Some of them came alone, some in pairs and a few in a mini-crowd.
The on-their-owns were quiet, shy, sitting looking at their hands, the table, the walls. Anywhere but at the other women.
The pairs had low, confidential conversations; supporting each other, excluding the rest.
The group were loud, brash and confident as they crashed their way en-masse to the head of the table and started to gleefully pull piles of this and that towards them.
Millie, always worried about being late, had got there first and was now sitting furthest away from the crowd. She was pleased. It meant she could observe without fear of instant inclusion. Why had she come? She wondered. These weren’t her type of people. What was her type of people, come to that? Like herself? No, probably not.
Millie was shy, didn’t normally mix with other people – just cleaned her little house and fed her husband with the food he liked, not the food that she would have liked to eat. He wouldn’t eat that.
“Hello, everyone. Great to see so many new faces.” Amanda’s rich, deep, confident voice echoed around the room and made Millie jump and gulp. Her mouth was dry. There was a large jug of water, surrounded by lots of glasses, in the centre of the table and Millie wished she’d helped herself to a glass when she was on her own. It felt rude to just take though, without being asked.
Now she just looked longingly at the throat-hydrating water knowing she couldn’t just stand up in front of everyone and get a glassful. They would notice her then and being noticed was the last thing she wanted.
“Probably best if we all introduce ourselves and say a bit about what we do.” Oh God, thought Millie, feeling distressed. No. I don’t do anything and my voice won’t work.
“I’m Amanda Fitzgerald and I keep all you motley crew in check”, she laughed. “There are no leaders here this is an equal group but someone has to be able to make decisions, or we’d never get anything done or decided, and that seems to have fallen on my shoulders. Anything you need to know, want to do, or whatever, just ask away. I own the Stables, at the end of the village.”
Amanda sat down and the slow but sure Mexican Wave of females wended its way agonisingly slowly towards Millie. She didn’t really take in who the others were or what they did. She was still in awe, scared actually, of Amanda and her stables. She must have loads of money then. Millie didn’t. All she had each week was a small allowance for food and basics.
Going to the butchers to get the meat for her husband, God she hated going in that place, with its smell of old blood and skinned animals strung around like gruesome-bunting, she had to pass the ‘Cafe-Cake’, with its jolly displays of all types of cakes piled on tiered plates beautifully arranged on polka-dotted clothed tables.
She always glanced enviously at the people happy and relaxed with their pots of tea, sandwiches and cakes. She had never been in. Couldn’t afford to and didn’t have anyone to go in with. You needed someone to share a jolly, red, big pot of tea with and smile at and talk to.
The other day, when Millie passed the Cafe-Cake a big group of people had pushed some tables together and the sound of their happy voices had spilled out on to the street. Looking through the window at them, she had seen the advert. The advert asking for people to come and help make things for the village fete to raise money for the Rescue Greyhounds. They always needed food and the vets’ bills were horrific.
Millie had seen the dogs, big and gentle with eyes you could drown in, stretched out, fast asleep in pools of sun, while the rescue people shook their tins and asked for help from passers-by. Occasionally she found a 50p to plop in the tin and could stroke and fuss the dogs. Her heart broke every time she had to leave them behind. She would love to have one to take for walks and cuddle and love. Her husband wouldn’t let her have a dog though and the poor thing would get told off if it went on the sofa or did the other things that dogs do that they can’t help doing because they are dogs. No. It wouldn’t be fair.
|Let Sleeping Dogs Lie ©Tracey Edges|
Millie could sew though. Nothing fancy but she could do something to help and that’s how she found herself on her feet, feeling like she would melt under the hot, expectant, stares of fifteen women.
“Erm”, the frog in her throat croaked. She coughed trying to get rid of it and went red with embarrassment. She knew she’d gone red which made her hotter and redder. Not good. “I’m Millie and I live in the little cottage on Pike’s Turn and I love greyhounds.” The words came out in a rush. They were few but enough to generate a noise-swell of agreement and a clap from 3 or 4 of the crowd-women.
Flustered she swiftly connected bottom with chair and as she did the woman next to her smiled at Millie. Millie smiled back.
That was the moment that two lonely greyhound lovers each found a friend and before too long they would share a big red jolly pot of tea.