What You Don't Know, a short story by katemarshall. Date added: 2012-05-31. Times viewed: 371.
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- Intro: Two very different women get caught up in the rain, with more in common than they realise...
As the sky threw down large, heavy droplets of rain that bounced forcefully off the pavement, two umbrella wielding figures made a bee line for the same shop doorway. Focused on escaping the weather, neither noticed the other until their bags clashed as they simultaneously made for cover.
“Sorry..” said the smaller of the two women, smiling sheepishly as they both huddled in the recess. The taller didn’t speak but cast her a cursory glance before fishing around in her handbag and taking out a mobile phone.
“I’m not dressed for this, it’s supposed to be summer isn’t it?” the petite woman stated dryly, trying to bridge the silence. The woman turned to look at her, taking her in from head to toe. She was younger than she was, early twenties at a guess, barely a girl. She wore totally ineffectual bejewelled flip-flops that now squelched as she moved from one foot to the other. Her long cotton skirt clung to her legs like wet tissue, as did the flimsy pastel camisole she wore which exposed her contrasting black bra. Wrinkling her nose in disapproval, her eyes moved upwards, noticing the gold ‘E’ that hung around her neck. That was a particular pet hate of hers; She failed to understand why anyone would want their initials on display like a dog collar. subconsciously the woman reached up and tweaked the delicate string of pearls that adorned her own neck.
She looked at the girl’s face; unlike her own expertly made up features, the other womans held no trace of make up. She could have done with a few tips in her opinion, as well as losing a few pounds. She definitely wasn’t making the best of herself she thought as she idly ran her hands over her own flat stomach; something of which she was immensely proud after having two children. The girl’s hair hung in loose, natural curls around her shoulders. She would definitely get the straighteners on those as well!
Seeing the expression on her face as she looked over her, the younger girl awkwardly started to fidget with the straps of her top. “I’m Emma…” she smiled and held her hand out to the other woman.
“Steph..” nodded the woman in acknowledgement, her perfectly manicured nails barely brushing the girls offered hand. Emma took in Steph’s razor-sharp bob, perfectly plucked eyebrows, the expensive trouser suit, loaded shopping bags and immediately felt completely inadequate and frumpy. She reached down into the bag at her feet and brought out a sausage roll. She attempted unsuccessfully to take a delicate bite but ended up with flakes of pastry stuck to her chin.
“We’re supposed to be going on a picnic” she said dolefully, brushing the crumbs away with the back of her hand. “I’ve been saving myself all day.Looks like I needn’t have bothered” she said, half to herself as she looked up at the grey sky and falling rain.
“Me and my boyfriend, we’d planned a romantic picnic and a night in a hotel later. That’s what the supplies are for” she said, nodding ruefully at the bags of food dumped at her feet.
“Lovely,” smiled Steph insincerely.
“We don’t get much time together”, Emma chattered on excitedly. She went on to say that Darren, or David…whatever his name was, worked away during the week in Edinburgh… or was it Aberdeen? Steph did her best to feign interest, periodically nodding, but her mind was elsewhere. She was going to be late home and she’d never hear the last of it. Dan had another golfing tournament this weekend and nothing was ever allowed to get in the way of that. He’d be at home with the children, waiting for her to go and take over so he could be off.
As if reading her thoughts her mobile went off. A classical tune noted Emma, wryly thinking of her own Dancing Queen ringtone. She watched Steph as she spoke on the phone. I’ll never be like that thought Emma wistfully. Steph was confident, glamorous and sophisticated, she looked at the designer handbag strategically placed in the crook of her arm and ruefully compared it to her own market stall one. Maybe one day, she thought, then almost laughed out loud to herself. Who am I kidding?!
“Darling, I’m doing my very best, I’ve been caught in this dreadful weather,” Steph was now bleating on the phone. “I’m not running to the station in this. My shoes will be ruined and this suit cost a fortune.” Then in a satisfied tone, “Shall I? Yes, that’s probably best. I’ll grab a cab. Run me a bath would you darling.” She closed her phone and cast an apologetic glance at Emma, raising her eyebrows. “Men!.”
“How long have you been married?” asked Emma. She had spotted the trio of white gold bands on her finger, you couldn’t miss the huge rock.
“Twenty years next month,” she replied somewhat smugly. We were at school together, childhood sweethearts.”
“That’s so romantic” exclaimed Emma. “I hope we’re as lucky as you two.”
“He’s the lucky one, he knows when he’s on to a good thing” Steph winked confidently. Then spotting a vacant black cab, she gestured across as if summoning her chauffeur.
“Anyway, must go. Can’t have him late for his precious golf ” she said rolling her eyes. ” Nice to meet you Amy.” With that she flounced over to the waiting taxi, leaving behind a pungent cloud of Chanel.
“It’s Emma….” she started before realising the futility of it and waved her hand in acknowledgement as the cab careered out of sight.
Emma stood there miserably, aware that she was dangerously close to slipping into an inferiority complex, but then got a grip and snapped herself out of it. Her life wasn’t so bad. She had a nice job and a wonderful boyfriend. So what if she wasn’t refined or elegant! Her phone vibrated in her pocket, she read the message and smiled to herself. He was just letting her know that he was running late. He was so thoughtful, she was a lucky girl.
Dan sped down the road towards the Town Centre, his golf clubs clanging in the boot. He was agitated, he hated being late, especially when she was always the cause of it. With the shopping, the hair and nail appointments, the gym! She thought the world revolved around her. If it wasn’t for the kids….
Pulling alongside his destination he glanced across and saw the soggy, bedraggled young girl, standing in the doorway with carrier bags at her feet. Scooping them up she ran out into the rain, bent to open the door and launched herself enthusiastically into the passenger seat.
Smiling, pink-cheeked and wet she said, “Look at me Dan, I’m a mess!” Laughing he gently touched the gold ‘E’ he had bought her that glistened on her chest.
“You never looked more beautiful,” he said, stroking the damp curls away from her face. His mood had suddenly lifted.
Glowing with contentment she wrapped her arms around him. Yes, she thought;I am one lucky girl!
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