18 May 2010

Coping Alone

Picture courtesy of Flower Society

Monday was always a dark day, except this Monday was extra dreary because it was the start of her second week of isolation. It was dark outside the open window; a gentle breeze stirred the flower-patterned curtains. A sound of breaking glass on the pavement outside reminded her that she had yet to leave the empty bottles for the milkman. Glancing at the bedside clock, she resisted the temptation to ignore the alarm that was due to go off. She’d been awake for over an hour thinking things through, reliving the time she said goodbye to Rick. Megan turned over, pulled the sheet over her head, giving in to a wave of self pity. Coping alone wasn’t wearing at all well.

The harsh sound of the alarm jolted her back to reality, malicious, uncaring. She slammed out of bed and banged the off button, hearing the relief of silence.

Breakfast consisted of coffee and a muesli bar; she hadn’t the stomach for anything else. The bacon and egg menu had gone out the door the minute Rick left. He could eat anything while she put on weight merely by looking at a piece of fried bread.

It was her day off. A magnanimous gesture on the part of her boss who begrudged paying overtime. Wouldn’t you like to have more time to yourself? Well, yes, under normal circumstances she would. But time off meant finding something to do and right now there was nothing to interest her.

Megan dressed in plum coloured trousers and a white shirt, suitable attire for lazing around. Sliding her feet into open toe sandals she wandered into the lounge, moved across to the computer. Idly fingering the utensil tray, she sank down into the huge black leather swivel chair, remembering, always remembering the happy times. She had been totally dependent on him, that was her trouble. Her life was wrapped up in him, there was no room for anything or anyone else.

Perhaps if she replaced the chair with one from the dining room her thoughts would move away from what she had always called love-ins. Those times when Rick would arrive home from work, dishevelled and tired, throw down his bag, gather her in his strong arms and whisper ‘Hi’ in her ear. Always he would fall into the computer chair and pull her onto his lap. Megan remembered how he kissed her even when he was tired, his lips always moist, his tongue always active. Even the memory produced the same fierce yearning she always had when pressed close to him; it was almost a relief when she heard the phone ringing in the next room.

More calls offering a free holiday, better investments, double glazing. Yesterday there was one telling her she had won a district competition, one she hadn’t entered or even heard of. Not for the first time Megan wished she had caller-display, at least then she would know who was
ringing. Answering was important though, just in case Rick rang. Oh if only he would! Realistically it was as well he didn’t if she wanted to remove inappropriately lustful thoughts from her mind.

There was nothing for it, she had to get out. Staying here alone was tantamount to taking a ride to insanity. Moving swiftly into the hall she dragged open the door under the stairs and grabbed her best shoes and black coat, quickly pulling her blonde curls over the collar. After a quick look in the big oval mirror to check she was respectable enough to go on an excursion, she picked up her handbag, checked to make sure her keys, credit cards and purse were in place, then snapped the bag shut and walked towards the front door. She’d done enough reminiscing; it was time to pull herself together.

RIDING the escalator in the big store Megan couldn’t help remembering the expeditions they’d made, when Rick insisted on selecting outfits for her to try. He had such impeccable taste. He would select the brightest coloured items he could find and insist on helping her try them on. Younger salesgirls would snigger but the matriarchal types would frown at such a thing.

Reaching the floor she wanted Megan stepped away from the escalator and headed straight for the lingerie department.

The array of peignoirs was unbelievably vast and Megan wished Rick was there to help her choose. But he wasn’t so she had to get on with the job. He always liked pink but she reckoned it was a colour to be avoided if she was to endure seclusion without reminders. A sob caught in her throat as visions of their parting caught up with her. Hastily she brushed a hand across her eyes, silently willing her tears not to fall. Not here, she chided herself, for heaven’s sake everyone would take you for a fool. Which was what she was really, being here proved it. She was here on a whim, wanting to recapture the unashamed essence that was all their own.

With almost defiant drive Megan grabbed a white gown, checked the size, and then more slowly selected one in black before turning her attention to the latest style of almost transparent booster bras.

‘Good morning, Madam,’ said the assistant, taking the items from her hand. ‘Would you like to try them on?’

Not trusting her voice Megan nodded in reply and followed the assistant to one of the curtained cubicles. The feelings inside her were mounting as she waited for the woman to leave her alone with her dreams but finally she was left in peace. Carefully she adjusted the curtain the way Rick always did.

The white peignoir did nothing for her, but the black fitted beautifully. It felt wonderful, so soft and caressing against her skin. It would look perfect over black underwear. She twisted to look at the back, noting the way it fell from the waste. Yes, it was definitely a must-have garment. If he was here he would love it even if it wasn’t his favourite colour.

‘Is everything all right, Madam?’

In a voice thick with emotion, Megan answered, ‘Yes, thanks, everything’s fine.’

THREE weeks went by slowly. Megan had managed to get through the long days. Naturally work had helped, there wasn’t much time for thinking with all the paperwork her boss gave her to do. Figure work wasn’t her forte and there was an unusual amount of it after the spring sales. She didn’t complain though, she’d much rather work in the back office than the store. Several times she visited her cousin Anne, and once or twice she went for a pizza with her closest friend Violet.

Vi had scolded her for being so glum, telling her there was life without Rick and forbidding her even to think about him while they were out. Vi was very down to earth, her attitude made Megan realise how low she had sunk in the sorrow stakes. She resolved not to wallow in self-pity anymore but privately wondered how long it would take really to cope with being alone.

It was while she and Vi were having coffee in Starbucks that Megan spotted a handwritten notice pinned on the horse chestnut tree. At first she was cross that someone had stuck pins on the bark, but she read it anyway when they left the coffee house. It was an appeal for volunteers. She nudged Vi to have a look. It seemed that volunteers were wanted for weekend work at a nearby, newly opened hospice shop but Vi said it would be too difficult to run a job and be a volunteer, especially as she hadn’t a clue what it entailed. She went on to say that she wouldn’t be caught working for nothing. Even so, Megan thought it might help to fill a few weekend hours. Ignoring Vi’s negative comments she hooked arms with her and guided her down the hill towards the shop.

THE Manageress was a kindly soul known as Em which Megan presumed must be short for Emily. She was quite chubby, comfortably dressed, and smelled of lavender. Megan wondered if it was perfume or the real thing that people put in drawers to make their clothes smell nice. Basically what Em wanted was a window dresser, someone who could display second-hand goods with a bit of a flair. Megan was delighted, it meant her artistic abilities could be put to good use. She decided to give it a go. Could she start straight away? Em said that would be perfect. She had outlined the job with such enthusiasm that Megan couldn’t wait to start.

The shop had been set up to raise funds for the hospice so that terminally sick children could have better care and facilities. It was a situation Megan found hard to contemplate. How on earth could children be so sick? She had never given any thought to how families coped with poorly youngsters and decided that her sheltered existence wasn’t such a good thing after all. Maybe her contribution at the shop would be of some help?

Vi, who up to that point had remained silent, suddenly asked if there was a place for a shop assistant. Considering her earlier remarks it came as a complete surprise. It seemed Megan wasn’t the only one to feel the sudden compassion. Em said she needed all the help she could get and Vi was duly taken on.

MEGAN loved the work so much she barely noticed how time was flying. Her evenings were still lonely but it wasn’t difficult now to pursue her resolution. She often found herself gazing at the swivel chair, recollecting the times she and Rick sat there lost in the wonder of each other. Although she was no longer obsessed, no longer feeling the pangs of loneliness, she still missed him.

It was Sunday evening. She felt satisfied after the day’s work at the charity shop. She had to admit that she had excelled herself with the window dressing that weekend. Along with a bag full of clothes, bed linen and some bric-a-brac, she had lugged her full sized dressmaker’s model to the shop on which to display clothes. Her first attempt to dress the dummy involved a blue silk two piece over which she draped a silver stole and added a silver evening bag. She knew it looked good when a guy in overalls gave it the thumbs up from the other side of the window.

Feeling happier with her lot than she had over recent weeks, she turned on the radio, made coffee, hauled the box of milk chocolates out of the cupboard and sprawled on the couch to listen to her favourite music programme.

See, Rick, I really am surviving on my own.’

Idly she switched the radio to another station and heard Linda Ronstadt singing THEIR song. ‘Somewhere Out There’ was half way through. Whereas once she would have pressed the off button, she now put her hands behind her head and soaked in the memories.

At the end, Megan stirred from the couch and sauntered across the room to the window seat. Her favourite spot. Watching the birds was a peaceful hobby although the only one in view at this hour was a robin. It flitted from branch to feeder for its last meal of the day. The tiny garden looked neat and welcoming. The fence Rick had so recently repaired and painted would one day be a backdrop for delphiniums. The late sun cast shadows across the single rhododendron that hugged the far wall, reminding her of the summer day when he counted the forget-me-nots on her sleeveless dress, using them to demonstrate his love for her. Forget-me-nots, he said, were symbols of his devotion.

It was such a calm evening that Megan decided to go out. Gathering up a light shoulder wrap she went out of the kitchen door, down the garden path, past the oak tree to the wooden gate at the end. Closing the gate behind her Megan set off towards the woods, wishing once more that she had a dog to keep her company. Rick hadn’t wanted a dog; he was adamant that it would be a hindrance to their social life.

She walked for an hour, listening to the evening sounds as she followed the dirt path through the trees, the flurry of leaves as birds settled down for the night, a rustle in the undergrowth caused by a darting animal, the crunch of twigs beneath her feet.

Feeling exhilarated after her fairly brisk walk, Megan retraced her steps to the garden, noticing as she did that in her haste she had forgotten to switch off the electric light in the kitchen. Reaching the front door she stooped to gather random shoots of clematis and tuck them in the white trellis. The estate agent said they were roses which, even though he was wrong, made her want the house even more; she’d always fancied living in a traditional country cottage with roses round the door. The agent obviously didn’t know the difference between roses and clematis but she didn’t mind, after all the blue flowers looked very pretty when they emerged after a long winter. As her key went in the lock, she pondered on their desire for a dream cottage, making love on a cosy hearthrug by an open fire.

Strange, she thought, as she pushed open the door. All the lights were on. Was her mind going or was she stricken with extreme forgetfulness? When she saw the suitcases in the hall her stomach flipped right over. She hurried in and saw him standing by the lounge door. ‘Hi,’ he said. ‘Fancy a game called getting to know you?’

LATER, as they lay in bed, Megan switched off the television, and the bedside lamp, and curled up beside him. ‘Three months was too long a time. A year married and a quarter of it apart, I didn’t think I would be able to bear it. ’

‘Were you lonely without me, my sweet?’

Lonely was exactly the right word, she thought, as he kissed her waiting lips. But she had survived. And thanks to the charity work she had finally grown up. She was now more inclined to thank her lucky stars and to appreciate all she had. She gazed at Rick’s handsome face, reached up to touch the growth of beard. She loved this man for all she was worth and what’s more he loved her. Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow she would wear the black peignoir. It was his birthday after all.

‘I missed you, honey,’ he said, his deep voice husky with passion. ‘I hope they never want me to work away again,’ he murmured, as he drew her body closer to his. ‘New Zealand is much too far away.’ And that said, he feasted again on her lips.



  1. Oh I'm so glad Rick was only working away! Though Megan was beginning to cope well after working at the hospice shop. Just shows that by helping others one can help oneself doesn't it? :)

  2. ack. we went through this for 8 months you was dreadful. coping doesnt even begin to touch it...smiles. nicely written val.

  3. Another great story Val, it kept me wondering what had happened to their relatiohship until the very end, I truly enjoyed this

  4. Written so well that I didn't 'see' that ending coming.
    I was thinking that she had lost her love for always.
    ...Another wonderful story, my friend. I love to read each story you write. You are so very good at it.
    Hugs to you from Jackie

  5. Hi Valerie:)

    Lovely story with vivid description.

    The end was a surprise. All along I was thinking that Rick had died and Meagan was trying to get over the loss. But the end was fantastic. I was thrilled.

    You are a great short story writer with wonderful imagination and amazing creativity.

    Have a nice day Valerie:)

  6. Oh, I'm soooo happy that it was a happy ending...and with your usual delightful twist, Val!!! You are so fantastic! Loved this story from start to finish. I just KNEW it had to come out well...but like Jackie, I thought that perhaps it was a tragic parting...Loved always! Love, Janine XO

  7. Just wanted to give you a big hug, and to send you my love, dear Val! You're such an amazing friend! Love, Janine XO

  8. One of these days I'll have to pick up the 'phone and see what these "contests" are on about, wot?

    Bad enough the letters one gets to attend those "private showings"...

  9. You are an amazing writer! Love the twist and happy ending too. Each sentence works so naturally. You have a gift, my friend.


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