Love Birds

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You two love birds doing anything special for tomorrow? asked the man in the estate car. I smile, he says, no, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Then he says something I don’t quite catch, something about being affectionate every day. The man in the car laughs. Well, he says, you both look beautiful on it. He pronounces beautiful as if it spelt with a double o. Like the man used to do on those turkey adverts. Is he laughing at us? It doesn’t matter. We both warm to him, sitting there in his car on the Prom as he does everyday, listening to classical music, his window open so that he can hear the sea. A contented man, I think. Rather like John, Yorkshire John (or is it Lancashire, I always get them confused) who used to work in The Treehouse. We saw him this morning in the supermarket, impossibly cheerful and immune to the cold. Shorts all the year round, and this morning just a t-shirt, the temperature dial on our car flashing 0 degrees. How does he do it? I shiver at the thought. Think of me in the summer, he says. Think of me then.

She called as I was preparing supper. She was so sorry she’d missed us, she’d only gone out to do a bit of shopping. Her voice is soft, lyrical, you can here the Welsh-ness, treacly. Her house had been pretty, her garden lovingly tended. I’ve just spent the day with a friend seeing the snowdrops. She tells me the name of Hall. Everybody else seems to have had the same idea, she says, laughing. I ask if she is happy in her new home. It’s a perfect location for me, she says. The Guild is just up the road and when I can no longer drive the station is just round the corner. I’ve no idea what she means by the Guild. But she has company, and for that I am glad.

I saw her legs first, poking out into the pavement. It was 4.00 am. I’d wondered if I’d see her. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of her out during the day. Those same heavy-lidded eyes. Sad. She sits out smoking, in the dark, fully clothed. An insomniac, perhaps. She sits in the dark, in silence. I break it. Good morning, I say. She replies, looking at me without curiosity.

I’m feeling a bit nervy, he says on waking. That would’ve been enough in the past to sink him. Not now. It passes. A bit nervy, a bit anxious. It comes and goes. He lives with it. I live with it. It is part of the dark. The sun lifts it. See here it comes.

A murmuration of starlings passed overhead three times as I walked to church yesterday morning. It moved fast. There was a swish, a whish and whoosh as it passed. A scattering of black, then nothing. The birds have it in the morning. They are the lords. The masters of the sky and air. Their song is a cacophony. Glorious. I walk by hedgerows and they are a hive of activity. Sparrows, blackbirds, blue tits. They flit about and seem to follow and then lead me forward.

At 9.00 am I look down into the Quad beneath us and see a large, squarely-built young man in a tee-shirt, shorts and flip flops walking down the path carrying a large bouquet of red roses and a black box with a red bow. He carries them like a footman, holding them before him, solemnly. Later I see him again, with a girl this time. The same orange ribbon hangs from his pocket (though they are trousers this time), she pulls it out. There is a key on the end. She strides ahead key at the ready, he follows behind.

Two men call out to me from the Bandstand. It is 4.15 am. Is there a pub club somewhere near here? one of them asks. No, I say, I don’t think so. And not at this time. They mutter something and wander off.

I dreamt of babies last night. Too much Midwife, I think.

His mother had died the night before so the female curate had to take the service. I like her. I keen to such women with their dulcet tones and soft, baby-white hair. She was nervous, pages where lost, a wafer dropped, and yet, there was a deep gravitas that made it alright. It doesn’t matter, I wanted to say. We all wish you well. All six of us. A small congregation. I am greeted, welcomed, even though I scurry away like Cinderella at the end, not wanting the small talk.

I’ve got to go, I said, there’s a pan bubbling over. And it was, the sprouts coming to the boil with the lid jumping, water spitting over the hob. I’m not good with the telephone, I get edgy, feel trapped. There’s no time, no time for chit chat. And yet, I want to say, I do care, I do love you. You know that don’t you? Don’t you?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.