Plan B

Pulling open the curtains on a bright and sunny September morning, she saw a flicker of reddish gold.
“Can it be,” she thought, “already?”
She leant forward and let out a little sigh when she realised that the leaves on her cherry tree were indeed turning colour. Autumn (or fall, as Katy her daughter, doing her master’s degree at Boston University, had started saying) had arrived!
For the last twenty-six years, this was such a happy time for Billy and her. Autumn was when they started making their holiday plans. They always went away in winter, even when the children had been little.
“Why would we leave Scotland in summer,” Moira was fond of saying. “It’s so beautiful here. Ach no, it’s when its freezing, we want away.”
Christmas at home, of course, but Hogmanay, wherever they fancied. Somewhere warm and exotic if business had been good that year. If not, even the Lake Districts or the caravan park in Dunoon would be warmer than Ballater. Besides, nobody ever came up here that time of the year, and their little B&B would most certainly survive without a few weeks’ bookings.Moira thought of her favourite New Year spent in Goa, India, just before the children left home. They had so wanted to return, but never managed to save enough. Last year was Dubai with Billy Junior, who had recently gone to work there. They had splashed out on a belated Silver Anniversary celebration. However, neither her Billy nor she had really taken to the bright lights and the cold malls, and for once, they were both glad to return home.
More than the holidays however, what Moira really loved was the planning of it. She had a ring binder with colour-coded dividers. She would start with going over last year’s notes and then replacing them with the fresh brochures they collected over the year. Then they would short-list three possible destinations. After doing this every year, through September and October, they had the system down to pat. By Halloween, the holiday was booked, autumn was over, and they were ready to embrace winter and the Christmas shopping. Well, she was. Billy always turned into a grouch till the day the tree went up.
This year, Moira was going to suggest Cambodia and Myanmar. The flights would be dear, but the restaurants and hotels were so reasonable. Katy’s friend had been there recently and had had a great time even on a shoe-string budget. She didn’t think Billy would object. He had often said he wanted to head east, his dad had fought in Burma, and he’d always wanted to go there.
But it wasn’t to be.
Moira’s rage returned when she remembered Billy’s complete abandonment. How dare he just leave her like this? With no warning, no cheerio! After over thirty years of being best friends, how could he? Now, with the children having left home, their holidays could have been as long as they wanted. They were frugal folk, and business was good these days.
She had held herself together so well, had been fine up until now, this very minute, as it hit her. There would be no more Autumn Projects.

She had been so strong that day in June, when he keeled over whilst cutting the grass. She had called 999, and later, the children. She had managed to tend to their broken hearts with platitudes like “it was quick, he knew no pain”. Moira never knew where this strength came from, organising the funeral and running the business at the same time. Friends and family had helped, but it was still she who oversaw everything. Guests offered to find alternate arrangements, but she wouldn’t hear of it. It was June, after all, peak season. Where would they go? Besides she needed to stay busy. Work herself to the bone, so she didn’t have to think of anything at all. And she had done it.
Billy and her, they had had their own routine, their own chores, never interfering with each other. Like passing ships all day, a smile here, a word there. It was only at the start of every autumn; they cleared an hour each evening to sit down with their Holiday Project. This is how it had been. How it was always meant to be.
And now, her beloved Silly Billy had gone and left her, and her Ring Binder would sit on the shelf alone, forever. Moira felt the tears come in large gulps and sobs, but before she could start to indulge herself, the breakfast bell rang, which meant she needed to put on her lipstick and apron, along with that smile, and go into the kitchen to take orders and start the day. They were fully booked till November after all. Besides, Billy always said she looked daft when she cried.
There were two personal phone calls that day. Both the children wanted her over for Christmas. It was almost as if they could see, from Boston and Dubai, the little red leaves on her cherry tree. They knew what the start of autumn meant, and they didn’t want her to
be alone.
She said to both, with love but in an end-of-discussion kind of a tone they knew well, that they were both welcome to come home for Christmas if they wanted, but she was going nowhere. There was too much to do. She also realised that funds were tight for both, having just been home for the funeral, so they were to do whatever suited them best, and they were not to worry about their old Mum, who was just fine.
Busy, but fine. And that was that!
But at night, as she switched off lights and got ready for bed, she found herself reaching for the Ring Binder. It was surprisingly light. Opening it, she saw it had been cleared of last year’s Dubai details. Instead, there was one sheet of paper, with something written in Billy’s dreadful scrawl…
“Plan B,” it read.
“Moira, my love, I’ve not got long. Dr Brown says the lump is too big, and it’s too late. It’s going to affect my heart soon. I don’t want you to fuss and bother, so I’ll not be saying my goodbyes. But what I will say is… you must go on our holidays, every year. Go on girl, its autumn, start planning. I’ll come along and be with you always.
You can do it. So DO IT”
Moira wasn’t left with any choice other than to begin to Google ‘Flights to Cambodia’.
And that, was indeed That!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA ImageChange Image