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Excerpt From 'Not Dead Yet' - Coming 2021

Mary opened Bonnie’s crate, her feline friend clambering up her clothes, and onto her shoulder for a cuddle. Her little heart was beating a hundred miles an hour. She rubbed herself on Mary’s face, planting kitty kisses all over her. ‘Yes, yes, I know sweet girl, I missed you too.’

Placing her back down on the floor, Mary watched as she explored her new surroundings. Bonnie crept around on her belly like a snake, all while keeping one eye on Mary, to make sure she was still there.

The removal company had kindly set up the litter tray in the laundry, ready to go, and Bonnie made a beeline for it, once she spotted it behind the door. She must have been holding on all that time. Silly girl. Mary filled a travel bowl she had in her handbag with fresh water, and sorted through some boxes. There was plenty of time to kill before heading out on the bus.

The meeting spot for the courtesy bus was outside the community hall which luckily for Mary, was only a short stroll from her front door. She reassured Bonnie that she wasn’t abandoning her, found her wheelie shopping trolley, and made her way up to the meeting point.

All the little units looked the same, except for the different furnishings and plants in the gardens. Everybody seemed to take great pride in their little patch of the world. Mary was greeted by many little dogs and cats along the way, stopping to pat each and every one.

There were twenty or so people waiting out the front for the bus. All women. Don’t any men live here? The bus pulled up and everybody piled inside. ‘Afternoon folks. Oh, hello Mary. Everybody, this is Mary, she moved in this morning.’ Caretaker Pete was driving the bus. Mary wished for the ground to open up and swallow her whole. A shy wave was all she could manage. She hated attention.

Getting on the bus was a painfully slow princess due to the fact that most people used a walking aid of some sort, including Mary. She has reluctantly swallowed her pride and started using a walking stick following her recent impromptu trip to the Emergency Department. Pete had the patience of a saint, showing no end of kindness and compassion, as he helped people up the stairs and into their seats.

An overwhelming number of curious eyes were gazing at Mary, as they set off towards the local shopping centre. She felt uncomfortable and didn’t know whether or not to say hi. So, she simply chose to smile, and nod in their general direction.

As they were all being helped off the bus, they could hear busy shoppers mumbling under their breath as they passed by with their shopping and overtired toddlers, making their way back to their cars. ‘Oh, look out, here they come, must be pension day.’ ‘I’m glad I got in and out before that lot arrived.’

It horrified Mary, as it suddenly dawned on her, it was pension day. I used to laugh at comments like that. Now I am one of the slow old crowd. When the hell did that happen? One flustered mother stood glaring at them all, as the bus had blocked the route to her car. Mary apologised as she made her way around the back of the bus with her stick, kindly smiling at the woman, who scowled back in return.

They all had an hour and a half to do their shopping and meet Pete back at the bus. Mary kept to herself as she made her way through the aisles, picking up the essentials for her and Bonnie. Two of the ladies on the bus were in the next isle and Mary could hear them chatting away as they perused the dried fruit.

‘I wonder where she is from? Do you think she is on her own?’ She is a bit snooty; don’t you think? Doesn’t say much.' I’m not rude, just a bit shy. One of the ladies turned towards where Mary was standing, so she stepped aside to avoid them seeing her.

‘Probably just another lonely widow. We women outnumber men five to one in that place. How any of us are supposed to find companion ship is beyond me?’ Wow, so if I came here with my husband, they would all be trying to steal him away from me? Gertrude would fit right in here.

Once back on the bus, there were hushed whispers all around her. Mary sat up front and chatted to Pete, ignoring the gossiping women. It really was a lovely spot to live. She watched the breath-taking scenery and people go by. Ladies having coffee, children playing in the park, tourists taking pictures, all with the stunning backdrop of endless coast line.

Once she had unpacked her shopping, a lovely man from tech support came to set up her internet modem. She pulled out her iPad to have a look at the local bus timetable for the following day. She was dying to see Barb.

All of a sudden, little Amy’s smiling face popped up on the screen. Ooh, this must be a face call thingy. What do I do? She pressed the little answer icon and hoped for the best. ‘Hi Grandma.’ Melanie and Hayden now appeared on the screen alongside Amy. ‘Hi guys, can you see me?’

‘Hey mum, just checking in to make sure you arrived safe and sound.’ Mary maneuvered the iPad around a little. ‘Mum, move it up, all I can see is your carpet.’ Amy was laughing. ‘You’re so silly, Grandma.’ Mary managed to get her mug back in the frame. ‘I’m sorry, love, is that better?’

‘Yes, much better, thanks. How was the trip? Is Bonnie OK?’ Mary reassured Melanie that everything had gone smoothly, and Bonnie had survived the flight. ‘That’s great, glad to hear it. Anyway mum, I better get these two some dinner. I’ll check in again soon. Love you. Say bye to Grandma.’ Four little hands waved back at her, before they all disappeared from the screen.

Making her way back to the sitting room, she looked for the box marked linen. She fed Bonnie, warmed up a microwave meal for herself, made up her bed, and got an early night. It had been a big day.

Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020

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