Maureen hugged me again.
"Maureen, did you take my advice and get Grace to sign powers of attorney?"
Four years ago, when my wife became ill, I had arranged for powers of attorney, financial and health, for her. I had suggested to Maureen then that she should for Grace.
"Yes, Arthur, thank you. It took a couple of months but I have had them for three and a half years. I had been looking after Mum's money even before that but she would never let me use the health one. Perhaps I should have done to get her to see a doctor but she refused vehemently."
"But the nursing home staff are suggesting Grace has got incipient dementia. If she hadn't signed them then, she couldn't now."
"Don't worry, Arthur. She did sign. I suppose I'll have to use the health one now."
"I think so. I don't think Grace would be safe to be left in her bungalow on her own and you can't be there always."
"We'll have to wait and see what the nursing home suggests on Monday afternoon, Arthur. But now? It is about time we get going back to your place."
"OK. Shall I ask for George to help get you in the car?"
"No. I don't think we need him. Now my leg is in plaster and I'm over the shock, I think I could get in and out of the car by myself with just a steadying arm from you. We can try, anyway."
"No. If I can't, I'm sure a passing dog walker could help. But I want to see if I can do it."
Maureen could - getting in and out of the car. It took a little while but she was very pleased that she didn't need much help from me except to position the wheelchair and hold it steady.
Back in my apartment she helped to prepare the vegetables for our evening meal. Afterwards she sat on my lap on the settee to watch some television including the news. Tonight, unlike last night when she slept in her clothes, we undressed her and she wore a nightdress. She insisted that I joined her in bed. We couldn't do much because of her plastered leg but she held me against her breasts and I went to sleep with my mouth around a nipple.
On Sunday morning I woke up with my head hugged against a naked breast. As I stirred, Maureen moved to pull my head briefly in her cleavage. That was great but frustrating as with her broken leg we couldn't go much further.
Maureen giggled a lot at the contortions necessary to get her washed and dressed. When she was finally at the breakfast table she insisted that I kneel beside her wheelchair for a hug and kisses before breakfast.
Getting her in and out of the car to drive to the beach hut was easier than yesterday because we knew how to do it. Within a couple of hours Maureen was close to tears. Almost every dog walker had brought her a 'Get Well' card and some had added some chocolates as well. She hugged dozens of men and was hugged by nearly as many women. I had to walk to the nearby convenience store to get some more milk as I made coffee for many people who wanted to wish Maureen well. The two nuns came in the afternoon and told Maureen that prayers had been said for her at the morning Mass.
For some reason the prayers made Maureen more tearful. I had to pick her up and sit her on my lap while she cried against my shoulder.
That evening we had a takeaway pizza, sitting on the settee with Maureen on my lap, feeding me with a kiss between each mouthful. We went to bed wrapped around each other. I was still frustrating to have a woman in my arms, in bed, and not be able to do much.
On Monday morning we went back to the beach hut and were there until early afternoon. I left Maureen with some dog walkers who promised to look after Maureen while I went back to my house to make some phone calls.
I rang the nursing home first. They were reluctant to talk to me at first but eventually they accepted that I was Maureen's carer and speaking for her. They told me that the visiting doctor had declared that Grace was in need of the medical care the nursing home provides and would be unsafe either at home or in a purely residential home. That meant that the fees would be paid by the NHS and neither Grace or Maureen would have any bills. That was a relief.
Grace had settled in well and seemed almost happy because she had someone around all the time. There were two issues. One - Grace didn't want to see Maureen at present. The home's director thought that was because Grace was embarrassed. She had admitted that she had been hitting Maureen and the carers. The second was that she knew Maureen didn't really like dogs and Grace's insistence on having them had been a trial for Maureen and eventually led to Maureen's broken leg. Grace knew she couldn't have the dogs at the home and had not appeared concerned that they might need rehoming. But the home's cat had decided that Grace's lap was a pleasant place to sleep and Grace seemed happy with that. If I, or preferably Maureen, rang on Friday we would be updated.
I rang their carers' manager. She was pleased that Grace had been admitted to the nursing home. Grace had been a trial ever since the carers had started with her and the last three weeks had been very difficult, wanting more than the carers could do and constantly complaining. The manager hoped Grace would be happier in the nursing home.
I rang the school and told them that Maureen had said she hoped to be at work on Wednesday, on crutches if she could or in a wheelchair. The headmistress came on line and said firmly, that I should tell Maureen not to be so silly and delay her return until next Monday at the earliest. I promised to pass on the message. The headmistress said that she, her staff and Maureen's pupils all wished her well.
I returned to the beach hut Maureen had three dog walkers around her and they were cheering her up. One of them made a cup of my coffee for me. When they had gone I told Maureen about the phone calls. She was happy NOT to visit Grace. Maureen wasn't feeling very charitable to Grace at present. A couple of days of not looking after Grace had shown Maureen how much she had been doing for Grace every day without a word of thanks, only more complaints.
We discussed what to do about the four Scotties. Maureen was grateful that she didn't have them at present but she thought once she resumed work the Scotties would be unhappy on their own for hours. She would talk to the dog charity after she had spoken to the nursing home on Friday. She felt, and I agreed, that the dogs should go to another home that could look after them
When we returned to the residential block that evening there was a new notice of the board in the hallway. It read, in bold type:
"To whom it may concern
Arthur, of apartment XX, has a resident who is too young to be in this block. Her presence is against the rules. If she does not leave soon I will organise a petition to the block's owners to terminate Arthur's occupation.
A concerned resident,"
Maureen was horrified. I laughed.
"Why are you laughing, Arthur? That looks serious."
"It's not. 'A concerned resident' hasn't read the rules. I'll write a reply and post it shortly."
I did. Half an hour later my response was posted next to the original notice.
"Dear Concerned Resident,
You should really have read the rules before posting your notice.
1.Any of us are allowed to have an adult guest to stay for up to a month in any year. So far it hasn't been a week. 2.To allow for partners of differing ages, if the combined age of the two people is over 60, they can become permanent residents. The combined ages of my guest and I well exceeds 60. 3.On my guest's birthday next week, well within the one month allowed for adult guests, she will reach the minimum age requirement of 55. Arthur, Apartment XX."
"Arthur! How did you know it was my birthday next week and my exact age?"
"When you wanted advice about the powers of attorney you had to produce proof of identity paperwork which you showed to me, Maureen. And you ought to know that I knew your birthday. I have sent you birthday cards for the last three years."
We started to prepare the evening meal. Half an hour after we had got back there was a knock on the door. It was George. He held out the two notices.
"Come in George, and have some tea," I said.
"I came into the hall and found Janet having a meltdown. She was swearing about you and some women were laughing at her. She was 'a concerned resident'.
"Janet? I thought she liked me?"
"She did. And me. As we are the only single men in the block she thought..."
"But she is a self-opinionated interfering bitch!"
"Yes, but she hoped one of us would choose her. Janet can't compete with Maureen and Maureen has been seen hugging and kissing me too. Janet has been complaining about other residents who have had sons or daughters for short stays because she thinks she knows the rules. She doesn't and what made her madder was that the others agreed with what you had put in your response."
"Stupid bitch!" I said.
"Yes, Janet is. I took both notices down because I thought Janet might have a stroke if other people kept laughing at her. She swore at me which made the others laugh even more so I came away."
"Well done, George," Maureen said and moved her wheelchair to give him a hug.
"That would annoy Janet even more if she saw us, Maureen," George said.
"Perhaps I should move back to my house," Maureen said.
"No!" George and I said together.
"Don't be silly, Maureen," I said. "You couldn't manage those steep stairs and your bathroom is upstairs."
"And several of the women laughing at Janet said that Maureen being here was very sensible." George said. "All the apartments are equipped for people with limited mobility, and temporarily, that you are, Maureen."
"Arthur? Could George stay for dinner?" Maureen asked. "All I need to do is a few more vegetables."
"Of course, Maureen. George? You'll stay?"
"If you want me too..."
"I do, George," Maureen said. "And I can give you some more hugs to annoy Janet."
The meal preparation took longer than expected because five people dropped in to welcome Maureen, to bring her get well cards and greetings from the majority of the residents, and to moan about Janet.
When the last one left, George was hugging Maureen as she cried. She hadn't expected that so many people wished her well.
When the meal was on the table, I lifted Maureen out of her wheelchair onto my lap. We fed each other. George had to accept another hug and kiss when he left.
.After the meal Maureen decided to try using her crutches. At first I had to catch her as she overbalanced. She hadn't allowed for the extra weight and mass of the plaster cast. But she was very pleased that she could walk to the bathroom and use the toilet without help from me.
That night in bed she was very tired. I went to sleep with her breasts with erect nipples digging into my back. That was pleasant.
The next morning, Tuesday, Maureen made sandwiches to take to the beach hut. While she was doing that I rang my car insurance company. They agreed to add Maureen as a named driver from midnight at an increased cost of thirty per cent. It would have been more except for Maureen's age and that she was a teacher. The day started with rain and a cold wind but inside the hut we were warm and dry and so were all our visitors. I had brought more milk because stopping at Arthur's hut had become more popular now that Maureen was with me.
After lunch Maureen practised with her crutches again. She didn't feel confident enough to walk as far as the car park but she managed ten yards each way once I had helped her down the steps at the front of the beach hut.
That evening I took us to a local restaurant, having booked a table near the entrance. Maureen made it from the car to the table with her crutches but she was very relived to be able to sit down.
That night she was able to wash and undress herself. She was proud of that achievement. She cuddled me in bed before hugging my back all night.
On Wednesday morning I told Maureen she was now a named driver on my car. Did she want to drive us to the beach hut?
She was not willing but when we got to the car park she practised. She had never driven a car as large as mine, and never an automatic. She was stabbing with her plastered leg at the non-existent clutch pedal. After a quarter of an hour she began to get the idea. We had another practise after lunch and she drove us back to the retirement black. It was fortunate that there was no traffic as we processed at fifteen miles an hour in a thirty zone. She appreciated the comfort of my car but the size still worried her.
I told her that when she started back at her school she could drive herself to and from the school, dropping me off at the beach hut on the way, and joining me when she finished work.
When we reached the retirement block George was just leaving but had to stop to be hugged and kissed by Maureen. Other passing residents smiled at George's reaction. If reported to Janet, that might cause another reaction but we didn't care.
On Friday afternoon we came back from the beach hut after lunch. Maureen had increased confidence in her driving and was moving around freely on her crutches. Maureen rang the nursing home for an update.
Apparently Grace was enjoying herself and much less demanding. She appreciated that most of the other residents had more significant problems than Grace had. The home's cat had adopted Grace as the preferred lap. Grace would be staying permanently and wished to see Maureen tomorrow to talk about Grace's bungalow and the four Scotties. Apparently Grace had indicated that the Scotties should be rehomed and the bungalow sold after a few of Grace's possessions had been brought to the nursing home. She wanted her large TV and an antique Welsh dresser with her nick-nacs in it.
Maureen arranged to visit Grace on Saturday morning. I would drive her there, because it was still a bit far for Maureen's inexperience with a large automatic car, and wait in the car.
Friday night Maureen decided she had waited long enough and rode me for the first time. It was slightly awkward with her plastered leg but we achieved mutual satisfaction even if disappointed that we couldn't do more.
On the Saturday morning we went to the beach hut for a couple of hours. We left our lunchtime sandwiches in the fridge. I drove Maureen the couple of miles to the nursing home and waited outside. An hour later Maureen emerged with a broad smile on her face.
"Well?" I asked.
"Wait till we're at the beach hut. That is my happy place." Maureen said.
We ate our sandwiches as Maureen told me what had happened at her meeting with Grace.
"First, Mum apologised for being a pain to me for years. She hadn't appreciated what a strain she had been and that she had ended my marriage. That was good but there was more.
Secondly, she agreed that the four Scotties should be rehomed, I was worried about them because while I was at work they would have fretted.
Thirdly, she is very happy where she is and wants to stay. All she wants are her large TV and the Welsh dresser and its contents. I will ring the man and van this evening and possibly Grace can have those tomorrow.
Fourth, she wants me to sell the bungalow because she will never go back to it. I can see an estate agent tomorrow morning..."
"Hold fire on that, Maureen, please. I have never seen Grace's bungalow except from the outside. Could we look at it this afternoon?"
"I suppose so, Arthur, but why?"
"I don't know and won't know until I have had a look at it, Maureen. I assume it's in good order?"
"Yes. It was a bit of a struggle with our finances but the local builders have looked after it for us. They put in a new disabled bathroom last year, as an ensuite from the main bedroom."
"How many bedrooms?"
"Four. It was stupidly large for Grace on her own but when she needed a level access it was the only bungalow on the market."
"OK. Can we go this afternoon? You could ring the man and van from there, and if they are free they could come and look at what they have to take to Grace."
"Very well, Arthur. I don't see why you want to look at it, but never mind, if that's what you want? Why not?"
"Thank you, Maureen."
About three o'clock I drove to Grace's bungalow. Maureen could have walked that far on her crutches but I wasn't sure what we would be doing next so I took the car.
Apart from having too much furniture, the bungalow was an attractive house. It had off road parking for four cars and a double garage. I wandered around as Maureen rang the man and van. When I came back into the hall Maureen told me they would arrive in a quarter of an hour and would probably deliver to Grace today. While we were waiting we took the perishable items out of the fridge, having to dispose of some for being past their date even after just a week.
The man and van arrived and decided to pack now and deliver today. While they we packing Maureen hobbled around the gardens with me. I remarked that they seemed well kept. Maureen sighed.
"We have a gardener who comes for about two hours a week. We can't really afford him. With the Council tax, even if reduced for a single occupant, the utilities, the cost of the carers and the gardener, my bank account was almost empty every month. My last capital went on the new bathroom. Grace had a few hundreds but that was it. Any real financial emergency would have been a disaster."
We went into to the living room. The man and van had finished packing. I paid them in cash despite Maureen's protests, and they left.
I helped Maureen to sit on the settee and kneeled down in front of her. I took her hand.
"Maureen," I said, "I have a stupid idea. Humour me for a while."
She looked puzzled.
"If you were to go to three estate agents tomorrow morning and ask for formal valuations? You could do that?"
She nodded but still didn't understand.
"Then I could buy this bungalow at the highest valuation..."
"So that I could move out of the retirement block where I don't need to be and set up home here - with the woman I love. Please, Maureen, will you marry me?"
Maureen's hand went to her mouth. She hadn't expected a proposal.
"Can you afford to buy this bungalow, Arthur? I know the retirement apartments are valuable, but surely nor as much as this bungalow?"
I laughed which puzzled her even more.
"Maureen, when I bought the apartment for my wife and me, I paid for it with cash. When I sold my massive former home the proceeds went straight into a deposit account. I could probably buy three bungalows like this - without the proceeds of my apartment."
"I knew you were comfortable financially, Arthur. Your car is a sign of that, but I didn't expect you to be seriously rich."
"But you still haven't answered the important question, Maureen. Will you marry me please? If you do - your bank account will never approach zero, ever again. Apart from anything else, you could sell your house and keep the proceeds."
Maureen pulled at my arm so that I went sprawling across her. She hugged me into her cleavage.
"Yes, Arthur, I WILL marry you," she said.
I couldn't answer. I was being smothered in her cleavage.
Maureen rang the Dogs Trust. She would have to go there tomorrow to sign some paperwork, taking her power of attorney to show she was acting for Grace. But more importantly we went to the High Street jewellers to buy Maureen an engagement ring. We argued slightly. She wanted on costing a few hundreds. I insisted on a much better one. She still hadn't come to terms with the idea that I could buy anything I wanted until I produced my debit card to pay the several thousands.