I’m in the fourth week of my on-line writing course with the Open University and the latest task was about plot, though we were not told to write anything new, the below example got me thinking.
‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’
So here is my story: It is a bit long winded. I fear it started off strong and then ended weak. What do you think???
She got on the bus, she had always hated the smell of them, but today, she didn’t notice the stench of sweat and disinfectant laced with the vomit of last night’s revelries. She was going to see Sheila. It wasn’t a visit she relished but it had to be done. If she was to protect what she had with Josh she had to do it! She may have been the ‘other woman’ but she knew that what she and Josh had, stemmed from more than a few marriage vows before a skirted vicar. He had told her much the same the previous night.
‘Jane, I love you. I will find a way for us to be together.’
‘Really Josh? You will tell your wife about us?’ She remembered he nodded and they had made love again in the dingy hotel room. They had once started out in four star, luxurious rooms but now had resorted to cheap thrills in ultra-cheap rooms.
‘Pleasing two women is getting rather expensive,’ Josh had said. Jane shrugged. She couldn’t have cared less where they made love, so long as she got her man! But months later, the seedy looks from hotel proprietors and the damp infested rooms, were enough for Jane to go off the whole affair!
‘I’ll tell Sheila about us as soon as I get home,’ Josh had promised, kissing her goodbye. That was why Jane now called Josh’s bluff.
She sat on the bus with butterflies fluttering in her stomach, she hardly ever had nerves. Jane reached into her bag in search of lip gloss and her hand touched something soft, furry. She cooed into the bag at her beloved Pekinese who peered up from the detritus of her bag with forlorn brown eyes. ‘Good luck always seemed to come to her while she had Rod nearby.’ He sat alongside the mascara and powder. The red bow on his head (rather gay, Jane admitted), matched the colour of her sweater. The colour of love! The colour of success!
As the bus rattled along, Jane could imagine her mother shaking her head disdainfully at the thought of her 22 year old daughter tearing through the streets of the city towards the suburban home of a middle aged man and his wife. Her friends from college had all said she was ‘stupid, silly, out of her mind!’ when she told them she was in love with a man in his 40’s!
Jane didn’t care! She knew she loved Josh the moment he stepped into the office. She loved his dark wavy hair that had started to go grey and his smile that was always beaming, even if he had had a bad night with the wife. They both worked at a rather successful law firm, he a solicitor, and she a lowly secretary. However she knew it was not love at first sight for Josh. It took a lot of cajolery, of making lots of coffee (with three sugars, just how he liked it) and being at his beck and call whenever he needed her.
It had been at the last Christmas party that Jane finally saw the fruits of her labour. She had been sipping rosé wine all evening, and nibbling on the odd samosa when Josh came up from nowhere and started a conversation with her. Jane remembered how wound up he had been. ‘A hard day at the office?’ she joked.
‘Not office, no.’ Josh rubbed his temples. ‘Having hell with the wife at the moment, where we’re going for Christmas/boxing day, her parents or mine, etc…’ Jane recalled rolling her eyes sympathetically. She was consolingly doe eyed all night.
‘Must be awful for you?’ He’d nodded.
They had talked utter tripe all night, while listening to bad Christmas hits and watching their fellow office workers dance badly. Jane remembered Josh had worn a green jumper with the face of Rudolf knitted on the front. ‘The wife, made me wear it!’ It made Jane think.
‘Did Josh have a mind of his own or did Sheila own that too?’ As fairy lights twinkled off the festive tinsel adorning the hotel function room, they found that they had both drank too much. Jane saw her opportunity disappear with every shot Josh swigged back. So she embraced the spirit of the occasion and held a sprig of mistletoe above her head. ‘Kiss me?’ she winked and was blown away by the force of his lips on hers. He didn’t even apologise afterwards. He just held her hand, looked into her eyes and mouthed.
‘Want to go to bed?’ Jane gulped. This was her moment.
‘Yes,’ she heard herself say and what happened in that hotel room that night, and every following Thursday afterwards, was the reason Jane was on that bus, with Rod itching to escape her bag.
When she alighted at her stop, the young bus driver gave her a coy smile. That kind of look from a man, always made her glow, so she smiled back. Rod was now on his lead. He had been fed up of the restriction of her handbag and had snapped at Jane as she tried to get the piece of scrap paper with Josh’s address on.
New Foundland Crescent was full of new builds on the outskirts of town. Rod pulled on his lead to smell the blue Salvia heads that lined the gardens but Jane pushed forwards to number 12. She found that the house was a detached, three storey with at least four bedrooms, a garage and driveway. Jane knew that there was also a huge garden to the rear where Josh said he used to tan himself under the summer sun. With high heels clipping on the stone pavement, Jane walked with back straight towards the front door. She already knew how she was going to break the news to Sheila if Josh hadn’t already done so. That he was going to leave her and go live with Jane, until the divorce was settled and then they would look for apartments together.
Jane had walked halfway up the driveway when the front door of the house opened and to her surprise two children waltzed out. One was aged about four, the other ten perhaps? They both carried little suitcases. ‘Going on a holiday?’ Jane asked them.
‘Yes, we’re going to Disney World!’ the older of the two answered.
‘For how long?’
‘Two, whole weeks!’
‘Just with your Mum?’
‘No silly, Daddy is coming too.’
‘Daddy?’ Jane bit her lip thoughtfully. ‘Josh never said he had children.’
‘Can I help you?’ called a voice. It came from the open doorway. It was Sheila! Jane stood gazing at her beautiful face and elegant clothes.
‘She looked nothing like Josh had described.’ A niggling doubt tickled at the back of her mind.
‘Can I help you?’ Sheila asked again, her smile faltering. ‘Are you here to deliver something?’
‘I’m Jane. I work with your husband.’
‘Has he not mentioned me then?’
‘He tells me so many stories about people at work. I rarely get to meet them, so putting names to faces is difficult.’
‘So he’s not said anything about the two of us?’
‘The two of you?’ Jane’s determination faltered under the scrutiny of the older woman. It was clearly obvious that Josh hadn’t told his wife about their year long affair. Jane realised that what she had thought she had with Josh had only been a young woman’s fancy. It was never going to be anything serious, was that why hadn’t told her about his children? Jane stoically steeled her face while inside she seethed. She heard herself lie unconvincingly.
‘We’ve both been short-listed as employee of the month.’
‘And you came here just to tell me that?’ Sheila looked perplexed.
‘No I was just passing and was hoping to collect a file from Josh. Is he at home?’
‘No he’s still at work.’
‘Mummy, come on we’ll be late for meeting Daddy at the airport,’ one of the children spouted.
‘I’m holding you up,’ Jane apologised, wanting to get away as quickly as possible.
‘I’ll tell Josh you passed by.’
‘You do that!’ Jane smiled. She pulled Rod away from the two children who were petting him. ‘Have a nice holiday!’ Jane waved as she walked away. She did not look back.
‘Is that Daddy’s friend?’ Jane heard one of the children ask. ‘She’s very pretty.’ Jane’s only consolation was the hope that Josh would have a rather frosty welcome from his wife at the airport.
‘Disney World,’ Jane thought. ‘He never mentioned he was going off on bloody holiday for two weeks! The bastard!’
As she turned the corner and was firmly out of sight of the matrimonial home, Jane lent against a wall. She tried mightily to stop the flood of tears that streamed down her cheeks, but they overwhelmed her. She felt betrayed, humiliated and stupid for believing the love she had with Josh was genuine. She pulled every inch of composure she could muster and made her way to the bus stop. Jane knew that come that evening in-between bouts of self-pity she would be hard at work updating her Curriculum Vitae and trawling through the job sites for a new position. She would never let Josh see what his lies had made her feel, both angry and sad simultaneously. Jane fought the temptation to send him a hateful text message but she rose above it and fumbled for loose change for her fare.
When the bus finally arrived after an agonising 20 minute wait, Jane had dried her tears and powdered her nose. For the last five minutes she had been ‘chatted up’ by a man in his 70’s who appreciated the colour of her jumper. Climbing the steps of the bus, Jane noticed that it was the same young driver at the helm. She flashed a smile at him and noticed he blushed. She was young and resilient and would soon get over her recent disappointment.
‘Men were like buses’, so her grandmother was always at pains to tell her. ‘If you miss one, there’s always another not far behind.’