Mrs. Wheately went into the bathroom and turned on the taps to the bath as she unpacked her case.
She could see that the bathroom door had been repaired; it closed and even latched. She remembered seeing other things as she’d arrived, with the ivy cut back from the windows.
The house was clean. Cleaner than she’d left it. There had been no dirty dishes. All the pans had been scrubbed clean and were hanging up, and she’d smelled fresh paint. The bath was even clean. He had done that. Sheila rarely cleaned the bath, or washed dishes.
Peter had done a lot around the place, between being out on the fell, seducing her daughter, sharing her bed and… the rest of it. Where did they find the time to sleep? But who needed to sleep? They were young and in love.
She dropped her clothes into the hamper seeing sheets in there. She lifted them up and saw that they were stained. She knew about those. There had been a wash going downstairs as she’d walked in the door. More sheets, no doubt, and their damp clothes. They’d never stopped!
She added soap crystals to the water, turned off the taps; pausing only to admire her body in the mirror; a body that Sheila had inherited from her. It could even be her own daughter looking back at her from the mirror. She even imagined Peter standing behind her and sliding his hands around her to touch….
She noticed that same tingling pass through her body that she’d felt earlier. Was this what a man in the house did for her; his raging hormones drifting through the house, lifting everything they touched, caressed, and interacted with, to a fever pitch, putting all of the females there onto the edge of their seats. What was there about him that fired up this feeling in her? What was there about a man that stimulated this feeling in any woman and drove their senses away? She envied her daughter. Envied her finding him so easily in the way she had, and where she’d been given no choice in how things unfolded from there no matter what Sheila had said about her guiding things where she wanted them to go. Sheila had had about as much influence on that, as the worm the robin went after.
Brenda needed a man like that in her life, but young men never saw anything interesting in an older woman, even with a youthful body like hers.
She was suddenly feeling old. Her body’s other clock, now thirty-seven years old was getting ready to signal other changes that she dreaded to think about; signalling the end of her life in one of the most crucial ways.
She and her husband had talked of having other children before she lost that ability, but it had never been the right time. Then they'd decided to try again and do it, bringing another baby, at least one, or even two, into the world now that they were on a better financial footing, but it had been too late. He had died well before his time, before she had managed to get pregnant again.
She had this desperate feeling that she had let time slide by her without trying to take advantage of the meaningful years still left to her.
Thirty-seven! It didn’t sound that old. She was still fertile too, with menopause still years away. She’d had her period just a week before she’d left. She should marry again and raise another family before it was too late. She had time to bring more children into the world to shield her from the despair of lonely old-age. Sheila was old enough to understand.
She retired after the most relaxing bath she’d ever remembered in this house, with its resurging memories.
Sleep deserted her. Her mind was too busy. She wouldn’t go back down and interrupt them again.
Two hours later, she heard them coming up to bed and heard the giggling begin again, followed by silence as more important things began to happen between them, followed by heavy breathing. Again.
They kept her awake most of the night. All she’d heard was that bed creaking with two bodies moving on it in a rhythm together, building up and then fading. Then, an hour later, it started up again.
Even covering her head with the sheet could not blot those sounds out.