Dinner For Two
Lynn’s twins have flown the nest
Lynn stepped into the empty house and glanced at the clock. Four o’clock; another two hours until Ant finished his shift. Her work as secretary at the local school had kept her occupied but it had seemed such a long week since Maisie and Jack had left for university on Sunday.
This evening was when she would miss the twins most. They all dipped in and out of the house in the week with barely time to say hello, but Friday evenings were wind-down time, when they sat around the table together, noisily sharing their news as they tucked into their meal. Friday evenings were special.
Until now. Now it was back to dinner for two.
How would they fill the weekends and evenings without the twins, and their friends, popping in and out? This was the time when marriages fell apart, wasn’t it? When couples realised that their children were the glue that had held them together over the years and now the children had gone they had nothing in common. Would that happen to her and Ant?
Lynn didn’t even know what to do for dinner. Friday nights were usually a takeaway – fish and chips, pizza or a Chinese. A takeaway for two didn’t seem as much fun as a takeaway for four.
Perhaps she could cook? When they were first married, she and Ant used to take it in turns to cook a special meal on Friday evenings. They’d open a bottle of wine and talk about their week, share anecdotes, often sitting up until late, the one bottle of wine turning into two as they talked and laughed, making up for the week of hurried hellos and goodbyes and tumbling into bed too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep.
Then the twins had come along and there was little time for cooking, so they’d started having a takeaway. It was a tradition that had continued right up to the present.
She wandered upstairs and opened the door of Jack’s room. Most of his things were still there. It was as if he’d just gone to his friend’s. It was the same in Maisie’s room.
She sat down on the edge of Maisie’s bed, remembering how the twins had shared a room for the first few years, snuggling up in bed together while she’d read them a story. Even in their teenage years she’d find them in each other’s rooms, laughing, chatting, listening to music together.
The twins were so close – and still would be; they were attending the same university and both studying for a teaching degree, Maisie in performing arts and Jack in maths and science. They’d probably meet up, go on nights out together. Whereas she would hardly see them at all.
She fought back the tears that filled her eyes so readily just lately and stood up. She had to pull herself together. It wasn’t as if she’d never see the twins again. They’d come home for visits, eager to tell their news. Wouldn’t they?
She wandered into her and Ant’s bedroom, took the family photo album out of the bottom drawer and sat on the king-size bed to flick through it, starting at the back. The most recent photos. Maisie and Jack at their prom, first day at secondary school, primary school, nursery… minutes after they were born in hospital. Years of memories.
She flicked back further; a much younger her and Ant on holiday in Rome when they’d backpacked around Europe, on a spontaneous day out at the seaside, bowling, having a romantic meal.
She paused. They looked so young, and so happy. Where had the years gone? Tears pricked her eyes again as she turned back to another page.
Their wedding day. They’d been so in love, so full of plans, plans that had come to a halt when the much-loved but unplanned twins came along and suddenly they were a family instead of a carefree couple.
They still had plenty of years left, years to do things as a couple again, go on holidays. The sort of holidays they used to take – exploring, travelling on public transport, immersing themselves in the culture rather than the allinclusive-by-the-sea holidays they took with Maisie and Jack, to ensure that the children always had something to do.
She closed the album and put it back in the drawer. Maisie and Jack were fine; they were starting a new life, and that’s what she and Ant should do.
This was their time now. Time to be a couple again, to enjoy each other’s company, to go on weekends away, to have special dinners for two.
Suddenly she knew what she was going to cook. Steak in Stilton sauce – the first meal they had out together, and one that used to be their favourite.
She grabbed the car keys and her handbag and set off for the shops. She bought a bottle of wine too, and a tiramisu – their favourite – for dessert.
She’d just got home when her phone pinged to announce a message.
Working late. Sorry. Carry on and eat without me. Ant xx
Disappointment bit into her. Blinking back the tears she sat down dejectedly at the table. Why did Ant have to work late tonight of all nights? He knew how she felt about the twins going away.
Perhaps he didn’t want to come home to an empty house either. Perhaps, like her, he was worried they wouldn’t have anything to say to each other. Perhaps he was tired of her moping around – he’d tried to so hard to cheer her up this week.
Life had changed forever and she felt bereaved, lost, empty. What would they do all weekend? Ant often worked Saturday morning and in the afternoon she usually went shopping with Maisie while Ant did some gardening, cleaned his car, pottered around. Then the twins would get ready to go out and she and Ant would sit and watch a film, sharing a glass of wine and enjoying the rare peace.
Sunday was always a family day. The twins didn’t get up until late and one or both of them would be hanging around; probably their friends would drop in.
Pull yourself together, she told herself sharply. It’ s not Ant’ s fault if he has to work late. You’ re going to have to get some new hobbies. Find something to fill the time. Think of all the things you’ ve wanted to do over the years.
She grabbed a notebook and pen and scribbled down the things she’d wanted to do when she was younger, before the twins came along; travel, learn another language, take up ballroom dancing. She’d make a start tomorrow, find out about local classes.
Eight o’clock and still no sign of Ant. Was he avoiding coming home, tired of her wallowing in self-pity? The phone pinged again. On my way. Have you eaten or shall I bring something?
She messaged back. I’m cooking something. See you in a bit.
Then she turned on the oven and started to prepare the meal.
When Ant walked in half an hour later Lynne was humming along to a ’70s CD – the twins always groaned if she played it when they were around – the table was laid for two, the wine breathing beside the hob and the meal cooking.
She saw the relief in his eyes. He’d been expecting to find her crying again.
“You look cheerful,” he said, kissing her on the cheek.
She smiled up at him. “Yep, I’ve decided to stop moping and use the opportunity of having more free time to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.” She picked up the list. “Fancy learning ballroom dancing?” He scanned the list and smiled. “Nope, but you can mark two of those things off the list right away.” She stared at him. “Travelling and learning another language. I’ve been working late so I didn’t have to work tomorrow. I’ve booked us a weekend in Rome, leaving first thing in the morning. We’ve always said we’d go back.” He pulled a small book out of his bag. “So how about we brush up on our Italian this evening?” “Really?” Her eyes sparkled. He drew her closer. “I miss the twins too, Lynn, but I’ve missed us having time for each other too. Now we can go have a few weekends away. City breaks aren’t that expensive.” “I’d like that,” she said softly. Suddenly her phone pinged. Maisie. She slid open the text. Having a fab time but coming home next weekend. Need a decent meal! She grinned and showed Ant. “Maybe not every weekend…”
“You can mark TWO OF THOSE THINGS off THE LIST straight away…”