Robert pulled into the driveway on Barton as the sun was low in the western sky. It filtered through the elm tree, still a sapling, that stood leafless in the front yard. Winter was on its way, and the brisk wind foreshadowed the cold, gray days to come. Robert bent into the wind and hurried into the house. He hung his coat, took off his hat, and went into the kitchen. Margaret was straining cooked potatoes over the sink.
“Are you getting tired of winter, Margaret?” He leaned over the sink. “You know I love mashed potatoes.” He kissed her on the cheek.
Margaret, surprised at the kiss, smiled. “Makes no nevermind if I’m tired of winter or not, Robert. Winter comes, and that is that.”
“It’s not winter everywhere, Margaret. It’s never winter in Southern California.”
Margaret put the pan down on the counter. “Southern California? Are ye daft, man?”
Robert stepped back and quickly changed the subject. “What are we having with those potatoes?”
“And there you go, changing the subject. Stew beef and carrots. Supper will be ready shortly… You might want to wash up.”
The two at dinner in silence. Robert paused with a forkful of beef halfway to his mouth. “Margaret, I have been looking at places in Orange County, California. I found a little bar we can run. The weather’s always warm – and you know, the doctor told me years ago I need to stay out of cold weather.”
Margaret paused and then put her fork and knife down. “You’ve made up your mind, haven’t you? We’re moving to California. When?” She lo oked dejected. “What about Jack and Betty? What about grandchildren? I won’t be around for the bairns.” She pushed her chair back strongly, stood, and took her dishes into the kitchen.
Robert didn’t follow her; instead, he quietly finished his supper. Then he went into the front room and turned on the radio. Margaret cleared his dishes, and after washing them and putting the kitchen in order, she walked into the front room.
“So, tell me what you’ve done.”
Robert turned down the radio. “I’ve put a deposit down on a little bar. You’re right. I’ve already made up my mind. You’ll like it, Margaret. It’s lovely. You can tend your garden year round.”
“Robert, there’s no garden that can take the place of family. You took me away from my family coming here, and now you’re taking me away from my family again.” She started to cry, and then she turned and hurried into her bedroom.
Robert shook his head as he turned off the radio and stood. He looked down the hall at the closed bedroom door and sighed. Then he grabbed his coat and hat and walked out the front door. The stars twinkled in the cloudless early darkness. Robert took a deep breath as he shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets. He looked back at the front door, turned, and went for a walk.
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