An assortment of outfits lay strewn across the bed as Lorraine deliberated over which to wear. It was pointless asking for Richard’s opinion. He found it almost too hard to raise his eyes from the TV set these days, as he sat slumped in an armchair, can of beer in one hand, remote control in the other.
Ever since her husband had been made redundant six months before, he had become morose and and sullen, taking the blow as if it were a personal dig at him. Instead of getting out of the house and trying to find work, he had become a couch potato. A miserable, beer swilling, unshaven layabout.
Of course Lorraine had tried everything she could to bring Richard back to his feet, but all to no avail. It seemed to her that the wonderful man that she had married over twenty two years ago had been swallowed up by this stranger who sat constantly in the same position in the lounge, day in and day out.
With a sigh, she chose the emerald green dress which brought out the colour in her eyes, or so Richard used to tell her. She struggled briefly with the zipper, and once in place, looked at herself in the mirror. Not quite the figure I used to have in my twenties, she thought, but still at fifty two that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Carefully, she applied her make-up, all the time wondering what point there was in staying with Richard. Yes, she supposed she still loved him; well, the ghost of him anyway, but was that enough?
Face done and hair finally styled the way that her husband used to like it, she slipped into her heeled black shoes and fastened a gold chain around her neck. Her twentieth anniversary present from Richard. He used to care then.
With a heavy heart, Lorraine left the sanctity of the bedroom to tell Richard that she was about to go. There he was, as usual, slouched in the armchair, beer can in hand, watching the evening news.
“I’ll be off soon” she ventured. “As soon as Christine toots her horn.” His gaze didn’t waver from the lighted screen. “Are you sure you don’t mind me having a night out with the girls love?” She tried her hardest to coax an answer from him.
“No, no of course not.” Richard muttered more to himself than anyone else.
“How do I look?” she pressed him further.
A noisy slurp from his can, “Fine.”
From outside came the tinny rasp of a car horn. Lorraine picked up her purse and made for the door. Turning back, she could have sworn that she saw a lone tear rolling down Richard’s cheek before being angrily wiped away. He must know that he was losing her. That much was certain. It was a shame that he refused to do anything about it. Not bothering say goodbye, she closed the front door behind her. She could live without him. She had done fine before he came along and she could do just as well now…she hoped.
Decision made, she fought desperately to hold back her tears as she climbed into the front seat of her friend’s car, and she forced a bright smile on her face so that she wouldn’t have to explain herself to the other three women all looking forward to a night out on the tiles.
By the time the four of them arrived at the cocktail bar the place was already filling up with a fine assortment of people. They managed to find a small table against a wall and seated themselves around it, just before the house band started their first number.
Lorraine tried her hardest to contribute to the conversation. Talk of husbands, children, decorating, all the subjects that she was familiar with, but least wanted to discuss. She found her thoughts drifting away. She still heard the dulled hubbub of conversation, but it sounded as though it was coming from another world.
In her mind she could see Richard’s face as it was all those years ago, on their wedding day. Eager, joyful and full of life. She could envisage him at the birth of their beautiful baby girl, so adoring, caring and protecting. She pictured him breezing in through their front door after work, always a smile on his face no matter how awful his day had been. Finally she pictured him as he was when she left the house earlier that evening. Unshaven, sweaty, lazy, mean. She felt tears prick at her eyes once more, so she dragged herself back into the meaningless conversation continuing around her.
Her friends were now pointing out various attractive men to each other, and saying “Oooh, if only I weren’t married!”. The way things were going, thought Lorraine, I soon wont be. She couldn’t help that notice though that every man they pointed out already had a woman holding on to their arm. She supposed she would have to start looking for someone else too. The thought filled her with fear, and why bother anyway, as no-one could replace the man she had married, and too many were the same as the man she was about to leave.
She stirred the melting ice around in her gin and tonic, and had decided to make a concerted effort to involve herself more in her friends’ conversations when a hand reached across her and placed a beautiful, still budding rose on the table. She turned in surprise to see the pimply face of a young rose seller.
“Courtesy of the man in the blue suit standing at the end of the bar.” He informed her gleefully.
Her friends all oohed and ached and stretched their necks out in an effort to see Lorraine’s romantic admirer.
“Can’t see anyone Lorraine. He must of gotten embarrassed and left” stated Christine. “Oh what a shame.”
“Won’t Richard be jealous!” they scandalised. “A secret admirer!”
Lorraine pressed the small petals to her nose and breathed in their scent, before turning towards the bar. Her friends were right. There was absolutely no-one in a blue suit.
Wait a minute though, she caught a glimpse of a smoky blue colour behind a young man who stood at the bar with his friends. As he moved away a fraction, she saw him, her admirer, and her heart caught in her throat. He was well dressed with slicked back hair, clean shaven with the most wonderful smile, and to top it off, he didn’t have his wife hanging on his arm like all the other men in the bar.
He met her gaze and rose from his stool. He walked several paces towards her, but stopped as he must have noticed the uncertain look on her face. Lorraine had forgotten what it was like to be admired, and a deep blush filled her cheeks.
Hesitancy forgotten, the man continued to cross the crowded floor, and upon reaching Lorraine he asked politely if he would care to dance with him. Her friends all eagerly answered for her “Yes! Yes! She’d love to” and pushed her to her feet. Lorraine was too surprised to protest.
They danced without speaking, and he held her tightly in his arms as though he never wanted to let her go again. When the song ended Lorraine looked into his eyes, smiled and said “Welcome back Richard. I missed you so much.”