9 Jul

When she looked back on her life Josie Fairbreath was most unhappy, but then she was only six and hadn’t really lived much life as yet. But what she had endured was enough to make her most unhappy, with the emphasis on the most.

She had started well enough, what with being born and gently encouraged to latch onto a teat that was warm and mumsy and very rewarding, not that she could remember a single thing to do with her birth when she reached the dizzy age of six.

But her trouble started with the girl next door, an ostensibly pretty little thing of her own age called Lizzie, when she was three, and she could remember that.

The girl next door was spiteful. That was the only word for it. She was spiteful at nursery school, spiteful out on the street when she was playing with the other children and spiteful on Sundays when the little ones were obliged to attend a kind of toddler’s Sunday School in which they were taught all about the children of Israel and the things they got up to.

None of it’s true,” said Lizzie in that superior way she had, and Josie couldn’t think of a single argument to rebuff that statement, so she said, “it so is” with as much authority as she could muster.

Believe it if you want,” pronounced Lizzie, sounding far too much like a grown-up for her own good, and she marched off after accidentally spitting at Josie.

I mean, spitting|! There was nothing Christian about that, was there? Even accidentally.

So Josie told her doting mother and to her dismay her mother didn’t take a huge amount of notice. At least, she didn’t seem to.

Lizzie’s dad’s an important man so it’s best not to upset her,” was all she said. “Now be a bgood girl and run out and play.”

She ran out and played, but not with Lizzie.

An important man! What had that got to do with the things Lizzie said in that superior way of hers? He could be the king for all Josie was concerned, it was Lizzie who was superior. It was Lizzie who seemed to spend most of her three, then four, then five year old self doing her best to pour scorn on Josie. Spitefully.

And that’s how the years passed, and Josie was perfectly sure that it was Lizzie who had made her life most unhappy, with the emphasis on the most. It had to be. There was no other explanation.

And out of the blue Josie Fairbreath became a grown up. Well, almost a grown up. She was in her late teens, had left school and was looking for a job that would earn her loads of money and empower her in a way she hoped that Lizzie would never be empowered.

Meanwhile, Lizzie and her parents had moved to another house, a much bigger one, round the corner where they even had a small orchard in the back garxden whilst Josie and her parents had moved round a different corner, into a smaller house, where there was a back yard and room for a bin.

What do we want with three bedrooms? her mother had queried.

But the smaller house was cosy, so nobody minded its size.

She still hated Lizzie. Of course she did. And it made her feel a bit better about herself when she realised that a few other people hated her too. Or seemed to.

Roger said he wasn’t so fond of Lizzie. It’s the sort of thing a decent lad like Roger might say when he realised the way Josie felt about the posh girl from round the other corner.

That’s what turned Roger from being a casual acquaintance into being her boyfriend.

And his position of new boyfriend came to a grinding halt five minutes later when he added, anyway, for all her hoity-toity ways she’s not much good in bed…

So there was a sudden vacancy in the boyfriend department and she was careful how she filled it because the last thing she wanted was one of Lizzie’s bedroom cast-offs. When she shared her body with someone (and she did from time to time, it being the twenty-first century and there being no harm in it, something she had concluded since she had cast off the last remnants of toddler Sunday-School lessons) she didn’t want to have it spoilt by considerations of contaminants. And Lizzie was surely one of those.

She met Cliff. She met him at work, because she found a job in the big supermarket half a mile from home, and he was assistant manager, a really elevated position for a lad not much older then herself. And she still hated Lizzie.

That girl’s ruined my whole life,” she complained to Cliff, but he had no idea who she was talking about.

Stuff happened.

They married, Josie and Cliff, they had two babies who became two teenagers in double-quick time … and they divorced.

It was Lizzie’s fault.

It should never have happened.

Of course it shouldn’t.

It was so irrational, so out of the blue, so unlike Josie.

But it occurred. Cliff found Josie and Lizzie in bed together when he arrived home unexpectedly, both naked and both giggling about how silly they’d been and when they wouldn’t let him join them, or rather, when Lizzie wouldn’t let him join them, she didn’t like men, she said, she never had, but she did like Josie and wasn’t it a good thing they’d bumped into each other outside the old Sunday School they’d gone to as kiddies, and got to talking, and having a coffee, and…

So there was a divorce. A nasty, painful divorce.

And with a flicker of time and the whirring of clocks the years continued to pass, and when Josie looked back on her life, and now it was her whole life because her breath wouldn’t come any more and any way she wanted to die, being eighty-four and feeble, when she looked back she was most unhappy.

It was all Lizzie’s fault.

It hadn’t lasted. It had been that one exciting moment of fun (if that was the right word), of forming for the first time a much belated friendship, albeit an unexpectedly physical one, and then, almost straight away, Josie had known it wasn’t for her though she actually liked Lizzie at long, long last, and did for ever after that.

And Cliff wouldn’t come back to her because he had moved on, he said, and that was before the divorce. It was almost straight away, and that made her most unhappy.

And as the light faded and the world went silent she knew the emphasis had always been on the most.

© Peter Rogerson 08.07.17


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