Some writing this tine. A short story.
Shirley brushed an errant strand of chestnut hair back from her eyes as she stood gazing out of the window, not looking at anything in particular. Smelling the aroma of sprung blossoms coming through the window, ajar to let fresh air into the room. Daydreaming really! Going over in her mind, what her life had become. She had a small part-time job. It brought in just enough money to live on, not enough to have many choices. She had been left with very little after the acrimonious divorce,
James’s allownce covered his clothing, school books etc. not much else. But Shirley was a frugal woman. She grew vegetables and fruit quite successfully which spread the costs a little more; baked, and made her own clothing most of the time. And true enough, James was good with clothes but, and this was the problem, he was growing taller, fastp. He needed new shoes more often, as the size of his feet increased. Extra school books, and although she had applied for a larger stipend from his father, there were rumblings from that quarter about how much his son was costing him these days.
Her married name was Shirley Ransom. Most of her friends though, called her Shurl, except for James, her son, of course. There, it used to be mummy. At about seven, it got to mum, and now, at fourteen something, it was ‘oh mother’ when he was irritated, ‘ma’ at other times.
Shirley did not mind. He was her rock, a small rock maybe, but the only man in her family, and he was growing up with all the attributes boys ten years his senior would expect to have gained later. Taking on the role of man of the house had given James wisdom beyond his years.
Shirley had long since reinstated herself under her nee name of Piel. It was an unusual name. But Shirley liked it better than having Ransom as her name now. Ransom made her angry. Reminded her of her former life with a man who had turned against her, without reason, in her view.
Her mother met her father on a European holiday. Yes, it was a holiday affair and when she returned home, she missed Edward Piel, his looks, his charm. He had a strange, somewhat exotic name. It was one of the attractions for her mother. After a few weeks, it became obvious that where once there was one, there now had become two. Slightly niave, her mother had fallen for the oldest tale in the book. You won’t get pregnant!
Soon after Shirley’s birth, arrangments were made to change names, from her mother’s nee name of Pureforth, (which her mother deemed ill appropriate,) to Piel, that of her natural father, Edward, so that she too would remember her father’s name and her mother would remember the handsome man who gave het a daughter. To the good, Shirley always thought! But never the fact that he left her mother in the lurch with a baby on the way.
Her grandparents tried to trace Edward Piel, to no avail. Coming up only with an island off the north west coast in the Irish Sea and a tenuous link to Norsemen. Though, as her mother told her, Edward spoke perfect English.
Coming out of her reverie, Shirley caught sight of the postman across the road. He was cheeky, always a twinkling smile when he saw her
Since John, her husband, left eight years ago, there had been no one. She missed having a real man about the place. James tried his best, but he was not a warm shoulder to lean on, to cuddle up to; a man with which to share the burdens of life.
Then a couple of weeks ago a new family moved in a few doors up. The woman started talking to Shirley. “Nice to meet new people, get to know the area,” the new neighbour had said. “Funny though, I move halfway across town only to find someone I already know.”
“Who was that?” enquired Shirley.
“The Postman, Reg’ I used to be quite friendly with his wife. Has a couple of great kids too. Mind you, never thought he worked this far away!”
So, that was that! Married was not for her. He was a cheeky rascal, no mistake but tangoe with a married man? Never!
It was at that point, a knock on the door brought Shirley back to the real world. Going to answer it, she found it was Reg. “Few bills today, ” he grimaced. “Sorry it isn’t something a bit more pleasant.”
Shirley took the bundle of envelopes and catalogues from his hand. “How are the wife and kids, Reg?” She asked.
Reg looked at her askance. “I’m not married. No kids either. Someone has me mixed up with another man!”
Shirley wondered if she should blow the woman’s gaff? “A little birdie told me.”
She started to withdraw back into the house. Reg put out his hand, catching her fingers, ever so gently.
“i told you. Must be someone else. Really, I am not married.” He looked into her eyes, a querulousness came over him. “Alright, I was married, but we separated. Didn’t get on. We both tried, it’s true. But sometimes you cannot win. Divorced three years ago. Perhaps this birdie’s information is behind the times?” He grinned. “See you again.” Reg was off, whistling a merry ditty.
Now Shirley did not know who to believe! Who was telling lies? Best not to incourage Reg any more.
More thinking in front of the window and finally the answer was revealed. Believe neither. Forget about Reg. But that meant there was no one, yet again, in the offing. Was she to spend her life as an old maid? James would only be around for a few more years. His school work was good,. Chance of a scholarship and that might mean Uni?
“You OK ma?” It was James walking through the kitchen door. He slung his heavy school bag on the table, then raided the fridge for milk and a sandwich.
“Home early James?”
“Mr Goodrich let us out early. Says we can study for the exam better at home.” James gobbled the chicken sandwich, then washed it down with the milk.
“Was that wise of him?” His mother asked.
“Well, I suppose!” Then James was off to his friend Terry’s. An afterthought as he was going through the door. “He asks can he pop in a bit later after normal school hours? Bye!” And James was gone.
Oh no, thought Shirley, what has James been up to? She tidied around the living room though it was in pretty good nick so it did not take her too long.
Getting the kettle on, she got cups out and a cake she had baked the day before. Mr Goodrich knocked about four thirty.
“Please come in.” Shirley made tea and offered some cake.
“Thank you, Mrs Ransom. Looks delicious.” Obviously Mr Goodrich went by James’s birth name, not realising that Shirley had changed hers back to Piel.p
Shirley’s tension was mounting. ” You wanted to talk about James?”
“Don’t worry. Nothing really bad. He is doing well in most of his subjects. History is a bit weak, though even there, he should do pretty well. It is…” he hesitated, taking in everything the room could tell hiim, “he has tended to be…, how shall I put it? Dominating! And, that can be a good thing in life, just…the other children!”
“He hasn’t been bullying children, has he?” Shirley could hardly believe her ears. Had she fallen down in teaching him how to behave? Had she lost sight of his faults whilst concentrating on her own problems?
“I would not go so far as to say that, Mrs Ransom. Just warning you that he has a tendency to …I hardly like to say it….manipulate others. Father not around, I’m guessing?” He looked at Shirley intensely. “It shows, Mrs Ransom, it shows.”
It was at this point that Mr Goodrich mentioned the Scholarship. “His grades are almost perfect, just a bit more studying. And I will put in his application as soon as the reults are in. It would mean the University would defray the costs. It is seldom someone like James comes along.”
After thanking Shirley, he left, promising to let her know if things improved with James.
He needs a man around at his age, Shirley thought. So she took him aside that evening and explained how he was seen to be a bit overbearing.
“Sorry ma, …. mum. Didn’t mean anything. But some of the kids get jealous when I get top marks.”
“I know James! Please try to see it from their point of view. Not everyone is clever. Some children struggle with learning. Be generous.” She kissed the top of his head as he got up to go to bed.
From then on, James’ manner improved. Mr Goodrich kept her informed. Became a regular visitor. Several weeks later, James passed his exams with top matks. Shirley was thrilled. James worked hard, even found himself a little weekend job.
James worked harder over the next few years, passing every exam with flying colours. True to his word, Mr Goodrich applied on his behalf, for a scholarship.
When James reached seventeen, a letter came in the post to say he had been given a place at the local University. Mr Goodrich, Shirley and James were thrilled at this news. Celebrations all round.
And Shirley was not really surprised one day, a few weeks later, when Bob Goodrich went down on one knee, producing a little black box and presenting her with it.
” Will you?” he asked, somewhat shyly. Shirley beamed. Five years was enough for him to mourn.. He was a lovely man, she had grown very fond of him, and James regarded him as a second father already.
Copyright. Evelyn J. Steward. December, 2015.
have a good week, be careful out there.