The Single Girl's Calendar - Chapter One
Thursday evening had started well.
‘The air smells so different at the end of a working week,’ said Esmé, stepping from Stylo Stationery onto a busy Birmingham street alongside her two work colleagues.
‘That’s your Friday night saying – surely it doesn’t apply to Thursday night, too?’ laughed Marianne, for whom a Friday night meant a take away and wine, snuggled on the couch alongside her Jimmy.
‘Technically, this is her Friday night,’ said Penny, whose Friday night goal was three loads on an economy washing cycle before watching the comedy hour.
‘But it’s true, smell how beautiful…’ Esmé inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the possibilities of a long weekend. When invoices for premium paper, double-sided sticky tape and multipacks of cheap biros would be forgotten until Monday morning.
A smattering of street litter flurried along the pavement as they stood contemplating Esmé’s plans.
‘I can’t believe Old Steely Stylo granted you the day off,’ added Marianne, checking her wrist watch.
‘She’s deducted it from my holiday entitlement, so no fear of favouritism,’ corrected Esmé, determined to stick to the facts. She wasn’t taking liberties. At Stylo Stationery the aged owner, Mrs Stylo, treated every employee in an equally harsh and abrasive manner.
‘Even so, she must be softening in her old age!’ said Penny, adjusting her scarf. ‘Maybe we should all ask for long weekends come our anniversaries?’
‘Like she cares about me and Andrew!’ said Esmé, attempting to control her lengthy auburn locks in the spring breeze.
‘She cares for no one,’ said Penny.
‘Seven years tomorrow, who’d have thought it?’ laughed Esmé.
‘Not me!’ Marianne laughed as her dark fringe blew about.
‘Exactly, so I need to make the most of it.’ Esmé blushed in anticipation.
‘You never know, he might not need your assistance, he might have pulled his finger out and organised a big surprise all by himself,’ said Penny, having glanced at Marianne.
‘I doubt it. He’d forget his own birthday if I didn’t do a countdown. But tonight, could be the night…’
‘LookArk at you, jumping the gun – you’ll only be disappointed if he doesn’t ask,’ warned Marianne, buttoning her coat against the March chill. ‘Most men need an arm up their back or an unexpected pregnancy to force them into marriage. Take my Jimmy… twelve years of dating and still nothing.’
All three women shook their heads, knowing the tale of woe which would follow, each was word perfect in their practised lines for the retelling of Marianne’s one and only proposal story.
‘You ruined your chances by pushing your luck,’ began Penny.
‘Really?’ said Esmé in a bewildered tone, feigning interest, much like a first-time listener.
‘I made an appointment with the vicar, tea and sponge cake arranged…’ explained Marianne.
‘All proper and above board, then?’ asked Penny, knowing her lines.
‘I drove us to the local church and then bam… delivered the ultimatum – marry me or else!’ announced Marianne, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
‘Such a beautiful declaration of love,’ said Esmé, her eye lashes fluttered at Marianne.
‘Who’d have thought such a proposal could be perceived as a tad too pushy,’ said Penny.
‘Exactly,’ giggled Esmé. ‘Wasn’t it your fairy-tale dream?’
Marianne nodded in a comedic fashion, her maturity enabled her to laugh at herself, unlike five years ago.
‘I’ve lost count of the nights I’d dreamt of him springing such a gallant gesture, driving me to church and booking a wedding date.’
‘Locking himself inside your car and performing a one man sit-in for eight hours, while you pleaded with the vicar, was a definite cry for help,’ said Penny.
‘A definite answer, though,’ said Esmé, who hugged her friend.
‘The vicar was none too chuffed given his wasted sponge cake and tea platter,’ said Marianne, adding. ‘Seriously, Esmé – joking aside, what have you planned?’
Esmé gave a cheeky grin, before she stared at each colleague in a bashful manner.
‘Oh Lord, if that’s not the face of a woman on a mission!’ cried Penny, her wide eyes sparkling.
‘I’ve got it all planned… candlelight, champagne on ice, bubble bath for two, a slinky silk number ordered from Agent Provocateur and a fresh set of Egyptian cotton sheets,’ reeled off Esmé, trying to supress the shiver of anticipation that ran along her spine.
‘A dirty night on clean sheets, hey?’ said Marianne with a knowing smile. ‘That should do it.’
‘And not too much champagne… be giggly but not drunk,’ warned Penny, her blonde curls bobbing from side to side. ‘And above all… let him think it was his idea!’
Good news! Book three, a Christmas story, has been polished and was submitted to my publisher at the beginning of February 2018. I can’t give away too many details until important people give me the green light but here’s a few snippets…