Originally published: 17.07.15
Barbara Millicent Roberts wriggled her toes into her high heels, smoothed her pencil skirt over her slim hips and leaned into the hallway mirror to reapply her lipstick. Squinting at her reflection, she smoothed an arched eyebrow and gave a self-satisfied smile.
“Not bad for an old gal,” she murmured in a sassy but still respectable mid-Western drawl.
Though she’d never confess her age or give in to the demands for comfort her body made as the years went by, she couldn’t help thinking back to her New York debut as a teen model back in 1959. What a knock-out she’d been, with her bouffant hair, chevron striped bathing suite and high heeled mules for poolside elegance. She still was, she noted with pride. No sensible shoes or baggy trouser suits for her, thank you very much.
Mincing into her all-pink vanity suite (nothing so pedestrian as a bathroom), she stooped to place the tell-tale Tena packaging and tube of varicose vein cream at the very back of the cupboard, far beyond where Ken’s prying but increasingly myopic eyes would reach. A tress of platinum blond hair escaped its bobby pin as she stood up, but she decided to leave it untamed, to give her a gamine look she knew men loved so.
Ken liked to find her looking ‘natural’ when he got home after a long day on the golf course.
He also expected a perma-grin and smooth forehead on the face of his loving wife of all these years. Fortunately, Barb had that taken care of – thanks to monthly visits to that nice man down town with the syringes. A frozen expression of pleasantry was a small price to pay, wasn’t it?
A white Angora cat twirled figures-of-eight round her elegant ankles as she entered the all-American, fully equipped kitchen. Barb opened the door to the garden but was met with a malicious stare from the feline. She got the message, opened a tin of tuna and scooped it into the bowl on the floor. As she did so, a discreet ladder ran unfelt up the leg of her pantyhose.
Time to prepare dinner. Ken liked his meals to be ready on the table when he walked through the door. Barbara tied a frilled apron round her neat waist, smoothed the material against her heaving (yet strangely still pert) bosom and opened the door to the freezer. Tuna casserole or chicken pot pie? Running a manicured index finger along the spines of the neatly stacked TV dinner boxes, she counted how many were left of each tasty selection (wouldn’t do to give her man the same meal two days running, would it now?). Tuna casserole it was then. With just the merest of tremours, she removed the tray from its packaging, delicately pierced its membrane and placed it reverently in the microwave, ready to zap when she got the call that Ken was on his way home.
Meanwhile, it was time to gather in the washing from the line in the back yard. She sighed as she spotted her neighbor, Crazy June, sitting in her sun lounger with a scandalous Long Island Tea in her hand. With her shapeless shorts, ludicrous sunhat, and weather-beaten wrinkles, June was everything Barbara tried so hard not to be. And yet, she always had a glint of mischief in her eye and a big grin on her face. And she was always trying to rope Barb into some escapade which would certainly chip her nail polish.
Plastering a plastic smile on her lips, she gathered her laundry basket and tippy-toed out into the yard. The clack of her heels against the crazy paving betrayed her presence and June looked up from her book.
“Hey, Barbie girl,” she cawed, leaping up and galloping to her open kitchen door. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
She emerged with a second tall glass of the lethal amber liquid tinkling with ice and handed it over the picket fence.
“There’s a Woodstock Reunion at the Seniors’ Club in a while. How about you and me dig out our old love beads and hit the scene?”
Barb managed to hide her sneer of distaste at the sight of June’s greying brassiere strap as her too-big t-shirt slipped off her shoulder. She smiled sweetly and took a sip from the glass, hiding a shudder as the strong taste of alcohol hit her palate like a block of concrete wrapped in a slice of lemon. She remembered the late ‘60s – she still had the psychedelically-patterned bell bottomed and teetering platforms to show for it – but had no desire to re-visit those days. June, on the other hand, probably didn’t remember much of them at all.
“I don’t think so, June,” she said. “Ken will be home soon and you know he likes us to spend our evenings at home.”
She turned smartly, and headed towards the perfectly hung laundry now dry on the line. In her haste to escape her friendly but slovenly neighbour she snagged her skirt on a rose bush (pink, of course). Gathering in the linen, she smiled coldly, took her drink with a promise to wash and return the glass and headed inside.
The phone was ringing. It was Ken. Still at the golf club. He’d run into an old friend and wouldn’t be coming home til late.
“Don’t wait up, honey,” he cooed down the line. “You need your beauty sleep.”
That was it. Five innocent words. But words that made the usually rose-tinted Barb see red.
She downed her drink in one swig, swiped an angry tear from her immaculately made-up eye, took the tuna casserole from the microwave, dumped it on the floor and stormed upstairs. Five minutes later she came down, resplendent in bell bottoms and love beads, and called out the kitchen door.
“June! I’ve changed my mind. Let’s go, sister.”
But not before she took her pink ballpoint and wrote a note to Ken in looping letters on the message pad on the refrigerator:
Your dinner’s in the cat, and I’m finally having a life.
If you have a problem, you can kiss my plastic behind.
Barbara Millicent Roberts was last seen getting into a camper van with a Joe Cocker lookalike after her on-stage Joplin homage at the West Sweetings Seniors’ Centre. If anyone knows of her whereabouts, please call Ken Roberts on the Pink Alert hotline, sponsored by Mattel, on 555-……
She Means Well: I’m a feminist, loud and proud, but I’m also married and have a son. I demand to be treated equally based on my qualities and abilities, not the ‘equipment’ I was born with – but I am a firm believer that humour is one of life’s essential and that, yes, silliness DOES save lives. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, mostly in a mildly humourous way, including life as a transplanted Brit living in Greece, the imagined thoughts of my cat in The Kitty Letter Chronicles, things that make me go “Hmmmm” and things that make me go “Aaaaagh!”