The Homecoming

He would be home soon.  Soon she would hear the crunching of car tyres on the gravel driveway, then his heavy footsteps on the front stairs and the front door being thrown open.  It was her favourite time of day, when he would throw his bag down in the front hall and call her name.  She would pat down her dress and smooth her hair one last time, and gracefully walk into the hall as though his homecoming had caught her by surprise.  And they would embrace each other and she would delight in the strength of his body against hers and his murmurs of love to her.

It was always the same.  She cherished his daily homecoming and she found herself counting the hours, preparing herself for his arrival, waiting as the afternoon shadows grew longer.

He would be home soon.  She surveyed her home yet again, chastising herself silently for cushions that were not properly positioned on the lounge chairs, picking up yesterdays folded newspapers, and checking again that her hairpins were tucked neatly away in her stylish bun.

She could smell the evening meal in the oven, and fretted for a moment that she had started baking too early for his arrival.  An overcooked dinner was not what he deserved after his long day.  She headed for the kitchen, catching sight of a slipper beside the lounge chair.  She tucked it under her arm and walked towards the bedroom cupboard.

The shadows were getting longer.  She patted down the quilt on the bed they shared, and picked up the framed wedding photo on their dresser.  Such a happy day.  And they still shared that same love.  She clutched the photo to her chest, and smiled to herself.  Such an intense and beautiful love.  She was sure that no-one else understood what they had between them.

He would be home soon.  And she would tell him about the new buds on her roses and how the neighbour’s dog had been barking too much again and how pleased she was with her embroidery project.  And he would listen and smile at her, telling her how wonderful she was and how the dinner she had prepared for him was just perfect.

The dinner.  With a start, she hurried towards the kitchen again.  The shadows were getting longer and she had not heard the crunch of gravel in the driveway or his heavy footsteps on the stairs.  He was sometimes late, but not often.  She tried to calm herself.  He did not need a fretful wife quizzing him after his hard day.  He needed to come home to a place of tranquillity and love.

She caught sight of her reflection in the hallway mirror and tried to smooth the worried lines from her forehead.  She forced a smile at her reflection hoping that this would sooth the mounting concern in her heart.  He would be home soon, and then he would laugh at her anxiety and reassure her that everything in their world was in order.  Like it always was.

The shadows were getting longer.  She tried to block the worries from her mind, and busy herself with dusting, once again, the cups on the china cabinet.  She had dusted them several times already today, wanting to make everything clean and organised for his homecoming.  She arranged the chairs around the dining table, making ever smaller adjustments to their position until they were absolutely perfect.  She straightened the tablecloth and rearranged the flowers in the vase.  One last time, she walked from room to room, checking that everything was in order, as she knew it would be.

He would be home soon, and he would smile at her in his special way, and hold her in his arms.  The shadows were getting longer, and she could feel herself growing weary from the waiting and the worry.  She tried to sit on the lounge, wanting for him to find her relaxed and peaceful when he arrived.  Her hands brushed the edge of a tray on the lounge beside her, and she recoiled in alarm.  He would be home soon and she had not cleared away her tray from lunch.  She hurried towards the kitchen, hoping that she could wash and put away these dishes before she heard the crunch of gravel on the driveway.

Dinner.  He always said she shouldn’t wait for him.  She should eat before him if he was late.  She shouldn’t let her dinner spoil, and she could reheat his on the stovetop when he came in.  But she always waited.

She was getting tired.  And the shadows were fading into darkness.  He would be home soon, and she was fighting with herself to stay calm and cheerful for his arrival.  He could not find her tearful and he did not deserve a nagging wife.  She walked toward the lounge, willing herself to sit calmly until she heard his heavy footsteps and the front door being thrown open.  He would be home soon.  The shadows were gone, and she was tired.

There were heavy footsteps outside the room and a door was thrown open.  A man’s hand touched her arm.

“She’s sleeping, at last.  Poor old girl”, said the man in the white uniform.

“She had a rough afternoon.  I don’t think her evening medication is strong enough.  She couldn’t even sit still to have dinner”, said the woman beside him.

8 June 2015

"No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle" Winston Churchill