Part Of The Family by Christine Connor
Jessie loved her Sixties sofa, but there was no denying it was past its best . . .
THEY bought the sofa when they were first married. A trendy Sixties model with teak arms, squishy seats and hot orange- and yellow-patterned covers.
On the delivery day, the driver shook his head. “Can’t take it back.” “But it looked so lovely in the showroom,” Jessie wailed. “We never thought about the size.”
He sighed, fetched his tools and unscrewed the arms, completely dismantling the sofa before he could heave it up the steps, angle it through the front door and drag it down the hall.
He glanced at his watch, screwed the arms back on and stuck a delivery note under Jessie’s nose. “Sign here, love.” Jessie scribbled her name and the van drew away, leaving her to wipe her tears on her sleeve and squeeze past the sofa into the kitchen.
The sofa had been abandoned in the living room, wedged in front of the fireplace, the sideboard, the record player and the television.
When Martyn came home from work, he found all the furniture piled up as Jessie tried to rearrange the room.
By midnight they still hadn’t solved the problem.
“It’s hideous! This was such a mistake,” he complained before falling asleep.
Jessie’s tears soaked the pillow on her side of the bed that night.
In the morning it was still there, a huge orange whale of a sofa demanding all of their space.
Martyn flopped down and patted the seat cushion next to him.
“But it is very comfy.”
The sofa remained with them all through the years of their married life.
Its plump orange shape had a starring role in early family photos, just the two of them snuggled on it at first, then a small child propped up in the cushions. It was sometimes smeared with a toddler’s rusk or chocolate from sticky fingers.
When they moved to their next house, Jessie made sure the living-room was big enough for her sofa.
After a few years, her babies turned into toddlers, and then into schoolchildren.
Then, when her teenagers turned into students and left for university, she seized her chance and had the sofa completely recushioned and reupholstered in a pale cream fabric, with repolished teak arms.
One by one the students came home again, bringing with them their partners, and then their own babies were propped up in the cushions.
“They’re only little once,” Jessie said, dabbing away the chocolate.
“This old thing isn’t comfortable any more,” Martyn complained one evening, getting up and rubbing his back.
He looked at adverts in the Sunday papers.
“Here, Jess, look at this. If we’re quick we can buy one in the sales.”
“But ours is so retro,” she argued.
“I’ll ring the council – they’ll collect it.”
“But ours is vintage – it’s trendy nowadays.”
“They pick up bulky items, especially when you’ve retired. You’re a pensioner!”
“But I don’t feel like one,” Jessie protested.
“This is a special offer, so we can deliver it next week,” the salesman gushed when he saw Martyn admiring a huge black leather power recliner with matching footstool.
“Would you like to sit down, madam? To see how comfortable it is? You can feel the added lumbar support, and experience the reclining function.”
He touched a button to recline the headrest. Jessie winced.
“But ours is so . . .” “And look, love, it has complementary cushions!” Martyn said, his eyes searching her face for approval and his hand reaching for his credit card.
First thing one Monday morning, Martyn heaved the old sofa out into the front garden.
Its castors rattled on the block paving and squealed as he dragged it down the path in the rain. He abandoned it on the roadside by the front gate before he drove away.
Jessie stood at the bedroom window. She watched as commuters sped past on their way to work, their cars splashing through puddles, drenching her sofa.
There was nothing for it. She rummaged in the airing cupboard, grabbed some old blankets and dashed downstairs, out through the garden and on to the roadside.
As she tucked the blankets around the sofa, memories wormed their way through her brain.