Charlotte started the grill and closed it over. It was a while before anyone would arrive but she wanted everything to be ready for when they did. She looked around the garden quickly, everything out here was done. The long table was set up, as were all the chairs, the canopy was over the table, providing shade. Another table, the kids one, was set up with an umbrella. All the pool toys were floating in the water, waiting to be played with. Perfect. She turned and went into the kitchen. The plates were stacked in here and ready to be brought outside. She’d have someone else do that. The cooler was ready to go, it just needed to be filled with ice and beers from the fridge. She opened the fridge, a few side dishes were in large bowls and covered in cling film. There were several jugs of lemonade waiting to be set out. In the fridge outside there was plenty of beer and of course, she already had the adult punch bowl set up for anyone who wanted a drink to take the edge off. She opened the freezer, making sure there was plenty of ice. The glasses were set out and ready to go, the meat was resting on the table. Everything was ready, everything was perfect. Charlotte went to the radio and turned it on, keeping it low enough for chatting, but loud enough so that there would be no awkward silences. Gentle music drifted over the back garden. Charlotte smiled to herself, this barbeque was going to be one of the best.
Her husband had started the tradition fifteen or so years back, inviting the whole neighbourhood over. It was really quite fun. Everyone brought something, food or booze, and it would all be laid out. Everyone got to chat and catch up and have a little fun. Ted, her husband, had died five years before and Charlotte couldn’t bear the thought of stopping the barbeque. A few people had been surprised when she told them she wanted to continue with it, but they were more than happy to dig in and give a hand. The first time had been tough, she had to excuse herself several times to wipe away a few discrete tears, but everyone had fun, despite the slightly sombre atmosphere. The second year was easier, the third even better. She knew that Ted would have wanted her to continue with the tradition, so she did.
Charlotte was still young, and despite going on many, many dates, she hadn’t found anyone that could even come close to her Ted. She knew she wasn’t replacing him, she would never be able to, but she wanted someone that met her standards. Standards which, in her own opinion, weren’t ridiculous. A nice man, a kind man, one who could share in some of her hobbies while having his own. She wanted someone she was attracted to and someone who was attracted to her in turn. She was still young after all, and she could still turn men’s heads, but as time passed she found herself jaded with the dating scene. The same old guys, equally unsuitable for her. Even if she couldn’t find a man, she still had plenty of friends and as she became older she began to think that that was enough. Sure she would have liked a child or two, but it never really seemed to happen for her and Ted. She was after all older now, perhaps too old to have a child herself.
Charlotte went into the downstairs bathroom and examined her make up, it wasn’t much, she always wore only a small amount, just enough to hide blemishes and smooth out the edges of wrinkles. Charlotte pursed her lips and applied her lipstick. The she stepped back to see the whole thing in the mirror. Her dress was a bright yellow, thin and hugging at the top, with a slowly widening base. It reminded her of the sixties, of the American dream and summer time catalogues. It definitely portrayed a light and sunny attitude in her opinion. She smiled at her reflection, then checked there was enough soap and toilet paper. Charlotte glanced at her small, gold watch. It wouldn’t be too long now.
The first guests arrived ten minutes later and the stream continued for a good thirty minutes. As people arrived she divided up small tasks for everyone to do. Someone to put out the lemonade, someone else to bring out plates. It all went very well, she even managed to rope the children into giving her a hand before they stripped to their swimming gear and dove into the pool.
As everyone gathered outside, Charlotte started cooking the meat, sausages, pork steaks and burgers. Everyone always did say she was a good cook, and a few even said she was better than Ted, which was quite a compliment indeed.
Everyone ate, and most ate seconds with a few even going for thirds. After the food had been eaten, dessert was brought out and people exclaimed they couldn’t eat another bite, but by the end most of the desserts had been cleared away too. Charlotte lit the lights in the back garden as darkness fell. They were soft lights, gentle, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere. People helped her bring things inside and tidy up and one by one people began to leave, thanking her for the food and the wonderful party, assuring her that they enjoyed themselves very much and they couldn’t wait until next year and that, as always, the food was absolutely delicious.
Charlotte walked through the back garden, picking up bits and pieces that needed to be cleared away. She could always do it tomorrow, but she liked to get it done sooner, rather than later. When she had cleared away a good deal of the remaining mess, Charlotte went inside. It was starting to get chilly, and her dress was not designed for cold weather. The party had been a complete and utter success and she was very, very pleased with herself. Smiling, Charlotte went down to the basement and opened the freezer, there she placed the meat that hadn’t been used. She could always eat it herself later. The meat had been fresh and would last a while in the freezer. She looked at her stock and silently worked out how much she had. She was going to run low in a few weeks. She’d have to do something about that. It had been a while since she had last gone hunting. The last man she had caught had been quite tasty. She was even asked a few times where she got the meat and when she told them a local butcher, they complained that they never seemed to get meat that good from him. It wasn’t a lie really, she did get meat from him, but it was not the meat that they were eating. Humming to herself, Charlotte closed over the freezer and made her way upstairs. It had been a long day after all and she would need her rest for tomorrow. Once the house had been properly cleaned, she would head out again and find someone tasty for dinner.