At the parish picnic

As Lorna and Mark packed sandwiches and prepared thermoses of soup they wanted nothing more than to enjoy sharing simple things.

If only it were so easy. The place that brought them together had turned on them.

Jane would be there, and her family—the oldest in the village. By mid afternoon she’d be drunk. She’d yell at Mark and taunt Lorna.

Only Father Paul, a tepid man in such circumstances, would even to talk to them.

‘Shall we go?’ Mark buckled the picnic basket.

‘I’ll get the rug. Such a lovely, sunny day.’

‘Yes. Beautiful.’

They loaded the picnic things into the trunk then drove, talking all the while about anything so as not to voice their thoughts.

Many of he parishioners were already lunching. Jane’s sister, Leah, made a point of moving away from Mark and Lorna.

When Mark saw Leah muttering to Beryl Larsen, glaring in their direction, he could no longer hold his tongue. ‘It’s a funny thing, dignity. As virtues go it’s not well rewarded.’

‘Not in this life,’ Lorna scanned the crowd. There was Desmond Leonard. And Ken Tucker. They’d happily been party to Mark’s exwife’s infidelities. Just as happily, now, they let the man who’d once truly loved her bear the town’s resentment.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (