Claire sat on the bench by the river and picked up her pen and writing pad off the bench beside her and started to write the most painful letter she had ever attempted in her life.
I know this may come as a bit of a shock
I’m sorry we need to talk, call me
She had arrived at Heathrow with nowhere to go and no one to go to she just knew she needed to go home where it all began and write this letter to explain. After following the signs and locating the ticket office, Claire got on the coach and went home. She had changed, a lot had happened over the past 17 years and she needed to put things right.
24 hours earlier
‘Bollocks’ said Claire as she rammed the book she had been reading into the pocket of the seat in front of her. She wasn’t in a good mood, it had been a long flight and the lard arse woman next to her had been elbowing her all the journey, spilling over into her seat and requesting she move what seemed like every 5 minutes to go to the loo. On the last occasion Claire had moved into the window seat and had pretended to be asleep, but the woman complained to the air steward who made them swop back.
The woman next to her, tutted and muttered something about Claire’s choice of words. Claire replied a bit louder than she intended to ‘fuck off, next time you want two seats on a flight pay for 2 and stop spilling over into mine’. The woman started to cry, pressed her button, heaved herself on her feet, waking the man in front by pulling hard on his chair who spun round and told her if she got up one more bloody time and disturbed him he wouldn’t be held responsible for his actions, she sat back down crying heavily. Claire cancelled her call and offered her the serviette from the in flight meal earlier, bloody typical thought Claire, this woman is getting on my nerves, making me uncomfortable, disturbing others and I’m the one consoling her.
Claire turned her attention back to the book she’d finished reading earlier, chick lit, feel good factor, I could write better than this...girl meets boy, loses her job, parents die, boy treats her badly, starts knitting/baking/gets discovered, flies to exotic island, meets unlikely guy a bit of a cad, handsome, rich turns out to be a movie/hotel/music mogul who nurtures her unseen/know talent, she falls in love, he’s with someone else, unaware that sexually she doesn’t exist, his girlfriend, usually fiancé is a perfect size 0 or whatever the current trend is, discovers his girlfriend/fiancé is on the take, double crossing him with a rival, he finds out the day before the wedding, she delivers the news, he hates her for ruining his life, months pass, a chance meeting and he ends up saving her life for some unknown reason, and promptly falls in love with her size 14 curvy figure. Oh Mr. Darcy
Oh bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, and bloody bollocks
Why me, Claire thought she left school with her 5 O levels and 3GCSEs in English, Maths and Science. So what if her actual ‘O’ levels were soft subjects, according to her Mother, history, human biology, music, pottery and art. She moved onto college for a year and completed a diploma in business studies then spent the next 12 months stuck in the top floor of a building, filing papers which were more than 20 years old for a tax firm, they said they were going to train her up, what that actually meant was you go up there and be quiet and we’ll pay you a reasonable amount of money for the next 25 years or so.
School was a bore, Claire wasn’t blessed with being part of the in crowd and she certainly wasn’t a swot, but she worked hard and achieved very little, well little that her parents acknowledged, since when did A for effort and C for achievement become such a failure? She was good at music and sport but could hardly make a career out of it, she dreamt of being a backing musician in a band, but who had oboes in a band these days and she absolutely hated classical music which she was forced to play, she attained grade 7 age 14 and gave the stupid thing up, what was the point? The same with sports, she lived in a sleepy town, the school travelled all of 20 miles to neighbouring schools for competitions and the nearest academy to nurture and develop her skills was at least an hours drive away and it interfered with her mother’s yoga/dance/gym class whatever stupid fad she was into at the time that never lasted and anyway Claire started smoking at 14 out of boredom, because it was cool, because everyone else was doing it, well no one in the music group, or athletics club did nor the in crowd, but Claire had found a group of kids she felt she fitted in with and having a friend was important to her.
Claire never got into any trouble at school but didn’t exactly make that much of an effort either, all her reports said could try harder. All the swots were called Louise, Rachel, Sarah, Gail and the in crowd called Tamara, Elise, Roxanna and bloody Phillipa , call me Pip for short, tee hee hee hee.
They weren’t exactly the prettiest but they had style, the older sisters, the boyfriends, the parents who let them have parties and more importantly they lived in the town and not the bloody back of beyond.
Claire didn’t like the latest fashions, her mother bought all the clothes for her, but she didn’t feel right in them, she wasn’t dowdy by any means but she was comfy in her jeans, leggings, pixie boots and slightly oversized back wing jumpers with fluorescent socks and plastic bangles sort of a Madonna combined with Pepsi and Shirley look, with her black hair chopped short,
She knew she was a disappointment to her mother, who was part of the in crowd, she socialised with the in crowd girls parents from school, well, on the edge anyway, Claries mother thought herself grander than the other women, more attractive, richer after all she had the house on the hill on the neighbouring village to the town, but she never really fitted in, they tolerated her, as she regaled them with her trips to Europe, her latest spoils from duty free, her over powering poison perfume or channel number 5 from when her husband flew out of Europe, it was probably knock off, just like her Cartier watch. Claire’s mother embarrassed her, from an early age she only let Claire invite certain friends from school to her lavish birthday parties, with caterers and clowns hired, friends handpicked because their father was a doctor or their mother a solicitor, while Claries mother was a nothing, her words nobody else’s, she decided not to work, she’d married well or so she thought. Claire’s father was a quiet man in fact he was timid and scared of his wife, not in a physical sense but scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, showing his wife up as she screeched at him on many an occasion, she was too good for him, he was lucky to have her, Claire’s father fought back by keeping a close reign on the purse strings, which were spiralling out of control, with his wife’s over indulgence for clothes and furnishings, he didn’t tell her how bad things were, they weren’t poor, but they were certainly living beyond their means and at 17 with Claire just starting out in the world of work with her pitiful salary, they put the house on the market, her mother told everyone it was because her husband had been offered a fantastic promotion and they were moving away, but in reality he had been overlooked on several occasions for promotion and was now being side stepped and moved to a desk job up north and no one would find out anyway and it was a great opportunity for Claires mother to reinvent herself, even she after 17 years could see that everyone knew she wasn’t trying to be something shed never succeed at. Around the same time her grandmother died, old age, and that was that no more family, her parents were in their 40s when she was born and had no aunts and uncles to speak of And that was the last time Claire saw her parents for a very long time, in fact now aged 35 she was flying back to the UK to see if time had mellowed her mum and toughened up her father, but she didn’t hold out much hope for that.
Claires saving grace was her older brother, born when her mother was 24, a mistake as she never failed to mention, Claire was 2 when he left home aged 18 to go to university, her mother never understood why he cut them out of their lives and Claire couldn’t believe he had abandoned her, he kept in touch with Claire, letter and gifts and visits which fizzled out as she got into her teens as her mother became more demanding but Claire always knew where he was and who he was with.
Her brother James was married to a lovely woman who Claire on her rare contact with them adored, she was friendly, they had 2 beautiful children born 12 and 15 years after Claire, she’d last spent time with them properly in 1992 after their second child was a year old and they emigrated to Australia where her brother worked as an engineer and her SIL was a nurse, they hired a nanny and their empire grew. Of course Claires mother regaled in all of this...my son this...my son that so of course when they announced their own move north 2 years later, Claire just couldn’t be bothered any more and stayed put. She had just turned 17.
Claire moved into a bedsit in town, she worked hard every day, she had to share a bathroom and a kitchen with 2 others, an old bloke who was actually only 37 but Claire thought that was old and one of the in crowd girls from school, who’s parents had emigrated and she just couldn’t bare to be parted from her trophy boyfriend of 18 months, but she left shortly, in a flood of tears after the most amazing cat fight ever seen in the town and still talked about today after discovering he was two timing her with her best mate.
Claire didn’t have much money and rarely went out, her mother gave here a few bits and pieces before they moved, mainly the crap she didn’t want, told Claire she was cutting her allowance, which her mother thought was generous, but hardly kept Claire in cigarettes for the week to teach her a valuable life lesson on survival, after Claire had refused to move with them, her mother was actually rather grateful as their new place, a detached property was only 2 bedrooms but it did have the right postal address and was still slightly out of their reach in terms of affording it, but her mother put her foot down, again and that was that.