Guided into the front room, with a hearty slap on the back from Thomas, Martha knew she had made the right decision. Seconds later, Thomas was back by her side. Each time the door knocked, they stood at the door together and greeted everyone in.
‘Good evening Mrs Whitman,’ Mrs Carmichael said, none of her h’s dropped.
Why was it that they couldn’t speak on first name terms? It wouldn’t have mattered to Martha, but it was just the way things were done on their street.
‘Good evening Mrs Carmichael. No Barbara today?’
‘No, she’s busy with her charity work.’
Martha had often seen Barbara outside the public house on Church Street. Obviously, charity meant something different to her neighbour.
‘Good evening,’ Martha said, as Mr and Mrs Stoddart walked through the door. They were a nice couple, in their early fifties, not much older than Martha and Thomas. He worked long hours, and she was a personal secretary.
She liked them, but it was difficult to keep up with their conversations. At home most of the day, she folded a few clothes, baked her own cakes, and spent numerous hours in the garden. She couldn’t even do that now the frost had stumped its growth.
The last to arrive was Fred, with a cloth cap on his head, and a ready smile to match. He was the only person Martha was glad to see. He reminded her of her own father – with his talk about the second world war.
‘Hi Martha, I hope you baked that wonderful carrot cake of yours.’
‘Fred, I thought you weren’t coming.’
‘Mrs Stoddart mentioned the meeting. I was doing nothing tonight, and it’s been ages since we’ve had a proper chat.’
Mrs Carmichael exchanged wry looks with Thomas, before he shook Fred’s hand, and welcomed him inside.