‘Any news?’ His voice is tense.
I can’t stop my hand trembling as I hold my tablet. ‘No mails. Maybe it’s for the better.’ The biggest mistake of our life? The unanswered question in my mind and his, for the last five years, until now with hope and longing, today suddenly with dread.
‘I married you, I took the risk.’ He grimaces. I should not have said that.
‘We took the risk; every marriage is a risk.’ He is sharing, not blaming.
‘Cohousing is less risky than marriage.’ I muster my defences. ‘Divorce is not straightforward. Selling one’s home is. A house in a cohousing development can be sold easily. They are valuable.’
‘Yes, but if it doesn’t work out . . . maybe it is for the better. And Passivhaus . . . that’s German!’
‘German technology, British design. The best of both worlds.’ I relax a little. ‘Kaffee und Kuchen?’
‘It would be a pity if it doesn’t work out. Passivhaus concept . . . that’s a worthy concept, worth trying.’
I look back at my tablet, not wanting to put it down. Nothing; not even spam.
He prepares for bad news. ‘I’m sure it’s better like that. We may not have liked cohousing life and Passivhaus might not be that great. Leaving would have been hard.’
‘But why should we have wanted to leave a community full of friends?’ My voice breaks, though I am trying to be calm. Then a panic, ‘what if I don’t like the new members?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ He stands up suddenly from his coffee and leans back down to prod my screen to make it talk. ‘Only those sharing our values will want to come and buy into cohousing.’
‘Maybe; but as we become old, we become difficult; we all do.’ I had a frightening vision of being surrounded by cantankerous senile neighbours.
‘We all do, even you.’ I detect a hint of irony in his tender smile.
‘Just think, a street full of friends, with whom we share values and ideas, with whom we can exchange long discussions about the ethics of planting carrots instead of turnips,’ he pauses, perhaps remembering his hatred of turnips, ‘even building that greenhouse you always wanted.’
The tablet joins us in our coffee drinking silence. I tap it again. Nothing. I say, ‘I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked it’ and I see if I can stir my coffee in a different way; any different way.
The tablet makes that ‘ding dong’ sound and I can’t look. I hold it out to him and close my eyes.
‘They’ve signed. That’s it. We’ve got it!’
He holds out the tablet for me to see. I begin to laugh. He joins in. He is around my side of the table and we kiss, feeling so warmly happy yet still afraid.