Photograph by Natasha Coleman, Story by Janey Lawson
It was June First. The sunshine was peeking through the crack in the curtains. Frank took a deep breath. The first of June. That date didn’t mean much to most people, but to Frank it meant an awful lot. He slowly got up, hobbled out of bed as quietly as he could and started to creakily gather together his outfit for the day. He’d thought about wearing a dinner jacket for her, but it felt too stuffy. It looked warm out and besides, he didn’t want kids laughing at him like they did last year. Yellow. A yellow T-shirt. She’d always liked him in yellow. She said it was her happy colour; made her think of the getaways they’d had in Tenerife. He teamed it with a nice smart pair of brown slacks and his comfiest loafers. Oh and socks of course – no matter what the weather, Frank Gilbert wore socks. It was just sensible, he always said.
Frank moved carefully to the stairs and clambered into his Stannah stairlift. It was getting a bit of a squeeze since his birthday. He’d been trying to eat all the Quality Street his Grandchildren had given him as quickly as he could so they were out of the house, but his waistline didn’t seem to agree with his fast and loose food policy. The stairlift made him feel like a Chinese Emperor as he glided diagonally in the air. He almost wanted to wave regally, but Marjory’s cat was looking at him from the bottom of the stairs with a patronising glare, and Frank felt self conscious. He reached the ground, easing himself out of the stairlift and leaning on the banister.
Grumpy wasn’t the cat’s name but Frank thought it suited her much better than Snowflake.
“Time of the month is it?”
Snowflake glared back.
“Sorry – mustn’t be sexist. Marjory told me off for that last week, didn’t she? Can’t say a ruddy thing these days, not
even to ruddy cats.”
Frank mumbled and fumbled as he reached for his anorak. “Have you been out Grumps? Is it warm enough for no
coat?” Snowflake glowered, turned away and strolled off.
“I’ll take your word for it then.”
Frank reached for his house keys out of his anorak pocket, leaving the anorak behind. “I’ll be coatless and crazy.”
Frank wobbled hurriedly to the front door and left the house. He ambled excitedly up and into his motorised scooter (red for passion, she always said) and got it started. Before he knew it, he was speeding down Castle Street and turning onto Crowtrees Lane. Arthur Turner was outside the corner shop, but Frank didn’t have time for chit chat. Not today. Not June First.
Frank realised his Tenerife sunglasses, the ones she bought him, were hanging from his wing mirror and he eased them on. Easy rider. Behind his sunglasses he could smell her perfume; the sound of her necklace pinging and swinging against her china coffee cup. Her laugh. God, her lovely laugh.
He rode into Park View and further, into Park Way. Mounting the curb, he followed a little girl and her Mum through the entrance to the pathless expanse of Cleeves park. Whizzing past the greenery, Frank could feel the wind in his thin white hair. There were young people all around, hanging about in the sunshine, putting sun cream on and doing all that yoga nonsense. He reached the football pitch part of the park and weaved amongst groups of pale white skinned lollers until he could see...It. The exact spot.
He slowed to a stop and took it all in. There were two big stones, sticking up out of the grass. Two bent, odd shaped stones exactly where they had stood. He could imagine it like it was yesterday. This was the place...This was the place where he had been his very happiest. This was the place where he had gotten down on one knee, where he had made a tiny ring out of a blade of park grass and he had asked Beverley Turner to be his wife.
On June First 1998 Bev had said yes. She had said yes and made him the happiest man in the world. She had said yes and everything had suddenly made sense. She had said yes and they made plans to run away to Yorkshire and never come back. Frank would leave Marjory and Beverley would leave Arthur and they’d never be unhappily married again. There would be no more waiting endlessly for those Bridge getaways with the neighbours to Tenerife – looking at sensuous, alive Bev over a trump or a trick and imagining they were there alone. Frank and Bev would live life like it was meant to be lived; no more of Marjory’s ‘Ssssh I’m watching Eastenders’ or ‘I’m going to bed, you and your snoring can come up later, dickhead’.
Frank picked a blade of grass and threaded it through his fingers. He drew it to his lips and made it whistle. He laughed. Bev always liked it when he laughed.
“Ah my love. I feel closest to you here today.” Frank said, into the wind. “For you.” Frank wrapped the grass around his fourth finger and blew a kiss.
Beverley was gone by June Third 1998.
Bev was gone and nobody would ever know about her grass ring and Yorkshire and happy ever after.
And nobody would know that with Beverley, Frank felt love as it is in films and storybooks and Disney.
Frank turned the scooter around. “Better get back.” he said.
“The neighbours are going on a Bridge weekend to Bogna. Marjory likes Bogna better than Tenerife because she can take her own food.”
Frank shuddered at the thought of Marjory’s salty voulevants. “See you next year, my sweet.” Frank said.
He stopped for one more moment.
“You’ll always be my favourite secret.”
Frank scootered off.
The blade of grass fell softly from his hand as he sped back towards his life.