The Line-up

With age comes wis­dom in this amus­ing short story by Brenda Joy.

The People's Friend Special - - OUT AND ABOUT -

We are so sure of our­selves when we’re young, aren’t we? But peo­ple can change . . .

JUST re­cently, when I couldn’t get to sleep one night, I made a dis­cov­ery. That there was some­thing I could count which was even more bor­ing than count­ing sheep – my ex-boyfriends!

I imag­ined them stand­ing in a line, like in a po­lice line-up, and in min­utes I was off to sleep.

From watch­ing crime movies I know po­lice line-ups are made up of peo­ple of sim­i­lar height and build.

Well, the men in my line-up are quite sim­i­lar, too: tall with dark­ish hair, and all rather good look­ing.

I was al­ways choosy about who I went out with, even as a girl. From the age of fif­teen to twenty-three – my dat­ing years – I’d no time for Mr Av­er­age, i.e, any­one not tall, dark and hand­some!

Now, ap­proach­ing fifty, I can’t be­lieve what was go­ing on in my head back then. It must have been all those Mills & Boon ro­mances I used to read.

I was so blinded by good looks that I ig­nored some­thing in very short sup­ply among those per­fect spec­i­mens – per­son­al­ity!

When I was eigh­teen I started work­ing in an of­fice where the most pop­u­lar per­son was Mike – medium height, stock­ily built and red-haired. Def­i­nitely not my type!

Mike was a cou­ple of years older, very good at his job and some­one you could al­ways go to for help.

On the down­side, he teased me re­lent­lessly and at times could be an­noy­ing.

Look­ing back, I re­alise Mike had prob­a­bly liked me from the start; he took too much no­tice of me to be in­dif­fer­ent.

He was quite con­fi­dent, too. I re­mem­ber the firm’s out­ing to Black­pool.

“Hey, Lynn,” he said, as I passed his desk one day. “If you play your cards right I might let you sit next to me on the coach.”

“Oh, I’m not go­ing,” Lit­tle Miss Full Of Her­self said. “I’ve got a date.”

It was true; I had a date with my hand­some boyfriend of the time. But he was such a bore that I re­mem­ber, that evening, wish­ing that I’d gone on the Black­pool trip.

By all ac­counts ev­ery­one had a ball. I got fed up hear­ing about it, how Mike (Mr Per­son­al­ity) had led the sing-song on the coach.

And how he snogged one of the sec­re­taries on the way back.

A few years on, when I was twenty-three, work­ing in a dif­fer­ent of­fice and ob­vi­ously much more ma­ture, I met Paul, my fu­ture hus­band. We were mar­ried the fol­low­ing year.

Of course he was tall, dark and hand­some. No change there, then!

****

Now, in my liv­ing-room, wait­ing for the three men in my life to come home, I pick up the framed photo on the side ta­ble.

There’s me and my lovely hus­band, our two sons, Nathan and Ben, and our daugh­ter, El­lie.

The boys, both in their early twen­ties, are tall, dark and hand­some and so like Paul when we first met.

Six­teen-year-old El­lie is feisty on the out­side, yet still a lit­tle girl within.

“Mum, they’re back!” El­lie calls from up­stairs.

And here they are, Nathan and Ben, walk­ing up the path with their dad.

Of course, they don’t look any­thing like him – see­ing as their dad is medium height with a stocky build and grey­ing red hair.

Yes, I mar­ried Mike even­tu­ally. I was go­ing on thirty when we met up again. Mike was still sin­gle and I was di­vorced with two lit­tle boys.

Their bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther went to live a sin­gle man’s life soon af­ter Ben’s birth, never to be seen again.

Mike is their dad, the only dad they’ve ever known. And Nathan and Ben have turned out to be kind and thought­ful young men, with no signs of van­ity, prov­ing that nur­ture can be more pow­er­ful than na­ture when it comes to bring­ing up chil­dren.

“How was the match?” El­lie shouts as she runs down the stairs and throws her­self into her dad’s arms. “Did we win?”

With her red curls, green eyes and creamy skin, El­lie is a mix of Mike and a Ros­setti paint­ing. Her looks are those of Ros­setti’s women, but her sparkly per­son­al­ity and sweet na­ture are pure Mike.

Then it’s my turn for a hug.

“Hi, gor­geous,” he says, al­most lift­ing me off my feet and giv­ing me a huge smacker on the lips.

“Ugh, get a room, will you?” Ben says in mock dis­gust.

We just laugh – me and my very spe­cial hus­band.

When I look back to those days when we worked to­gether, I re­alise that

Mike was al­ways spe­cial, and that no way was he ever Mr Av­er­age. I was too young and too shal­low to see it.

Mind you, I do re­mem­ber feel­ing a bit jeal­ous af­ter the Black­pool trip. For the next few days Mike went out of his way to flirt with the sec­re­tary when­ever she came into our of­fice.

For a while there I was no longer the cen­tre of Mike’s at­ten­tion. And I didn’t like it. Shouldn’t that have told me some­thing?

As for my line-up of bor­ing ex-boyfriends, they do have a pur­pose, af­ter all. Be­cause count­ing them, when I can’t get to sleep at night, is sim­ply me count­ing my mis­takes.

But I guess I had to make those mis­takes so that I’d know the dif­fer­ence when I fi­nally got it right.

The End.

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