Bed­time story

The Simple Things - - MISCELLANY - by Co­lette Dart­ford

Glenda wan­dered along the aisles, her brain numbed by the be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of choices. She fum­bled in her bag for the list she made that morn­ing. Too often she got home only to re­alise she had for­got­ten some­thing im­por­tant like tooth­paste or that chunky pickle Harry liked. He would tut and roll his eyes in silent judg­ment. No co­in­ci­dence then, that Glenda found her­self loi­ter­ing by the sup­ple­ments that promised to re­store her youth­ful vi­tal­ity, her skin, her bones, her fail­ing mem­ory. Were such mir­a­cles pos­si­ble? It seemed un­likely but she slipped a few pack­ets in her trol­ley just in case.

Break­fast ce­real was last on the list. Glenda stood on tip­toes and ex­tended her arm as far as she could, which wasn’t far enough. “Al­low me,” said a vel­vet smooth voice be­hind her. The man reached over her head, ex­ud­ing a sub­tle whiff of de­odor­ant. Glenda turned to say thanks but was dis­armed by his full-frontal smile and dark, wavy hair. Ac­cord­ing to his badge he was Jonathan, a trainee man­ager. He asked if she had found ev­ery­thing she was look­ing for? There was a sec­ond be­fore the mor­ti­fy­ing bloom of heat erupted over her face, when she was the re­cip­i­ent of his un­di­vided at­ten­tion. It was a long time since that had hap­pened. Harry seemed to look through her but Jonathan the trainee man­ager ac­tu­ally saw her. She thanked him and went to the check­out, her heart pat­ter­ing like rain against glass.

That evening over spring lamb and new pota­toes, Glenda re­counted how a charm­ing young man had chat­ted her up at the su­per­mar­ket. She em­bel­lished for Harry’s ben­e­fit but he re­acted with in­credulity, as if un­able to com­pre­hend such a sce­nario. It would have been nice if he’d played along — flat­tered her or put on a show of faux jeal­ousy — but no. At bed­time she took four of the mir­a­cle sup­ple­ments and hoped for the best.

In the morn­ing Glenda was wo­ken by a slither of golden light that sliced through the gap where the cur­tains didn’t quite meet. Down­stairs, Harry was mak­ing tea, the ce­real box and two bowls on the kitchen ta­ble. Her heart kicked at the thought of Jonathan’s ra­di­ant smile and all she wanted was to see him again.

She show­ered, put on lip­stick and the bright fuch­sia dress that showed off her fig­ure. When she told Harry she was go­ing for a stroll in the park, he looked up from his news­pa­per and asked why she was “all dolled up”. Grat­i­fied he had no­ticed, she shrugged and said she just felt like it.

The su­per­mar­ket was quiet and Glenda spot­ted Jonathan im­me­di­ately, talk­ing to a young mum with a squirm­ing tod­dler. He treated her to the same preter­nat­u­ral smile, the same friendly ban­ter, the same at­ten­tive gaze. The girl looked up at him, her pretty face aglow with de­light. How fool­ish Glenda felt – how old and silly.

She sat on the park bench for a long time, watch­ing chil­dren play, dogs sniff and chase, lovers walk hand in hand. A few sugar-white clouds bil­lowed across the sky. Daf­fodils nod­ded in the breeze, beck­on­ing to the first fat stripy bees of the sea­son.

The last per­son Glenda ex­pected to see was Harry. He sat down next to her and when he took her hand in his, she re­mem­bered how per­fectly they fit­ted to­gether. She rested her head lightly against his shoul­der and they sat in com­pan­ion­able si­lence, warmed by the kiss of early spring sun­shine. “Prom­ise you won’t let me for­get this mo­ment,” said Glenda. Harry squeezed her hand. “I prom­ise.”

Co­lette Dart­ford stud­ied pol­i­tics and worked as a re­searcher be­fore turn­ing her hand to fic­tion. Her sec­ond novel, An Un­suit­able Mar­riage (Bon­nier Zaf­fre), a story of fam­ily, love and be­trayal, is out now. Her sim­ple plea­sure is “Sun­day morn­ing with the news­pa­pers and end­less cups of tea.” co­let­tedart­ford.com

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