warm-hearted woman who had been divorced for three years.  The more she got to know Mac, the more she wanted to keep him.  She put gentle pressures on him to make their arrangement an exclusive one and, after five months of dating, she managed to get herself installed in Mac’s house. 

Nadine congratulated him and befriended Judith.  The two couples got into the habit of alternately dining at each other’s homes on a weekly basis. 

One night, Bob advised Mac and Judith that he had inoperable colon cancer and that, during his last visit to the doctors, it had been suggested he tidy up his affairs within the next three months. 


One Sunday morning when Judith was at church, Nadine poured her heart out to her friend.  Bob had become a difficult man to live with.  So much so that she now looked forward to his death and that gave her terrible feelings of guilt.  She put her head on Mac’s shoulder and sobbed out her troubles.  And he held her.  Held on to the woman he knew he loved.  Held her tenderly and fought back the tears that burned the edges of his eyes.  Held her tightly and tried to transmit some of his strength into her body wracked with sobs.  Held her closely and became aware of the smell of her.  Held her loosely and concentrated on not getting an erection.  Held her tightly again to crush his own feelings of guilt.


Bob died around the time his doctors had predicted.  It had not been an easy death, but he had been comforted until the end by his wife.  As Mac faced Nadine across the grave, he saw the darkness under her eyes and the drawn flesh beneath her cheekbones.  He wanted to walk around the gaping hole in the ground and put his arm across her black-clad shoulders.  He did not know what words he would whisper in her ear, but he knew he could give her some strength and support.  Instead, he stayed where he stood, holding Judith’s hand as she sniffled into a paper handkerchief.

When the last flower had been thrown on the coffin and people began to leave the graveside, Mac and Judith took up a position of support beside Nadine and her children, Robert, Michael and Carole.  People stopped to give the family their condolences.  Dry-eyed Nadine thanked them all and waited until there was just the six of them left alongside her dead husband. 

‘Better be getting back, I suppose.  All those people need feeding.  Shall we go?’ 

Robert took Carole’s arm and Michael led Judith toward the limousine.  Nadine held out her hand to Mac.

 ‘Shall we?’ she said quietly.

Mac took her hand and they followed the four whilst he thought of the possible implications in those two words.  Shall we?


Mac awoke in the middle of the night and thought about Nadine.  If he had not been so malleable when Judith schemed her way into his life, he would still be alone.  Yet, Judith had done nothing wrong.  She clearly loved him and she had only done what was necessary to secure her future.  He had allowed Judith to move into his life even though he loved another woman.  And Nadine?  She had never given him any encouragement other than as a friend but he liked to think his feelings for her were secretly reciprocated.  He was, however, aware of his responsibilities and knew he must never reveal to Nadine what he felt for her, or try to ascertain what she felt for him.  It would be immensely shameful to him to treat Judith so shabbily.  He must continue to live as he had and love Nadine from afar.


Nadine’s next birthday was her sixtieth.  Mac presented her with an immense bouquet and experienced a delirious moment as he watched her cradle the flowers in the crook of her arm and breathe in their fragrance.


A year later, Nadine married James Callafano and the couple took up residence in Nadine’s home.  The dinners and trips to the theatre and cinema resumed.  Being in Nadine’s company made Mac so happy that he showered Judith with attention and was overly friendly with Jim, as the man liked to be called.  It was a strange sensation, but his love for Nadine made him solicitous of everybody else’s welfare when he was in her presence.


One morning when Mac was in Nadine’s kitchen, he saw a single piece of bread defrosting on the butcher block. 

‘What’s the slice of bread for?’ he asked.

‘That’s my breakfast.  I shall toast it and have it with a glass of orange juice.  Why?’

‘No reason.  I thought that a solitary slice was of no use.  Shows how wrong a person can be.’  He did not know why, but the details of Nadine’s breakfast gave him the inner glow that he often experienced when with her.


Whenever Nadine spoke, Mac would look into her eyes with an intent usually reserved for matters of great import.  He willed her to understand that he was listening to her, giving her his undivided attention.  Whenever her hands caught his notice, Mac would have to suppress the desire to reach out and touch them.  If she mentioned a problem, Mac did his utmost to think of a way to solve it.  Sometimes, he would return days later with the solution to a simple matter that Nadine had already forgotten about.  He sometimes saw Nadine in the local convenience store and their encounter would bring him a rush of happiness that left him in a buoyant mood for the remainder of the day. 


They grew older.  Mac with the loving Judith and Nadine with Jim. 


During Nadine’s seventieth year, Jim died.  The doctor said his heart had weakened and living life had become too demanding for him.  Shortly afterwards Judith had a stroke and died after lingering in a hospital bed for three weeks. 


Mac and Nadine caught each other’s eyes from opposite sides of Judith’s grave.  Nadine gave him a watery smile and Mac nodded his head.  There were not many people at the funeral and when they had gone, Nadine held out her hand for Mac to take.

‘It’s just you and me now,’ she smiled.

Mac looked into her eyes and felt his heart explode.  He was dead before he reached the ground.


About the author 

Peter Lingard, born a Brit, laboured in a large dairy, served in the Royal Marines, was an accountant, a barman and a farm worker. He once lived in the US where he owned a freight forwarding business. An Aussie because the sun frequently shines and the natives communicate in English. Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

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