Margie watched the goldfish circling its bowl and sighed. She’d tried to make the bowl more attractive by putting coloured gravel in the base and buying a green plastic plant which waved its plastic fronds around as the goldfish circled. Ed had brought the goldfish home in a plastic bag after one of his drunken nights out with the boys.
‘That’s just like my life’ she thought as she watched the goldfish going around and around the enclosed space, ‘pointless’.
Every day Margie tidied the house up when there was nothing to tidy, dusted when there was no dust, polished when everything already sparkled.
Ed, her husband of seventeen years, went out to work at 6am and returned home at 6pm. He expected his dinner to be ready, grunted through her attempts at conversation, and then either sat and read the paper or watched sport on TV. The only change to this routine was when he went out with the boys on a Friday night. Then he would return stinking of drink and expect his conjugal rights. It was just awful.
On Monday 21st January, after watching day-time TV for a bit, Margie stood up and went and fetched her coat.
‘I can’t live like this anymore. I used to be someone. The life is being sucked out of me’.
She put her coat on and walked out of the front door, even though it was a Monday, and she always went down the high street on a Friday. She wandered along, almost in a daze, went to the bank and withdrew £250.
As she wandered along, she noticed a sign outside the hairdressers that said ‘Walk ins welcome. No appointment needed’.
So, she walked in.
Benny sat in a chair at the reception desk and looked carefully at the dowdy woman who had just walked in. He flicked his blonde hair back, put down his iPad and said, ‘How can I help?’
‘Do something with my hair’ said Margie before she could back out of the door.
Benny stood up quickly and said ‘No problem. Take a seat and I’ll be with you in a moment’.
He came back with a gown which he helped her into before seating her in front of a mirror.
‘What were you thinking of doing?’
‘I’ve no idea. I’ve cut my own hair for the last seven years’
‘And don’t I know it’ thought Benny but he said ‘Well, I suggest a short-layered bob and a half head of highlights. How does that sound?’
She didn’t even ask how much it would cost.
Benny was an extremely cynical man, and much preferred his ‘high end’ clients, but Monday was a slack day and something about this woman made him ask, ‘What made you come in today?’
‘My life’ said Margie.
That stopped him in his tracks, and putting down his scissors, asked ‘Would you like a tea or a coffee?’
‘Tea would be great’.
‘So, what’s wrong with your life?’
‘I live like a goldfish’
Benny looked a bit worried, so Margie laughed and said, ‘I only mean that I realised life was a bit meaningless, same old same old, and just decided to do something about it’.
After that, Benny got on with putting in the highlights and then washing and cutting Margie’s hair. He felt that he wanted her out of the salon, too wacky for him.
He didn’t do ‘weird’.
It was a long time since Margie had been to a hairdresser’s and she was fascinated by the whole process. It took hours but she felt able to relax which was a such a novel feeling. It was just lovely and when Benny had finished that’s how she felt, lovely.
She paid the £77 and walked out of the door with no idea what she would do next. As she wandered along, she looked in shop windows and was amazed at how good she looked. But something was not right. It was her clothes, they looked old fashioned.
‘Have to do something about my wardrobe next’ she thought and then smiled to herself because she was planning something for herself.
She wandered further down the high street and into the library, and again realised that it had been years since she’d been in. She remembered that she used to come in every week.
Wandering along the shelves made her feel happy and she began to choose some books.
‘I’ll have to re-join’ she thought.
Margie noticed people sitting at tables and in comfortable armchairs reading papers and magazines. Others used computers. It was calm and peaceful but also purposeful.
‘I might as well sit down and have a read while I’m here’ she thought, and sitting down at a small table near a coffee machine, she noticed it said ‘Help yourself’ so she did, relishing the sense of freedom she was feeling.
‘Hey Margie’ a voice startled her out of her comfort zone.
She looked up and saw, with some despair, that it was her neighbour Brian. Him who was always washing the car or mowing the lawn. She tried as hard as she could to have no contact with him.
‘Hi Brian, what are doing here?’
‘Hiding from Jane. She’s doing her usual polishing and cleaning and I just feel in the way. How about you?’
‘I’m starting a new life’.
Brian looked worried.
‘Are you alright Margie?’
‘Not really. I’ve just had enough’.
‘Your hair looks nice. Takes years off you’
‘Thank you, Brian. It’s the start of a new me’.
There followed a bit of a silence as each tried to understand what was going on. Then Brian said ‘Would you like to take a walk. The park’s full of snowdrops and aconites. It looks lovely’.
Margie stood up and reaching for her coat said, ’Yes please Brian’.
They walked into the park and Margie felt happier than she had for years. She had always called Brian ‘the empty chocolate’ in her head. He looked good but she always felt that if you bit into him there would be no substance. But today she was learning that he was very different. He was good company.
They sat on a bench in the weak wintry sunshine and admired the swathes of snowdrops.
Then Brian took her hand.
‘You do know Ed is seeing Jane’.
‘Yes, I realised a few months ago’.
‘Do you care?’
‘Not really. I wish he would go away, but I know he’s hoping I’ll leave’
‘And will you?’
‘Oh no. I’ve invested in that house’.
And then Margie turned to Brian and putting her arms round him said, ‘But what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. What do you think Brian?’.
He put his arms round her, holding her tight and looked straight into her eyes.
‘What do you think Margie?’