At the bottom of the garden

It was to be Muriel’s sanctuary, her own quiet space at the bottom of the garden where she could paint and play music. A super posh shed on steroids, with big picture windows to let in the right kind of light she needed for her painting (her daubs, as her husband put it). It was a lot of money, but, as Muriel had said to Jack before they started the build, it wasn’t as if they had any kids to miff that their inheritance was at the bottom of the garden with its own hot tub deck and veranda for watching the local wildlife come snuffling down to the pond.

All that money spent and yet they couldn’t find a builder who wasn’t so incompetent? Which perhaps wasn’t that fair. His work was good, but how could a man be so disorganised? Every day it seemed to Muriel he would run out of something or other, something he needed to finish that particular task that he had started, a task so delicate that he couldn’t leave the site to go and get it.

And that was another thing - whyever had she let Jack talk her into letting him help with the build? Jack said it was something that he had wanted to do forever, put down his mark on the world by building something. And it would be a gift from him to her if he helped with the build, and not just with all the frippery and trimmings – he didn’t want to be some chump fobbed off on putting up the trellis. Get down and dirty with it, that’s what Jack wanted.

Which of course meant that with the builder and her husband working hand in glove like that it was down to Muriel to head out to the builder’s merchant for that day’s vital purchase. Today it was bloody sand that she muttered under her breath as she went and joined the queue. Thirty-five minutes of waiting only to be told they had run out of sand – it was all this covid, wasn’t it love, all these shortages. Patronising little gits.

On the journey home, as Muriel paused at the lights, she glanced back at the six bags of sand loaded in the back of the car. It made her feel a little giddy and a little warm at the same time. It was pleasing, to be keeping the build going, no matter what it took. Back home she entered the quiet place. Total silence, not a sign of Jack, or the builder. Jack’s phone vibrating on the kitchen counter made her jump when she rang it. She tried the builder’s next, and crept from the kitchen through the hallway to the stairs where she found a pair of crumpled work trousers muffling the sound of a phone on vibrate.

She floated up those stairs like Tinkerbell and used the faintest dust of a pixie push to ease the bedroom door open crack.

Muriel’s first thought: had her expression been one of such ecstasy when the young fella at the builder’s merchant who sorted her sand took her urgently from behind?