Unexpected? No I don’t supposed they were unexpected as such, we had forewarning after all just not very much. The blue beetle with orange stripes parked diagonally across the neighbours precious, three cm cut lawn was a sort-of hint, but we weren’t certain until we walked in and saw them with my mother’s Victoria sponge half-way gone between them.
She called him Sue and he called her Samuel. The other half asked them if perhaps they’d got themselves a little muddled, as if that was all an appropriate thing to ask guests when they’re sat at your kitchen table.
I apologised and offered to put the kettle on.
‘Coffee? Tea?’ I asked. Sue looked at me, eyes going up and down as a slow grin spread across his face.
‘Yeah love, sure thing.’
I caught sight of Samuel’s manicured hand swatting out at him, her hushed hissed telling him not to embarrass the host.
‘Remember the last place,’ she said. ‘Let’s not have that again.’
‘The last place?’ My other half looked for the couple, to me and then back again. ‘What happened at the last place?’
‘Nothing I’m sure,’ I smiled, forcing the kindness to my eyes. I passed him an empty jug and pointed at the fridge. ‘Milk please.’
He looked down at his hands and the small ceramic container.
‘Can’t we pour it straight from the bottle? We normally do. We haven’t used this since your mother was alive.’
‘Milk,’ I repeated, still forcing a smile.
Se continued to stare.
‘So darlin’, what cha been up to since last time?’
‘Last time?’ I hummed thinking fast. ‘Oh! Last time!’
I gabbled. The words falling one after the other until Sue and Samuel were picking at the last few crumbs on the plate and the tea pot was empty.
‘And that was that,’ I said.
‘I see,’ nodded Samuel. ‘Quite right as well.’
I laughed, short and quick, a little after breath.
‘Right.’ Sue stood and brushed his hands off on his jeans before holding out a hand to help Samuel down from her seat. ‘We best be off again.’
‘So soon?’ I glanced at the clock. Three thirty. Only a half an hour this time… I think.
‘Yeah doll.’ Sue kissed me on mouth. ‘You know our kind, here, there, everywhere. You should think about coming back to us maybe.’
‘Maybe,’ I shrug.
The other half is watching me. He’s grown stubble I realised.
So not half an hour.
‘Cheerio,’ calls Samuel, foot out the door. On the neighbours lawn Sue guns the bug’s engine and next door’s lawn goes sky high as he flaws it on the reverse.
‘Cheerio,’ I repeat and watch her sprint to the passenger door. ‘Please. Don’t come again.’