This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 1125 words.
Roxanne and Roland.
Anthony had a sales event at the showroom that Friday evening. Something they did occasionally, in the hope of attracting customers on their way home from work, when they didn’t have to get up early the next day. It ran until nine, so he wouldn’t be home until late. He had told her not to bother with dinner for him, as he would treat the staff to a curry, once they had closed up.
Roland was coming home from school with Finn, having taken a bag with changes of clothes into school with him. She would pick them both up when she finished work at three-thirty. For the first time ever, Roxanne was carefully choosing what to wear, based on how she would look later on. As a rule, she would just get changed once they got home, and think nothing of it. But the rules had changed, after what Finn had told her. She must be careful not to appear provocative, perhaps even tone down her make-up, wear something mumsy for a change.
If only the butterflies in her stomach would stop fluttering.
The day went by in a haze. Finn tracked him down between classes, and tried to tell him what to say, and how to behave around Roxanne later. “Be cool, maybe even act not bothered at all. I reckon that will make her even more interested, believe me”. Roland was feeling a bit sick, and threw away the chicken sandwich his mum had packed for lunch. He tried to eat the apple cake, but that tasted too sweet, so joined the sandwich in the litter bin. The biggest worry was that Roxanne would confront him. Tell him he was being silly, and that he was not allowed to think about her like that, much less discuss her body with her son. He had visions of being taken home after dinner, following a serious telling-off. Then having to come up with an explanation for his mum, as to why he was no longer welcome at the Mellor’s.
When Finn told him that his dad was going to be working late, that was some relief. At least he wouldn’t have to face his disapproval too, if it all kicked off. Perhaps he should just say he was ill, and then none of it could happen.
But he knew he wouldn’t do that.
Roxanne walked through the door into work as usual. But the reaction she got was far from usual. Young Lucy looked up from her desk, and smiled. “Wow, Rox, you look great today. Special occasion?” The door to the staff room opened, and Emmanuel emerged. He threw up his hands. “Mrs Roxanne Mellor, is it really you? Have you got a part in a film? He shook his fingers until they made a snapping noise. “You are one fine-looking ladeee!”
She had to admit she felt good, and looked pretty good too. It had taken just seconds for her to abandon the idea of looking mumsy, and she had gone for her best minor celebrity look instead. Party make-up, a nice dress, smart shoes, and everything matching. She would pop out and see her hairdresser Sandra in the lunch break, and get a quick wash and trim. With Anthony working, she was planning to take the boys to that burger place they liked, the one with an Uncle Sam statue outside.
And at no time would she allow herself to ask why. Why she had gone with the look that had startled her colleagues, or why she felt as if she was going on a date with her son, and his handsome friend. No, she wouldn’t allow herself to think about that at all.
It was just a normal Friday.
After lunch, there was just one mortgage appointment expected. She hoped it wouldn’t take too long, so she could be out at her usual time. But the young couple that arrived didn’t have a clue. They didn’t earn anywhere near enough money for the property they were interested in, and what they believed to be significant savings wouldn’t do as the deposit on the cheapest studio flat on the agency’s books. As a result, they reluctantly agreed to consider some other properties, then asked her to show them the paper details and photos of them. She would have preferred to hand them over to one of her colleagues, tell them to make another mortgage appointment when they had a definite place in mind. But everyone was busy, so she was stuck with the annoying pair.
It wasn’t like her to get so riled about difficult customers. She had a great deal of experience, and knew that at least half the customers were either unsuitable, or just blatant time wasters. As it got closer to three, she was unaware of constantly checking her watch. “Are we keeping you from something? Have you got something better to do?” The slobbery-sounding voice of the man made her jump. And she reacted, something she never did. “It’s just that I have to pick my son up from school. I only work until three-thirty you see, and I don’t think we are going to make any progress in the next thirty minutes”. As far as slobbery-voice man was concerned, that was the wrong answer. “Well you shouldn’t make appointments then, should you? Get us someone else, someone who doesn’t have to go home early”. He folded his arms, grinning at his dull wife.
For the first time in years, Roxanne allowed herself to get angry. As her voice raised in reply, she didn’t even notice her busy colleagues all turning to look at her in surprise. “There is no need to adopt that attitude, Mr Palmer. It is not my fault that you don’t earn enough to buy the house you want, and also not my fault that you haven’t saved up a big enough deposit”. Emmanuel stood up from his desk, and looked back at Roxanne, to check she was alright. He had never heard her raise her voice before. The man stood up, and turned to his wife. “Come on, we’re going. We will go to someone else, someone who appreciates our business”. He turned back to Roxanne. “And you, you can stick your mortgage up your arse, lady”. Once they had left, she got her things together, logged off the terminal, and started to leave to go home. Emmanuel left his customers for a second, and came back to talk to her.
“You alright, Rox? What happened there? is something wrong? She shook her head. “Just a stroppy customer with no money. See you Monday. I’m fine”.
Inside, she knew she was anything but fine.