20
No customers in search of a waitress. Mary walked the two of them to the car and Michael appeared for a hug. Mary smiled said to Ahmra, “don’t get him going. I have bingo this evening”. Mary hugged Charlie, told him he would be welcome anytime. And before Ahmra started the vehicle her phone needed answering; she looked at the number and mouthed “Abby”.
Conversation heard by Charlie started with a hello, silence while Abby was talking, then, “right, doesn’t sound like a problem but our take-off is scheduled for 10.45, flight usually an hour and twenty minutes and more than an hour’s drive to the Church….are you okay, you sound out of breath”. There were a few minutes of silence before Ahmra said, “Croydon, should reach Croydon a little after one, sorry(?), oh, yes he is fine”. She handed her phone Charlie, saying, “say hello to Abby”.
Charlie held the phone to his ear, eyes on Ahmra, said, “hello Abby” and saw a change of expression on the face of Ahmra; his free right hand lifted as if to say, “no wait”; the moment, whatever it was was swept aside while he listened to Abby apologizing for what she saw as her neglecting him: Ahmra stepped out of the car.
Abby said, “I must tell you that Des will not be at the memorial service, it completely slipped my mind that he is away for the weekend and this being Friday they are making an early start, will try to be out of the more urban areas before rush hour, so, ehm, scattering the ashes will be up to the two of us unless you would sooner be by yourself”. Charlie said, “no, I would like you to be there, most especially because you really were her friend”. Abby said she was pleased, finished the call by saying, “remind Ahmra that I will be waiting for her call from Croydon, you might add that if she cannot reach me she should drop you off at the church.
21
The young woman who had delivered the car to Ahmra was waiting for them outside the terminal, took over the driving and dropped them at the Challenger. Both pilots were pleased to see them, said they had flight planned and ready to fly. Ahmed had flown the first leg to Iceland, Abdul had made the perfect landing at Dublin, Ahmed said that he was up to the challenge.
Taxiing and take-off used ten minutes and they were away; the thinking had been a 12.05 landing, London and now they were adjusting eta to 11:45. Altitude was near, Ahmra had served coffee to Abdul, sitting in the right hand seat, and to herself and Charlie; spoke to Charlie.
“Charlie, I have the feeling that your feelings about Abby might be a little more than you are ready to admit to”. Charlie shook his head and Ahmra continued, “Abby is very, very English, meaning that her marriage is something she will protect regardless of feelings, Charlie I do not think she will let go of what she sees as her life, her obligations, her need”. Charlie said that he understood that, saw Abby as a very good friend, enjoyed her company and expected nothing more, added, “I expect to spend a few weeks here, would hope that Abby might have time for the occasional lunch but that is all, I will probably rent a car, perhaps return to Ireland”. Ahmra said, “perhaps you could invite your lady friend who is a neighbour”…..and Charlie had a look which said he hadn’t thought of that; it did make him re-think.
Ahmra continued, “Canadian servicemen, how often do you fella’s spend two or more years away from home(?), and, before you answer, my guess is that since the end of the second world war your chaps are never, ever more than a few months away from the woman you love; English woman are held up as martyrs for doing without their men for periods up to five years, even during peacetime and any wife caught cheating is shunned, sometimes even by family; Abby might want to cheat, but she is not leaving her home, an Englishman’s castle it may be but it is the very essence of her”. Charlie nodded, said, “yes” while looking through a window, completely lost in thought.