Michaela and Dan were expecting a baby girl. Dan wanted to name her Holly. Michaela refused flat out to consider this. She was vague about her reasons, but if she’d really thought about it she would have realized she somehow connected the name with one of Dan’s past relationships. Michaela suggested Anna. Dan gently but resolutely resisted (no real reason, but if he couldn’t have his first choice then neither should she: that’s what it came to). They settled on Kate in the end, a few days before she was due. It was a compromise name; neither of them had strong feelings about it either way.
‘Kate! Turn it down a bit please. You know you could always join us down here for a change. We’re watching a film. It’s got Hugh Grant in, and that actress… Well, if you get bored. I don’t like thinking of you up here on your own.’
‘Nope. She’s a teenager. Budge up. What did I miss?’
Oh, I could have crossed then. Oh well, I’ll just wait for the green man. Is it changing? I can’t see the other lights from here. Battery’s gone on my iPod again. What’s that man saying? Something about Jesus I think. He needs a better microphone or something, the sound’s all muffled on that one. Not that anyone’s listening anyway.
‘You didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning.’
‘You just left. I was awake.’
‘I did, didn’t I? I kissed you on the forehead.’
‘I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure.’
Vouchers, receipts, about ten different store cards. What’s this? Oh, that ticket to Keats’ house Robin gave me. I never did use it. Valid for a year, and it’s already half a year out of date. Where did all that time go? It’s on Hampstead Heath I think, the house. Not the kind of thing I’d do on my own really. I liked the idea of it at the time. But the Romantics depress me. Put it in the recycling pile.
When Sue was 60 she got a cat. She’d always wanted a dog really, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave it all day, and what with retirement looking less and less likely each year… It’d be nice to have a dog to take walking though. She caught herself enviously eyeing other people’s glossy spaniels and shaggy collies, with a twinge of guilt. Where was that from? It wasn’t as if she was actually planning to steal one or anything. Maybe it was to do with craving something different, a different life. She didn’t do that; she believed in appreciating what she had, and she was good at it. So, in the end, she got the cat.
'There's this woman I remember, when I was at university. She was always in the park, every day, sat on the same bench. And she had these huge rolls of paper, that she used to draw on.'
'What was she drawing? People?'
'No, just trees I think. She was pretty old. And I just remember her always wearing green, this big green coat and green wellies and a green hat.'
'Didn't you ever speak to her?'
'No, I just used to run past her. I used to go jogging every day then. I saw her in the town once, walking home I guess. She had all these bags with her, full of the rolls of paper, and she was talking to someone. She seemed like one of those people who knows lots of people. I used to think, that looks like a nice way to spend old age, just drawing trees.'