On the kitchen top the old kettle rumbled, rising to its crescendo, the finale a desultory click.
Routine made the whole operation easy; in no time she was settled beside the living room window, chair angled to watch life outside. Most of her neighbours had left for work, there wasn’t much to see, or hear. The only constant companion, nature’s changing wallpaper. She often felt she was the street’s security guard, keeping an eye on any comings and goings. Not today though.
Today would be different. She had a job to do. Today was the day she was going to show them, and, more importantly, show herself. Today, at exactly eighty-one and a half years old she was going to rebel on her own – by herself – for the very first time. A smile rose, lifting the soft, powdery cheekbones. A twinkle flashed across her eyes.
Steam swirled as she blew gently over her cup; a Christmas present from Grace. The gold letters of ‘Gran’ bright even on this dull day. Grace reminded her of herself when she was younger, apart from all the tattoos of course. She remembered how good it had felt to help someone else, how it felt to be relied on.
Well, I suppose at least I’m still pretty independent, she thought. Here I am, in my own house. I do my own cooking, cleaning and shopping. Not too bad really. Not like Jim and Lec, the thought of her brothers made her smile.
She patted her hair. It was grey but still thick and curly. She’d been lucky, no receding hair like those two. What a pair. Well, the only pair left, out of the nine of them. Imagine, only three now. Never thought she’d be one of the last ones left. Makes sense though, being the youngest.
Betty, the eldest, used to she had had the life of luxury. Betty never knew the half of it. Only told her what she had to. She kept it all to herself. No point in worrying others with your problems.
She leant over, picked up the Digestive biscuit from the plate, dunked it in her tea – no one here to see, why not? A little rebellion didn’t do anyone any harm. Why not start now?
She had never been much of a rebel really. Never had any reason to be. One of the advantages of being the youngest, was that most of the battles had been fought already. Mum and Dad were too tired to fight, hardly noticed what she was up to amongst the crowd. Midnight feasts, going on strike for more pocket money, all of it organised by the older ones. She’d just gone with the flow, carried along in the excitement, gang mentality at its best.
She remembered once telling their neighbour to ‘take a long walk off a short pier’. She’d probably not even been old enough to go to school. He would shout at them to stop walking along the top of his wall. Dad had told them what to say. He said they were kids, walking on walls and climbing trees was what kids were supposed to do. She laughed, the sound a flutter in the silence.
The Digestive changed colour – darker when dunked. Got to time it right, can’t leave it in too long or it’ll go soggy. She couldn’t abide crumbs at the bottom of the cup. It’s a fine balance, like everything, like life.
The clunk of the letterbox breaks her ruminations. Must be the postman. Time to move. Things go a bit slower these days. She glances at her watch with its nice big face. So easy to read. Good of Jim to get it for her birthday.
Better get going if she’s to be back in time for lunch. Tuesday, get a nice bit of fish from Kirsty at the fish van. She’s always good for a few minutes chat. Now, fish first, or tattoo first? Maybe tattoo, don’t want to go in the tattoo shop smelling of fish, that wouldn’t do.