Sundays were always the same, but then Eric had always been a creature of habit. There was plenty of time for new things during the week; exploits to excite the grandchildren and horrify their parents; hanging out with his drinking crowd, or the remains thereof; events and exhibitions that those who still worked would never have the time to see; or a return to some place dimly remembered from a far away youth. Sundays had a routine.
Church, then off to the cemetery to lay flowers, then take the
longer way home. He would point out the old landmarks, the hidden
places from their courtship days and Esther would chide him to keep
his eyes on the road and to slow down.
Not that he was driving with any haste, Old Bess would not be
driven fast, she would amble down the country lanes at her own pace
immune to the hurry of the modern cars. Eric would wave these new
machines past when there was space and watch them disappear off
between the hedgerows without a twinge of envy. He had passed his
modern car on to their daughter when he realised getting places
quickly was not something he needed to do any more, the bus did the
weekly work and Bess came out on the weekend.
Eventually they would get back to the busy main road and either
a local, recognising Eric, or a stranger, charmed by Bess, would let
him into the traffic. Two minutes and they would pull up the drive
of the neat, well-tended home they had bought fifty years ago and
raised a family in. Esther would rustle up a simple lunch and they
would eat listening to the wireless, some nostalgic show.
In the afternoon Esther would clean the house from top to
bottom, while Eric would help as much as her was able, until she
banished him to the garage or the shed. Bess would need some minor
maintenance or the lawn could do with mowing, Sunday afternoon jobs.
Eventually it would be done and he would head back to the house to
find Esther preparing the Sunday dinner.
He would sit at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of tea, while
watching her go through the complex dance that brought the meat,
roasted and boiled veg, proper gravy and, if he was lucky, Yorkshire
pudding to perfection at exactly the same time. As often as he
watched this feat, its intricacies were lost on him and his only
contributions were to take the peelings out to the brown recycling
bin and to lay the cutlery correctly on the table.
Dinner over, Esther would never let him do the dishes, he was
incapable of performing the task to her exacting specifications,
although he was allowed to dry once she had sorted him out with a
clean tea-towel, and he listened to her strict direction. Then, the
dishes safely in the cupboard, he would bow to her, take her hand in
his and they would whirl around the kitchen in a slow version of the
dances of their youth, an imaginary rock and roll in their minds.
And that was it for another week, Esther would once again depart
to the land beyond the veil and he would once again be left behind,
widowed. 'Til death do us part and perhaps after then.
Sundays were always the same.