This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 809 words.
Enjoying his walk around the unfamiliar city, George got to see the castle and the cathedral just as he had hoped, stopping for lunch in between. It was a nice day, so he decided to head east to the coast, and the seaside town of Skegness. That took him longer than expected, so by the time he got there he realised he wasn’t going to have time to drive home that evening. There were plenty of small hotels along the seafront, and he chose the nicest looking one that had a ‘Vacancies’ sign in the window. After booking a room, he walked up to the shops and bought some toiletries and a change of underwear.
On the way back to the hotel, he stopped at a phone box. He anticipated problems with Eileen when he told her, but was pleasantly surprised when she seemed alright about it.
“I’m glad you left me a note, or I would have been worried. Lincoln, you say? Well, you did always want to go there. And you are in Skegness now? I have always heard that is a rather run-down place, so I hope you found somewhere decent to stay. So I will see you tomorrow when you get home. Goodnight, George”.
He had to admit it was just as his wife suspected. Run-down, rather seedy, and also unusually crowded for the time of year. He had seen many caravan parks on his way through, and guessed that most of the people thronging the streets would have been staying in a caravan. That was probably why so many of the hotels had vacancies. His hotel had a restaurant, so he booked a table for one and went down to eat. It was rather disappointing,, offering a bland set meal, three courses at a fixed price.After dinner he went and sat in the bar, but his only companions were two much older couples who sat sipping their drinks and staring into space.
The Lincolnshire adventure had fallen flat, and he decided to go to bed early.
Eileen used the absence of her husband to crack on with her crochet project. Then she cooked a fillet steak for dinner, and decided to have a glass of Port while she ate. After two more glasses of Port, she could feel her eyes getting heavy, so she turned off the television and went to bed.
When the light woke her, she checked the time. It was just after three in the morning. Wondering what it could be, she put on her dressing gown and went out into the garden. The light was concentrated there, feeling like one of those floodlight football matches you saw on television. It wasn’t shining on the adjoining house at all, and it also didn’t scare her, or make her annoyed. After trying to see the source of it for some time, it suddenly went out. Eileen went back to bed feeling remarkably peaceful, and she had no trouble getting back to sleep.
George was down in good time for the full breakfast provided by the hotel. He paid the bill after eating, and walked to his car to drive home. Only then did it occur to him that he had not been awakened by the blue light during the night. The traffic was bad all the way home, and even trying to change his route didn’t help. He had got as far as Bedford when he suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired, so stopped at a roadside cafe for some strong coffee.
After that stop it still took him over two hours to get home, and when he went inside, he was surprised to find Eileen was out. There was no note, and as she didn’t drive, he presumed she had been picked up by one of her friends, or taken a bus or taxi somewhere. He had been home for more than an hour when she came in. Not wanting to start any arguments, he didn’t ask where she had been, but she told him anyway.
“Oh I had a lovely day, George. I joined the new health club out on the Ring Road. They have a lovely pool there, and I have been swimming on and off most of the day. The people are very nice, and they have a restaurant too. It’s a bit pricey of course, but very upmarket. She produced a sports bag with the logo of the health club printed on it, and removed a one-piece swimming costume and towel from inside. “I bought these there, they can go in the wash”.
As she loaded the washing machine with her swimming things and other items to make up a load, Eileen was singing. An old song they used to listen to almost forty years earlier.
He couldn’t remember when he had last seen her looking so relaxed and alive.