JUST A MATTER OF CHOICE • by Oonah V Joslin

Lena was getting sick of being nagged. She played along so as not to upset anybody; her son Dean, his wife Sandrine, her best friend Carol. Best friends are hard to come by and maybe Carol had a point. She just wished sometimes they’d keep their advice to themselves.

“A holiday abroad would do you good, Lena; get a bit of colour back into your cheeks,” Carol said when she came round for her usual coffee. “Go somewhere the two of you never went together. It’ll be easier that way. Relax. Soak up a bit of sun.”

The brochures had such a Technicolor gloss that Lena felt washed out just looking at them.  City Breaks were all very well; lots of museums and plenty to do and see but dinner alone at the end of the day seemed an even lonelier prospect in a busy place.

“Goa?”

“Injections.”

“Tunisia? Italy?”

“Italian men have a sworn duty to hit on any lone woman.”

“Not Italy, then. The Costas — Blanca, Brava or Del Sol?”

It was just a matter of choice.

***

Lena stood in front of the long mirror. Her leisure suit and slippers had become a second skin. She’d gained so much weight since Arthur died.

‘Comfort eating, that’s what had done it.’

Brava, Carol!

She turned side-on, yanked up her boobs, pulled in her stomach and craned her head upwards in a vain attempt to subtract a chin or two. Suppose she did go to Spain? She didn’t have a stitch to wear. She began rehearsing through her clothes.

‘It wouldn’t be an ideal holiday of course…’

A tearing sound alerted her that she’d just ripped a sleeve.

She couldn’t tag along with Dean, Sandrine and the children forever.

A button pinged off and hit the mirror.

“Damn!”

‘…besides which,’

she grunted and strained to do up the zip of her beige trouser suit,

‘…I’d be the unpaid baby-sitter again.’

She had to holiday…

‘This lemon thing must be ten years old.’

…with people her own age — make new friends – maybe then they’d stop hounding her.

Lenastuffed a fifth outfit into a charity bag. In the end she decided on — a cup of tea — and a biscuit.

***

“So — you’ve decided against the Spanish holiday?” said Carol.

“It’s just, I can’t find one that fits somehow,” said Lena. “You must think me a great nuisance, but could you possibly bring some more brochures to look at?”

“It’s no trouble. Why not look on the internet? We’ll find you something.”

***

A lack of choice wasn’t the problem. She had too many holidays to choose from and far too many clothes but nothing fitted anymore — nothing fitted – not without Arthur. Lena sat on their bed and, for the first time, let the tears flow.

***

It made sense to get away for a while. She was in a rut and feeling sorry for herself and Arthur wouldn’t want that. She mentioned it to Sandrine when she came to collect the children after work.

“I think I need a complete change,” she said.

“You know, Mother, you’re always welcome to come on holiday with us. The children love having you there — don’t you, guys?”

Petra was too busy tormenting the cat to answer. Janey came and sat on Lena’s knee, cuddling in. “Come with us, Grandma,” she wheedled, as if trained to the task.

“Go and play, sweetheart,” said Lena. Janey was getting too big to nurse.

“I hope you won’t mind, Sandrine. I feel like — an adventure, you know?”

“An adventure holiday? At your age?”

That did it. Lena hadn’t used the words, adventure holiday. But why shouldn’t she be adventurous?

Surfing the internet she found the ideal solution.

***

“You’ve booked a WHAT?” Sandrine dropped the best china. “Dean, did you hear that?  Dean?” Sandrine went over to where Dean was refereeing a toys war. “De-an, talk to her!”  She nudged him hard.

“It’s up to Mum if she wants to go on holiday on her own but I’m not sure what Dad would have made of this plan.”

Sandrine had expected more robust support. “And what about what we think, eh?  It’s not… not… dignified,” she muttered, “a woman of her age.”

“Sandrine seems to think I’m past it,” remarked Lena delighted with the effect.

“Well, as far as I’m concerned, Mum, whatever lights your candle,” said Dean, “but I’m pretty sure you won’t like it once you get there. You’ll be straight back home on the next plane.”

***

Carol spat her coffee and nearly choked on her scone. “A nudist colony?”

“Naturist Retreat,” corrected Lena, “near Sète. It’s the perfect choice. You said I ought to get some colour in my cheeks and I haven’t a stitch to…”

“Those weren’t the cheeks I meant,” said Carol, “and there’ll be men — with no clothes on.”

“And women — including me. The day we stop looking is the day we die, Carol. Anyway, we’re all the same.”

“I don’t know what’s got into you, Lena. You’ve quite shocked me.”

“Arthur and I discussed it once — never did get round to it. He was a bit shy you know — underneath.” Lena smiled at her double entendre and Carol’s obvious discomfort. “Are you feeling a bit hot, dear? Is it one of your flushes?”

“I’m fine,” said Carol.

“And just think — I’ll be able to pack light. Chocolate cake?”

***

Lena was chuffed with herself as she set off on her clandestine over-sixties package to Malaga. She’d lost twenty pounds but she still packed light not to give the game away. Clothes were so cheap in Spain she could buy what she needed there. It was adventure enough going off on holiday alone. She’d been to Malaga before — with Arthur. It would be good to see it again and be alone — and remember.


Oonah V Joslin is Managing Editor at Every Day Poets.  Credits include 3 Micro Horror prizes, an honorable mention in The Binnacle’s Shorts Poetry comp 2009, Inclusion in several anthologies, A Man of Few Words, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and 2009 and Toe Tags.  Read her at Static Movement, The Shine Journal, A View From Here, The Ranfurly Review 10FLASH Quarterly and many other places. Oonah reads some of her poetry here. Other work including her novella, A Genie in a Jam, can be found at Bewildering Stories. The list is updated in The Vaults at Parallel Oonahverse and on her Facebook. Oonah’s ambition is to have a book published.


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Every Day Fiction

  • I was just killing some time before the TV programme I really wanted to watch by watching “Must Love Dogs”. Less than half an hour in, I couldn’t take it any more, what with all those feelings being worked through and nothing actually happening. So I came over here, and what do I find? This! But it improved as it neared its twist.

    A tearing sound alerted her that she’d just ripped a sleeve.

    And that, children, is the correct use of the verb “to tear”.

  • David Harker

    Brilliant twist Oonah! Loved it… in fact I laughed out loud. Thank you!
    Dave

  • Fehmida

    LOL, good one Oonah 🙂

  • a realistic portrayal of family life, perhaps.

    with more character development and less conversation it would be a good piece for a general woman’s mag. I can see the humour in it fitting in there.

    well done.

    thank you.

  • Must agree with Stu. A pleasant Friday read.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this lady’s journey from unpaid nanny to two perhaps not entirely delightful grandchildren to roguish bon vivant.

  • “You said I ought to get some colour in my cheeks…”
    Oooh, Nurse!

    HaHa. You naughty Oonah, you. That’s the way to get rid of the hangers-on… Er, if you see what I mean and in the best possible taste.

    😉 scar

  • Amy

    Nice one,Oonah! It had a “real” feel to it.

  • I liked this. Just one thing–shouldn’t that line of dialogue be ‘Comfort eating, that’s what has done it’? (Instead of “had” done it … since she’s remembering an earlier conversation that took place in the present tense?)

  • JenM

    Heh heh. As someone who’s sick to death of interferance, I can definitly side with Lena. Five stars.

  • Go, Lena! As someone who regularly makes her kids squirm, I loved this.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you to everyone who read my story today or in future.

  • Nicely done, Oonah! 🙂

  • Enjoyable read. Nice characterization.

    “Fitted” threw me off, but I looked it up and seems it’s a proper variation of the past tense. I just never hear it used that way around these parts. 🙂

  • Must admit, my eyes were tearing up (with laughter) towards the end of this story.

    Oh, and PML, below is one of the ‘correct’ uses of the verb ‘to tear’ according to Dictionarydotcom:

    “verb (used without object)

    6. to fill up and overflow with tears, as the eyes (often followed by up ): My eyes were tearing in the wind. He teared up when he heard the news.”

  • Joanne

    Haha as someone who loves to travel alone, on my own terms, I adored Lena’s plan. Good for her! Fun story.

  • I thought this was really good. It has a kind of double-twisted, double-ending, which works.

  • PAF, that is merely the (prescriptive) U.S. variant, following the idea that a U.S. expert expressed as “any noun can be verbed”, which was too clever by half, if you ask me. But what he omitted – indeed, drew attention away from – was whether any noun should be verbed; the problem with using the noun “tear” for its secondary meaning, then using that as a verb to express weeping, is twofold:-

    – It can and more often that not does lead to at least some avoidable ambiguity (as it did the other day at “The Italian Lesson” with “He was tearing up now and ashamed”, since the cluttered punctuation had already made that piece a rough ride – I automatically backtracked looking for an object being torn up that I had overlooked).

    – There is already a verb “weep” available for the job, though you might want to use an adverb or so with it in case people misread it as “weeping copiously” (e.g. “He was weeping slightly now and ashamed”); not using it conveys the impression that weeping is not what is meant, always leading to a certain amount of backtracking to pick up again (it does that to me, at any rate) – more so when the text is already muddy.

    So this is a noun that should not be verbed, lest it make confusion worse confounded or otherwise derail and distract. Or do you really think you would get the right effect from rewriting the shortest verse in the Bible as “Jesus teared up”?

    So, children, when I advised you as to the correct and proper use, that should be taken as advice as to what you should do, not as to what you are forbidden to do; but whether it is forbidden or merely warned against, the consequences remain. I do not forbid you to lock your little sister in the car – that is for others to tell you – but I do tell you that you shouldn’t. Here, I give you a glimpse at prudential reasons why not.

  • Drat! Jove nods. Too late I see a typo in my comment, “that” for “than” in “more often that not” – also confusing to readers, inadvertently illustrating my point about such things.

  • Bill West

    Very funny, Oonah. I think she should have gone on the nudist holiday. Going to somewhere where the clothes are cheap is just too sensible ;¬)

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Once more thanks for all the comments – I didn’t expect so many.

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  • Very enjoyable. Easy 4 stars. Thanks for sharing!

  • Very enjoyable. Easy 4 stars. Thanks for sharing!