She has three kids and thirty kids and tends them all. She is loved for it even when one screams, "Why did you come back?" It's what mothers and teachers do.
He is walking with her now, on Watership Down. They hold hands but the weather is cruel, cold and she should put her hands away, inside oilskin, close to her.
This morning he wondered (and would have written) "What is Essential?" as he tries to find himself still, six months after his divorce. He believes that love is essential and as the world is both suddenly large (he can do anything) and suddenly small (he never does things alone) he knows that love is a priority, to love, to be loved, to be able to love. He is pleased to know that his need is not company, not the avoidance of loneliness, but a need to see into eyes, to hold, to send small messages, to wish well.
He heard somewhere and horribly paraphrases: I loved her because I loved, her, not because it was the right thing to do and he is glad he has lived his life like that, even though every love has brought him pain. Now, as he contemplates a new, older, walking-on-quicksand him, he wonders how the years will be, will he rush headlong, still, or pause, reflect, and act his age?
He thinks of her, she who walks with him. She brings him bread, her body, her warmth. He gives her the words of others, wrapped. Books, he feels are real gifts, alive, throbbing with possibility, thought, aching, weighty.
Her nose pinked up in the cold. She put her booted leg on his as he sat in the car-boot to help her wellie-up. He loved that she did it without caring, without thinking, that she used him and he liked to be used, simply being there for her.
They had got badly drunk the night before and he thought about death and said he wanted everyone to dress in yellow at his funeral and dance out from the church to The Birdy Song. He meant it. She didn't like it, and the tenses she used made his stomach turn - a joy, tiny, flying past and through him like a sparrow through a chapel.
They do not know each other even if they can discuss their nether regions and laugh or touch each other inappropriately - she said the Birdy Song was inappropriate. He wanted to say, "No, it's perfect, and a Welsh Male Voice too, please, singing Mfanwy."
There will be snags, of course - he knows this - where she is from they cook snags on a barbie - but they know so many different things, can bathe each other's wounds, find the electric lines upon each other's back, and just touch, touch, because touch matters, holding matters.
She has told him that it's just the fingertips for the flour, not the hand, and it's always about the ingredients. He told her The Darling Buds of May was Shakespeare then he looked it up so he could say Sonnet 18. She makes bread with walnuts, chicken with fennel and leeks, love with a soft, distant sadness. He writes about elephant birds for her kids, she thinks of cup-cakes for his girl
He thinks of the bitterness of seas, the softness of sand, how heat rises and falls as rain, and tomorrow, when he is alone he will listen to how the house hums, trains pass; what breathes.