All The Time In The World
Skype summoned from her mobile. Faith found her bag under a cushion on the sofa and rooted for the phone.
“Hello, love. How’s it going over there?”
“We’re fine. Dinner’s in the oven, so I thought I’d give you a call while I’m waiting for Paul.”
“Is he working? Isn’t it rather late?” She tried to remember if they were currently eleven or thirteen hours behind New Zealand.
“He’s only covering emergencies, but there are plenty of those, with everyone at home using their electrics. The weather must be warming up over there.”
Faith glanced out of the window. “It keeps changing its mind. Last week was lovely – spring-like – but now it’s blowing a hurricane again. I suppose it must be cooling down where you are.”
“M-mm, still warm most days. How’s Dad? Seems ages since I spoke to him.”
“He’s fine, love. How about you? Are you working?”
“I’m working from home. Is Dad there? Put him on.”
“Oh, he’s out, love.” She glanced at the clock. “Gone shopping.”
“For DIY stuff.”
“Are your DIY stores open? And aren’t you oldies meant to be social distancing?”
She paused. “You know your dad – hates to be told what to do.”
“He’s getting a bit old for civil disobedience, isn’t he?”
“Oh, he still likes to see himself as an eco-warrior, battling the authorities.” She remembered to smile at the screen – the camera.
Saffie chuckled back. “His finest hour… he still goes on about that link road, doesn’t he.”
“Especially when he’s had a few. Hey, that Prime Minister of yours is getting herself some good press coverage over here…”
Successfully diverted, Saffie shared lockdown anecdotes until her oven timer called.
Faith returned to the kitchen, trailed by Pickle the terrier.
“Yes, Pickle, you will get your walk – as soon as I’ve had my breakfast.” She flipped the kettle switch again. Was it too early for wine?
Faith sipped her Chardonnay as DCI Barnaby interviewed a suspect.
The Skype alert sounded.
At this time in the evening? Saffie had called already this week. She paused Midsomer Murders and reached for her mobile.
“Is everything alright, love?”
“Just checking in. Thought I’d have a word with Dad before I log on to work this morning.”
“He’s…” Pickle barked. “…on his phone in the bedroom.”
“I’ll hang on then, till he’s down.”
“You don’t want to be late starting work, love.”
“There’s no hurry. I can work longer if I need to. With no daily commute, I’ve got all the time in the world.”
Paul appeared behind Saffie on the screen. “Hiya Faith! How’re you keeping over there?”
“We’re fine, Paul. We’re both fine.”
“I’m heading off to work. Stay well.” He waved and disappeared. Saffie watched him go. Faith heard their door close. “Hang on, Paul. Your sandwiches! I’ve got to go, Mum. Talk soon.”
Faith was out walking Pickle when her mobile rang.
“Hello, sweetheart. It’s me.”
“Finn, I was hoping you’d call.”
“It’s a bloody nuisance – not being allowed visitors. There’s so much over-reaction about all this–”
“Saffie keeps calling and asking after you. I don’t know what to tell her.”
“Tell her I’m out.”
“At 10 o’clock at night? I can hardly say you’re in the pub.”
“Say… say I’m delivering food parcels. You’ll think of something. You’re a clever girl.”
Up ahead, the dog was joyfully rolling in something yellow… “Pickle, leave it!”
“You go and sort him out, sweetheart. We’ll talk later.”
Another evening call. Saffie got straight to the point.
“Hi, Mum. Is Dad around?”
“He’s out, love.”
“He’s delivering food parcels for the local food bank.”
“Mum, it’s half-past nine where you are. I checked.”
“To be honest, love, I think the volunteers go back to the organiser’s afterwards for a crafty pint.”
“Has he got the virus, Mum?”
“Oh no – nothing like that.”
“You would tell me, wouldn’t you?”
“I promise you, love, we’re both fit and well.”
That must have looked sincere. Saffie’s expression relaxed.
“Well he won’t be if he keeps having pints with his mates.”
“That’s what I tell him, love. Your brother rang yesterday. He’s busy – the courts are still sitting.”
“Oh, how is he? I’ve not heard from Will since Christmas.” An alert trilled in the background. “Damn, work’s calling; I’ve got to go. I’ll phone you later. Tomorrow.”
Faith hung on until she got to the front of the queuing system and the ringtone replaced that awful music.
A gruff voice answered. She asked if she could possibly speak to her husband. The voice went away to consult with someone and returned to say Finn would call her in the next half hour.
Ten minutes later, the phone rang.
“Are you alright, Fay? They said it was important.”
“Finn, Saffie’s called again. She knows something’s up. I can’t keep lying to her.”
A heavy sigh carried down the telephone line.
“This is all so bloody ridiculous. Just because I was chatting to Ben in the street. I bet that nosey parker next door put them up to it. Her curtains twitched every time I stepped outside.”
“Finn, you know it wasn’t just that. It was how you reacted.”
“I only said–”
“You were out of order, Finn. No wonder they threw the book at you this time.”
“It’s not as if I hurt anyone. I only shoved the lad out of my way.”
” ‘Causing a public nuisance; obstructing a police officer; assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty; assault with intent to resist lawful apprehension; refusing to assist a constable…’ Will says they never use that one these days. You must have really got up someone’s nose.”
“Just stall her till next week, can you, sweetheart? I’ll be out by then.”
Her silence prompted that familiar wheedling tone.
“Please, Fay. I don’t want her to know her old dad’s doing time.”
Cathy Cade is a retired librarian whose stories have been published in Scribble and Flash Fiction Magazine, and in anthologies, including To Hull and Back Short Stories 2018, Where the Wild Winds Blow and A Following Wind. Cathy’s collection, Witch Way and other ambiguous stories, is available from Amazon, as is her story-verse, A Year Before Christmas.
Find her online at www.cathy-cade.com