That morning she had called up to ask us over. ‘And bring Weedy with you,’ she tells me, referring (rather rudely) to Roxanne, a mutual (skinny) friend, who is known to relish her waistline and salads (and in that order, if you please).
Personally, I’d say she’s undernourished, but then that’s the double choco-caramel in me talking.
I answer her with a quick ‘Don’t know.’ This time, I knock sharply on the door.
We hear footsteps. Clickety-click, clickety-click. Yes, that’s her.
The door opens. Mildred stands there. Her eyes are red and puffy. I can sense Weedy…oops, sorry, Roxanne, take a step back, in alarm, fearing the worst.
Despite her keep-fit keenness, she’s still a diehard pessimist. The red alert feelers warn her—conjunctivitis! However, forever the optimist, I step forward.
Old Red Eyes suddenly begins to snivel, and out comes her lace, embroidered handkerchief. She dabs at the tears and hiccups a sob.
‘What is the matter?’ I ask her, rather concerned. I feel a quick tug at my arm from behind. I ignore, and Roxanne keeps a safe distance.
Normally, Mildred is chirpy and bubbly, so to see her in this state is most unusual. I go sit down next to her, and lightly pat her hand, ‘No worries, just tell us what’s troubling you.’
Roxanne shifts uneasily. This is way out of her comfort zone. A vivacious Mildred she can handle, but this begs some serious strategy.
‘Today, many years ago, I lost him,’ our tearful friend says, dejectedly.
Roxanne is, now, at sea. Buffeted and baffled, she turns to look at me, questioningly.
I nod my head. I know the reason why tears are being shed. Today’s the day when, several years ago, Mildred donned black robes to bid farewell to her dear departed husband.
‘He was such a dear man,’ she goes on. ‘He loved me immensely, bought me anything I desired. He took me to the most exotic of places for our vacations. Did you know we even went on luxury cruises? Such a dear, he was,’ she rambles on, lost in the past.
We listen as she describes their wonderful, successful marriage. With extreme reverence, she refers to him endearingly as ‘he’, and not once does she take his name. Sigh. How sweet! It’s obvious that Mildred had utterly adored…er, Mr Mildred.
She dwells on their loving relationship that was built on trust. Enviably, it was rock solid in fidelity, and excelled in the mutual understanding of the do’s and do not’s in the sacred contract of marriage.
After a while, Mildred stops; pensive, lost in thought. Good friends are good listeners, we let her be. Silence reigns. Roxanne moves in closer, seems more compassionate and understanding. Sombre is the moment.
Then, like a sudden burst of electric energy, Mildred bedazzles us with a big, bright smile to cheerily exclaim, ‘Oh, my! Look at me. I haven’t even offered you tea and cake.’
And as we partake of our tea (yes, in teacups of bone china) and cake (from a silver platter), we listen, a wee bit more, to the enchanting tale of true magic—a husband-wife relationship which was deep in love, enduring in its years….a rare commodity these days…‘tis true…alas!