He pulled the car to a halt in the yard. Unclipping the seat belt and opening the door he jumped out, leaning over the driver’s seat he grabbed the strap of his rucksack and hauled it over the back. Slinging it casually over one shoulder he strode to the back door. Stepping into the large, warm kitchen he was surprised to find only the dog that left her basket by the range and with a tail wagging, trotted across the tiled floor to greet him.
“Are you on your own girl?” he asked the dog as he bent to tickle the back of her ear “Where’s Mum?”
He put his head around the sitting room door. The smell of the wax polish that was always applied to the wooden furniture on a Friday hit him with the welcome of home. The room was though, unoccupied.
Where was she, he thought. Not like her to be out when she knew he was due home.
Since starting his job in the city, he had been staying in a flat share all week, returning on Friday afternoon for the weekend. In the six months since it had begun, she had always been there waiting when he had arrived home. He wondered what was different today.
The dog followed behind playing ‘warm or cold’.
“Am I getting warm?” he said as he checked in each room. Returning to the kitchen he touched the teapot on the table, it was still warm. He stood at the sink spotting her down the end of the garden. Her feet were apart as she stood in the vegetable drills. Planting, he thought. She was lost in her own world.
She cleared a stray hair from her face with the back of a gloved hand as she straightened up. That has got to hurt, he thought, all that bending. He also realised the garden was one of her greatest pleasures. She could lose herself there for hours.
He tapped on the window to get her attention. Showing no surprise, she waved back, he was expected after all. She beckoned him out.
“It’s too soon for me to get cleaned up.” she called “Come out and get some spring sun.”
“It’s freezing out here, that sun is very watery.” He replied.
“Come here and give your Mum a hug. I hope you haven’t gone all city-soft on me.” She opened her arms wide.
Her wool cardigan smelt of a mix of cool air, earth and her. Its slight scratchiness brushing his cheek as she put her arms around his neck being mindful not to touch her earth covered gloves to his clean work clothes.
“Great to see you Mum.” He spoke into her ear, squeezing her tight. “You are early with the shorts this year aren’t you?” He said with a laugh, as he stepped away and surveyed her legs. Sturdy walking boots and chunky socks, just visible at her ankle. Remnants of her summer bronze still remained on the long slim extremities topped off with belted denim shorts the turn ups of which reached mid- thigh.
“Not at all, a good tan begins in spring you know.” She laughed softly. “I will be done here in a few minutes, only a few of these left to get in and a quick sprinkle of water. If you’re going back in, pop the kettle on.” she said over her shoulder, as she returned to the job in hand.
“Will do, see you in a minute.” Smiling, he turned towards the house.