The day I have been waiting for, for many, many weeks.
I was actually up pretty early considering Lena is still in hospital and I am on holiday. I dressed with extra care, for, not knowing what time he would be here, I wanted to look perfect every minute. I tried to occupy myself with knitting and reading but my glance kept straying to the window. Right until the last minute I still expected a knock on the door, but when it didn’t come, I knew I had to go and meet Carol and go to the theatre without him.
We went to Charing Cross station and from there, after asking directions from a policeman on point duty (very awkward as he was in the middle of the road) we strolled along the Strand, past Trafalgar Square and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and down towards the New Theatre.
The theatre was crowded mostly with young children, in fact, it looked more like a school outing than a London show. Personally I didn’t think much of ‘Oliver’. But, as Carol told me afterwards I was fidgeting like hell all the way through it and I had a rotten cold. Perhaps I was in no mood to be entertained. I know I was telling myself over and over again that he wouldn’t be there, before 8.30 anyway. So, it was a waste of time going home I might as well just sit and watch the show.
I must have bored Carol to tears (she enjoyed ‘Oliver’ by the way) during the train journey home. It was Alan this and Alan that, all the way. We were earlier than we had expected and it seemed we would get home about eight, so I kept telling myself – and Carol too, poor thing – that he wouldn’t be there when I arrived, hoping against hope that he would, if only to end the agony of waiting.
We were just drawing into Heathway station when I suggested that she should come home with me, if only for half an hour or so. It would give me something to occupy myself til HE arrived. That must have been the quickest decision of her life. She didn’t have time to dither, as she usually does, she just said ‘yes’ and we were up and on the platform. That walk home was awful. Every step was ’will he, won’t he, will he, won’t he, be there? He wasn’t!
No one had eaten. Mum and Jennifer had been to the hospital to see Lena, so Carol stayed for food, which she didn’t expect. With one eye on the clock and the other on the television I sat out my vigil.
Half past eight came and went and my nails slowly disappeared down my throat. The agony of waiting was terrible and my nerves were in a shocking state.
At nine o’clock there was a knock on the door. I shot up in the air and poised there for several seconds. Then, panic followed. Jennifer went tearing out to the front door, followed by great screams and shouts from me! ‘Don’t you go near that door Jennifer!! I’m opening the door! Don’t you dare touch it!!’ etc. etc. etc.
The atmosphere was electric, I hadn’t noticed it until then. Jennifer realised what she’d done, or rather, what she had better not do, and beat a hasty retreat into the kitchen.
Things calmed down and I began that slow, nerve-wracking walk to the door. Feeling rather like a condemned man going to his execution. Goodness knows why, because I had been waiting nearly eight months for this moment and at last it was here.
I reached the door and opened it.
‘Would you mind if I climbed over your back fence? I’ve forgotten my key.’ I could feel my heart hit the bottom of my stomach with an almighty bang. It was Don from next door. I can’t remember what I said to him. Just that he said ‘thanks’ and disappeared through the back gate.
My steps back into the living room were even slower than when I left it and I was conscious of my heart beating very fast. The family and Carol were very sympathetic but looking back on the situation I realise I wasn’t so disappointed or upset as I could have been.
For nearly eight months my whole life had been centred around ‘the day Alan comes home’. Writing letters twice a week was something I used to look forward to and I knew I would be sorry to see the end of that. Also, him coming home would bring the answer to that big question that has been creeping into my mind frequently ever since I met him. Has our strong liking for each other been brought about by the situation.
Maybe the fact that I realise the problem exists is a big help. I knew him for only five days before he returned to Cyprus and saw him only four times during those days. All the excitement and despair of the occasion could quite easily have quickened our emotions. It has been clear to me that only time can answer my questions and now it seems the time is not tonight.