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The Generation Gap
Fred knew she was the girl for him, from the first moment he saw her across the playground. Her blonde hair and cheeky smile made her stand out from all her friends gathered round playing hopscotch.
Hetty knew he was the boy for her, from the first moment he caught her eye in the classroom. She could only see his face in profile but she could tell the kindness in the turn up of his mouth.
‘Gran, Gran.’ She heard Paula calling her name as she let herself in to the bungalow. Hetty bustled in to the small kitchen and put the kettle on. Paula placed the shopping on the counter and started putting the food away.
‘Are you going out with Mike for Valentine’s night?’ Hetty smiled at her granddaughter.
‘No, it’s so expensive, Gran. We haven’t got £50+ to spend out on an evening meal, pay for a babysitter plus drinks and a taxi so that we could both enjoy the evening. I've bought a couple of nice rump steaks from the butchers and a posh cheesecake from the delicatessen in the High Street and splashed out on a good bottle of wine. We’ll get the kids off to bed at a reasonable time, put some soft music on, light a few candles and enjoy each other’s company.’
Hetty’s eyes misted over. The date was February 14th many, many years ago and somehow Fred had managed to find a bunch of flowers. He presented them to Hetty from behind his back as they sat there gazing adoringly in to each other’s eyes, the spray of tulips lying across their laps. Oh that long ago day at the railway station, suitcases under their arms, waiting for the start of their long journey; saying a tearful goodbye to their parents not knowing when they would see them again.
Many years later Hetty found out Fred had pinched the flowers from a florist’s stall. Fleeing their home country before the tyranny became worse was their priority that day, their parents had managed to get them safe passage promising them they would follow on behind as soon as they possibly could, unfortunately that was not to be. Fred had a sneaky romantic streak in him even at that young age.
‘Did you and Granddad celebrate Valentine’s Day?’ Paula sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and one of her Gran’s famous home baked shortbread biscuits. Dunking her biscuit she waited for Hetty to answer.
‘Oh we had some good times. Fred wasn’t one for the grand gestures, as you know.’ Hetty and Paula shared a smile; they knew Fred was a taciturn man. ‘All the things that keep a romance alive he often did without an audience. I keep all those special moments here, in my heart.’ Hetty placed her hand over her heart and took out the gold locket she always wore round her neck usually hidden under her clothing.
Paula loved these moments when Hetty talked about her granddad. It had only been a couple of years since he had passed away and she knew her Gran missed him dreadfully.
‘He did buy you flowers though, didn't he, sometimes?’ Paula was certain she remembered vases of flowers on the dining room table.
‘Oh yes.’ Hetty laughed, ‘he would suggest some flowers and then point out a few bunches in the supermarket, so I would choose a bunch and he would add a couple more to them because one bunch was never enough he said.’
‘That sounds like Granddad.’ Paula smiled at the memory of the lovely man they missed each and every day.
Hetty pushed the plate of biscuits towards Paula and offered another cup of tea.
‘I'm not sure Mike even knows what romance is,’ Paula smiled wistfully at her Gran. ‘Maybe I don't either.’
Hetty smiled, her eyes remembering instances of loving gestures. She would try and describe some of them to the beautiful young lady sitting opposite her.
‘Well there are the usual things that people don’t even recognise as “romantic gestures.” Opening stubborn jar lids for me, getting up first to turn the heating on, making the tea so that it is brewed by the time I emerged in the morning.’
Hetty placed her hand on her heart, ‘oh and the slightly more dramatic gestures; running in to the room following my shriek because I’d seen a spider. Rushing to the First Aid box to get a plaster when I cut my finger on the knives he’d recently sharpened.’
Paula and Hetty shared a chuckle; she could imagine these two people working in unison in the household.
‘Then there were times he would get up from his armchair and as he passed me, pick up my hand and kiss it. Now that is a romantic gesture that I will treasure forever and ever.
I might say, out of the blue, “I love you” and he would reply “so you should” which would make us both burst out laughing.’
‘Mike doesn’t even say he loves me any more.’ Paula’s face crumpled in disappointment. ‘I'm just hoping this meal at the weekend will reignite those feelings.’
‘I'm sure it will once he realises how much effort you've put in to the meal.’ Hetty smiled at her granddaughter.
‘Anyway enough of my troubles, tell me more about Granddad, please Gran.’
‘Oh yes, well there was the CD in the car that he made with “our song” on it and if he was picking me up from somewhere he would have it ready to play as we drove away.’
‘Now that is romantic, Gran.’
Hetty smiled remembering their song. ‘Yes, it was. Holding hands in the car, oh yes even at our advanced ages we still did that.’
Paula’s raised eyebrows said it all, ‘old people still held hands?’
Hetty playfully swatted at Paula.
‘Go on home now, my dear, and show that man how much you truly love him.’
Word count: 996