When the weather turned, no one spoke to Anne about anything other than the weather; the same conversation, all day, every day until the sun returned. Glancing occasionally through the bakery window she saw the rain fall like strings of mercury, exploding into black droplets onto the pavement outside. Little drops of gloom, drops of gloom that keep us alive, that others in more remote corners of the globe tempt with elaborate dance. Anne had seen them on the Discovery Channel pounding their leathered feet on the scorched, cracked earth and shaking their rain sticks at the sun and sky. With no breeze to carry the weight of a prayer their cries fall, shattered, parched and trampled underfoot. If the rain did show up the locals danced naked in the downpour, a cause for celebration and song. Rain, Anne mused, as she rearranged her baguettes, was misunderstood and unappreciated just like her.
Anne only ever felt sad when it rained and nothing good ever happened on rainy days.
Meanwhile, Mothers evicted children from cosy car seats into the deluge (to buy bread) while they themselves sat and watched their offspring from behind frantic wipers. As the children battled with stubborn Brollies and millions of razor-sharp droplets falling from a pregnant, murky sky, mother glazed over, mummybot powered down for a few seconds; switched off.
Anne wished that she too could power down for a bit, just pull the plug for a while, but then who would plug her back in again? Why would they plug her back in, to vacuum the lounge, iron shirts, cook and find things? Would she just be forgotten and left under the stairs along with the other broken, unwanted appliances? Best stay plugged in then.
Old women shuffled in, old men shuffled out, young mothers loaded to the brim with toddlers and toddler accessories came and went. Umbrellas were shaken, boots wiped, dolls thrown by scowling babies and the bell above the door would ring her merry tune regardless of the weather; good old bell. Bell only had one thing on her mind, clarity, and for as long as there was clarity she was just as happy to see them go; coming, going, meant no odds to her.
On sunny days the world, Anne’s world, seemed brighter, people were happier and if ‘anything positive’ had plans, ‘anything positive’ would turn up on a sunny day with a spring in his stride and a tuneful whistle on his lips. Why ‘anything positive’ was Masculine Anne didn’t know, Masculine, ‘men’, ‘man’, no she’d fallen for one of those before and he’d died a terrible statistic, what a way to go. Even so, despite his untimely demise Anne was, she must admit; glad to see the back of him, idle bastard that he was.
On sunny days old women spoke about ‘Mrs Whatshername’ and her immoral habits, support tights, supper and the grand kids. Young mothers stressed about new teeth, tantrums, potty training and finding the right school, whereas old men just talked about themselves.
Something happened to men of a certain age Anne noticed, they completely gave up on the rest of humanity, instead they became insular and self obsessed. Nothing new is any good, it’s all bollocks, the internet is Satan, nothing is ever made like it used to be and kids are in need of a bloody good war. Rather than dwell on the state of the world they shut out everyone else but themselves, become blinkered and bitter. Their wives, if they still have them, become ghosts long before their time, shadow people that leave food on the table and wash their husband’s socks while husband spends his time pottering! Pottering never actually achieved anything in Anne’s book, or tinkering for that matter.
Anne could do without a man in her life.
Her late husband, second husband to be precise, never did a hard day’s work in his life and yet gave her three children to look after which when added to the one she already had made four! Husband number one only became husband number one because he got her pregnant at sixteen. Husband number one drank them into debt and desolation; it lasted all of a year. One night he went out with the housekeeping money and never came back. He ended up cuffed and charged with assault, a brawl about something he cared more for than his wife and child. By the time he was released from prison it was over.
Husband number two, well he was a charmer, one of life’s dreamers, if he could have been paid to daydream he’d have made a fortune. Perfect for the busy executive with no time for such folly; pay someone else to do your philosophising, to ponder life’s many unanswerable questions. Safe in the knowledge that those big important questions were being considered by proxy, executive can concentrate on the job at hand. At dinner parties’ people ask executive his opinion on the Anthropic principle or the dilemma of determinism, but he just waves his manicured hand and says, ‘no, no, you see I have a man for all that’.
Anne did love number two, at least for a short while, for as long as make believe can provide, can lift a finger, which to be fair wasn’t that long. While on a pilgrimage to Greece an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald head. Just like Aeschylus before him an eagle mistook his head for a rock, it killed him outright, mid ponder; probably the second person in history to die from a falling reptile.
The rain continued, unabated with no sign of slowing down, rain was getting into her stride and Anne began to take it personally. Only the teenagers seemed not to notice or care about the weather, they slouched through the door on a rainy day just like any other day; rain or shine. Then again, it was hard to tell with teens, they all looked so miserable to Anne, her own included.
There were three official teens at home plus the constant flow of friends. They all just moped about, children lost in a sea of fluctuating hormones, insecurity and doubt. Even so her children had their own personalities, were finding themselves and offered moments of pure enjoyment.
Anne’s youngest was fourteen, adored chemistry, and took real pleasure in blowing up various public buildings and ‘masturbating like a boss’, his words not hers. He also made her a cuppa tea every evening, something that, although she appreciated the thought, worried her. With his love of chemicals and compounds she feared he may be spiking her drink and using her as a guinea pig to test his latest concoction.
Her next, in ascending order, was Millie the Goth chick who would rather be a boy. Millie, at sixteen had a mature figure, but hid her assets under sinister, baggy garments. Millie wore her hair long, not to look feminine but rather to hide her beautiful face! Millie cared for the elderly on Saturday mornings, took the time to hold their hands and listen; like she was looking for an answer. At home, she spent her time locked in her room listening to depressing songs about death, or practicing witchcraft. Some nights Anne would feel Millie climbing into bed with her, in the morning when Anne woke, Millie was gone.
Next there was Peter, eldest of the dreamer’s brood, nineteen years old. Peter never got out of bed before 1pm, only ate bread, which happened to be in great supply, luckily, and studied Philosophy at Winchester. Peter owned a profundity his father could only have dreamed of; absolutely nothing was funny other than, that is, flatulence! Flippancy was pounced upon; weary is the one who dares to jest. Peter would also defend his family to the death, as long as, that is, it didn’t get physical!
Her oldest child, born of husband number one, was thirty and expecting her first baby, making Anne a premature grandmother at forty seven! Heather the outsider, being ginger like her father only added to the sense of isolation. Heather’s partner, an only child, Elwin, encouraged the animosity Heather felt towards her immediate family and for her mother in particular. Even so, despite the quarrels and the tears and the ‘I hate yous’ Anne received a magnificent bouquet of a dozen Tulips every birthday; regardless of her rare Tulip allergy.
Peter’s friend Andrew was the closet clown amongst his merry band of deep thinkers, ‘Les Miserables’ as they were known; he was also the one most likely to get laid any time this millennia. Andrew, on hearing that Anne would be a grandmother soon, told her she would be officially GILF; she didn’t know what GILF meant so googled it.
Anne watched a video clip of a seventy year old women having sex with a twenty year old man, it made her feel quite queasy. It seemed like one of those fairground freak shows of an age gone by; bearded women juggling midgets. ‘Gather round folks, gather round and see the truly gruesome spectacle of Granny Slut being fucked by Dick Van Impaler, the boy with two cocks’.
Anne supposed there was a compliment implied within the remark, not that Anne felt flattered…just old all of a sudden.
For the phrase to exist at all meant that it had a use, that it was employed to describe a desire in younger men to sleep with older women and the desire was far from exceptional. Why men needed to label everything, to slap a tag on it, to own it was beyond her. If woman exploited the same reasoning, older men with children would be FILF!
Why a young man would look twice at her, Anne didn’t know, Surely Men were predisposed to find younger, healthier women more attractive and not just intentionally, but subconsciously. Nature, working behind the scenes, persuades a man to look for a healthy, attractive mate, someone with the right hip to waist ratio, someone that can give him an attractive brood and then stick around long enough to raise them. Anne had seen that on the discovery channel too. On the other hand a young man may not be ready for procreation, in which case an older woman can offer not only experience and wisdom but practise too.
Having been unlucky in love Anne realised that trying to reason with human sexual behaviour, and all its various perversions was pointless; pointless because she had no interest in men any more.
Bell rang at five o’clock with her clarity intact. Anne brushed off her apron and looked up. A young man stood by the buns, there was a twinkle in his eye, and Anne never trusted a twinkle, not since husband number two. Husband number two twinkled her into bed, church and a life of servitude.
‘Hello’ Anne said.
Twinkle wiped rain from his eyes and absently rearranged his hair into a mess. ‘Hello, do you mind if we just skip the weather, it’s all anyone’s talked about today?’ He said with a smile.
‘I know what you mean, depressing isn’t it’
‘Why people feel the need to state the obvious I don’t know, sorry, I’m Luck by the way’
‘Yes, I’m luck personified, I bring fortitude wherever I go’ said luck.
‘Here we go’ thought Anne ‘another charmer on the loose’
‘Oh and what luck do you have for me then?’
‘Day off I’m afraid’
They both laughed.
Anne realised that the young man with the messy hair was attempting to flirt with her; she decided to close the deal. ‘I’m about to close for the day, I got kids your age to get back too, they need…’ she trailed off, what they needed, she wasn’t sure.
Twinkle smiled and said, ‘sorry to waste your time, I just, it’s just that I see you every day and felt that, well on impulse I came in, not sure why? Well I know why, but you are probably married or just not interested in a guy like me’
Anne, despite herself threw twinkle a life line, ‘what is a guy like you?’
Luck stepped a little closer, became serious, dropped the twinkle and cleared his voice. ‘A guy like me marries the first girl he meets and realises, once the confetti has settled, that maybe he’d made a mistake. A guy like me is divorced at twenty five and in need of some fun, is wary of dating sites and finds women his own age a bit boring really’.
‘Oh’ said Anne because ‘oh’ was all she had.
‘A guy like me passes this bakery more times than he’d like to admit but never finds the courage to come in. A guy like me likes you and asked me to tell you. So he’s telling you now.’
‘You don’t know me’ said Anne
‘No but I’d like the chance to’ replied Luck
Anne bit her lip and looked outside; rain had relinquished her grasp on the day and given way to dusk, dusk came early in the autumn. Anne wasn’t autumn yet, maybe late summer, but Luck was definitely summer, maybe late spring? She thought of a poem by Henry Wordsworth, ‘I venerate old age; and I love not the man who can look without emotion upon the sunset of life, when the dusk of evening begins to gather over the watery eye, and the shadows of twilight grow broader and deeper upon the understanding’
‘My husband was killed by a falling reptile’ Anne said, it just came out.
‘Yes just like Aeschylus’
They regarded each other, took in the moment and laughed.