Ann peeked anxiously out of the window, her brilliant white nets still fresh from their recent wash, the sweet scent reaching her nose. She fingered them gently, pulling them back into place; the breeze had misplaced them slightly and now they weren't hanging right. Ann had become very particular over her nets the past 15 months, how they hung, the way they smelled how they may look from the outside. The outside, the beautiful, scary and forever changed outside. Ann stepped back slightly, this window had been her prisoner and saviour all at once; allowing her glimpses of the normality that slowly started to grow again, hesitant first meetings through the window, opened just enough to have a conversation until fear had made her close it, lock it and step away again when the second wave came, then she simply peered through it longingly, waving at neighbours and watching the world creep back to life once more, while she felt trapped and left behind. Forgotten.
It wouldn't have been so bad if Teddy had still been around, she glanced fondly at his photo. Teddy's smile always reached his eyes, making him sparkle with fun and mischief, even toward the end when he was tired all the time, his eyes shone for her. Ann smiled now too, she couldn't help but smile every time she looked at this photo, even now he lit up her face with the memories of him, holding the photo to her chest she deeply before placing it back lovingly on the windowsill. She missed him so much, every day and the hole he left could never be filled but Ann tried by keeping busy and trying new things, she never had been one to just sit around and get old.
"You get old once you stop being busy". She had always said.
Ann looked in the mirror as she carefully wrapped a thin, red scar/k around her neck, it was June, but it hadn't been great weather and at her age, she felt the chill.
"Looks like I stopped being busy". She sighed as she studied herself in the mirror, finding more wrinkles than she had before.
Ann thought of her morning ahead and what she was about to do, dread and excitement filling her. Fluttering's began in her stomach, in anticipation of seeing him again; it had been so long! The one person who hadn't forgotten her, who had been her rock this whole time and making sure she was Ok, bringing shopping, blowing kisses, phoning every day. Through the window just wasn't the same, they even shared a cup of tea once, but Ann had got scared again and wouldn't even take the cup back in after he had left one time; it stayed there for a week.
It would be so good to see him, the thought made her smile and she teared up with longing, knowing she wanted to throw her arms around him at last. Ann glanced at the front door, anxiety bubbled back up, she tried to swallow it down but felt sickness instead. No, she wasn't going to let her fear win this time, she had been given both her jabs now, she would be ok she told herself as she squeezed her favourite jasmine hand cream onto her hands, rubbing the lotion in slowly, enjoying the smell. It was another habit she had developed when she was anxious, the rhythmic motion calmed her somewhat. Her deep brown, wrinkled hands not as young as they used to be, not as strong, but old and weathered she thought.
Ann's phone beeped, making her jump. Then she laughed as she realised it was a text message. Her hands weren't too old to have learnt the new skill of texting she thought wryly, picking the phone up.
"Still on for this morning? XX". Read the text.
"Yes. Usual place. XX". Ann texted back smiling.
There had been nothing usual about the past year and a half but it was good to say it. She had missed their place, the place they always used to meet before they were forced apart and only able to talk through a screen or a window. She couldn't wait and the desire to see him was stronger than her building anxiety, so she tried to ignore it, while purposefully walking out the front door, breathing in the fresh air, feeling both scared and elated. Each step Ann took, she was grateful for. She noticed each bird song, the promise of summer tickling her senses after the fresh rain fall pummelling the grass making the air clean. She smiled, quickening her pace, feeling more and more like the old her as she reached the high street.
There it was, Jojo's cafe, their place. Ann was early, but that was Ok, it was about time she paid, he never let her pay. It had been so long since she had been here, she feared they wouldn't still be in business, but there they were, same as before like a comfortable pair of slippers. Ann stepped through the door, the little bell jingling her arrival as she entered, making Jojo look up from her counter.
Jojo looked just the same, she had gained a little weight but they all had lately, and it suited her, she needed a bit of fattening up, she worked so hard, never having time to feed herself, yet always creating delectable treats for everybody else. Jojo's hair was tied back neatly, a dusting of flour on her left cheek, despite the face shield she wore, it made Ann chuckle. She grinned as soon as she saw Ann.
"Ann!" She cried. Jojo's eyes lit up "It's so good to see you! How are you darling?"
"Hi Jojo, I'm doing ok" She nodded, feeling emotional that this little regular place of hers was just as it had been, like it had been frozen in time, ready and waiting for when she was ready to come back, the smell of freshly baked bread greeted her warmly.
"It's good to see you too, I'm so glad you're open". Ann told her,
"Well, it was tough for a while I will admit." Jojo looked serious for a moment, then shook herself out of it "But some folks fared far worse so I'm not going to complain. I still have my place and I'm not going anywhere." She winked.
"Well I'm very glad to hear it." Ann told her honestly, removing her scarf and looking around for a table.
"You meeting your young Aaron today Ann?"
Ann smiled, tears pricking her eyes, nodding.
"I'll bring it over darling, I'll make sure it's an extra big piece today, with two teas, yes?"
"Yes please Jojo" Ann said gratefully as she began to head over to the far table near the window. It was near enough to the toilets to be a good location and far enough away that you weren't bothered by anyone passing the table on their way there. It was the perfect spot, where they always sat if they could; Ann was happy to see it was free today.
"Oh Jojo" Ann called, remembering something. "Can we have....."
"Two forks?" Jojo finished for her, and Ann laughed. Jojo remembered, of course she remembered.
Ann hadn't long sat down before the bell jangled again; her heart leapt as she looked up eagerly. In he came, a bounce in his step, his eyes dancing, showing the grin Ann knew was there under his face mask; full of youth and energy.
Ann stood up, tears brimming over as Aaron bounded over, his arms outstretched for her hesitantly, still unsure. But Ann stepped forward, her arms out too, her tears spilling over as they finally hugged.
"Oh I've missed you Nan."**
"I've missed you too, I think you've grown another foot!"
Aaron's laugh echoed her Teddy's and Ann held his face in her hands as she kissed his forehead.
"It's so good to see you." She told him.
"You too Nan." Aaron's voice think with emotion.
Aaron coughed as Jojo approached the table, the teacups rattling on their saucers, placing them down gently on the white tablecloth in front of them.
"Here you go, and here is an extra big slice for you today. On the house." She winked and lifted a huge slab of her famous chocolate cake onto the table in front of them with two forks. Jojo's chocolate cake was legendary in their small part of the world; the sweet smell of chocolate literally made your mouth water before the first sumptuous bite even touched your tongue. Three layers of chocolate sponge, divided by just the right amount of icing and a generous amount on top. Ann remembered all those times she had worried about the calories of Jojo's delicious chocolate cake and now she was so happy to be here , grateful to be here that she wished she hadn't spent so much time worrying.
Being with Aaron made Ann feel young again, his energy was infectious, his smile dazzling, he had been there for her when Teddy had passed, and they shared a very special bond. To be here again now after so long was a moment she would be forever thankful for. They fell into their easy conversation for several moments before Aaron fell quiet and almost bashful.
"Oh Nan, there's something I have to tell you."
"Well, rather, someone I'd like you to meet."
Aaron looked nervous which wasn't like him, making Ann sit up a little straighter, this must be serious if he wanted her to meet someone, she was intrigued to find out who had caught her grandsons eye enough to warrant a meeting. He was a picky fellow, she had never been introduced to a special friend of his before.
"Here he is," Aaron said shyly, "Nan, meet Stephen."
A tall, good looking young man with impeccable hair and a friendly smile approached their table, he had been sitting close by, but Ann hadn't noticed.
"Well, nice to meet you Stephen." Ann grinned up at him, making him feel at ease straight away.
Both Aaron and Stephen and Stephen let out their breath as he sat down. Aaron hadn't wanted to tell her over the phone and to have her blessing meant the world to him, relief flooded through him as he saw his Nan liken to Stephen instantly, her seeing the special connection between them both.
"I think we're going to need another slice of chocolate cake." She laughed.
About the Creator
I am a proud mother of two amazing people, dog and cat lover, self published author of two books; The secret Forest' which my son and I wrote together with his illustrations throughout the book, and 'The Perfect Mask'.
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