Pauline had watched them both for weeks. Ever since they moved in to Betty-next-door’s, laughing as they unloaded boxes from a van. The girl’s dark hair, full lips. The way he smiled when he looked at her.
She told her son when he called from the States. “It’s lovely having young people around. They’re doing up the house. I’ve been round for coffee.”
“Yeah?” he said. And to his wife, in the background: “I’m on the phone, honey. Won’t be long.”
It wasn’t true about the coffee.
From an upstairs window, ducking behind the nets, she watched her neighbours crouch over Betty’s flower beds, weeding and planting.
One night, late in summer, they held a party, with fairy lights and music, the smoky smell of barbecue. She sat in darkness, seeing herself amongst them, dancing, not as she was now but as she once was. Lovely. Loose-limbed. Strong.
Next morning she watched them sweep paper plates and cups into bin bags and saw for the first time that the girl’s belly was swollen, ripe with new life.
She put a hand to her own stomach, seeking a twitch, a kick, a roundness; momentarily surprised to find none of these things.