Gracie's GiftToday has been a lovely day; a hint of spring hanging around. I took a long walk in the sweet smelling air, a tender breeze riffling my hair, as though an invisible hand was stroking my head.
I remember when Granny Gracie used to do that when I was a little girl. I’d sit beside her chair on a small stool, and she’d stroke away; there was no need for any words between us. We were silent companions, watching the early evening telly together; just us two eating supper.
She lived alone – had done for years. She used to tell me Granddad had long since departed – to a better place she’d say with a snort. I thought he’d died, but I found out when I was older he’d been in Luton all the time, living with another woman – his Fancypiece.
As I grew older Granny Gracie wasn’t so well; she’d get mixed up, forgetting my name; who I was; where she lived. One time she confused me with Granddad's girlfriend.
“What’s she doing here?” She hissed, pointing a quivering finger accusingly at me. “Why isn’t she with your Dad? She always was a brass–faced one, she was. Fancypiece."
She spat this epitaph out as one would a mouthful of poison, glaring at me – as though her stare could have the power to melt me into a puddle on the spot. But at other times I was still her tea–time pal.
Granny Gracie died years ago, now. I was sad when she did, but it was a blessed release – or so the vicar said at her funeral. She’d had cancer for the last few months – well she’d had it for years we found out in the end, but had kept quiet about it until she couldn’t cover it up anymore. She hadn’t wanted anyone to pity her.
“I had enough of that when He went – y’know?”
Everyone had nodded when she told them this, looking bored and embarrassed. After so many years people seemed to think she should have gotten over the fact her husband had left her and moved on; of course no one said that to her face. Well they didn’t want to give their heads for washing voluntarily, did they?
She asked me to visit her, one Easter when I was home from Uni for the holidays. We had steaming cups of tea and a shop bought lemon cake, cut into large wedges; well as Granny Gracie said – no use her looking after her figure now, and I was still young enough to run it off. At the end of that visit – a saying goodbye visit I realised afterwards – she gave me her engagement ring. The one He had given her before they were married as a promise for forever. She set no store by that now; but thought I might like it as a keepsake.
“Don’t tell your Auntie Pam,” she whispered over the teacups, grasping my hand in her smooth–skinned claw and shaking it. “She’s always wanted it for your cousin. But it’s mine to give… and I like you better.” Then she’d folded my fingers around it and added. “Look after yourself and be a good girl. Don’t do anything that’ll make your mother worry about you… and keep your knees together until you get your own ring on your finger.”
The next time I saw her she was laid in a box, looking a lot smaller than she ever had; but neat.
Now, I wrap my arms around my belly and hug my secret to myself. Nobody knows yet – but if it’s a girl, I’m going to call her Gracie.
And here's another:
War of the RosesWell here it was.
She’d been expecting this letter for six weeks. Decree absolute. Her not-really-learned-to-function, lasted–less–than–a–year marriage had finally been put out of its misery; it was over, dead. She felt sad, defeated… responsible; guilty. After all, if she’d been the wife he’d wanted; if she’d transmuted her very soul into what he needed - wife, whore, mother, nursemaid; if she’d become a quiet biddable doormat, then maybe they would be together still.
But she’d always been a goodtime girl; housework? Pah! That could wait for a rainy day.
Or perhaps they’d met too young, shacked up together too soon, so when they’d finished growing up they were different people to the ones they’d been at the start; ones who wanted very different things from their life–partners?
No matter. She shuddered, sighed and folded the pages together again, carefully inserting them back into the envelope. She’d file them for future reference. Keep them in her records to negate the beautifully copper–plated marriage certificate that should never have been written in the first place.
If she were honest, the union had been dead in the water before it had started.
They’d been under siege from all sides; her parents didn’t approve of him, and his parents – well his dragon of a grandma – wanted a church wedding, and there was no way that was going to happen. Opposition only strengthened their resolve to see it through their way; like children being forbidden a treat, they just wanted it all the more.
The registry service had pleased nobody, the photographs were evidence of that. Glum faces stared out of the frames; smiles had been hard to find, that day.
The only cheerful splash had been the gorgeous flowers the wedding party had pinned to their lapels. Sprays of gardenias and baby’s breath for the women, and roses for the men. Not clinical, passionless standard roses, but heavily scented, old–fashioned heads. They’d filled the chamber on that June day with a heady mix of traditional rose perfume. Delicious.
Now, a small smile hovered around her lips. It seemed that the Pennines weren’t the only block between a Lancashire lass and Yorkshire gent’s wedding. Nobody had ever guessed what she’d done.
Of course she’d been aware of the old rivalry from an early age; royal houses, cricket, cities and everyday folk. The two teams that showed up for the wedding that day backed either the white rose of York or the red rose of Lancaster. And she was a good Mancunian. So when it fell to her to order the corsages, she’d ordered white roses for the men. All but the groom; she’d ordered him a red rose.
And he’d thought it was for love…
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