“I was going to specify GSOH and plump wallet. Among other things,” says Rose, her wine glass poised in the air as she gives a meaningful look. “But then I thought: you can’t be too picky.”
“You are so NOT going to compose a lonely hearts ad for me.” Karen crosses her arms for emphasis.
Karen is a newly single mother of four from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda. And Rose, as you can guess, is a well-meaning friend who’s sitting in her kitchen dispensing advice.
“Well, how are you going to meet anyone?” asks Rose.
Good question. Certainly not at the Tupperware club. That’s what the local mums call the evenings they spend together moaning about the price of school blazers or discussing how to get grass stains out of their kids ’ gym kit. There is no Tupperware, but there is plenty to drink.
Not at her children’s school, either. As it is, the one male teacher has to fend off the attentions of every single mother, especially when he’s in PE shorts.
“I don’t suppose there was any talent at the tyre place last week?” Rose’s eyes light up briefly.
Karen shakes her head. “One spotty youth in a beanie, and that roly-poly one who can barely squeeze himself under a car.”
Since when has Karen’s world become so divided along gender lines? Since the children, that’s when. It has got worse with every one of her four kids. Now it is as if feminism never existed.
She tries to explain this, but Rose doesn’t get it at all. “You’re not going all Mary Portas on us now, are you? Not that there’s anything wrong with being a late-flowering lesbian, I suppose. Got any more Merlot?”
Karen is giving this search her best shot. She never leaves the house without lipstick, when she remembers. Even for shopping she wears her best clothes, which are her latest finds from Oxfam and the Red Cross shop.
From previous experience, she reckons Sainsbury’s is hardly a great place to pull, except maybe a shopping trolley. But you never know, do you?
Yesterday she made Mr Jellicoe’s heart beat a little faster in the supermarket carpark.
There he was, looking like the man in the Elderly People Crossing sign, with a humungous carrier bag that clanked as he shuffled along. He still had his Lambrini habit then. He recognized Karen and got so close she could see his dentures moving. So she said she had to run. Which she did, like the wind.
Rose drains her glass. “You know what?”
Karen says nothing. ‘You know what?’ usually presages a really, really bad idea.
“I’ve got my cousin coming to stay next month. He’s a widower, and he’s not short of a few bob either. I don’t know why I didn’t think of him before.”
“What does he look like?” asks Karen, mostly to show interest.
“Actually, he’s not bad. I think you’ll really like him.”
Karen refills her glass. Yes, another really, really bad idea. But what’s there to lose?