Lovers In A Bag
Copyright Kristina Howells 2012
Jemima had just turned 40. She wasn’t like any other forty year old. She was different.
Jemima had never had a boyfriend. All she was interested in was her job as an interpreter, and looking after her aging mother in Harrow.
Her mother had been her life. Working to help her mother was something she loved doing. She sacrificed nights out with gentleman, and holidays with girlfriends.
Then one day, the size eight, tall, long curly blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman was found all alone.
How did this happen?
Her mother became very ill. Jemima was unable to look after her.
“Mum I can no longer look after you,” she exclaimed one day.
“I know my dear,” she replied whilst sitting in the armchair watching her favourite TV programme, ‘Only Fools And Horses.’
Her mother always watched ‘Only Fools And Horses,’ or ‘Eastenders.’ These were her all time favourite programmes, as she was originally from a London, these took her back in time, and kept her in touch with her roots. Whilst these programmes were on, Jemima found it difficult to discuss any serious issues.
She felt that this was her mother’s way of keeping her at bay. As she continued to laugh at Del boy’s antics, or watch dirty Den at his tricks again.
“They never make these programmes the same, do they dear,” her mother sighed.
“No mum, another cup of tea, and digestive biscuit,” she smiled.
“That’ll be nice dear.”
Jemima loved making her mother a cuppa. She even tried to make digestive biscuits once. This turned out a disaster, as she burnt them or would add too much sugar. Jemima never did learn to cook.
Her mother always did the cooking, and cleaning. Even whilst studying for her linguistics degree at one of the London Universities. She never stayed away from her mother.
It seemed life had passed her by. She loved the weekends strolling with her mother in the local forest close to their home in Epping. She didn’t care about anything else.
Where was Jemima’s Father?
It is simple. Just after Jemima was born, her father left her mother for another woman. He refused to admit that Jemima was his child. Her mother never pursued him for the money. She just accepted it.
After Jemima’s father left. Her mother got help from her own mother. She was never once interested in finding a replacement to be Jemima’s father. She was happy alone, and being with Jemima.
“Oh life goes past too quickly,” Jemima’s mother said to her as she handed her, her eighth cup of tea.
“I know mum.”
Then Jemima sat down in the armchair next to her mother, watching ‘Only Fools And Horses with her.
“Why don’t you go out and find yourself a nice gentleman friend,” her mother asked.
Jemima didn’t reply. It was as though she was shocked at the very thought of enjoying herself with another person. This was something she didn’t want to do.
How could she torment herself like that and leave poor mum all alone?
Jemima didn’t reply. She replied only with a smile.
“Why don’t you keep a diary and record things down,” Jemima’s mother suggested. “You may eventually have a boyfriend. I won’t be around forever.”
“I know mum, now you are frail. I am afraid to leave you.”
“You must dear, forty years has flown by since you were born. I’m now seventy-five, and suffering from this bloody cancer. It’s killing me off.”
“Don’t talk like that mum. You’re still here and well,” Jemima said trying to reassure her mother and herself.
But her mother wanted to talk to her. She wanted her to start to live her life. She didn’t want Jemima to end up old and lonely with no one to look after her when she dies.
“Well I have one wish my dear child. The day I pass away. You will go out and find a companion. I’ll be watching down on you from the sky. I want you to write id down in a diary so I can hear all about it. Please promise me that you’ll do that.”
“Ok mum,” Jemima sighed. “I’ll do that.”
Her mother smiled back at her.
“I love you my darling daughter. You’ve made me so proud. I don’t want to see you alone.”
“I love you too mum.” She said as she went to kiss her mother on the cheek. “Come on its time for bed. We’ll talk about this more in the morning.”
Jemima then helped her mother to bed. As she went to tuck her in, she gave her a goodnight kiss. Her mother took hold of her hand and continued to tell her how much she loved her. Jemima replied the same, as she went to switch out the lights.
“Goodnight mum, see you in the morning.”
The following day Jemima went to call on her mother as usual before she went to work. Except this time she was going to be in for a nasty shock. She didn’t sleep very well. All she did was think about what her mother had said to her the day before.
The thought of her mother leaving her, started to frighten her. She didn’t know what to do except do as her mother asked her to do.
Yet her mother wasn’t going to wake up. Jemima undrawn the curtains, went over towards the bed and gave her the usual kiss. She then gave her a gentle shake to stir her from her dreams. This time she didn’t stir. She lay in the bed. She was now icy cold. Jemima was at a lost.
“Please mum, Please wake up. I need you.” She begged continuing to shake her, crying in desperation.
It is with this desperation she ran next door to Mr Willow’s cottage. She constantly knocked on the door and ringing the doorbell continuously at the same time hoping he would come to her aid. She was relieved when he finally answered the door.
A middle-aged man in his late 40’s, recently divorced lawyer, tall and medium built, with black hair and brown eyes, came to her aid.
“Please Mr Willows, I need your help. My mother won’t wake up. I don’t know what to do or who to turn too.”
“Ok I’ll come and help you,” he smiled.
Mr Willows closed the door behind him and went to follow Jemima into her mothers home. He then joined her in the bedroom. Whilst upstairs in the bedroom, Mr Willows tried to wake her up too. He couldn’t do it either. He took Jemima’s hand and led her back downstairs.
“I’m sorry Miss Singleton, there is nothing we can do. Your mother has past away.”
Jemima just sat down and cried uncontrollably. She couldn’t believe her mother was gone.
“What am I going to do?” She wailed.
“I’ll call the ambulance and tell them. You don’t have to worry. I’ll help you with the funeral arrangements. I know it was just you and your mother. I am happy to help if you are happy for me to help you.”
Jemima just smiled. She was happy to have someone to help her with this all. She didn’t have any other family. It was just she and her mother. Mr Willows seemed nice enough. He had been like a member of the family. Especially where mother was concerned.
“My name is Jemima,” she said after he had just called the ambulance.
“I know my name is Giles. The ambulance is on its way.”
“Thank you Giles. Please stay won’t you?”
Giles had no hesitations. His wife had left him six months before. He knew what if felt like being all alone with no one to help. His wife had an affair with one of her clients, and one day when he came home from a very difficult day at work. He found the house empty with just a note on the table informing him, she wants a divorce. It was Jemima’s mother that helped him through it all whilst she was at work.
Her mother often confided in him. She hoped that Jemima would one day meet a nice gentleman like Giles. But she was afraid for her.
Giles had a sympathetic ear. It was like her mother was already forging a relationship with her future son in law, before she even ventured in the grave.
Giles knew all he could do was be Jemima’s friend. He had to let her discover the world on her own. She had never had a serious relationship. He wasn’t going to rock the boat and get involved with her at such a venerable time.
Maybe just maybe she might be his next wife. He didn’t want to rush things. He realised Jemima had a lot to do in the meantime.
Then the ambulance arrived, and took the body to the morgue. Jemima telephoned her boss and was able to get a few weeks off work. She needed this time to get use to her new life. She found her colleagues very helpful. They telephoned and some of them came round to see if she needed a hand with anything.
Jemima tried her best to cope on her own. The closer the funeral got, the harder it became to accept her mother wasn’t going to come back. She felt numb. She really didn’t know what day it was. She barely left the house or ate anything. It was Mr Willows and her colleague at work Sarah that tried their best to help.
Then when it came to the day of the funeral, Jemima realised she didn’t have an appropriate black outfit for it. Her colleague Sarah suggested they went shopping to find one. Jemima reluctantly agreed. It was the first time she went shopping with anyone other than her mother.
Sarah helped Jemima find an appropriate outfit for the funeral. She helped her try on a nice black dress, and hat.
“Your mother would love you in that outfit. She will be looking down from the sky and say my daughter is gorgeous.” Sarah enthused, as Jemima came out of the cabin to show her the new dress.
Jemima bought the outfit; she then quickly put on the outfit at home and called on Mr Willows whom offered to drive her to the local church. When they got there they noticed the church was laid out in all the flowers her mother loved. Jemima almost fainted. Mr Willows held onto her, even when they went to the cemetery to lay her to rest, Jemima was weeping uncontrollably. It was at this moment the reality of the situation finally hit her.
“Mum why did you have to leave me? I want you back. I want you home with me. I can’t live without you,” she screamed at her graveside.
Mr Willows held her tight, and said. “I am here to look after you. I will help you. If you need someone to help you through it, you can count on me.”
Jemima said nothing. She just wanted to go home and go to sleep.
The next few days were a blur. Sarah came round to check up on her. Jemima liked the fact that one of her colleagues cared. Sarah suggested they go shopping together to help her get back to normal. Jemima reluctantly agreed.
“It will be fun,” exclaimed Sarah. “Just trying on all those outfits will make you feel better. I’ll come to collect you after work tomorrow.”
Jemima just smiled. She knew that this was a whole new world. It was an experience she would soon learn to love, as Sarah helped her to come to terms with her loss and open her up to a world that she never knew before.
After work the following day, Sarah went to collect Jemima, and took her to Brent Cross shopping centre. It was a fair distance away from where she lived in Harrow. But the good thing is that it is open late. There were a lot of shops to keep Jemima and herself amused for hours.
Inside Brent Cross they had restaurants and bars. This gave Sarah an opportunity to get to know Jemima, as they headed for All Bar One.
It was a charming wine bar. Jemima was introduced to many different brands of alcohol. Sarah could tell that Jemima rarely went out, or drank alcohol.
“In your opinion what is the best drink?” she asked.
Sarah felt a little embarrassed at first.
“The best drink is a white wine and soda,” she suggested.
Jemima was happy to try this drink. She had never drunk a Spritzer before. She trusted Sarah’s judgement as Sarah went to the bar and ordered the drinks.
It was just what they needed after walking a few shops. Sarah bought them to the table where Jemima was sitting, and started to get her to open up. She had worked with Jemima for nearly a decade. She often found he a bit odd at work. She found her very much an introvert. She would rarely stay for the office party. All Jemima wanted to do was to go back to her mother.
This had been the ritual for most of her adult life.
“Have you ever had a boyfriend?” Sarah asked.
Jemima felt awkward by this question. The closest she ever got to have a boyfriend was Michael. He came from Germany on an exchange with his school. She found his blonde curly hair and deep voice rather fascinating. Still whilst he was in the UK they often went out together, even when he went back to Germany they remained friends.
But sadly as time would permit it, they no longer stayed in contact. It was a relationship that was never meant to be. He was probably married by now with several children. Thinking back it was just the first of many encounters that Jemima would face. It would be like shopping for new shoes. When one pair became worn out it was time for a change.
“Only one,” Jemima replied. “ It was a boy who came from Germany on an exchange with his school.
“Wow that sounded like fun,” Sarah bellowed. “Well my dear Jemima I am going to show you how to shop for men.”
“What do you mean Sarah?”
“Ah a secret that every woman needs to learn. Today’s lesson is looking at the type of man you would like to go out with. There are several types of men. You just need to have a look around and work out which type you like.”
“Ok, so what types are there, please do tell?” Jemima retorted enthusiastically.
“Well, lets have a good look around. What do you see?”
“Well I see fat men, short men and tall dark haired men. I can also see some men with blonde hair, and others with no hair. There are men wearing suits, and others wearing casual clothes. I can see men in groups and one or two men on their own.”
“Good observation Jemima. Now here is going to be the difficult task. We are both together, so men on their own are a no, no. However men in pairs are ok.”
“Ah my dear Jemima, when you shop for a man, you always do it when you are with a friend. It makes the dating game go much smoother. As we try to snare a handsome creature of the opposite sex. Now look again and tell me which pair of men you like the look of.”
Jemima found this really difficult. She spent what seemed an eternity scouring the faces, build and height of all the different groups of men in the bar.
Then just as she was about to give up, suddenly two men walked in through the door, and sat beside them. Jemima couldn’t help but look at them. Sarah could see that she was interested.
“Ok Jemima, you don’t need to say anything. It’s these guys here that appeal to you. I can understand why? Bothe are very well dressed, wearing expensive clothes and seem the type that would treat you well.”
“How did you know?” exclaimed Jemima embarrassingly.
“Ah my dear friend. Your eyes gave it away.”
Jemima just blushed.
Then it was as if fate would have it, one of the two men started speaking to them.
“Hello ladies are you both on your own?” The dark haired, brown eyes middle-aged man asked.
“Yes we are,” replied Sarah.
Jemima said nothing. She thought she would leave Sarah to do all the talking. It was by doing this that she would learn how to pick up a man for any future conquests.
However, at the moment Jemima wasn’t interested in settling down. All she was interested in was catching up with lost time. She had a lot to learn, and a lot of catching up to do if she was going to find Mr Right.
“My name is Robert and this is my dear friend and colleague James.”
“Pleased to meet you both. I am Sarah and this is my friend and colleague too Jemima. So what do you both do? She demanded with an air of curiosity.
“We are both accountants. We own a firm. And you?”
“We are both interpreters and translators working for the high court, and other private firms.” Sarah beamed.
“Very impressive. I bet you have both seen some interesting foreign criminals.” He mused trying not to laugh.
Jemima didn’t find his tone very funny. She could only give him a smile.
“Well nice to meet you Robert and James.” Said Jemima. “We need to go home don’t we Sarah.”
“No problems, look here is my card. It would be nice to get to know you both. Are you both free on Friday?”
“Yes,” replied Sarah. “We are both free on Friday.”
“Ok I suggest that we meet you here on Friday at 7pm.”
“We both look forward to it,” Sarah beamed before leaving with Jemima.
Once outside Jemima felt free again. She started to feel a little claustrophobic in there. It was probably due to nerves. She knew she would have to give Sarah an explanation into her attitude. But the reality is, she felt scared.
Sarah didn’t need an explanation. She could tell straight away. The good news is they both have a date. Friday wasn’t too far away. Sarah knew she had time to win over Jemima and put her at ease.
“Anyway Jemima had already met them. It wasn’t as if it was a blind date.” Sarah thought as they walked through the shopping centre.
“I know Jemima, let’s shop for a new outfit.”
Sarah and Jemima went into several shops. New Look had always been Sarah’s favourite. Jemima liked the style of clothes. She could never imagine herself wearing them. They were really meant for young people. Jemima felt she was now in the middle-aged bracket and these types of clothes weren’t made for her age group.
Sarah though had other ideas. Inside the shop she helped Jemima try on a selection of different styles.
“Oh my dear friend. We are going to try and make you look a lot less conservative. So how about this floral dress, and these beige high heeled platform shoes to go with it.”
Jemima just looked through her. She didn’t know what to say. She had only ever worn trousers, a blouse and a jacket with ballerina type pumps as shoes. She never wore high heels. Her mother had always forbidden her from doing so.
“Go on, try them on.” Encouraged Sarah.
Jemima took the clothes from Sarah and tried them on. Jemima had to admit to herself that the flora dress looked lovely on her. It showed off her body well. It made her legs look thin, and made her feel grown up. It was the first time she felt like a real woman, instead of woman hidden by trousers and a loose blouse.
“Come on lets have a look Jemima.”
Jemima opened the curtains in the changing room, and gave Sarah a twirl.
“It’s beautiful. It makes you look so attractive. You’ll have men falling at your feet.”
“There is only one problem,” Jemima moaned. “I have never worn high heels in my life.”
“That’s not a problem. You can start wearing them to work.”
Jemima went back into the cabin in the changing room, and put the dress on the hanger. She knew this was a fresh start, a chance to make her happy. She also knew her mother would want to read about each adventure. So whilst proceeding to the checkout, Jemima saw a large notebook, and took that too the till.
“That’s fifty-nine pounds,” said the cashier.
Jemima paid by credit card, and then they left to go their separate ways.
“Will I see you at work tomorrow?” Sarah asked.
“I thing I will try and make it. It will be difficult my first day back after mum dying but I need to make an effort. So I will see you tomorrow at work.”
“Goodnight Jemima and see you tomorrow.”
“Goodnight my friend and thank you.” Jemima replied before going their separate ways.
When Jemima finally arrived home. She took out the floral dress, and hung it up in the wardrobe of her bedroom. She then went to put her new shoes beside the coat stand in the hallway.
She started to feel a little hungry and went into the kitchen. She made herself a quick snack of baked beans on toast, before writing in her new book, following the words her mother said to her while she was still alive.
Jemima hoped that by following her mother’s instructions she would come down from heaven to guide her on her choices. Yet she knew deep down she would have to learn these herself. She no longer had her mother to tell her right from wrong. She took the book she bought in New Look, sat down on the sofa and began to write.
Its days like these I really need you. It was my first real shopping trip without you. I last went to get a dress for your funeral. This though was different. I really missed your company as I paraded through the large number of shops in the arcade. I miss you telling me what was right for me to wear.
But now I have to do this alone. I wasn’t entirely alone today. I had a colleague over from work called Sarah. She helped me. She thought a floral dress would suit me. She had a real eye for style. She chose a nice floral dress with beige high heel platform shoes. It looks really nice mum. It makes me feel all grown up. I never knew how well this style of clothes suited me.
Sarah said I looked wonderful in this outfit. To be honest mother, I felt really good. I actually felt like a woman.
Before looking for these clothes, we had a drink in All Bar One. I don’t know if you knew this bar. It is a pleasant bar. I drank a white wine with soda. They call it a Spritzer. It was the first time I had ever drank this type of drink. I only had one glass. Even by drinking one glass made me blush when two gentlemen came down to sit beside us.
One of the men chatted to Sarah. I didn’t know what to say. I have never spoken to any male person outside of work without you present. It felt really strange. The men told us they were accountants and they had their own business. They seemed quite charming. They both had dark hair, and wore suits. They seemed to be quite well spoken too.
I then made my excuses mum. I didn’t want us to be seen as desperate. So I suggested to Sarah we’d leave them to it.
Then just as I got up, one of them asked to meet us on Friday. And so it had been agreed. I am going on my first proper date, and Sarah is coming too.
At the moment I don’t want any commitments of false promises. I just want to discover Mr Right one step at a time. The world is vast and there are hundreds of lonely men out there, who are all looking for their ideal women and vice versa.
I want to find and settle down with a man that you would be happy with. It is only then will I then settle down and allow myself to become his wife.
Well mum, that is all I have to say at the moment. Life in the house is lonely without you. I miss you so much. Mr Willows has been a great help. He calls on me from time to time to see how I am, and drink a cup of tea with me.
Maybe one day we might after all become more than just friends and neighbours. Still this is a long way off at the moment. I need to discover what love is, and what the ideal man is for me.
I now have to let you go, as I am returning back to work for the first time since you have passed away. I wish you a goodnight. I shall keep you updated and let you know how things are going.
Lots of Love your daughter Jemima.
Jemima then closed her book. She placed it on the table in the living room, and retired to bed. It was there that she started to lie awake dreaming about the evening excursion, and the next day at work. Before finally falling into a deep sleep, taking her into the following morning.