Latest fiction piece below. Enjoy!
“Hello Mrs Lyndall.”
Damn it! She caught me. How does she do that? How does she know when I’m coming out to do the gardening? Does she have a bloody camera in the shed?
“Hello Mrs Taylor.” Waving half-heartedly, I made a show of pulling on my gardening gloves.
“I noticed that Mr Lyndall hasn’t been home in over a week. I hope everything’s okay.”
“Uh huh,” I made non-committal sound and pulled out my secateurs, cutting off a bit of twiggy growth on my Mayer lemon tree.
She cleared her throat when I didn’t turn around. “It’s just that with two little ones, it must be so hard. I mean they run wild as it is, I can only imagine what they’ll be like without a Father figure.”
As I turned she made a grand flourishing gesture and pressed her hand to her chest. “It’s the children I worry about in broken home situations, dear. You understand.”
Squeezing the secateurs tight, I realised they were halfway through a lemon. Shit. Pulling them out I snipped the lemon from its branch and tossed it into the compost bin. “Bradley’s fine, Maude. He’s just away for a few days. It’s healthy for couples to spend some time apart now and again,” I said ignoring the comment about my kids.
The nosy old bat had it in for my eldest son Aaron since he did a wee in her front garden. He was two. Little boys go wherever they need to, despite me chasing after him with a nappy. And Emily, my sweet Emily was a terror. We knew it and we were working on it.
“Well, in my day Sonya. Husbands and wives didn’t do those sort of things…”
I tried to ignore the droning of her voice and misted the tender lime leaves with pest oil. If she only knew the truth. Brad was in love, and not with me anymore, apparently. He was in love with Simon, a forty-five-year-old graphic designer. Yes, Simon’s a man.
When he told me, he was so worried that I’d hate him, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. We had a good marriage or so I thought, and for fifteen years he carried this secret, living in fear that I’d find out. There were tears, both his and mine and I did get hysterical at one point. But when I thought about hiding something like that every day, I was exhausted. How horrible for him.
“Sonya dear, are you listening?”
I shook my head and smiled at her, pressing my tounge to the roof of my mouth to keep from telling her where she could shove her advice.
“Sorry Maude, I was concentrating. I’ve got to get this done before I pick the kids up from day care.”
“That’s another thing,” she made an irritating little clicking noise with her tongue. I wasn’t sure if it was her dentures sliding in and out of her mouth, I wasn’t game enough to look closely enough. “Real Mothers don’t send their children away for other people to look after.”
The tongue trick didn’t work this time. “In your day people still believed the World was flat.”
She froze, then her neck twisted like she was about to say something else.
“You know what Mrs Taylor. I love my kids and the time I do spend with them is precious. I was raised to respect my elders, but you’re just a cranky old woman who should keep her opinions to herself.”
She pressed her hand to her mouth, her little beady eyes wide and searching my face like she didn’t know who she was speaking to.
“And another thing, Maude. My husband’s gay. That’s why he’s not here. He’s probably off having sex with Simon and I couldn’t care less because he’s happy. I’m happy and my kids are happy.”
At the mention of the s-e-x word she paled, but I couldn’t stop.
“And next time you see me out here, don’t come out to talk to me, because I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want your opinions on me, or my family, or my house. Alright.”
My chest heaving, I stared at her for a moment and then hoisted up a bag of fertiliser for the mandarin tree.
“Well,” she said her voice shaky, “What do you expect? Your husband running off with a man. If you got your hair coloured and watched that figure of yours, then he wouldn’t be interested in a man, now would he? You know a little up-keep helps a man stay interested. Just take me and Henry…”
My head dropped back and I looked up at the sky, the clouds danced together in swirling lazy patterns. I closed my eyes and made a mental note to call her adult children and tell them that she was too senile to live alone anymore. That would fix the old girl up.
Or maybe I’d just move.