the little felt hat ...
She hadn't read that letter in a few years. She wasn't really sure why she still kept it. For a few moments her hand hovered before dropping back to her lap and her gaze unhooked from the gay little robins darting about on the wall paper and drifted.
Shed been so delighted with herself when she'd ordered it online just a few weeks ago now. Browsing through hundreds of pictures of wallpaper patterns she'd spotted the little union jack breaseted robins and felt instantly happy. She'd kept on searching for an hour or so but every now and again - her heart snuck back to peek at the cheeky little fellows until finally with a rush of devilment she ordered 3 rolls sing the joint account credit card.
Frank made a face when it arrived but she knew he was more bothered about how difficult it would be to hang than he was about how daft they were. He chastised her for not making allowances for a repeat pattern and tutted.
"You'll be lucky if there's enough paper, you've left me no margin for a mistake". He grumbled. Frank never made mistakes.
God if only life left you some margin for errors. She was thinking unkindly.
She'd write a few notes in those margins to remind herself that she used to have fun. She used to wear racy undies and high heels and get her hair done every week at Deadlock and Barnet's on the high street.
She'd write his name in the margins too - over and over again like a magic spell. The more times she wrote his name the more real he would become.
Maybe that's why she'd kept the letter, as a talisman of hope, you never know maybe he's still around and still thinking about her - all these years later. Wondering about her, remembering her lovely smile and that silly hat she used to wear.
Suddenly struck by a feverish need to try that hat on for size 40 years later she jujped up from where she was sitting at the end of the bed and lumbered over to the big chair in the corner. Her first attempts to drag it half way across the room met with cussed resistance from his mother's tatty old persian rug. He'd dragged that thing from house to house claiming it was an heirloom. The one time she'd tried to pass it on her son's wife had politely batted away her suggestion it was time to receive granny's legacy.
If only she'd been bold like these warrior women she saw in the cafes and on the bus now-a-days. They wouldn't have settled... They'd have no need for margins. They'd be writing their stories in block capitals across clean white sheets of paper, not trying to map out their life on the back of a gas bill. Making domestic to-do lists to occupy their time.
She gave the rug an unnecesarily vicious little kick to move it out of her way and returned to her panting effort to moe the chair close enough to her wardrobe to better reach the hat box at the back of the top shelf.
She'd wanted a beautiful built in wardrobe like the ones in her catalogues with drawers and two types of hanging space and special dividers for socks and even a place to hang up your silk scarves. Not that she had any silk scarves. He said it was too expensive so she'd settled for a couple of units from Ikea and he'd made a few more shelves at the top for her storage boxes. It looked ok, quite good really. It was just she had dreamt of a beautiful expanse of oak laminated wood and soft sprung doors opening like whispers and revealing a wonderfully neat and organised life.
What she'd got was cheap and cheerful, like her little robins. Although at £50.00 a roll they were emphatically not cheap. (She hadn't told Frank about how much the robins had actually cost, and he would never in a million years believe she'd pay £150 to wallpaper a chimney breast).
She managed to drag the chair, another hideous relic from his mother, a woman with little taste and less money and she wondered about fetching her proper shoes to climb up onto it's sturdy back to reach her box.
She'd got this far, without them and besides she didn't want to stand on indoor furniture with her outdoor shoes. She clambered up onto the chair in her slippers and reached for the box.
Pulling off the lid she spots her old hat immediately and reaches in the felt feels a bit stiff under her rough old fingers and as she touches the lace fascinator she sees his face as clear as it was back then - smiling at her, without a word, just letting her know that she'd be the one, if she smiled back.
She's lost for a moment, confused by the powerful jolt of memory and the ridiculous ache of emotion that grabs her low in the pit of her stomach. As she puts her hand out to steady herself she misses her mark and tips over the back of the chair headlong into the wardrobe, taking armfuls of her clothes with her. Her good mac and her best weddign outfit all rip from the hangers as she clatters forward in a heap, crushing her precious little hat in her fist as she lands and ruining it forever.
She lets out a gasp of anguish at her folly and lays quietly in a heap at the bottom of her horrible wardrobe in a pile of matronly tweed and silently begins to cry....