A short story by Marija Smits
“Hello Rose. And how are you today?” asked Peggy. “I expect you’re enjoying all this glorious sunshine?”
Peggy didn’t really want an answer from her old friend, so without pausing for breath she launched into her one-sided conversation. (Peggy was like that; it was just best if you smiled and nodded in the right places.)
“Well I suppose you’ve heard about Mr Whittaker? Or should I say Benjamin? Oh of course you have. I guess I’ve been wittering on about him for what must be months now. But you’ll never guess what the old fool’s gone and done? He’s only proposed to me, that’s what!
“Well I’m sure you can imagine my surprise. I mean, at his age! And that’s nothing to say of my age. Silly old thing. I mean, what on earth do I want to get married for? I’m quite happy as I am, aren’t I?”
Rose couldn’t possibly comment.
“In fact I’m very happy as I am. I see my daughter, Alice and her two boys most weeks, and what with the Church and the WI I’m busy enough. And there’s the house and garden to look after as well.
“For fifteen years I’ve been a widow and I’ve been pretty content. I can’t think of a single advantage of getting married to Mr Ben.”
There was no doubt that Peggy would soon think of some.
“Gosh, this sun is hot,” Peggy added. “Let me go and get my hat.”
Why Peggy had to always state the obvious was beyond Rose.
“Oh I do love this patio, don’t you?” said Peggy on her return. “Oh of course you do, I don’t know why I bother asking. Everybody loves this patio.
“Where was I? Oh of course; Benjamin and his silly ideas. There he is, on bended knee in the middle of the living room, a great big turquoise ring in his hand. Well I never. ‘To go with your eyes,’ he says. The great big wally.
“Still, it was an awful handsome ring. And people have commented on what a striking blue my eyes are.”
Rose kept very quiet.
Peggy looked out over the garden and twisted her old wedding band round her finger. How she missed Arthur. They had spent many happy years tending this garden together. She still remembered the day that he planted the copper beech hedge which surrounded the garden on all sides. He had worked tirelessly from dawn until dusk, digging and planting, watering and pruning. She had brought him cups of tea and corned beef sandwiches, his favourite. They had joked that the hedge would outlive them. She smiled sadly. No doubt it would. It had grown so tall now and she found it a real effort to keep neat and tidy.
“But Benjamin could be put to good use; there’s the hedge to trim, and the old apple trees need a really good prune.”
Rose nodded serenely.
“He says that he doesn’t mind where we live – he’s happy enough to move in with me, or I could go and live with him. Ha! As though I’d want to live in that poky old bungalow of his. No, no. It would be much better if he came here. He could sort out that dripping tap, for a start.”
Peggy twisted her hat around and bent down the brim to shield her eyes from the midday sun.
“I dare say I’ll be needing to buy a new hat for the wedding. I’ve seen an awfully pretty one in that new shop in town. It’s all feathers and pearls. It would go beautifully with a cream two-piece. I’ll have to ask Alice to come shopping with me. She’s very good at that sort of thing.
“But there’s still so much to think about. I mean, where on earth would we hold the reception? Ben does have a friend who hires out marquees; he said he’d give us a good deal, but where on earth would we put it? Of course my lawn is big enough for a large marquee, yet how would it look?”
Peggy could see it now – golden chairs with red velvet cushions around circular tables set with crisp white linen cloths, crystal glasses and silver cutlery. And each table would have a huge floral display on it. She would make the bouquets herself. She was famed for her bouquets. Mrs Ferguson of the WI was her nearest rival for floral ‘creations’ as she called them, but she could never quite match her.
“A cream and blue colour scheme would work best, I think. Yes, cream lilies and blue agapanthus would make a striking combination. And the scent would be divine.”
Peggy glanced at her old friend.
“No, not lilies,” said Peggy quickly. “Too showy.
“And if the weather held, we could celebrate into the night. I’ve always thought that dancing by candlelight on a summer’s evening a most romantic thing to do. Yes. That would do very nicely.”
The doorbell suddenly rang. Peggy sprang up.
“Oh that’ll be my daughter. I’d almost forgotten that she was coming over today. I’d better let her in.”
“Hi mum,” said Alice, giving Peggy a big hug. “Have you come to a decision then?”
“I have. I’ve had a good chat with my old friend, Rose and we both agree that Benjamin would make me a fine husband. He’s a good man, with a big heart. I don’t think I could do much better for myself. And he does so adore me.”
Alice couldn’t help laughing.
“And Rose helped you to decide, did she?”
“Oh yes,” said Peggy. “We’ve had a lovely, long chat.”
Alice went through the house and out onto the patio. She bent down to Rose’s upturned face and gave her a good long sniff.
“You and your plants mum. She’s a real beauty though, this rose. But I guess she doesn’t say much.”
“No. And that’s the way I like it,” said Peggy, her blue eyes sparkling.
This short story took first place in the Swanezine 2012 Short Story Competition. If you’d like to read what the Judge’s thought of it, click here: https://sites.google.com/site/swanezine/short-story-competition-results-2012#TOC-JUDGES-CRITIQUE