The Call Of The City – Episode 30

daily serial the call of the city the people's friend

“I’m afraid the results aren’t any better.”

Ian gave Andrew a grimacing look of apology.

“I wish they were.”

“So do I.”

Andrew managed a smile, but Meg could see how devastated he was.

It was six months on from his heart attack, and he would almost certainly need another round of surgery, as well as more time off work.

“I think this might be a good time to discuss early retirement,” Ian continued.

Andrew stiffened.

“I’m only fifty-four,” he protested.

Ian shrugged and spread his hands.

“Andrew, you know as well as I do that work is not a reason to compromise your health so significantly.” He paused.

“I could still get better.”

“Of course you could. At least think about going part-time,” he said, clearly sensing Andrew’s complete reluctance to the idea of retirement. “I know the surgery would be sorry to lose you.”

“Retirement!” Andrew huffed once they were back in the car and heading towards home.

Meg had held her tongue for the entire visit, and now she let Andrew vent.

“That’s ridiculous. This has been slow going, I know, but I’m not at death’s door quite yet!”

“Of course you’re not,” she said as gently as she could. “But you might be at retirement’s door, Andrew. You should at least give it some thought, and not just reject it out of hand.”

“Not you as well!” Andrew snapped.

Meg sighed.

Andrew had been grumpy and out of sorts for days in anticipation of this appointment, and now she suspected he would be even worse, after what his former colleague had suggested.

“I don’t think retirement is a ludicrous suggestion,” she reiterated quietly.

Andrew didn’t bother to reply. Back at the house he closeted himself in his study while Meg went to switch on the kettle.

It was early September, and the trees were just starting to turn. She gazed at the leaves drifting down on to the lawn, and wondered who would clear them away.

Andrew usually did it, but he wouldn’t be able to this year.

She supposed she’d have to, but it felt like another niggling reminder of what she feared was inevitable.

And if Andrew didn’t like thinking about retirement, she knew he was really going to hate this suggestion.

Still, that evening as they sat in the sitting-room after supper, she steeled herself to make it.

“Andrew, we need to think about the future.”

“You’re not going to go on about me retiring again, I hope,” he said tiredly. “I will think about it, love, I promise. It was just a shock.”

“I know, and thank you, but it’s not that.”

Meg hesitated, because this idea was as terrible to her as it would be to Andrew, and yet it needed to be said.

“I want to talk about something else.” Meg sighed. “Andrew, we need to think about selling the house.”

“What?” He drew himself up, indignant. “We’ve lived in this house our entire married life. Surely that’s a step too far.”

“The estimate for the roof came in, and it’s higher than either of us thought. A lot higher.”

“All right,” Andrew said after a moment, looking shaken. “We have some savings.”

“There was the plumbing bill as well, and the garden. We’ve managed it all before, but we can’t any more, Andrew.”

“I’m going to get better,” he insisted.

“Even if you do, I wouldn’t want you raking all those leaves up,” Meg protested. “It’s hard work.”

“We’ll hire someone to do it, then.”

“Which is just another expense. You said yourself we might struggle if you had to go on half-pay. I wish it wasn’t this way.”

Her voice choked.

“I love this house as much as you do. But this time was going to come, one day. We always knew that.”

“Not yet,” Andrew protested. “We have a grandchild on the way, and Grace hasn’t even come home. We can’t sell the house from under her. And what about when Kerry’s baby arrives? Don’t you want to play with him or her in the garden, make cakes in the kitchen?”

“We can do those things in another home.”

“Where, some wretched retirement flat? A bungalow?”

“Both are perfectly reasonable options . . .”

“I don’t want to be reasonable! This is our home, Meg. We built it together over the years; saw so many joys and sorrows in these rooms. I’m not ready to give it up yet.

“You can’t ask that of me, and I wouldn’t dream of asking it of you. It’s hard enough to think about retirement.”

Unsteadily Andrew rose from his seat.

“I’m going up to bed,” he said. “I’ve had enough for today.”

“Andrew!” Meg protested.

She knew he was devastated by the prospect of a double loss – the house and his job.

Perhaps she hadn’t picked the best moment, but the bills were piling up and something needed to be sorted soon.

Fighting tears, Meg listened as the stairs creaked and then the bedroom door closed.

She and Andrew never fought. She hated that the stress and disappointment of his condition was pulling them apart.

The phone rang, startling her out of her unhappy thoughts.


Meg’s heart lightened at the sound of her daughter’s voice.

“Grace, it’s so good to hear from you! How are you, darling? It’s been a while.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I keep meaning to call.”

“Don’t worry, love, I understand.” Meg tried to inject a bright note into her voice. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, but . . .” Grace hesitated. “I’m worried, Mum.”

“Worried? Why?”

Grace let out a shuddery breath.

“I’m not sure what’s going on exactly, but something’s happened.”

Meg caught her breath in alarm.

“What is it, Grace? You can tell me.” “I don’t know the details, but something’s wrong with Aunt Juliet!”

To be continued . . .