Jordan in Okarito

by Kiwi

Chapter 13 - Mrs Dale - 1

Mrs Dale went shopping. It was a big day, she'd been saving the coupons for months and, at last, the card was full and she qualified for the free gift.

She didn't really need another one, she already had 2 carving knives, one large and one small, but it would be nice to get something new for once. That didn't happen very often.

She should, she knew, be grateful for the old-age pension. Without it she would have nothing at all and then how would she live? She wouldn't, she supposed. Useless old women like her, alone and with nothing, must've shrivelled up and died not so very long ago.

But it was so hard, watching every cent. There never seemed to be enough.

She checked herself in the mirror before going out the door and hated what she saw there – a gray-haired and impecunious, bent-over, little old lady. That wasn't her! Well, yes it was but it wasn't how she felt and not how it should've been.

Where had the years of promise gone and where was the laughing-eyed girl who used to look back from mirrors? This was not how she'd thought her life was going to be.

Still, she forced a smile – mustn't grumble. At least she was reasonable healthy, she could walk to the shops and back – not everyone could do that. And she had a rented home to come back to.

She adjusted the scarf to cover her thread-bare blouse, straightened her coat and went out of the door. It was a nice day. Probably too nice to be wearing a heavy woollen coat, but it was the best she owned and you have to be tidy when going downtown.

She left her Council Flat and went down to the Supermarket to do her weekly shopping.

That took most of the morning, but she didn't mind. It was warm and bright there with pleasant music playing and lots of people around. Most of them were strangers, but there were some familiar faces and several smiled at her.

She did like seeing the little ones, so young and carefree with someone to see to their every need. Once, long ago, she was a young mother with little ones of her own. Now she was the slow and annoying old lady holding up the line wherever she went. Where had the years gone?

Some people were annoyed and not everyone was patient with her. There was much huffing and puffing and several pushed past her roughly. That was embarrassing and she tried to move out of the way, as much as she could but the aisles were so narrow in places.

It could not be helped and she couldn't afford to hurry. She had her list, of course. She always shopped with a list to save her from wasting money on impulse buys.

She had a menu of meals worked-out for the next week. That never varied except when she could buy something different using the coupons carefully clipped from the 'mailers', (junk mail).

Today was a very good day. Not only was she getting the knife, the sarsaparilla cordial was on special and she had coupons for two 1 litre bottles, which would keep her in cold drinks for about 2 months.

A rather rude boy pushed in ahead of her at the checkout counter. She should've said something, but didn't. She didn't like to make a fuss. She stood quietly and waited her turn. The boy working on the checkout wasn't much better. (Perhaps they were brothers?) He was frowning, grumpy and surly the sulky little mister!

'It can't be easy, standing in one place and dealing with a never-ending line of customers all day long, but it wouldn't hurt him to smile sometimes.'

She went out of her way to be as smilely and pleasant as she could. But it didn't work, he was worse if anything. She almost didn't trouble him by asking for the carving knife, but no – she'd been looking forward to claiming it and she wanted her knife.

He sighed loudly to make sure she knew what a nuisance she was being and he used the store's intercom to call for "one of the cheap and cruddy give-away knives." That almost took the shine off it for her.

She left the store with her two bulging bags of groceries and her gleaming new knife, still in the cardboard and plastic presentation box, standing in the deep front-pocket of her coat.

It was darker outside than in. The sky had clouded over and there was a definite chill in the air – it was going to rain. Now she was glad of her thick and heavy coat. She cast a worried look at the sky, looked ruefully at the taxis, which she could not afford to use, and she started walking and hoping she'd get home before the rain started.

That didn't work, of course. It was raining heavily before she reached the corner of her street. There was no shelter in sight and nothing to do but to carry on, in the rain.

How did the old song go? 'Laughing and singing in the rain'? Huh! Fred Astaire must've been crazy. She couldn't remember how the film's story-line went, but he was probably in love, they usually were when they were acting like idiots.

Love. It was a long time since she'd known any of that. Once she was loved. Once she had a husband, a son and a daughter. They were all gone now. It is just not right to outlive your children – that should not happen!

Now she had no-one and nobody loved her. She walked, not singing and laughing, just trudging wearily and walking in the rain.

She had a car once, but even as careful as she was, she had to let it go when it needed major repairs that she could not afford. Now she couldn't even afford a taxi on a wet day.

Her spirits were already low, and then it got worse – the bottoms fell out of both of the supermarket bags, her groceries crashed on the wet road and scattered everywhere.

Someone, a tall dark man in a long dark coat, brushed past her almost knocking her over. He didn't stop to help, just walked away quickly and disappeared around the corner.

He'd stood on her box of 6 eggs and broken the lot of them! All of her eggs for a week, gone. Both of the bottles of sarsaparilla were broken too.

When she bent down to salvage what she could, she realised that her brand-new knife was gone from her pocket. It hadn't fallen out, it was there just a minute ago. That man must have taken it. Had he cut her bags open as well? He probably did.

That was the last straw and it was all too much. Overcome, she sat on the wet road and she cried.

"You're not having a good day, are you?"

"Huh?" She looked up and a boy, a teenage boy, was kneeling in the rain next to her and gathering her scattered groceries together.

"What a rotten thing to happen. But, don't worry, we'll soon get all this picked up. Good thing that everything comes wrapped in plastic, eh?"

"Yes, that's a good thing." She smiled through her tears and watched him. What a nice boy! Teenagers weren't all bad.

He was a stranger to her, but she knew who this boy was – he was a Rodden, Kathleen Rodden's grandson. He was new in town and he was the one who was hiring the canoes out to tourists, down at the lagoon.

Tyler – that was his name. Tyler Rodden. Such a good boy!

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