Bill had left for work an hour earlier. His last action before shutting the door was a perfunctory kiss on her cheek as he hurried out the door, his mind already occupied on the day's events. Again, he had missed the significance of her squeeze on his upper arm; again he missed entirely, the questioning look she gave his retreating back.
"Jay; get up, you're going to be late." Jean shouted at the top of her voice over the edge of the banister. Jamie was a typical angst ridden teenage young man, lazy and disinclined to venture out of bed before the last minute, or he had been forgotten about.
He moaned something unintelligible in response, turned over and covered his head with the duvet; sure in the knowledge that he could get at least another five minutes before his mother screamed up again.
Jean returned to the relative sanctuary of the kitchen and her tea cooling on the breakfast bar. She checked the calendar, crossing off Thursday with the marker pen on a string. Avril, her thirteen year old daughter had made and brought home the renewable calendar in 'design technology'. It held pride of place on the wall, accessible by the whole family to mark significant dates like birthdays. Today had the words 'lunch Judy 11.30'; a lifelong friend. They had grown up together, neighbours, gone to school together, dated and where really more like sisters than friends. They married within a few months of each other, had baby boys only a couple of days apart. Their lives had mapped out so closely throughout; they had the same problems, similar children and husbands. Jean was looking forward to her date.
Tea drunk, she set about getting her eldest child out of bed. Instead of yelling up through the banister as she had too many times, Jean marched down the passage, climbed the stairs up to the top landing, burst into Jamie's bedroom, then without saying anything, yanked off the duvet. Jamie galvanised into action, covering his nakedness and jumping up as if stung with a hot poker. In the split second between his sudden uncovering and the reactive jump out of bed, the mother glimpsed his stiff fur covered cock, pointing at the ceiling. 'That will please someone one day', she thought to herself; not in the least excited by the sight, just proud of her son's physique. At sixteen, he was very much growing into a man with all the right proportions.
"I warned you." She told him over her shoulder as she left for the shower with a show of his dismissal. She heard his, whatever muttered softly to her retreating back. Well she had warned him countless times, even promised a bucket of cold water, his embarrassment would do for now, perhaps he would get up in the morning from now on.
Eventually, the house emptied of her children, off to school, leaving her the dishes and a pile of dirty clothing trailing from bedrooms towards the family bathroom. Somehow, the clothes never quite made it to the linen basket until she picked them up. Jean finished showering, dried and took time over her choice of clothing.
An hour and half later; Jean had tidied up, washed the dishes, put them away and chosen a simple white blouse over a black short skirt to wear; patent leather low heeled sling back shoes and minimal make up; just a light dusting of eye shadow, a quick brush of a blusher under a thin foundation. She looked critically in the full length mirror, noticing for the millionth time, the blemish of a small brown mole at the corner of her left eye. She was not pretty, she thought, couldn't be described as a beauty by any standards, but she was passable, could hold her own in a crowd; at least Bill thought so when he joked it would need to be a large crowd. After nearly twenty years married, his jokes all sounded the same, worn and dated, same as their conversation, their sex life and pretty much everything else. She switched off that train of thought before it went too much further and left her crying as she did too often these days.
Her eyes were too wide apart, her nose not in proportion, being small and upturned; her skin needed help; her hair was always a struggle to control, being too fine and a russet brown that she wished was blonde. Jean shrugged as she usually did, tried to accept her plainness, not let the familiar pangs of a slight jealousness toward Judy, who was one of those lucky bitches who always looked fabulous, never seemed to put an ounce of fat on even after childbirth, who's clothes always fitted straight off the rail and always looked as the designer intended; who made Jean feel second rate, an almost, a could have done better, type of person.
She left the semi-detached house, locking the door behind her. Her car waited on the drive, only a sensible Honda Civic, but enough for her needs and the occasional school run when the kids were running too late. She drove sensibly into town, parked safely in a designated spot, fed the machine the correct amount of coins, took the ticket and stuck it prominently in the screen. Bill had a thing about parking fines; he always went over the top if she collected a fine. It inevitably led into a row that ended incomplete when he shut down at her mention of some independence, a bank account of her own perhaps, a life that wasn't solely wrapped around him and the kids. Bill couldn't see that Jean needed something else, something that took her away from the house, away from family matters, away from total immersion; he refused to believe she would need to be someone other than Misses Gallaher, house wife; he would refuse to continue the argument as soon as she got into that area, would turn his back or simply walk out of the room.
She arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early; secured a table by the window and settled to wait for Judy who would be fashionably late as always. Jean waved the waiter away as he hovered at her shoulder and watched the passing people who all seemed to be rushing to somewhere important. The only ones ambling looked hopeless; aimless and without purpose entirely; she felt conjoined with them, had an empathy with their plight; understood the maudlin feeling of lack of direction, as if they were all just waiting to die with nothing left to look forward to.
Her mobile phone chirruped in her handbag after she had sat there for nearly half an hour. She hated the damned thing, but agreed with Bill, to keep it for emergencies.
"Hello". She didn't think to look at the screen to see who was calling her.
"Hi, it's Judy"... the mechanically tinny voice announced "... Jean, I'm so sorry, I can't make it today; something has come up. Can we make it next week? I'll tell you all about it then; okay?. Thanks hon."
"Thanks; love ya." The connection was broken at the other end.
Well bugger that, thought Jean; Judy was just like everyone else who she was associated with, never a thought for my feelings, no thought about what I might want, she didn't even ask how I was or even where. She waved at the waiter and ordered a large glass of Merlot; told him no; she didn't want to eat, just the wine thanks.
It was while sipping the deep red wine that Jean made the decision to take over her life, or at least, made the decision that would lead to the mastery of her immediate future. She had thought many times in the past about making some radical changes, Judy letting her down was the final tipper, her resolve was set.
Feeling completely new, somewhat rejuvenated, Jean left the restaurant to find a labour agency. She had decided to find a job, it didn't really matter too much what it was, but something that would provide the first step towards her independence and a life she could call her own; to hell with what Bill had to say about it; it wasn't like they could discuss it, he never wanted to know.
An hour later, she had an application form in her clutches. The initial interview with a girl a fraction of her age had gone well. Her typing speed and accuracy were pretty good for someone who hadn't been in employment for the last fifteen years. She supposed the hours spent on her son's computer, writing short stories and articles for the church magazine had helped.
She headed towards the park, it was a nice day, she intended to fill out the application on a bench and then hand it back to the too young recruitment consultant. Jean found a seat in the small, pagoda covered cafeteria and ordered a tea. The form only took her a few minutes to complete; she put it back into her bag and relaxed to enjoy the sunshine and steaming drink.
She noticed him sitting at another table no more than ten paces away. Her first thought was that he was beautiful; beautiful in a very male sense, his features conspired to create a picture of maleness that had all the attributes of Adonis. His dark hair, slightly silvered at the sides, was immaculately combed, cut into his nape. His suit was obviously expensive, well tailored and fit as it was designed; Paul Smith, she thought.
Jean appraised him, judging his age to be around middle forties. His brown leather shoes that complimented the rest of his garb were polished to a high shine, almost patent in lustre.
.... There is more of this story ...