Bonnie expectantly looked up at Mary from her empty bowl, weaving in and out of her legs. After filling the bowl up with some fresh kibble for the meowing drama queen, Mary reluctantly dragged her old vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard. Her knees creaked as she slowly lugged it up the stairs.
Looking around the large two story house she and Bob had called home for the past forty years, Mary felt like she had run a half marathon before she had even started cleaning. Granted, living on her own, she only gave the place a good clean once a month now.
She had to admit, not having to go around picking up Bob’s dirty socks made a very nice change. Bob wasn’t the tidiest of people and used to leave dirty clothes and wet towels all over the house. That was his way, living in the moment. He used to drive her crazy at times, but she loved him none the less.
Mary couldn’t ignore the fact that doing the housework was becoming more of a chore. As she carried the vacuum cleaner, two buckets, cloths, and enough ‘Spray and Wipe’ to star in her own corny 80’s TV commercial, Mary thought to herself, I’m getting too old for this shit. Maybe it’s high time I had someone else do the work.
Once upon a time, the house had felt like a home, bustling with day to day family life. Homework being completed at the dining table, school lunches hurriedly being packed, and the sound of the kids playing in the backyard with their first family dog, Charlie. They had dogs for many years, but Bob had decided to get Bonnie after their last dog died, due to the fact cats are much more independent, and easier to look after as you get a bit longer in the tooth.
Now, sadly, the big family home felt like an empty cold castle since she lost Bob. The queen of the castle hated to admit she felt a little lonely, and her young prince and princess had flown the nest long ago.
Pulling back the curtains in her bedroom to dust, Gertrude could be seen hanging out her washing. ‘Yoo hoo, Mary, I didn’t think you were home, I’ve just boiled the kettle.’ Yoo hoo, I’ll give you bloody yoo hoo. ‘I’m sorry Gertrude, I have a lot to get done today.’ Mary decided the window sills could wait and promptly shut the curtains, instead, heading in to clean to the ensuite.
As she swished the damp mop back and forth across the bathroom floor, Bonnie thought it was some sort of toy she had to chase. Mary was surprised to find herself once again thinking about Neil as she wrung the mop out one more time, Bonnie still hanging from it like a crazed monkey in a tree.
She reminisced about all the good times the four of them enjoyed together as teenagers. Wagging school, passing notes around in class, spending the long hot summer evenings at the beach, watching the boys ‘surf, the girls, both working on their tans.
A pang of guilt began to surface, as Mary thought of her wonderful Bob. She could hardly believe he had been gone over a year. He had been a great husband and they had lived a very happy life together. Why the hell am I thinking about Neil?
Ever since seeing that old photo, Mary couldn’t seem to get him out of her mind. She wondered if he was still alive, she wondered why he never got in contact after leaving Sydney, and she wondered if once upon a time, he had loved her too.
She clearly remembered the very first time she saw his handsome face. Mary had volunteered to work for the school newspaper, with some encouragement from Barbara. That was the day the girls met Bob and Neil. How could she forget that adorable little dimple on his left cheek that appeared when he smiled at her from across the room? Neil was the photographer for the paper.
Did he marry? Does he have a family? Did he pursue his love of photography? Bonnie finally lost interest in what was going on in the bathroom, retreating to Mary’s bed, and promptly curled herself up in ball.
Trying to distract herself from her thoughts, Mary haphazardly hurled some more bleach down the toilet. She finished off the bathroom and decided that was enough for today. The vacuum got left at the top of the stairs, as she couldn’t be arsed dragging it all the way back down.
The microwave timer chimed to let her know her leftover beef stroganoff was hot enough to eat. Taking her bowl to the lounge, she settled in to watch a re-run of ‘Blue Heelers’, Bonnie contentedly purring in her lap.
Unpublished work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020