It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”, where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s the 3rd and final part of a short story I have written, called The Woman Who Walked To School…
**STOP PRESS: Last Friday this short story was awarded the runner-up prize in the Wotton Arts & Literature Festival**
The woman who walked to school (Part Three – final)
For the next week, Margaret felt as if she were floating like one of those maxi dresses in the breeze. While she couldn’t bring herself to stand and have a full conversation with the glamorous group, on Tuesday, she did manage to smile at them. On Wednesday, she looked in the mirror and reached for the hairbrush. On Thursday she popped on some blusher. And on Friday she slipped on a dress. Mercifully, Thomas had now begun nursery, so, after walk-to-school week was over, one morning a week, Margaret had a window of freedom for herself. But, first, she just had the Church vacuuming to do.
‘Ah, Maggie,’ said the Vicar when he saw her, ‘just the person.’
‘I wondered,’ he said, ‘if you could host and serve at the annual visit by the Bishop? We’re all very excited! It would only be for the evening,’ he smiled, ‘and you do do it so well.’
Margaret pulled her cardigan tight. ‘Um, which evening is it?’
‘Let me see now…Ah yes, Saturday. 16th July. That alright?’
Helen’s party. Margaret felt her heart race. ‘Um, I’ll have to check my diary. I think I may have…Well, I may something on.’
His face dropped. ‘Oh. Oh, of course. We may struggle without you though, Maggie. You’re a real shoulder to lean on.’ And with that, he left Margaret to her vacuuming.
No energy left in her, Margaret switched off the machine and let out a breath. It sounded daft, she supposed, but was this the way it was always going to be? Was she forever to be viewed as a shoulder to lean on? A doormat? Yes, everyone could rely on her. Yes, she found it hard to say no, found it hard to walk away from people and situations when help was needed. But sometimes…sometimes she just wished it wasn’t always so. She had never asked for any help, even at the hardest of times. When her husband was ill in hospital, when her kids where sick and she was out of milk and bread, or when she was struggling to come to terms with the death of her father – she would simply cry herself to sleep. She wasn’t a shoulder to lean on; she was a mound of jelly to be squashed with one thud.
Saturday 16th July came and went and Margaret stayed at home. She called Helen and sent her apologies, and she contacted the Vicar and said she was sick. In a way she was. While she didn’t like to lie, she knew she couldn’t face anyone. She was fed up; fed up of her life as it was. Something had to give. As the final week of the school summer term came to a close, Monday morning popped up again and Margaret closed the door to walk to school. Once at the gates and the eldest waved off, Margaret was picking up Thomas when she heard footsteps running up behind her.
‘Margaret!’ came a breathless voice.
Margaret turned. Helen stood, shoulders heaving, bag slid to her arm.
‘So glad I caught you!’ said Helen, fanning her face. ‘God, I’m so unfit. I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it to the party. How you feeling now? Better? God, heels are hell.’
Margaret tucked a hair behind her ear. ‘I’m okay, thank you. I’m better.’ She popped Thomas on to her hip.
‘Oh good,’ said Helen. ‘Look, a few of us are going for a coffee. Fancy joining us?’
‘Um…’ Margaret squeezed Thomas close. Coffee? Her?
‘Oh,’ said Helen, taking this for rejection, ‘sorry, you must be so busy. We always marvel how you’re so energetic, all that walking and so patient with the kids and Church. We’re all in awe of you.’
Margaret frowned. ‘Really?’
Helen nodded. ‘Yes. That’s why we’ve never really plucked up the nerve to talk to you. Sounds daft, doesn’t it? God, I’m sorry. It’s just you seem so,’ she searched for the word, ‘together.’
Margaret let out a laugh.
Helen laughed, too. ‘So, fancy a quick coffee? Bring Thomas?’
Margaret smiled. ‘That would be lovely.’ And so, with the morning sun on her back, Margaret, for the first time, headed off from school for coffee and a chat with the group of mums.
Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012
Thanks for reading! Next Friday I’m switiching to ‘fact’, posting a travel article written for The Guardian. Have a lovely weekend.
**Look out for my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing news…**