Monday, September 17, 2007

On the radio

It was hearing the song on the radio that made her do it. It was an old song, a doo-wah song from the sixties – some female trio, she couldn't remember their name now.

They used to sing it together, the three of them behind the prefab classrooms during the breaks between classes. Shelly had had a good voice and knew the words; Trish had memorised the dance from watching the singers on Top of the Pops – hands go here, fingers point just like that. How they'd giggled. She'd tagged along to make up the numbers. After a few days, and a few arguments along the way, they'd worked it all out. Three new women ready to take the world in a synchronised strut, pitch almost-perfect.

What had happened to them?

She had been in the kitchen when the song had come on. She hadn't even realised it was playing until she noticed her hand scrubbing the big oven, with its six cooking rings, in time to the music. Then she'd stopped working and started listening, a small smile across her small, triangular face. Good memories.

Now she was sitting at Mrs Smith's table. Mrs Smith had a large house which needed cleaning twice a week, forty pounds cash-in-hand, no questions asked. One time, Trish had asked her: what do you want to do when you leave this dump? Well, she'd got what she wanted. The job had been routine, stacking shelves and playing checkout girl, but it gave her the pay packet at the end of the week – her passport to some good times. The husband had been more of a disappointment: he still was, she thought, but they'd worked well together, got their names on the waiting list, got into their own flat before the kids started arriving.

Trish had wanted riches; Shelly had wanted fame. A woman with a tight waist and a good voice could dream of record contracts. She'd not fitted in with those plans – she was more of a Babs Windsor than a Twiggy in those days, she mused as she got the mop out and made a start on the kitchen flagstones.

She hadn't thought of them for ages. Years. Most of the time she lost herself in worries about her boys as she hoovered, or shopped, or cooked, or the never-ending saga of her mother's illness. Suddenly there was an emptiness in her. She needed to know if her school mates – friends forever – had achieved their dreams.

Mrs Smith had a telephone in her kitchen. She picked it up as if to polish it. Maybe she could phone the radio station, tell them about how the three of them had performed that song. She'd heard others phone up and reminisce; it was one of those phone-in shows, in any case.

Mrs Smith wouldn't mind one phone call, surely.

It was strange, the way her fingers already knew the number to dial.

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