Sometimes I think it is a rod for my own back. I have to write to earn a living and it takes a lot of effort to find the stories, let alone actually write them. I am having to write this to remind myself, maybe bluff myself into finding a life of my own. Secretly I really think I want to find a life. No It would have to be a life finding me, for who I am. Supposing I actually went somewhere and met anyone that could take an interest in me? If I had a reason to, that is.
This is a self-analysis exercise. I have been badgered by you, dear sister, obviously the married one, the older one; though my little voice just about insists that I am the prettier one. Still, I think, maybe, defiantly. Why did I say that?
She said I wrote too much, am alone too much doing it. Not true! I had as many boyfriends as she did,at first. Went to Uni…… And she didn’t, not at the time. I chucked Gary for Uni.. Sort of. We told each other we would phone and write and meet at weekends and holidays, blah, blah…. It wasn’t that easy. Not for me. It took a lot of getting used to, all the new people, finding where to go for lectures and the dashing about because of some rotten time tabling. And all that spare time. Too much sitting around. Drinking from noon to midnight.
Okay that is an exaggeration but it was a bit blurry for most of the first term, well, year.
Gary didn’t take long to wander off. I saw him that first Christmas but when he said ‘bye at the train station I knew it felt wrong, that I had lost him. Well, it was his mum that had asked if I knew about Tina at the newsagents. It was just ribbing him about it when I asked who she was. Even in the dark I could see him blush, feel it even. And “ermm” is no answer, the way he said it.
Me again. I bought a new dress today. I was in the usual cafe with my americano. They know me now and give me my little jug of cold milk without having to ask. I like to put milk into the last quarter inch at the bottom. My ‘affectation’ I call it. It’s just a habit because I don’t like wasting the milk. How’s that for self-analysis, sis? I now know I don’t like waste.
I was sitting in my usual seat, at the edge of the cafe. In the mall itself really as the seats spew out from the cafe. Continental-style seating I suppose, except it is still indoors in the mall.
Eavesdropping is a fun way to work up a character and I was listening to the two old ladies at the table next to mine when I saw a man walking straight towards me. There they were chatting away, the two old dears, when I realised he was looking straight at me. He had just come out of the dress shop, the one I would window-shop, you know, and looked at me exactly as I looked over at him. One of those look into your soul moments, except, well, I was listening to the conversation and suppose I thought I was just staring into the distance really; vaguely. But I wasn’t.
“Are you Jill? Are you waiting for me?”
I could have said yes but just shook my head. Speechless, as always. I can write it, can’t say it. He said, sorry, smiled and laughed a bit, made a joke by saying “that’s a shame” said sorry again and wandered off. I imagine he found her, didn’t see him again.
Anyway, sis, as he walked away I looked at where he must have come from. It was the shop, like I said, that I like. So I nipped over to see what they had. A lovely dress, slightly fitted with scooped neck, a bit low, and short sleeves. Some cotton mix material in a sort of sea-poppy red background. You would call it rust, I know you, with quite large poppy flowers in different shades of grey. I think it makes me a bit top-heavy and older now I have tried it on. I will take it back next week when I go for my coffee again.
This is odd, writing a selfie as it were. You said you will insist on reading it when you come next month, probably mark it with a red pen now you’ve finally qualified as a teacher.
Yes, I was so proud at being the one to go to University and you staying home to work in the nursery. Well, I mucked up didn’t I? It wasn’t Gary’s fault but I suppose I used it as an excuse. The work was easy the first year so I drifted from lecture to lecture and party to party with the odd essay thrown in. I can admit it now. It was just wrong. In hindsight I was lonely all the time and just wanted to be at home. Gary just carried on, moved on. I just missed him.
Then he got married so quickly; not Tina. Mum told me her name, can’t even remember it now (can but won’t write it, daren’t). Anyway, the dean suggested I have a year off as I was distracted. I had told him some sob-story about Gary and me; that I was too young and on the wrong course. He made it so easy: have a break, see the world and come back. Even change to a different course. You supported me but I know you weren’t convinced.
I didnt go back, didn’t even go anywhere, just left and got a job. Same city, same streets. Still here. Working in the pub at nights and weekends. It’s a good excuse to get chatted up and even better for keeping out of it. Relationships, that is.
For some reason I thought he was Gary. It wasn’t, couldn’t be. He looks nothing like Gary, except his eyes maybe.
During the day I started to write. Filled in the gaps in my life. Imagined it different. Puffed myself up and sent stuff off and even got some published. Short stories in mags but it felt so good. So I found myself staying indoors and typing more and more stuff. Stories that is. I didn’t knowingly stop going out, just had more reason not to. Bar and restaurant for work and rest of my life at home on the computer or watching television. I kept the curtains closed because I could sleep or work whenever I wanted. Set the alarm to go to work and anyway made it easier to watch tele. Just because I missed a few sessions I got dropped from weekend shifts. Okay,I just stopped going out. It was easier and cheaper. That’s the reason.
Can I give this up yet? I’m over that period now. Well, you got me out. Literally. Dragged me to the coffee shop. That’s the one I still go to. It’s where I saw that bloke coming out of that ‘Ladymash’ clothes shop. I took that dress back. I still like it but I feel like mum in it. Worryingly I look like her too. Guess what! He was in there. I felt my cheeks go hot, I hope they didn’t get too red. Standing behind the counter. Those eyes got me again. Stupid. I ignored him as he spoke and managed to stammer something about returning the dress to the girl beside him. “Jill” apparently.
She asked him how his mother was. “Much better, thanks.” He would be pleased to get back home to work and his mother would be pleased to get away from home and back to her shop. I eavesdropped as I pretended to look at some assorted joggers. He called out goodbye as I left. I will go back and search for a better dress next time but I sort of had to dash out. I walked home, how’s that for a first!
Okay, I have started again. This is turning into a never-ending essay. I actually went shopping in the supermarket on Saturday. I have nearly run out of money now I am not working. You know I gave up the pub-work. I went to the supermarket Saturday rather than having it delivered like usual, reckoned it would save me money by buying less. Well, I needed new tights and ended up going round the clothes section. Haven’t bought tights for months, let alone anything else! Except that dress. Well, I got them but ended up buying a shirt covered in tiny daisies. I decided I wanted something brighter to wear to the cafe next time, when I look for another dress. Had to cut back on food though. Ha ha!
I have been fidgety recently, not felt like this for ages. I haven’t even been able to sit at the blank screen of the computer like usual. I don’t write much anyway but I was getting good at brooding, can’t even do that now. Anyway, I got fed up with rotten telly and doing nothing so I decided to go to the caff and then the shop. Wonder of wonders, change of routine. Usually go on a Wednesday and it was only Monday! So, got dressed and put on the new shirt and my black pencil skirt. You know, the slitty one I stick on for evenings out. God, I was so bored I even wasted time putting lippy on.
Normally I make a coffee last an hour but it only lasted while I read the free paper. I looked up for my bit of crowd-watching and saw a woman putting up a poster in the clothes shop so I thought I would wander over and see who was there, what was there.
How embarrassing, I went in more or less following the woman. She must have heard the door because she turned round and I blurted, “You must be his mother”. It got worse.
“You’re the girl who sits over in the cafe” and smiled at me as she spoke. I just stood there gobsmacked and got redder and redder.
He had told her about me, seen me in the cafe, all the time. Well, I wasn’t there all the time. I might have been a bit short with that reply but too late to unsay it.
Then she said he had come over to talk to me but was too shy to speak. Wrong! He asked if I was Jill! And where was he? Out for a coffee! Why then? Just as I’d gone in for a dress or something.
Then, would you believe it, she had the cheek to ask if I wanted a job. In a dress shop, me, could you imagine? That was what his mum was putting in the window, apparently.
“No, yes” I said, goodness knows what she thought. Then I was offered a cup of tea while I waited. Off she went to do it without waiting a second for an answer, told me to give her a call if anyone came in. All I did was shake my head and watch her go into back room. The door bleeped as it opened, I called out that someone had come into the shop, turned to run out and bumped right into him.
“It’s your mum”, I burbled.
“What about her?…. It’s you,” he said. And we both stood waiting for the other to say something. He just waggled his head at me and looked puzzled. I could feel my eyes flitting all over his face but couldn’t speak.
“She asked if I want a cup of tea.”
“And a job”. Said her voice behind me.
How it happened I don’t know, she shepherded us both into the little room at the back and told us to talk and get to know each other. “Never mind the job! But it’s there if you want it.”
That was it, I suppose. We were shut in and told to talk. Daft but we did, all afternoon. Now I have a new dress his mum helped me choose. New job I had never thought about and a new boyfriend who had been eyeing me for weeks, apparently, but too shy to stop and talk until his mum prodded him.
I will have to get a new set of trendies for work but Carol, the mum, says I can try and buy. Tim can work in his office at home now I’m at the shop. Its a fortnight now and we keep going out every evening. These last two weeks have whizzed by and with your visit tomorrow I can tell you all about him properly. It’s like a new beginning.