May The Best Team Win – Episode 22

Gerard Fay © Neil and Rachel meet outside pub Illustration: Gerard Fay

It was a crisp morning. Rays of sunlight slanted through the upstairs windows. Outside, the pub sign glimmered as light filtered through the tree branches, and heaps of leaves lay around the base of the horse chestnut.

Inside, it was warm, and the kitchen was filled with steam and the scent of frying bacon.

Maeve glanced over at Brad who was laughing at something in the newspaper.

She shook her head and turned back to the frying pan.

He hadn’t remembered.

Maeve bit her lip.

Perhaps she was being silly. It wouldn’t mean the same to him as it did to her.

Still, she had hoped he would have realised and comforted her.

She served up the brunch and placed the plates on the table. Usually this was her favourite time of day.

She loved quiet moments when she could reconnect with Brad and enjoy a leisurely meal.

Today, however, the hours ahead seemed to stretch endlessly.

Eventually, Brad looked up and put the paper away.

“Thanks, love, this is delicious.” He beamed. “Well, I’m looking forward to this evening.”

“Why’s that?” Maeve couldn’t think of anything to look forward to today.

Even if it weren’t the anniversary of her mother’s death, it would just be an ordinary Wednesday.

“The next round of the quiz, of course! Do you think the Smarty Pints will win?

“I bet Priscilla and her team are rattled after Saturday’s close shave.”

“Perhaps.” Maeve didn’t feel she could get too worked up about it.

“I’ve never seen Priscilla look so uncomfortable,” Brad continued, grinning.

“I’m really glad she won. I’ll never forget the way she dealt with Anthony!”

Maeve smiled vaguely and nodded.

“By one point though! I don’t think Priscilla’s ever come across a team that could give her such a run for her money, except the Smarty Pints.

“Phew! I thought they were going to be out of the Quiz Quartet.”

Maeve sighed. She must focus on the kindness of her friends and try not to think about Mum.

It was difficult though. They had only lost her a year ago, and Maeve missed her dreadfully.

When her sister had suggested meeting for the day, Maeve had thought it would be better not to dwell on things.

Now, however, she felt she needed contact with someone, anyone, who understood.

She sighed and pushed her plate away and Brad stared at it in surprise.

“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, a small crease above his nose.

For a moment, as he gazed at her, she thought he’d remember and stretch out his hand, but in the end, he just grinned.

“Mind if I finish it for you?” he asked.

Maeve passed the plate to him and decided to go downstairs. Soon, she was caught up in preparations for lunch.

Maeve did her part preparing salads and baking desserts. Kirsten was busy in the bar.

“Hi, Maeve!” Ali and Cam came in and waved. “You all right?”

“Not too bad,” she replied, summoning a smile. “I don’t usually see you two at lunchtime.”

Cam laughed. “I have to take care of my wife. Make sure she’s eating properly now she’s feeding two!”

Birth and death – it was the cycle of life.

Next, Rachel appeared for a snack.

“I forgot to bring my packed lunch today.” She laughed. “Can you believe it?”

Maeve could. It was amazing what people would forget.

Neil also popped by.

“I haven’t got time to stop,” he said, “but can I get a bottle of water and some crisps to go?”

“Of course.” Maeve watched him leave and her heart sank.

She knew she couldn’t really expect her friends to remember, they had their own lives and worries.

But she thought that if anyone had, it would have been Neil.

“Hello, Maeve. I came to give you this.” It was Priscilla’s voice.

She turned to see the captain of the Master Minds standing in her camel coat, holding out a potted lily.

“What’s this for?”

Priscilla raised an eyebrow.

“I assumed you would be struggling today,” she said. “I lost my mother almost twenty years ago, but I still miss her greatly.”

Maeve blinked.

“Thank you, Priscilla. How kind. I appreciate this. I am finding today difficult.”

Priscilla nodded.

“It will get easier with time,” she said. “Grieving is a process.

“I’m sure Brad is looking after you anyway,” she continued, as Maeve’s husband appeared. “I can’t stop, but I am thinking of you.”

She squeezed her hand and left.

Brad looked confused.

“What?” he muttered, watching Priscilla’s receding back.

Brad took in the lily and Maeve’s expression.

“Oh, love, it’s the eighteenth, isn’t it? I’m so sorry. What a blockhead.” He took her in his arms.

“I thought you weren’t yourself.”

Maeve smiled into his shoulder.

“I tell you what we’ll do. When the lunchtime punters have gone, we’ll lock up for an hour – go to the cemetery, walk, or look at the photo albums – whatever would help.”

Maeve kissed Brad on the cheek.

“That would be great.”

Perhaps today wasn’t going to be quite so unbearable after all.

To be continued…

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