Maria turned off the Late Late on the telly and stood up from her warm spot on the couch. That’s it then, she thought, we’ve been told to stay home now, properly. She stretched her arms and loosened out her neck. “Come on mister,” she said to the grey-blue Persian still nestled on the couch. “Up you get. We’ll call it a night”.
Checking the curtains were fully closed she looked out onto the road, only to see another couple of yellow joggers bouncing past on one last run. “As if they’re trying to get even fitter now they’ve nothing else to be doing”, she grumbled to the cat as it rubbed against her legs, nudging her into the kitchen.
As she got his saucer of milk and her own bedtime cup of Pukka tea, she felt a lightness in her that she hadn’t felt in ages, a shifting of a weight that she hadn’t really noticed settling over her in the last two weeks. The two weeks since she’d been sent home from work with all those papers. “A grand opportunity for you to get through that archive stuff now Maria” her manager Rory had said, that 30-year-old eejit.
Waiting for the cat to finish his business in his box, she glanced over the untouched papers stacked on the big desk in her bedroom, lying under an overgrowth of knitting projects she had started. Sure wasn’t it a grand chance to use up those bags of yarn at last.
She turned down her covers. Another two weeks of staying home, she thought but now we’re really meant to stay put. She felt a smile creep into her face as she settled in.
“But sure, if we all have to stay indoors, that means I won’t have to go out and smile at the neighbours.” The cat purred on its fuzzy blanket at the foot of the 4-foot bed.
“I can skip visiting Niamh every other day, her daughter will have to start pulling her weight. And I won’t have to deal with those awful queues at Dunnes, where people give you funny looks for coughing into anything but your armpit. Sure they’re always advertising you can do all your shopping online now. Maybe I can do that”.
And then it hit her, maybe now she would be able to be alone, even for the rest of her life. Properly alone, this time. Just her – and Mr Bingley of course.
The next morning and well into her second pot of tea, Maria pondered the grocery issue again, she should look into the home delivery thing. She’d soon be out of microwave popcorn and jars of beetroot. The fancy iPhone her nephew had given her at Christmas sat in its cradle on the dresser, always plugged in but rarely used. She picked it up and waited for it to turn on and connect. When she clicked on the email button dozens of emails floated in and the WhatsApp started pinging at her. “Ah now they’re talking to each other, the biddies”, she thought, seeing some of the messages that had come in from her old bowling club. “Sylvia? She’s on WhatsApp now? And here she is with loads of messages… let’s have a look”.
An hour later her tea had gone cold and she had gotten nowhere near finding Tesco or Dunnes. But she was halfway through the Egyptian galleries at the Met Museum, had signed up for a Pilates class in Cavan (“it’s a bit like yoga” she assured the cat as he stretched on the floor) and was in the middle of ordering four books for her new Jane Austen book club. “18,000 members! Imagine!”
The sun was now flooding into the kitchen and she realised she had been hunched over her phone for just a bit too long. Where can you find a chiropractor when you need one? she thought. Carefully placing the newly-respected phone back in its cradle, she opened the back door to let herself and the cat out into the garden for a gander around her herb patch.
“Yes, Mr Bingley. We will be perfectly alone”, she confided. “But only as much as we want to be.”
Emma Prunty is a writer now based in Dublin after living many years abroad. She writes about life, family and culture at washyourlanguage.com