Short Story – Changing Times – Part Four
“I suppose I should write and decline their kind offer…” she muttered crossly.
She sighed, dropped the communiqué onto the carpet and went to the back door to look out into her beloved small garden. A few blackcurrant bushes, an elderberry and a hazel clung on around the boundary fence, while dandelions populated the border. Edith also grew nasturtiums and poppies, which liked the space and seemed to take neglect in their stride. When the shrinking band of her neighbours shook their heads at her pointless pottering, she could smile and say that, well, blackcurrant bushes yielded tasty tea and fruit, the nasturtiums brightened her salads, as did the spring dandelion leaves. Dandelion roots were delicious roasted and used for coffee and the hazel and elderberry bushes were useful… A large tub which Edith kept filled with moist earth, always contained something salad-like. Aidan dragged it indoors when necessary, to stand under the glass porch.
“It can wait.” She spoke aloud with unusual defiance. “Now I am going to do the garden.”
A cool start, with pains in the bending and an unusual, breathless huff when she turned her shoulder away from the breeze, just so. Maybe, she hoped, the time was coming when she would be finished with all this. But just in case there would be another winter to live through, she pulled, swept and tidied, clearing away what had grown taller, denser or pricklier in the last few weeks. Weeding didn’t much concern her, but bramble stems pulling at her skirt did, so she pulled on her warped gardening gloves, found her sharp knife and set to work, gradually snipping and pruning back their greedily stretching tendrils, but leaving blossoms and greening buds of fruit. There would be more than just a handful this year, which she would eat fresh, heedless of the scaremongers. Why should she not? It made no difference to her now.
She was utterly free, she realized, to think and do and say what younger, more respectable citizens held back from. If she spoke the truth, people assumed she was rambling, offensive because of an illness of age. Few people now lived as long as she had, despite all the promises of longevity. It would be lovely to see Harold again. Dear Harold, with his balding crown, his crooked spectacles perched on his beaky nose, his wise smile.
Suddenly, an ache leapt up from her heart and blocked her throat. The pain kept her rooted to the spot, her knife held in mid-air. She had been alone for decades. As her scenery changed, gradually the colour leached away. Increasingly, people told her what to do, as she kept her own mind, quietly resisting. She slipped away from them and they had no heart to run after her. But evasiveness was tiresome. What Edith most longed for was friendship from those who understood her, could read the meanings in her face and did not continually try to subvert her. When had disagreeing become an anti-social element?