Bob’s habits irritated Liz, but not so much that she would ever leave him. It is not as if he was violent or abusive. He was just, well, boring. Besides, Liz was fifty now. She didn’t want to start over again, leave her house and her comfortable life. She’d never be able to afford to live in Killara as a single woman, and God forbid she would have to look for work. No, Liz craved an adventure, but not one that took her too far out of her comfort zone.
Liz would have been surprised if anyone pointed it out – but she had become a creature of habit herself. One morning a week at the local tennis club, three at the gym. Washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, housework on Wednesday and groceries on Friday. She was a lousy gardener, so she had a ‘man’ who came once a fortnight, but he insisted on her watering regularly. In the early morning, he stipulated, before the sun gets too hot. So she had added that to her regular routine, until she realised an irrigation system and timer could do the job just as well. But now there was Jan’s to look to.
Her day started at 6am. While Bob showered and shaved, she laid out his clothes and packed his lunch. When she heard him cleaning out his shaver, she put his two weet-bix with prunes and yoghurt in a bowl, and waited to greet him in the kitchen. She had given up asking if he wanted a cooked breakfast. Bob kept those for his weekend treat. At 6.45am he would put his bowl in the sink, give her a peck on the lips – so fleeting it was almost as if he was a teenager begrudging his mother a speck of affection – grab his briefcase from the kitchen bench and stride out the front door. It was a fifteen minute march to the railway station. Bob commuted, even though his position entitled him to a city parking space. Bob fancied this brisk fifteen minute burst of energy morning and evening was all he needed to stay in shape. Liz didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t working.
Liz drummed her fingers on the kitchen bench. His shave seemed to be taking longer than usual. Hurry up. Her foot jiggled on the tiled floor. Get a move on. She checked her watch against the digital clock on the microwave. 6.25.
When Bob appeared a few minutes later, he stopped in the doorway and stared at her.
‘Oh nothing. Just I don’t often see you so glammed up on washing day. And aren’t you going to the gym?’
Damn. He’d noticed. She hadn’t counted on that. She’d gone for the Jackie Onassis smart casual look. A slim fit short-sleeved top over figure-hugging white Capri pants and ballet flats which showed off her long narrow feet.
‘I’m on a mercy mission. One of the tennis ladies is having a scan today. Breast scan. She got a call back. Wanted a buddy along . . . doesn’t want to be alone in case its bad news.
‘Anyone I know?’
‘No, no.’ hurry up. She watched him swallow a mouthful of cereal.
‘Not Dot? Her husband would be gutted if she got cancer.’
‘No. Look, it’s no one you know. A new woman. I’m just helping out, that’s all. She doesn’t know her way around here yet.’ It was all Liz could do to stop her foot tapping. Hurry up.
‘What time will be you be leaving?’ Bob was crossing to the sink with his bowl. Finally.
‘Oh . . . soonish. I’ll just get a load on first.’
‘Well,’ he leant over to give her his mummy kiss, ‘don’t forget that builder chap is starting today. I told Jan you’d keep an eye on him.’
‘Thanks for the reminder,’ Liz feigned surprise, ‘I’d forgotten him. Had this appointment on my mind.’
‘Well. You might just check he’s under way before you take off. He should be along any tick of the clock now.’
‘Mmmmm . . . okay, well. So long as he gets here soon,’ she strived to keep her voice casual, disinterested. ‘And if you don’t get a wriggle on, you’ll miss your train.’
‘I could wait and get the next one. If you think you won’t be here for the builder, that is.’
‘No, no. Didn’t you say you had an early meeting too? You get off. Builders start early. He’s probably just around the corner.’ she was at the front door with Bob now, practically pushing him out.
‘As you command, madam,’ Bob gave a little laugh and an exaggerated bow and set off down the street – whistling.
If Liz had not been so distracted, she might have thought his behaviour a little odd. But Liz was too busy craning out for any sign of Tony Babic. She breathed a sigh of relief when Bob was finally out of sight.
This is the fifth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.
To read from part one, go here