Sunday, 13 February 2011

Preserving Passion Chapter 3

You see, you thought I would give up but I haven't, so now Aunty Kath will have something to read in case it is quiet while she is in the shop tomorrow. So for those of you who are following Chardonnay's tortured path towards true love, arguing about where things are in the fridge and walking round Homebase looking at laminate flooring (run, Chardonnay! Run!), you click on the read more, and for the rest of you, I will try to find something intelligent to post next week. I will try but I may fail but the trying surely counts for something.

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

Chardonnay pulled the duvet over her head, screwed her eyes tight shut, and tried to block out the incessant ringing.

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

Was there a telephone in the house? She was sure she’d turned her mobile off last night. Besides, it didn’t make a noise anything like that. It was the sound of birds singing. She’d set it like that in London to make herself think of the countryside. Of course, now she was in the real, breathing, living countryside, any sound of birds was being drowned out by this dratted noise. She felt like she hadn’t had a moment’s peace since she moved in!

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

Chardonnay made a furious squeaking sound and rolled over. She could tell by the view outside her window – pale sun, a light mist and a fresh feel in the air – that it was still early morning. She hadn’t got to bed until way past one. Gertrude had produced some sloe gin which had apparently been marinating since 1997, and after a couple of glasses Chardonnay had found herself telling her all sorts of things. They’d had a great evening. It wasn’t the sort of evening you wanted an early start after, though.

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

Oh for God’s sake! Chardonnay thought. Muttering irritably, she threw back the duvet and leapt out of bed. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and fresh and full of promise, and for a moment she was mollified by the loveliness of the day. She stumbled downstairs. ‘Yes, yes’ she croaked, irritably, to the ringing sound. The telephone, which she hadn’t noticed the night before, was a large red rotary dial version on a small table near the door. ‘Ring-ring!’ it said, cheerfully. Chardonnay just had time to wonder how much it would cost in Heal’s before she picked up the receiver.

‘Hello?’ she said, sounding slightly put out.

‘Darling!’ said a loud voice. Chardonnay held the phone away from her ear slightly. ‘Mother!’ she said. ‘How did you get my number?’

‘Gertrude gave it to me’ her mother replied, cheerfully. ‘I saw her at the plant sale at the village hall this morning. She was looking very well. She said you moved in yesterday! Why didn’t you tell me? You’re very bad. So I rang to say, I’m putting my coat on right this minute and I’m coming straight round!’. Chardonnay quailed. ‘How on earth have you all been at a plant sale?’ she said, to buy time. ‘It’s first thing in the morning’. ‘Oh darling. You and your London hours. Coat! Walking out of door!’. Chardonnay closed her eyes. Suddenly she did indeed hear birds, real live feathery flying birds, singing outside. She rallied a bit. ‘Take your coat back off, mother’ she said, more firmly than she felt. ‘Give me a couple of hours. I’ve got to go out and get a few things’. She held the receiver away from her ear again. ‘No. No. No! Mother! I don’t need you to bring anything. I want to go out and see where everything is. I’ll take Toto for his walk otherwise he’ll be jumping all over you again. And I’ll see you later round about lunchtime. OK? Yes, looking forward to it. Yes, love you too. I’ll see you later’.

Chardonnay put down the receiver carefully. Toto was watching her. ‘Toto’ she said, very seriously. ‘Was that the only time I’ve ever got my mother to do what I told her to? Without having to pretend to be somewhere else or fake my own death or anything? I think it might have been. Toto, I think we deserve a celebration. Let’s go out and get some croissants’. Toto wagged his stumpy tail. He didn’t understand a word Chardonnay was saying, but, she was happy, so he was happy. He stood up eagerly. Half an hour later she was standing in front of the tiny cottage, Toto’s lead looped around her arm, locking the door. She turned around and straightened up. The village looked entirely different in the bright morning sunshine, and she smiled involuntarily. ‘Come on, Toto!’ she said, and they set off down the road to the shop.

Pushing open the door, Chardonnay heard the bell ring loudly to announce her arrival. It was a very small shop, with rather crowded aisles, and she was glad she’d left Toto tied up outside. She took a basket, smiled at the man behind the counter, and set off in search of a Guardian, milk, and croissants. None of these, strangely enough, seemed to be easy to find. She was standing looking at a display of newspapers and wondering whether the Mirror or the Telegraph would be a better choice – because that seemed to be the only choice – when something ran into her ankle. ‘Ow!’ Chardonnay squawked, bending down to rub her ankle, and straightening up to see a tired-looking young woman with a pushchair blushing madly and looking apologetic.

‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ the young woman said. ‘This bloody pushchair! I can’t take it anywhere! I wanted a small one! She wouldn’t buy me anything I told her! I hope I’ve not hurt you!’

Chardonnay looked at the blood welling up on the side of her ankle and pushed her combat trousers down and her Ugg boots up.

‘Not at all’ she said, cheerfully. ‘Don’t you worry’. She looked in the pushchair at a large baby with a suspicious expression, wearing a fuschia tshirt with a large sequinned butterfly on the front. ‘What’s her name?’ Chardonnay asked. She wanted to say, what a lovely baby, but couldn’t quite get the words out.

‘Henry’ said the girl, miserably. ‘He’s a boy. My mother-in-law said we were going to have a girl and bought us all this stupid pink stuff. And this daft pushchair. Poor old Henry. Then the council let me go and now we’ve got no money, so he has to wear it. I don’t think he’ll remember when he’s older. I don’t mind this tshirt so much, it’s the one that says, daddy’s special princess, that I’m not so keen on’.

Chardonnay smiled despite herself. ‘Are you new here?’ the girl said, hopefully. ‘I haven’t seen you before. I’m Kayleigh. Is that your dog outside? I didn’t let Henry poke him’ (shiftily). ‘Yes, I’ve just moved in!’ Chardonnay said, brightly ‘My name’s Chardonnay. Do you live nearby?’. They made their way to the checkout, chatting, and Chardonnay joined the queue behind a strong-featured young woman in a very clean Barbour. ‘Ridiculous wig on a string outside’ she was saying to the man behind the counter, and Chardonnay and the girl looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. ‘Araminta Wright’, Kayleigh whispered. ‘She doesn’t like me. I keep running her over with Henry’.  Chardonnay proferred her basket to the man behind the till, who added up the packet of croissants, Mirror, galaxy bar and pint of milk. ‘£3.48, duck’ he said, and smiled. Chardonnay smiled back.

‘I’ve only got a debit card’ she said. ‘Is that alright?’.

Araminta paused as she was walking out the door to listen, a smirk on her face.

‘Oo. No, not really, duck’ the man said, doubtfully. ‘I don’t really take cards. Have you not got cash?’ Chardonnay looked at him, confused. Not take cards? Why? ‘I don’t think I have. Where’s your nearest cash till?’ she asked. ‘Chesterfield’ the man said, even more doubtfully. ‘About 15 miles away’. Chardonnay paused, thoughtfully. She could see Araminta watching her, disdainfully, and suddenly Chardonnay felt conscious of her stained combat trousers jammed into Ugg boots, and the golden hair pushed back into a scruffy ponytail. She might have made more of an effort if she’d thought she’d be meeting people and arguing! Kayleigh nudged her. ‘I might have enough for both of us’ she said, and got her purse out. Unfortunately Kayleigh’s purse was in a bit of a state, and it all involved coins being poured into Chardonnay’s hands and a surprising amount of 1p pieces being counted. During the time it took, Chardonnay was conscious that someone else had come into the shop – a man – who she could hear talking to Araminta. ‘Girl’s clearly an absolute bloody state’ she could hear Araminta saying. ‘The bloody arrogance, can you believe. They come out here thinking everything’s going to be 24/7 switch cards and takeaway deliveries just like London, and then when it isn’t they bloody hold everybody up. Ludicrous little dog as well. No idea about animals. I think…’. But Chardonnay never found out what Araminta thought. She turned round to give her a look, and found herself looking straight into the eyes of the most attractive man she had ever seen. He was leaning against the door, listening idly to Araminta, with one hand pushed casually into the pocket of an old jacket. He had a strong jaw and slightly unkempt, thick dark hair. Chardonnay was mesmerised. She brushed a strand of golden hair away from her eyes, artlessly and unconsciously. She could hear Kayleigh whispering to her frantically but she took no notice. She was gazing into his brown eyes and peculiarly intense expression helplessly, feeling as if she was falling down a well.

He appeared as taken aback as she did, but then he frowned suddenly and his expression darkened. ‘Hello’ he said, dismissively. ‘I’m Jack Carter’. His accent wasn’t pronounced, but it was there. Chardonnay opened her rosebud lips, helplessly. ‘Hello’ she squeaked. ‘I’m – I’m’ - ‘Yes, I know’ he said, irritably. ‘You’re just down from London to play at country living and you can’t believe how backward everything is. Well’ muttering as he walked out of the door, setting the bell jangling, frantically – ‘perhaps you should have stayed there!’.


Maria S said...

Excellent! I'm really enjoying this - forget Mills & Boon, as you're obviously far too good for them!
Can't wait for the next installment...

Rachel said...

I love the mixture of emotions in this chapter.

I was quite impressed that the village shop had croissants at all, even in a packet, but I wasn't at all surprised it didn't have the Guardian!

I hope you don't mind if the archaic pedant in me would prefer to see a surprising number of 1p pieces, not a surprising amount ;-)

I look forward to the next installment!

Susie said...

Aw, thank you both ;-).

Pedants are welcome here, especially archaic ones, and if by any chance you could clear up less/ fewer that would be helpful too as I am never sure! :-).

Rachel said...

Waitrose has a "10 items or fewer" checkout; Tesco has "10 items or less".