The first sentence is from Trouble in the Village by Rebecca Shaw. My writing pal went to the wonderful, gigantic vide grenier (flea market) held each May 1 in Argelès and bought a number of English books from the cat lady. The money goes to help the stray cat population.
Sheila took a brisk look around the sitting room. She did every time she walked into the room, to make sure everything was in place. This was the one place in the house that was off limits to the children. No plastic soldiers, no Barbie dresses were allowed. The kids could come in and sit and read as long as they took their books with them.
“Mummy’s room,” 13-year-old Angela would say to her friends and roll her eyes. As for the other two younger kids, they just accepted the rule, but Angela would complain and complain that the house was for everyone.
“I pay the mortgage,” her mother would say and I have the right to decide to what do with the rooms. You’re lucky I allow you to do what you want in the pig sty of your own room.”
Something was different, but she wasn’t sure what. Each night when all the kids were in bed, Sheila would pour herself a glass of wine, take a book from the shelves, one with no literary merit and have nothing to do with the legal profession that kept her occupied during the day, and listen to the calm.
Sometimes she’d fall asleep, but usually she’d get a chapter read before she went to her own room. She would joke she could fall asleep before her head touched the pillow.
She wasn’t unhappy with her life. Being a widow was fine. Her husband had been a womanizer, although only she had known that. She had acted out the proper degree of sadness at his funeral and then went onto a happier life. Her career as a small town lawyer earned her enough money and left her enough time to supervise the kids through the chaos of each day.
However, in the last six months every time she came into the room, something was out of place: a figurine moved three inches to the right, a pillow from the couch put on the chair. She knew it was Angela.
So what was it tonight?
She set her wine glass down on the coaster on the end table to the right of the couch. That was it, the coaster wasn’t there, it was on the end table to the left of the couch.