The Present Day
Leaping out onto the shared drive from behind his hedge on a cold and windy April morning was Barry Jones' idea of a joke.
But it wasn't his neighbour's, Mrs Kelly. Startled, she dropped her recycling bin which thankfully had just been emptied.
"Oh, Mr Jones, you gave me quite a fright!" She adjusted her hair, freshly out of rollers, and held her hand to her heart in mock distress. "You're a bit lively this morning, aren't you?" she added disapprovingly after regaining her composure, and then turned away and began to walk down the drive back towards her bungalow, "been chasing the post lady have we?"
"No. She's already been and guess what? I've won the Premium Bonds!"
Pound signs instantly appeared in front of Mrs Kelly's eyes which were now as wide as saucers. "How much?" She swivelled around with all the grace of a ballerina, listening intently for his answer.
"Ten thousand smackeroos!"
"Oh, Barry, how wonderful. Would you like to come in for an early morning cuppa? Do call me Edna by the way." She'd never asked him into her bungalow once in the two years they'd lived on the small select development of homes for the over-fifty-fives and they'd certainly never been on first name terms before.
Barry agreed, noticing the dramatic change in his neighbour's attitude. It looked like his cunning plan would work. He'd always admired her from a distance and now he'd mentioned the windfall he'd managed to transform her aloofness in the twinkling of an eye as he'd guessed. Funny how money makes all the difference he thought, even at their time of life.
Here they were; kids grown, widowed and living in "Superbly appointed accommodation for the discerning middle-aged," as the brochure had aptly put it, with only themselves to consider. But the thought of a bit of extra cash was an attractive prospect nonetheless.
Sitting at Edna's kitchen table, Barry noticed they had chosen the same décor down to the minutest detail; The solid oak units, the tiles and the marbled worktops were all just like his, although he had to admit she kept a much tidier home.
A woman's touch made all the difference in more ways than one, he told himself, blushing slightly.
"Seems like we both have impeccable taste." He said, munching his way through a plateful of Mr Kipling's iced fancies that Edna only normally partook of on Sunday afternoons.
She showed him around the rest of the bungalow; they both laughed when they discovered they had selected identical bathroom suites too.
They got on better than Barry had hoped. Was this the same woman who had thrown him frosty-faced glances on the free bus to the supermarket? he wondered. The one who'd frowned at him when he hung his less than white underwear out to dry? Once you got to know her she was a wonderfully warm person, he thought, and most forthcoming with-lively conversation. Of course, the mention of the Premium Bond win had made all the difference. He gave a wry smile as he stole a glance at Edna's kitchen calendar which she hadn't yet turned over from yesterday.
It was inevitable that their little tete-a-tete would eventually come round to the subject of his win.
"I can help you spend it, you know," Edna suggested rather too presumptuously as she poured Earl Grey tea from her best bone-china teapot into delicate matching cups. "How about a nice holiday?"
"What... together? Ooooh..., whatever would the neighbours think!" Barry replied, mimicking Edna's previously formal demeanour precisely.
© 2014 Stella Kaye