Most of the shopping had been put away. Only the packets of instant gravy and cook-in-sauces needed to be filed in date order and the milk cartons stacked so that the boys wouldn't open the last one first.
glanced around the kitchen then decided that the last of her purchases, the
wooden rolling pin, the Italian dinner plates, and a bouquet of silk flowers,
could wait until she had supped a mug of tea. There was no hurry, so long as
all evidence of shopping was cleared away before Henry
finished his surgery. He was a stickler for tidiness and, with her head the way
it was, she didn't want to incur his displeasure.
It wasn't the crowded supermarket that gave her the headache, it was the casual bumping into
Julian, the man of her life twenty years ago. Her
stomach eddied at the memory of her storming round the corner of the dog food
aisle, her loaded trolley showing a reluctance to conform, veering in the
opposite direction and colliding into the conveyance belonging to .
She was sure she had blasphemed before looking up, but Julian Binchy Julian
made no mention of it. He simply rushed to her side, agog with recognition.
he exclaimed. 'I don't believe it.' Sue Fassett
'It's Weldon now,' she said, reaching for a packet of Kipper's favourite mixer. It wasn't on the list but it was a great way to hide her confusion.
Flashbacks of their courtship assailed her, twenty years shrinking to nothing. It seemed only yesterday that
Julian had waltzed off with Sadie,
a fashion model with hooks instead of claws. That last day Sadie had been dressed in a skimpy top and
bottom-hugging shorts, scarlet-tipped toes protruding from strappy high-heeled
sandals. She had clung like a leach to Julian.
'You've got a dog then?'
His words jerked her attention back to her surroundings, replacing
image with his own dark features, the mole on his chin being the first thing
she focused on. In her hand was a can of tripe which Kipper would demolish in
two seconds flat. ' Labrador,' she said.
'Kipper, after the theft of same. We'd just got him home from the farm. Six
weeks old, with a liking for fish. He didn't go for meat much ....' She
stopped, uncomfortably aware that she was babbling.
stopped him, fearing he might say something untoward and that she might be
tempted to launch into a dialogue of self-pity. She knew about doctors, the
extra hours they were forced to work, their tiredness when eventually they got
home, and the irritableness. Sadie
would have had quite a shock and serve her right.
There were numerous occasions during the twenty years when
wished she had married Julian instead
of Henry, certain that her first-love
would be more tolerant of her clutter and disorganisation. She leaned forward
to catch what Julian was saying, deafened by a commotion coming from a nearby
table, where three bellowing kids were hell bent on driving their mother
Fancy not being able to cook,
Susan thought, studying her nibbled biscuit.
Goodness, Henry could produce a
souffle at the drop of a hat and his bread was always done to a turn. In fact,
for a whole month after the operation to remove her appendix, he provided the
most varied and appetising meals.
'Couldn't get in the sink for crockery,'
Julian said. 'I asked Sadie once if I could use her dishwasher, but she
'And the laundry just piled up. I got fed up in the end and bought new shirts.'
'Couldn't you have put things to soak while you were at work?'
'How could I, with the sink full of crocks?'
'That's enough about my problems,' said
Julian. 'Tell me about
hadn't any to relate. In one hour Julian
had unknowingly demolished every one. The mind was a funny thing, it played
tricks without one knowing, blotting out things like meanness and
self-importance. But Julian had lost
no time in reminding her and the pedestal had finally toppled. 'I'm afraid I
must dash, Julian. The boys will be
home from school and there's Henry's
tea to prepare.' Ignoring his forlorn look, she picked up her bag. 'Goodbye. It
was very pleasant seeing you again.' Before he could reply she trotted off to
collect her trolley, already planning a change to the evening menu. She would
freeze the cod and serve instead an asparagus starter, fillet steak with pepper
sauce, green beans and potato salad. Henry's
favourite. Long overdue.
When the blue china plates were washed and positioned on the dresser,
Susan arranged the silk flowers in a terracotta jug.
She gathered up the cellophane wrapper, a profusion of rubber bands, and the
till receipt. She glanced at the total, the most she had spent in one go for
some considerable time. Sixty-nine pounds exactly. The check-out girl had
smiled as she said it, then asked if it was more or less what Susan expected. Susan
had replied that it was the best day's shopping she had ever done. Real value