AFTER her restless night, Judy Jeffrey felt half asleep. The air coming through the kitchen window was doing nothing to help either, being mostly wafts of petrol fumes from the morning rush hour.
Living on a busy road was great for passing trade for the B&B but not so good for an incipient headache. And as the planes roared overhead she was acutely reminded of the fact that she lived below the flight path that connected Luton with distant places.
“OK, table three, two bacon and eggs. One tea, one coffee.” As Tom broke into her thoughts, she turned round.
“You all right, love?” her husband asked. “Table one’s down. I’ll get his order.”
“Bit of a head, that’s all.” Judy moved automatically to the cooker and as she opened a new packet of bacon rashers she closed her eyes for a moment. She could probably make breakfast that way, but perhaps it was not advisable to try.
“Mum, what are you doing?” Louise, a whirlwind of long hair, heavy book bag and green school cardigan half off one shoulder, rushed in.
“Bacon. Do you want some?”
“As if. I meant, what are you doing with your eyes shut?”
Judy looked at her younger daughter, rummaging now for the jar of chocolate spread.
“You should eat more at breakfast time,” she scolded mildly. “I’m just tired. Sometimes it gets to me, all the traffic noise. It’s as if we lived on the runway, not six miles away from it.”
She laid the rashers in the hot pan and made an effort to sound more cheerful.
“I was thinking about this village we stopped in when we were with Holly and Corin last month. It was beside a loch and if you closed your eyes you heard water and birds, that’s all. It was so peaceful.”
“Sounds horrendous.” Louise took a huge bite of toast. Round her mouth appeared a circle of chocolate spread, as if she were a little girl again and not a seventeen-year-old taller than her mother.
Judy handed her a piece of kitchen roll.
“And the water was so smooth and glassy. We got a little boat across it. The ferryman was a real character. He and your dad had a good chat, put the world to rights.”
“Judy, the bacon and eggs ready?”
“Almost.” Judy put the rashers on a warm plate in the oven and cracked eggs into the pan. “Sorry, Tom, I was daydreaming about Lorn remember, that place where we got the ferry?”
“Where they were building the bridge? I remember. I need table three now but table one doesn’t want cooked.”
“Good. And that’s everyone ordered?” Judy dished up the bacon and eggs and refilled the kettle.
Louise wiped her mouth.
“I’ll brush my teeth and then I’m off.” She stopped by the kitchen door. “Um, I’m seeing Eddie after school.”
“Again?” Judy heard her voice rise. “But you were going to have tea with your gran.”
“We’re doing this art project together. It has to be in by Friday. We’ll both have tea with Granmar. Eddie thinks she’s cool. Bye!” The hair and schoolbag and green cardigan disappeared.
Tom came in, his hands full of dirty dishes.
“Tom, could you try to have a word? Tell Lou she can only stay out late at weekends? Honestly, Holly was a doddle of a teenager compared with Louise.”
“We had our moments with her, too. What’s the problem? Eddie?”
“Eddie’s a nice boy. But she should be spending more time at home studying, not out almost every night of the week. And a bit of help around here would be appreciated.”
“She’s dead set on being an architect and she knows that won’t happen without passing exams. What about asking Marilyn to speak to her? If Louise takes notice of anyone it’s your mother.”
Judy snorted as she switched the dishwasher on.
“My mother? She’s a fat lot of help. ‘You’re only young once’ is her favourite saying.”
“She’s young at heart, Marilyn is.” Tom laughed. “Seventy going on seventeen. But if she was worried about Louise I’m sure she would tell you.”
“I suppose so. Right, I’m going to sit down for five minutes with a cuppa. They should all be ready to check out by then so I’ll do that and get the beds done. Have you got the cash-and-carry list?”
Tom patted his pocket.
“Don’t do too much. I’ll give you a hand with the rooms when I get back. See you in a couple of hours.”
Judy put her hands around her mug of tea.
Ever since they’d come back from that week in Scotland with Holly and her husband, Judy had felt well, she wasn’t sure how she felt. Out of sorts. Wishing for a parallel life somewhere else. But nothing was going to change except that next year Louise would leave for university and in their empty nest would be herself and Tom doing the same old, same old . . .
She closed her eyes again, the better to bring to mind the village she’d told Louise about. They’d driven from Glasgow, where Holly and Corin lived in a tall building called a tenement, out into the country. They’d stopped in Oban for coffee then continued up the west coast, the Indian summer day showing Scotland in her golden glory.
They’d parked near the ferry in Lorn where Corin had produced a lovely picnic lunch, complete with waterproof travelling rug to sit on. Then Judy and Tom had walked down to the loch. Above them the skeleton shape of the new bridge arched over the water. Holly and Corin had wandered off along the shore, hand in hand.
Well, at least she had one daughter she needn’t worry about, Judy thought. Holly liked her job as receptionist in a big Glasgow hotel and was blissfully happy with Corin, the Scottish chef she’d met on a holiday flight and married six months ago.
That September week with them had been time out from everyday life. It had only been last month but already it seemed like a distant dream.