When my phone rings and I see my friend Rosey’s name on the screen, I know to hold the devise a couple of inches away from my ear to lessen the pain of her shrieking greeting! But yesterday it was different. I heard nothing. At first I assumed she’d pressed a wrong button and cancelled the call; she’s still not completely got the hang of her fancy new ‘Blackcurrant’ as she calls it. I pressed it to my ear and I could hear seagulls squawking in the background so it seemed I was connected. I then heard a sniffing sound and I realised something was wrong. “Rosey” I said “What’s the matter?” Silence.
"Where are you?” I asked. “At the beach” she whispered “At Grandma’s beach hut”. I told her to stay there and wait for me.
When I got there I found the door to the hut open, but there was no sign of Rosey. The tide was out, and the broad expanse of sand was alight with an orange glow from the setting sun which was dropping down behind the cliff at Beachy Head. In the distance I could just make out the silhouette of Rosey, sitting at the end of a wooden breakwater, staring out to sea. I made my way over to her, and as I approached she turned to look at me, her face expressionless, her eyes red and swollen. She said nothing; she climbed down and started walking slowly in my direction. Then suddenly she rushed at me, flung her arms around me and started sobbing uncontrollably, her face buried in my shoulder. I decided to say nothing, ask nothing. After what seemed like ages, she loosened her grip, straightened herself up and wiped away her tears with her sleeve. An angry expression spread across her face. “How could she do this to me?” Rosey spluttered. “Why did she go without saying goodbye? She could have warned me yesterday”. It was then I realised that Rosey’s precious Grandma had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.
Rosey had always been very close to her Grandma. Since a child, they'd always met at the beach hut when Rosey wanted a chat. There, she could talk to her about the things she couldn’t bring herself to discuss with her parents. She was her agony aunt, her confidante and her so-called ‘special adviser’. We all knew Masie. She was ninety one last birthday but you’d never have known it. She came to the Bicycle Arms now and again for a drink with our group of friends. No sherry for Masie; a pint of Guinness was her tipple! She used to arrive on her electric mobility scooter having driven it at breakneck speed swerving between startled pedestrians on the pavements. She got barred from using it Marks and Spencers a few weeks back after she got it hooked onto a rail of skirts and proceeded to tow it out of the shop and through the shopping mall. She had a wicked sense of humour and loved to embarrass Rosey by telling us little stories about her. Like the time Rosey said that she was looking forward to growing up so she could say goodbye to childhood and hello to adultery. Apparently Grandma accidentally farted once and Rosey said "Grandma your poo’s talking". And then there was the time she took four year old Rosey to a kitchen and bathroom showroom. Rosey disappeared and when she found her she was perched on display toilet having a pee!
Last time we saw Masie, just a few days ago, she told us of the time Rosey asked her if a cemetery was a place where dead people lived.
As we stood watching the ripples swirling around our feet, we listened to the silence; it seemed to say so much. I knew that when Rosey wanted to talk, she would. In the meantime I decided to leave her to her thoughts. After a while we began to stroll back towards the beach hut. When we got there she gathered up some small pebbles and arranged them on the table in the shape of a smiley face, then topped it with a few strands of seaweed for hair. She went over to the cupboard and got out two glasses and Grandma’s not-so-secret bottle of brandy. She poured a little into each, then stood them beside the pebbled face. From her bag she pulled out photo of her late long-gone Grandpa, and placed it between the glasses. For several minutes she stood, and stared and quietly sobbed.
We left the hut; Rosey turned the key in the lock, kissed two of her fingers and pressed them against the door. She looked me straight in the eyes, sniffed very loudly and smiled. “Hey” she said, “We are off to the races tomorrow; Grandma would hate me to miss it. Only yesterday she gave me five pounds to put on a horse called.......” She suddenly stopped, her face dropped and she studied the shingle under her feet. “Fond Farewell it was” she murmured. “Yes, its name is Fond Farewell. It’s as if she knew”. Then she looked at me and frowned. “She once asked me if I knew what horse sense was. She said it was the thing horses had which stopped them betting on people”.