A grey-haired man, Harry, sits before the television in a modest home, one eye on his newspaper, the other on a tennis match unfolding before him. The sound of a key rattling in the lock of a front door is heard, and a woman, Jill, appears, carrying various carrier bags and sundries.
Jill: Breathless. There’s another load in the car. I’ll just pop back and fetch it in.
Harry: Still seated. Oh hello, love! Don’t worry about that. I’ll get it in a bit. How did today go?
Jill: Oh fine. No, I’ll bring them in now – there are chocolates. I don’t want them to melt. And flowers.
Harry: Oh. Sounds like you did rather well, love! A good send off?
Jill: She puts the bags down on the living room floor. Well, yes – I suppose so. They said something in the final assembly and everyone clapped. A few of the girls wrote a card with a nice message in as well.
Harry: What about your ‘lovely Year 5 class’? I bet they were sorry to lose you?
Jill: Taking her coat off. Well there really wasn’t much chance to… You know what they’re like. Last day of term. They’re all rushing out of the gates before there’s much chance to say anything. Still… They’ll be in good hands with Karen next year.
Harry: Still looking at the television. He gestures towards it. Been a disappointing match, this. You haven’t missed much. Federer’s all over the other chap. He pulls himself back to Jill. Anyway. He goes to raise himself out of his chair – I’ll get that stuff out of the car – and then I’ll put the kettle on! You can show me some of your haul over a nice cuppa!
Jill: Moving towards the sofa, wearily. Not sure I really fancy tea. Thought we might have something a little stronger.
Harry: Looking up in mild alarm. Oh? Well… I’m not sure we’ve got anything much in. If we’d have thought about it, I could have popped a bottle of fizz in the fridge.
Jill: Yes. There is a silence. Still. She makes some attempt to brighten. And the staffroom do after. I managed to speak to quite a few people. Not everyone. Karen had to rush off to her eldest’s Leavers’ Party at the other place. But Andrew was very nice.
Harry: Oh. Good of him to give you his attention. I don’t suppose he has to.
Jill: Well actually, I went over to speak to him. I wanted to mention what we’d talked about. You know – supply – keeping my hand in. He said he’d definitely bear me in mind for the new year, although he couldn’t promise anything.. Asked me about our plans for the Summer – that sort of thing. Then he had to take a phone call.
Harry: Closing his paper. Ha! Well – it’s all Summer now, isn’t it love? No more going back to work again for you! The whole thing stretching out before us. Summer forever! Marvellous! He has a sudden thought. Here – I hope you told him about Switzerland in September?
Jill: I think I mentioned something. She shuffles absent-mindedly through the unopened mail on the mantelpiece.
Harry: Good. His eye wanders back to the tennis for a short while as a rally is played out. Are you alright, love? You seem a bit…well… quiet.
Jill: Sitting on the sofa. Just a bit shattered. You know what it’s like. End of term – such a lot to get done. I’ll be alright in a bit.
Harry: getting to his feet, sensing a need to make more of an effort. Hey! Tell you what: I walked past the new Chinese off the High Street this morning! Looks really posh! Much better than the other one. I picked up a copy of their take-away menu. Why don’t we treat ourselves? You know – to celebrate? I could pick up a bottle of wine from the garage on the way past? Jill says nothing, and fiddles with the the ribbon on one of her gift bags. What d’you reckon, love?
Jill reaches into the pockets of her cardigan, and fishes out a crumpled tissue, and presses it to her nose. She sniffs miserably, as Harry stands over her, eager to please. Jill pinches the bridge of her nose between thumb and finger, and stifles a sob.
Harry hurriedly sits close beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders. He rests the other on her lap. Hey, hey, hey, love! What on Earth’s the matter? I thought you’d be happy? Today of all days!
Jill:Moving away from him slightly. Oh, I know. Don’t take any notice – I’m just being silly. Like I said – I’m tired. There is a pause. Thirty-one years, Harry. It’s a long time
Harry: It is that. You deserve a rest now, love.
Jill: No – I meant… her voice trails off. She holds the ball of tissue between clasped hands on her lap, and looks ahead. She sighs loudly. Suddenly, she shifts her body in Harry’s direction and looks at him straight on. You know – I wish we were going away tomorrow, love. Not September. Not Switzerland. I don’t care where. Somewhere. You and me. Cases packed. I just need…something to look forward to.
Harry moves his hand from Jill’s lap: Well I thought we’d agreed? It’s a lot cheaper in September, remember? That’s the bonus of retirement! You get to go when it’s cheapest. He’s silent for a moment. Then there’s your Richard’s sixtieth. We couldn’t miss that.
Jill: She whispers. I know.
Harry: You should have said something.
Jill: But I didn’t know! Didn’t realise. How I’d feel. After, I mean…
Harry: Look. It’ll look different after a good night’s sleep. And Switzerland’s not far away! Remember all that hassle? The deadlines? The reports? Those bloody SATs tests? No more of that to worry about…
Harry gets to his feet. Listen. He gestures towards the television. I’ll go and quickly fetch the rest of your stuff while they’re having a break. And I’ll grab that menu on the way back. I’ll pop out as soon as this match is finished. Whitewash! Won’t be long. Jill remains silent. Jill? Love? OK, Love?
Jill, starting : What? Oh – yes. Right. She goes to move. Yes. I’ll put that kettle on…
Harry walks out, and Jill stares ahead, sitting still her hands still on her lap. She stuffs the tissue back into her pocket.
The curtains fall.