Mary sometimes felt a bit sorry for Bronwen. They’d become friends at work over the past couple of years. Bron had been a bit of an outsider, moved down south from some little place near Caernarfon with her husband. No children.
Mary had called in to their home one summer evening to collect some clothes Bron had promised for charity. Bron was just standing there in her garden staring at nothing in particular.
‘Is everything OK, Bron?’
‘Oh, hello, Mary.’ Bron chuckled. ‘Sorry. I was just watching a snail. Hoping it would turn away from my delphiniums. I’ve got the bag of clothes ready. Would you like a cup of tea?’
They went indoors. Mary couldn’t get over how quiet the house was. It was a lovely old Victorian place, and Bron and Mark had it looking just wonderful.
‘He’s upstairs messing about on his computer,’ said Bron vaguely, searching her cupboard for biscuits.
On the way home Mary couldn’t help thinking how empty Bron’s life was without the constant noise and bustle of children. She couldn’t imagine what life must be like with a husband who sat upstairs on his computer hour after hour, night after night. Mary’s husband was always there underfoot, taking a bicycle to bits on the kitchen table or watching football on the telly, and the kids were much the same.
It came as no surprise a couple of months later when Bron announced that she had left Mark.
Mary hugged her friend. ‘I did think that time I called round that things weren’t quite right. Where are you staying?’
‘I’ve got myself a little flat. It’ll do me until the house is sold, then I can buy something of my own.’
‘Will you stay around here?’ asked Mary, aware that Bron had moved to south Wales because her husband had transferred with his work.
‘Oh yes, I like it here. I’ve no real ties up north, and I like working at R&G. So it looks like you’re stuck with me.’
‘Fine by me, Bron. Well, it looks like you’re coping. You seem happy enough.’
Bron pursed her lips. ‘I’m putting a brave face on things, to be honest. It was my idea to leave Mark, but I do feel guilty. It took quite a lot of straight talking to convince him that it wasn’t a whim, I really was going. Things haven’t been right between us for a long time. We’ve drifted so far apart our heads are in different postcodes. But I hated seeing him cry. Then after sadness came his anger. Now he doesn’t want to know me any more, nor does his family. It’s a bit odd when you’ve been married nearly 16 years. Although I wanted to leave him I feel I’ve had the rug pulled out from under my feet. It’s a strange feeling, I don’t mind admitting.’
Mary put her arm around Bron’s shoulders. ‘Well, any time you need a shoulder to cry on, you know where I am. Would you like to come round for tea tonight?’
‘Thanks, Mary. That’d be nice.’
Mary felt she’d done a good deed. Bron must be really lonely stuck in that little flat night after night.
True to form, it was chaos in the Thomas household that evening. Ricky and Claire seemed to be having a music war between their bedrooms, rap versus girl power, both at top volume. Young Rory had just come into the kitchen with a handful of maggots to show his mum. And Alun was washing his oily hands at the kitchen sink, managing to spread grey, scummy, soapy mess all over the place. Mary laughed at the expression of horror on Bron’s face.
‘It’s all right, Bron. This is normal. You should be here when things really kick off!’
Bron smiled politely and changed the subject. ‘Did I tell you I’ve joined an art group? We meet on Wednesday evenings. I’m really enjoying it. I used to like painting when I was at school. They’re planning some weekend excursions, landscape painting and visits to art galleries. Do you fancy coming along?’
Mary grinned. ‘Thanks, Bron, but I have enough trouble getting emulsion on walls let alone anything creative. Think I’ll pass on that one.’
After dinner the kids were packed off to the kitchen to do the dishes, and Alun announced that he was off to the pub to play darts.
‘Yeah, Gwynfor’s got me interested. They’re crying out for new members.’
‘Guess it’s just you and me then, Bron. Let’s see what’s on the TV.’
Bron soon found a new rhythm to her life. Six months later she was settled in her new home and busy redecorating. The house had been a bargain, but needed quite a lot of work. And the garden was a complete jungle.
‘You seem a bit down, Mary,’ she said to her friend one lunchtime.
Mary sighed. ‘Claire’s just announced she intends to go to University in October. That is, if she gets the A Levels she needs, but I know she will.’
‘Hey, that’s great! What does she want to do?’
‘Archaeology, of all things.’
‘So why are you unhappy?’
‘I’m going to miss her terribly. Thing is, I’ve been relying on her for company quite a bit of late. Alun has really got into the darts thing, he’s out several nights a week. And Ricky is never home since he passed his driving test. Rory’s round at his best mate’s place a lot of the time, besides nine year olds aren’t much company anyway if you’re not into X-box games.’ A tear slipped down Mary’s cheek. ‘Oh, Bron. I just feel old and useless, totally washed up. My husband and kids have always been my reason for existing, and now they don’t need me.’
‘Have you talked to Alun, told him how lonely you’re feeling?’
‘No,’ sniffled Mary.
‘Well, that’s what you must do.’
‘Don’t you ever get lonely, Bron?’ asked Mary, dabbing her eyes with a crumpled tissue. ‘I know you’ve got your art classes, but don’t you miss having someone to talk to when you get in at night?’
‘No. Not really,’ smiled Bron. ‘I’m enjoying living alone. I can decorate the house just as I want, not having to take Mark’s taste into account. I can get up when I want at the weekend, go to bed when I want, watch what I want on TV. Eat what I want, and not bother cooking if I don’t fancy it. And now that I have plenty of time to paint, I’m improving in leaps and bounds. I feel like I’m really coming into my own, living the life I want. Perhaps you should start thinking about what you really want for yourself.’
Mary was quite taken aback. Perhaps there was a life beyond family responsibilities, a life that wasn’t blighted by loneliness. She clearly had a lot of thinking to do.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015