A Small Piece of Bliss

She looked out miserably at the storm gathering force. It had come out of nowhere, a day too soon. Positioning herself at the upstairs window, she stared out, willing them to appear on the horizon which was closing in fast. She could see other people scurrying past, rushing to get home. But not her lot.

‘Yet,’ she whispered to herself superstitiously.

Today was to have been the last nice day before the Beast from the East arrived. Again. He was getting to be quite a regular uninvited guest, this wretched beast. They had both groaned last night when the late-night weather had forecast more snow for Monday.

Allan swore aloud thinking of all the plans they had made.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said to him, ‘it’s still to be lovely sunshine tomorrow. And with Evie coming, let us make the most of it.’

They had not seen their daughter for months. Living as she did in Bearsden, the other side of town, she couldn’t visit through the lockdown, and they had had to celebrate their only grandson’s third birthday on the computer.

Restrictions were lifted now, both Allan and she had received their vaccines and Evie had been jagged months ago, being a doctor. It was going to be the best Valentine’s Day ever.

True to their words, Evie, Steve, and Charlie arrived early, exploding back into their home with colourful laughter, long joyous embraces, and sticky kisses from the wee one. He was quite the chatterbox like his mummy, and followed Allan everywhere looking for ducks.

‘Ducks?’ the flummoxed granddad asked.

‘Dad, he remembers the last time we visited, you had taken him to feed the ducks at Rouken Glen. And he’s talked about nothing else since.’

The decision was then made for the three of them to take Charlie down to the park, whilst Rita sorted lunch.

‘No ice cream though,’ she admonished, ‘and take the pushchair.’

‘Oh mum, we’ll be stuck pushing an empty stroller,’ Evie laughed, ‘he loves walking and he’s got sturdy new wellies. Look?’

That was over two hours ago, and Rita had busied herself in the kitchen. She had not cooked for Evie and Steve for so long, she had more than overdone it today. The kids would need to take leftovers home she thought happily, as she looked out. And realised that the snow was coming down thick and furious. Judging by the way her apple tree was swaying, the wind was fierce too.

Her first instinct was to drive out and pick them up. But there was Steve’s car in the driveway. Blocking theirs.

After gazing outside helplessly for some more time, she went downstairs and lit the fire. Then she went and fetched their little space heater from the loft and plugged it into the emergency socket in the porch.

‘We’ll never need that here,’ she had said to Allan twenty years ago when they had refurbished this house.

‘You never know,’ he replied. ‘Might have an emergency someday.’

This was that emergency, she thought now, blessing him for his foresight as

she switched on the heater and placed four large towels on the chair there.

‘At least they’ll be warm as they get their shoes and jackets off,’ she thought.

Before returning to take up her watch by the window, she placed four pairs of woollen socks on the radiator by the door.

After a fretful few minutes, she could make out three straggly figures lumbering up the road. The skies had gone quite dark by now, and she could hear the wind despite the double glazing. One of the shapes looming up was much larger than the other two. Peering as they got closer, she saw it was little Charlie, perched on his dad’s shoulder.

Thanking God they were safe, she put the kettle on, and heated some milk to make hot chocolate for the little one. Lunch could be delayed, and she would insist they stay over.

Half an hour later, they were all around the fire, thawed out of their misery. Her precious grandson had squealed in delight as she rubbed him dry and wrapped him in his mummy’s old blanket. She would go and see to lunch soon, but for now she wanted to breathe in this moment of having all her beloved ones safe and warm within touching distance.

Evie stretched out to place her head on her knee, just as she used to when she was a little girl,

‘Oh mum,’ she said, ‘nobody can make life as comfortable as you.’

Rita sighed in quiet pleasure and stroked her daughter’s still damp hair. Going back in her mind to another time, another afternoon. When she had spoken those words herself almost forty years ago.

Cycling back from school, in the blistering heat of the afternoon sun in India. It had taken the last of her fourteen-year-old energy to drag herself into the cool shade of her mother’s front room. A glass of ice-cold raw mango juice was thrust into her hands even as her eyes adjusted to the darkened room from the bright white heat of the outdoors. And gentle hands wiped her sweat soaked hair with the folds of her saree.

Glowing in that memory, she went into her kitchen smiling to herself.

Mothers! They added comfort to every home.

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