Jean really wasn’t sure about going but Peggy just wouldn’t stop.
“Come on Jean, you’ve turned into a right old misery lately. The bus stops right outside the door, Ted and Hilda will be there. Come on love, you need to get out of this house of yours once in a while.”
Eventually Jean gave in, when Peggy was in this mood there was no arguing with her. Although the weather was warm, she made sure she had her nice new coat from BHS, well you never know if the bus will turn up, then you just need a cloud to come along and before you know it the cold is in your bones and these days it takes so long to get warm again.
Peggy had decided that they were going to a morning showing at their local cinema. They had started a weekly event called "The Silver Club" only £3.50 to get in with a free hot drink and biscuits. It's more about silver hair than silver screen thought Jean. Hilda had told Peggy about it a couple of weeks ago and ever since then Peggy had been on at Jean constantly.
“You used to love going to the cinema, Jean,” Peggy said. “I never knew anyone who went as much as you. Most of us just went when we were courting, a cheap place to go and snuggle up with someone nice. You two though, you kept on going even after you had the children. The rest of us grew out it, not you and Frank though, every week you were there. Still can’t work out how you managed it or why you won’t go now come to think of it. You’re a strange one, I’ll give you that.”
Well that was it really, the cinema was where she went with Frank, going without him, well it just didn’t feel right. She always loved the way the house lights dimmed and then the curtain on the screen glided away. For the next couple of hours reality left them and hand in hand with Frank they set off around the globe and beyond. They laughed and cried together, they were the best of travel partners, communicating feelings and thoughts with a subtle movement of their fingers before suddenly and always too quickly the credits would roll, house lights come up and they would head slowly back home, thrilled with each other's company.
Jean's head was awash with memories during the bus journey. More than once Peggy had snapped at her for not following the conversation properly.
As they stood to leave the bus it was clear that they weren't the only people taking advantage of free bus travel and cut price cinema. A well dressed, silver haired army, edged tentatively from the bus to the cinema. There were several faces that she recognised, a few people even came to say hello, saying how sorry they were to hear about Frank and asking how she was. She never knew how to answer that one, it was one of the reasons that she had stopped going out. How could she say to those kindly faces that she was desperately lonely, that she just about made it through each long and terrible day before the night came and somehow that was even worse? Then the cycle would repeat again the next day.
Peggy bustled her forwards and into the foyer of the cinema.
"There's Hilda and Ted," she said. "You go and chat to them I'll get the tickets. With a nudge from Peggy, Jean found herself heading towards Hilda who unexpectedly grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into an exuberant embrace.
"Oh Jean, we have missed you," Hilda said. "So glad that you have come along today. "
Well the film was nice, several times she felt her fingers twitch at a scene that Frank would have enjoyed. Obviously though, there was no response to the frail movement of her hand but the film was good enough to pull her back into this other world. Her gloom was lifted, she even laughed. Small, hesitant laughs they may have been but it was the first time that she had been able to do that since Frank had gone.
They went again the next week and the one after that. By the third week she found that she was really looking forward to going. Denzel Washington was the star of the film they were seeing that week, she loved his composed, steely grace. His was a favourite of Franks as well. One of the last films they had seen together had featured Denzel Washington and she remembered the daft conversation they had about what it would be like if he came to their place for tea one day. It was one of those "what celebrities would you invite to diner" type chats. They had both agreed that a full evening meal would be a bit too much for them now. Afternoon tea with Denzel though, they both figured, that would a wonderful thing. The film was lovely and so was Denzel, how Frank would have enjoyed that, she thought when sat at home with a cup of tea later that day.
By now their group of film fans had expanded, it was not uncommon for Jean to find herself in a group upwards of ten people. Some were old friends, some she was meeting for the first time. There were so many people to catch up with so they had started heading to the pub across the road for some lunch and a drink after the film had finished. Jean found herself enjoying this experience. Frank had never really been a man who enjoyed pubs, never much of a drinker and certainly not a smoker he was never fully relaxed in that environment. Of course nowadays the pubs were smoke free and Jean had the freedom to chat with the others in a relaxed atmosphere.
Though she was grateful to Peggy for introducing her to this new world, she also enjoyed getting away from her for a while and talking to some of the others. She actually found that she could relax and chat to a few of the single men in the group. Derrick, Jim and Bill were good company; Bill had something of Denzel Washington about him she thought. Elegant and courteous he was always charming and caring around her.
It was only when she got home one afternoon that she realised what a revelation this was. She had to face facts, Frank was gone, she still loved him very much but she was still here and who knows, she could be for some while. “Try not to act old or be lonely” Frank used to say. Well what would he think of her now she wondered.
One week Peggy called to say that she would not be able to make it to the Silver Club, she had been feeling ill for a few days and her doctor had told her to stay at home. Jean was determined to go and when she stepped down from the bus she was delighted to see her group of friends were there waiting for her. One of these was the always immaculately dressed Bill and it was he who stepped forward to say hello and ask after Peggy’s whereabouts. During the film several people had to suppress mobile phones that they had forgotten to switch off, this was not an uncommon situation so Jean, who didn’t own a mobile didn’t think much of it. On leaving the cinema though it was clear that something was wrong when Hilda suddenly let out a large cry, before turning to Ted and saying.
“It’s Peggy, she’s gone!”
The funeral took place two weeks later, there was a good turn out which pleased Jean. As luck would have it many of them met up again the next morning for the Silver Club. There was an understandably sombre mood amongst the friends as they took their seats in the cinema. The film was a sentimental wartime story, which held no surprises for Jean. The events of the last few weeks must have been playing on her mind though as she did find herself unexpectedly moved when the young wife opened the letter, the one that every war bride dreaded. Jean’s hand flinched and she gulped back a tear, Bill was sitting next to her and suddenly their hands were intwined. It was a long time since she had held a mans hand so firmly and for so long. Frank wouldn’t mind though, she was sure of that.