My Bundle Of Joy: Part Forty-Two

This is the forty-second part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.

News came from Olly, in a phone call. They were moving house. And not just around the corner, almost a hundred miles away, to the coast. He was going to rent a bedsit near his office, and travel home at weekends. I wondered why he had even bothered to let me know, but supposed it was to make it clear he wouldn’t be seeing Leah much. If at all.

The real reason came in a long email, two days later. The extra expense, Leah getting older, blah blah. The bottom line was that he wanted me to try to get her into some kind of permanent care facility once she was eighteen. Then he would reduce his payments to the bare essentials she needed, and I could sell the house and hand over his share of the profits.

Lauren must have really been working hard on him.

Part of me wanted to refuse to consider it, just to spite him. Though I really thought it would not only be better for Leah, but for me too. I replied saying I would think about it, and make some enquiries. That kept him off my back for a while.

That Christmas, dad stopped over for a couple of nights. We made the best of it, and Leah enjoyed her turkey and mince pies at least. Ronnie was spending the holiday with miss skinny’s family, and had dropped off dad’s present of a bottle of single malt four days earlier.

Once Leah was settled for the night, I sat chatting to dad as he enjoyed his whisky. He was telling me about the news. Not having a television meant I didn’t really keep up. I heard some gossip around Barbara’s flower shop, but her and Emily mainly talked about soap operas and reality shows. I knew nothing about any of those, and they thought it was really weird that I didn’t own a television. I doubted that either of them had read a book since they had to at school.

Dad was telling me about some new virus that was killing people in China, and turning up in Europe too. He seemed really gloomy about it, so I turned on my laptop and we read the latest updates on some news websites. Dad was nodding, pointing at the screen. “Look love, if we don’t stop people flying in from all around the world, it will be here soon too. There’s no cure for it you know”.

He was a worrier by nature, so I let him ramble on. But It didn’t really concern me too much was was happening in other countries. I had enough to worry about struggling to cope with my daughter.

Then not long into the new year, it was here, and everyone was scared shitless.

After that, I began to check the laptop more often, and everything started to speed up. Barbara told me she might have to close down the shop until it was over. There was some talk about the government paying the wages of people like me who got laid off if that happened. The supermarket was sold out of toilet rolls, most pasta, and for some strange reason, tomato puree. Dad stepped in with a bundle of toilet rolls from the huge stock he always kept in his shed.

But then he told me he had better not come round anymore for a while. If he caught it, it might well kill him, and he didn’t want to take the chance of ending up in hospital even if it didn’t.

The next bad news came from the day centre a week or so later. Because of the dangers to staff and clients, they were going to have to close the facility soon. They called people like Leah ‘clients’. That meant that even if the shop didn’t close, I would have to tell Barbara I couldn’t do the deliveries, as I would now be back to caring for Leah all the time.

I tried to get my head around it all, but the amount of information was both contradictory, and confusing. Washing hands, but no need for a mask. Work from home if you could, and only go out for essential stuff like groceries. But then if you had a job in a supermarket, or you were a nurse, you had to carry on as normal.

Washing Leah’s hands seemed pointless. She hardly used them, after all. But I was soon doing it all the time.

Just in case.

Her last post. Your job? Say #GoodbyeToo @ SCVincent

Please use the link to read Sue’s full post. Courageous, and inspiring. We are losing one of the best bloggers and writers this community has ever known.

Barb Taub

Today Sue Vincent shared what may be her last blog post. It’s so like Sue that it’s a message of hope as well as gentle regret.

Sue has given so much and so freely—to family, friends, and uncounted thousands she’s touched online. This post of loss and love is deeply personal. But it’s also universal. The world has faced loss and grief on an unprecedented scale over the past year. Sue is part of that pandemic recording. It might not be the coronavirus that ultimately beats her (a far older and even more egalitarian cancer will be credited with that victory) but it played a lead role in delaying treatment which might have bought time.

So here’s my challenge. Please share this post. Please share a tweet and add names of those you’ve lost this past year. Because the world needs to remember every loss, every person whose death was…

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My Bundle Of Joy: Part Forty-One

This is the forty-first part of a fiction serial, in 727 words.

After two weeks, I had the job sorted, and the routine with Leah was working well. When I had no deliveries left, I used to help out by sweeping up, and taking stuff to the bins. Barbara seemed pleased with me, and Emily appreciated the fact that I got stuck in to non-driving stuff.

The day centre people sent a letter home with Leah’s driver one afternoon, suggesting I either gave her more exercise, or reduced her food intake. She was heavy for her age and build, and needed to lose weight. I knew that would be a struggle, as when she wanted something to eat, she just repeated “Gah” until her mouth went too dry to say it. But the thought of doing circuits around the park with a teenager on a set of reins made me inclined to try the diet.

I also went back to the dating site, and got chatting online to the three men I liked the best. I chose them for their interests, background and location. None of them looked that fantastic, but then neither did I. I finally fixed a date with one of them, after dad agreed to sit with Leah.

His name was Alan, and he was forty-nine, and divorced. I arranged to meet him in a chain pizza place that I could walk to from home. Nothing fancy, and not expensive. I memorised his photo and when I got there, he was already at a table for two not far from the window. He stood and waved when he saw me looking in, and I felt like turning around and going home when I saw him. He did vaguely resemble the photo facially, but that was all. It must have been taken ten years earlier.

But I was there, so went in, determined to be up front about my disappointment. I told him I only just recognised him, and he mumbled something about putting on a little weight since the photo was taken. That left him very much on the back foot for the rest of the time I was there. He talked a lot about his kids, nothing about his job, and didn’t mention the fact that I had a daughter with learning difficulties. But he did manage to steer the conversation around to sex, telling me that he as always very careful, and used ‘protection’.

All those years without meeting anyone had left me out of the loop, that was certain. When was it acceptable to talk about safe sex in the first ninety minutes of a date? I ate my pizza, declined more wine, and told Alan I didn’t think we were suited. I insisted he take twenty pounds for my half of the bill, and left for home leaving him sitting there.

My dad laughed when I told him, and I had to chuckle too.

Two weeks later, I had another try, on a Friday night. Dad did the babysitting duties, and I met Tony in a local wine bar. He was very different to Alan. relaxed, confident, and exactly like his photo. He was fifty-three, and I got the impression he had been doing this a long time. We chatted easily, and he thought my job delivering flowers sounded ideal for my situation. I really liked him, and went to use the toilet, deciding if he asked me out again, I would say yes.

But when I got back, he was already paying the bill. He kissed me on the cheek, thanked me for the date, and then told me I wasn’t really his type.

That shook my confidence a bit, but not enough to make me cry, or be upset. When I told dad what he had said, he grinned. “That man has no taste, love”.

At work on Monday morning, I was driving to a very posh house with a huge bouquet, and suddenly decided online dating wasn’t for me after all. I hated having to rely on my dad. After all, he wasn’t getting any younger, and now he was on his own he had a chance to do things for himself at long last. I had managed on my own for so long, I had got used to it. And as for sex, I wasn’t really that worried about it anymore.

Unless I met the right man.

Short Thoughts (1)

I spent so much time searching for things I thought I needed, or wanted.

Emotional things, physical things, tactile things.

Possessions in the hand, or of the mind and spirit.

Only to discover I had them all the time, and hadn’t realised.

That they were never what I had expected them to be.