The carer arrive promptly, on the hour. On crossing the threshold she shoulders my duties for the afternoon. She drops her bulging handbag at Mum’s slippered feet.
“Hello, luv,” she says to the tiny figure corralled by the zimmer frame.
“Bye, mum,” I call out.
My car keys in hand, relishing the hug of the July sun on my bare shoulders as I step outside and catch the whiff of next-door’s honeysuckle. I drive to Warwick, where the Castle broods over the quaint town, and walk to the park where the swans paddle alongside the pedalos. He’s waiting. David. My golden man. We link fingers, stroll amidst walls of towering blue rhododendrons, seizing our two hours of stolen time together. To talk, to touch, to dream, to kiss. We watch strident toddlers challenging ducks, dogs chasing balls, families queuing for ice lollies, but we are separate from them. Caught in our own bubble, sun-dazed, sweating softly. I stare at the blonde hairs on David’s forearms, noting his chipped front tooth. We lie on the grass, blending in to each other, letting our bodies absorb the smell and feel of the afternoon; staring upwards, the sun dazzles me, starbursts explode under my eyelids.
We kiss, drowse a little. Lose time.
“I have to go,” I say, a stone lodging in my gut. The same stone, every bloody time. I know its shape, its name and weight.
“A little longer,” he says, stroking my cheek.
“I can’t be late, the carer . . . you know . . .” He releases me.
A child nearby cries, another picks up the refrain, the afternoon’s sunny disposition is turning mardy.
The drive home, the tedium of evening duties, the sleepless nights. The weight of love and duty lurks in every corner of my heart and my home; a clarion call.
We stroll, holding hands, languid as cats, across cobbled alleyways past our favourite restaurant, until we reach my battered Cavalier.
“Next Sunday afternoon,” he says. A statement.
I nod. Wordless.
I watch him grow smaller in my rear view mirror, a slim figure, filling the spaces in my heart.
Later, lying in bed, sheets tossed off, in the foetid summer air, I recall the touch trace of his lips, and I wish to be that young woman in the park all the time.