1971: January in June by Lorraine Florence Ellis (Flo)
She was poised at the ‘cosmetics counter’ filing her pillar-boxed red nails. Two black eyes looked up at me, lashes blinking like a flurry of spiders above cheeks the colour of over-ripe pumpkins.
“Can I help you love,” she asked in a shrill piercing voice which seemed to suit her appearance. She was tall however her hairstyle made her appear taller, she wore her fair hair swept up high on the top of her head in one of the old played-out beehive styles, it was straw blonde a deep contrast to her ebony eyebrows. I discovered her name was June, but she didn’t resemble the month in any way she reminded me of early January and the discarded gaudy baubles, tinsel and gift wrap paper which grace our dustbins at that time of year, a sad remnant of Christmas past.
Her legs tottered to the front of the stall, long legs with small feet encased in shiny black patent leather. On her arm she swung her money bag it was sharp plastic like her voice like her face. She demonstrated her new line in perfume, spraying fragrant clouds into the atmosphere and it mingled with her own smell off coffee and hair lacquer. I quickly made my purchase; her hands were all finger nails as she scratched my change into my palm.
I moved away from the stall clutching my new cosmetics, wondering how I was going to get them past my Father’s eye as I stole out of the house that evening. It seemed the biggest dilemma in my world.
I was thirteen years old and had just introduced myself to the world of cosmetics, records, and boys. Gone were the days when all I ever dreamt of was to own my own horse. My dreams had changed somewhat and all I ever dreamt of then was of waking up in the arms of Marc Bolan. I pondered for some time on how to get my cosmetics into the house. However my fears were groundless for when I reached home my Dad was out and my Mam was tending to the baby.
Full of excitement my stomach churning I picked at the food on my plate.
“Your Dad won’t be home until late,” said my Mam.
Great I thought at least I won’t have him to contend with.
I had been sitting in front of the mirror for the past hour. A stranger stared back at me with a face that would have put a street whore to shame. I didn’t think that at the time though I thought I was the height of sophistication. Having filled the empty part of my Mother’s bra with cotton wool, I slipped my secret black boob-tube over my head donned my duffel coat put the hood right over my head and stole down the stairs. I hesitated on the doorstep my Mother was still tending to the baby as usual.
“Just going to Girl Guides Mam,” I shouted. Getting no response I made my exit through the front door.
Elaine my friend came running up the street to meet me she too had a face resembling that of a barn owl.
“Is it still on then?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied. “By the way you look really mature, I don’t think we should have any trouble getting in do you?”
“No so come on let’s get going.”
We walked along the street and crossed the road our heads held high, heels clacking.
Filled with excitement we took a bus to Town.
The first public house we ventured into showed us the door the moment we opened our mouths to speak. We got the same response in the next two. We walked for some time until my feet were aching finally we found a pub which was well off the beaten track.
I stood at the bar behind a large breasted middle-aged woman I stared at the facial hairs on her chin until it was my turn to be served.
“Well what can I get you love?” asked the barmaid.
“Two pale ale and limes please,” I said copying off the previous customer.
I smiled and watched in fascination whilst the green liquid was poured into the glass to be joined by the bubbles from the dark amber beer.
We sat in the corner quietly sipping our drinks, women of the world sophistication in its self I ignored the sickly feeling and bitter taste in my mouth
I looked up and sitting opposite me was a face I knew, but found hard to recognise in those strange surroundings. I stole a peep at her now and again until suddenly it dawned on me who the face belonged to, it was June the lady from the cosmetics stall. Very soon June stood up and it was evident that she was drunk extremely drunk, singing and staggering she passed our seat on the way to the powder room. Thick streaks of mascara ran down her wrinkled cheeks, and it was obvious that she was wearing a hair piece for it was a different colour to the rest of her bleached hair and just hung down the side of her face like an albino rat.
On her return her face clouded with anger as she looked across the room.
“Hey you’re sat in my seat.”
The new comers occupying her seat ignored her.
“Look I always sit there so move, It’s my ssseat,” slurred June.
“Oh for God sake women go and sit somewhere else,” said the barman wiping a glass on a filthy rag.
“B but it’s my seat and always will be my seat.”
“Well it’s not tonight so either sit your backside somewhere else or go, you’ve had enough booze down you anyway.”
“It wasn’t like this in my day,” cried June, “No one would sit in Junie’s seat then.
“Was that in the days of spittoons and sawdust?” said a burly youth, the rest of his group tittered.
“Stupid old bag,” laughed another.
June stumbled into a corner opposite me, she sat alone and I could imagine her sad sorry solitude, Poor Junie probably once the prettiest fairy on the tree now sitting alone lost in January.
I stared at her for some time until a horrible thought occurred to me, it was a terrible thought impossible to dismiss. ‘That could be me.’ and the more I thought about it the more convinced I became. Yes that could be me in twenty or thirty years’ time still sitting in this very same pub wearing the very same garb, the peevish hub of a pub joke.
I turned to my friend.
“Come on I’m going while I still have the chance.”
“Why the nights still young,” she said standing up and putting on her red bomber jacket. However I knew deep down Elaine also wanted to leave and was glad of the excuse.
Having emptied my stomach of pale ale and peanuts in to the gutter we made our way home.
When I arrived home my Mam and Dad were in the living room the television blared out. I hung up my coat and went up the stairs. I passed my Mam and Dad’s bedroom, I peeped in, my little brother lay in his cot sleeping I inhaled his sweet powdery scent and gently touched his soft face, his tiny hand crunched up into a little ball on top of the quilt. Carefully I tucked it back under the blanket. I gazed into the cot for a long time and was surprised at how warm I felt.
The following week I went to Girl Guides…
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