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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