A Storm In A 'D' Cup!
Helen was one of a kind. She had worked at the top end department store for over forty years and she had spent her whole career in lingerie and men's briefs. There was not a thing she didn't know about straps, bras, camisoles, briefs, apple catchers, y fronts, gussets; you name it, she could give you the ins and outs and all sorts of support. Top-end, low end. She was like the maître d of a fine restaurant handing out advice and subtle adjustments to the intimate issues of the customers. At one hundred paces she could identify a young lady's bra size down to the cup size and inch measurements. For special occasions, she could even convert these to European measurements and on Birthdays she would even convert to Australian measurements. In the field of intimate apparel, there was nothing she didn't know.
That morning, Helen had ambled to work along the lifeless high street, oblivious to the scuttling and frantic efforts, of the town's shopworkers getting ready for another Saturday tidal wave of customers. She had made this journey so many times, that she could have done it with her eyes shut and her ankles tied together. Her single bed flat was situated on a small culdesac by the station and she shared the house with an array of less than salubrious misfits. She did not fit this remit but she had been on her own for so long that she had found herself alone. Her only companion was a Highland terrier, Ralph, who had a habit of licking windows.
On arrival at the shop, Helen made her way steadily up to the canteen, which was the beating heart of the establishment. "Morning, Helen." echoed around the room and she sashayed over to her usual chair. Her throne. For Helen was the Queen of all she surveyed here.
In her service to the company, she had garnered respect from the staff and management. "Coffee, Hel?" As she lit up her cigarette, she nodded and the girl scurried away.
This was the highlight of Helen's day. A good natter and a fag. A coffee, and her mates. When she had first started at the store, rationing was still in place and the attire she sold was very demure. Now, nothing was left to the imagination. But she loved her job and her compadres. "So, Hel. Last day?" It was early September. Helen was sixty today. A few weeks previously, she had been taken out to a new Italian restaurant in town and the manager had presented her with a lovely watch. She's drunk a little too much Valpolicella and had flirted with the warehouse boys. But she knew where to draw the line. She always had done. Perhaps that was why they always left?
Helen smiled. Yes, it was her last day. Outwardly, she smiled but inside she bled copiously. This was her life. How would she exist without it? She had a sister in Eastbourne but she couldn't remember the last time she had seen her. She knew there were nieces and nephews but she couldn't recall their names.
Twenty minutes later, Helen made her way to the shop floor for the last time. " Ahh, Madam. It's a 36 double B? I thought so." The consummate professional.
The day progressed and ended. She hurriedly collected her belongings from the locker that had been hers for four decades. Like her life, it was now tidy but empty. She waved at staff, who wished her well, but she wasn't a hugger and made her exit before things got out of hand. No need for that.
Quietly and without fuss, and without anyone seeing, she let herself into her flat. Ralph stood solemnly waiting for her and she knelt to stroke him. She hung her coat. She placed her bag in the hall cupboard and made her way to her tiny galley kitchen.
After changing into her casual wear, she nibbled at the plain omelette , she had forced herself to make and sat down in front of her TV, freshly rented from Rumbelows. Tonight, after Corrie it was Bergerac. She could still dream. Perhaps her life away from the store would bring her excitement and adventure but she doubted it. Once she had dreamt of romance and passion. Nights of ecstasy and weekends away to Torbay or Hern Bay. Perhaps even a small; bungalow with a view. Not much to ask for, but now. Who knew?
Just after ten, she changed into her nightgown, kicked off her slippers and picked up her Barbara Cartland as she swung into bed. A few pages of escapism and then lights out. She would miss the girls. The banter. But this was her life now.
As dawn broke over the town, Ralph jumped up onto the bed and nuzzled his mistress gently. Her grey face gave no response. Who would support him now?