International Writers Magazine: Matinee
liked the look of Millie. She wasnt half attractive for
a woman of her age. A widow, so hed heard and she already
had three children, two of them almost grown up so she wouldnt
be wanting any more of those most likely. Thatd suit Frederic
very well. Yes, very well indeed thank you. Never did like the
little beggars very much. No, a man in his position was looking
for a different kind of wife. Somebody whod know how to
look after him. Be able to put a decent dinner on the table of
Frederic leant back
in his chair. Across the waiting room, Millie attended to her work in
the receptionists booth, a light from a small electric lamp picked out
a clasp in her blonde wavy hair.
"Course, you dont even always have to marry them these days,"
he mused. "I mean even the bloody King's been at it. That was a
turn up for the books
Kept that bloody quiet didnt they.
Never thought he would have gone for an American though
Frederic closed his eyes and his thoughts turned to Elsie, the young
chambermaid at the hotel hed been messing around with the last
few months. He smiled and almost found himself drifting off for a moment
as the heat from the open fire warmed his legs that winter afternoon.
"No, no, no, Im done with all that nonsense," he thought,
suddenly sitting up straight. "Im 37 now and if I want to
get the managers position Im going to have to get myself a proper
Somebody a bit respectable
Somebody who knows how to
behave herself. Someone I wont be ashamed to show off to the boss."
"Mr Lane?" said Millie, lifting her head from her appointments
ledger and looking towards him for the first time. "Doctor Jefferson
is free now, room three."
Frederic grinned. "Ok fella, you might as well give it a go,"
he thought as he picked up his coat which he had carefully laid on the
chair beside him. He took a small envelope from his pocket and as he
passed by Millies desk he slipped it over the counter towards
her giving her another smile and a wink as he did so. Then he disappeared
down the corridor before she could say a word
Millie looked at the letter in astonishment. She glanced over her shoulder
to make sure Mrs Collins wasnt watching and then she hurriedly
opened the letter.
Frederic Lane, Assistant
Seaview Hotel, Grand Parade,
Dear Mrs Bailey,
I hope you dont think me impertinent, but Ill be most honoured
if youll accompany me to the cinema this Saturday afternoon. Ill
be at the Embassy at three oclock if youd like to come.
for you in the foyer by the stairs to the circle, if youd be so
as to meet me.
Millies face flushed with excitement. It was the third time hed
been into the surgery lately.. Shed felt sure hed been watching
her, but she hadnt dreamed hed been taking any sort of interest
Shed only got the job at the doctors six months ago. Before
that she was scrubbing floors and taking in washing . Anything to try
and feed the kids since John died. "Oh my God, what would I wear?
Ill have to tell him I cant go. Ive got nothing. I
dont want to embarrass him turning up looking shabby. Hes
ever so smartly turned out. That overcoat looks brand new. The way he
smiled at me
He could almost be Spanish with those eyes..He seems
ever so sure of himself. Ever so tall and confident looking. Theyve
got a proper ballroom and everything at that hotel. Ive seen it
through the windows. Oh my God, I cant believe it."
The following Friday Frederic Lane had a particularly heavy night. The
bar at the Seaview Hotel had closed at eleven oclock as usual,
and after making sure his staff had cleaned up properly and that the
guests were all safely off to bed Frederic and Reggie the head porter
had set up a poker table in his room. A couple of boys from the kitchens
joined them at midnight and the four of them played until 5am. Theyd
gotten through a couple of bottles of scotch between them, not to mention
the champagne that Fred had brought up from the bar. At one stage Frederic
was up by almost two guineas but by the end of the night he had lost
the lot, almost a months salary down the pan and hed have to pay
for the champagne too at some point, otherwise hed get it in the
neck from the boss.
Daylight flooded in through the open curtains and Frederic awoke with
a blinding headache. He tossed and turned uncomfortably for a couple
of hours and then finally got out of bed at midday but only to spit
in the sink and use the toilet. Then he flaked back down on the bed
again still fully clothed and began to snore.
On the other side of town Millie Bailey was getting ready for the date.
Shed spent the last three evenings making a dress from a Butterick
pattern shed borrowed from her sister Ida. The two of them had
gone to the market on Wednesday and bought a yard and a half of printed
rayon. The fabric had a rose print with a green leaf detail so shed
be able to wear her light green coat over the top of it. It was December,
a bit cold for a summer coat, but she could borrow some gloves and itd
be better than wearing the old black coat that John had bought for her.
It must be ten years old now and was getting awfully shabby.
As Millie and Ida sewed that Friday evening a special broadcast came
on the radio. King Edward V111 was giving his farewell address to the
nation saying how he could no longer bear the weight of his responsibilities
without the support of the woman he loved.
"I cant believe it," said Millie. Hes only gone
and done it. Hes leaving us. Theyve forced him out, thats
what it is. Why couldnt they just let him marry her? Bloody hypocrites.
Whats going to happen now? And all this stuff going on in Germany
too. God knows where its all heading to Ida."
In her agitation she pricked herself with the needle causing a little
drop of blood to fall on the dress. Ida went and got a cloth and the
two of them sat in silence for a few minutes contemplating the unsettling
news and the dreaded possibility of another war.
By Saturday morning Millie was shaking with nerves. Ida had taken the
children out for the day and Millie was doing her best to get herself
ready. She knew it was only a first date, she but she couldnt
help thinking ahead, wondering how it might turn out, dreaming that
it might be the start of a whole new future for her. It had been so
hard since John died. Shed felt so alone having to bring the kids
up by herself. Eight years shed been struggling. And now Frederic
had come along completely out of nowhere. She hadnt even dreamed
she was going to meet anyone else, let alone somebody as nice as him.
He seemed like a really decent man. A real gentleman. And such a good
job too. She could hardly believe her luck.
Frederic rolled over in bed. Somebody was knocking at his door, loudly
"What the hell dyou want? Go away!" yelled Frederic
"Fred! Fred!" came a shrill female voice. "Come on, Fred,
get up, will you. Were all going to the pub for lunch. Hair of
The door opened and Elsie Fitch burst in. "Come on Fred, come and
have a pint of Guiness. Youll feel loads better."
"Sod off and leave me alone," said Fred. "I dont
want you in here, dyou hear me?"
"But Fred," said Elsie. "Ive been looking forward
to me day off. I thought we was going to spend some time together."
"Why would I want to do that?" said Frederic. "Go on,
get out. Youre getting on my nerves Elsie. I dont want you
hanging around me anymore."
"Aw, come on Fred. Its just yer hangover. Youll feel
much better later
Frederic got up from his bed, his face red with anger. He grabbed Elsie
by the shoulders and screamed violently in her face.
"I wont tell you again Elsie. I want you out of here. Do
you hear me? I dont want to see you anymore. Have you got that
? Dyou understand me?"
He pushed her roughly towards the doorway and out into the corridor
and slammed the door.
Millie Bailey left the house at twenty to three. She didnt want
to be late but she didnt want to be too early either. It had stopped
raining and she was feeling happy, optimistic for the first time in
years. She felt good in her new dress. She had washed her hair and set
it into waves and was wearing a little green pill box hat that she had
bought for a wedding a couple of years ago. She hoped it wasnt
too much, just for the cinema you know. She didnt want to be looking
too done up, not on the first date.
Frederic splashed his face with icy water from the tap and looked at
himself in the mirror. "You bloody fool" he said to himself.
"Youve got to stop doing this to yourself. Youre ruining
your guts. The doctors told you plenty of times. Why cant
you listen to him?"
The freezing water and the smell of carbolic soap seemed to sober him.
He took out his best suit and a fresh shirt from the wardrobe. He oiled
down his hair, splashed on some cologne and set off at a brisk pace
along the seafront towards the cinema.
Millie was coming around the corner just as he arrived. She cut quite
a striking figure against the blue of the sky as the wind from the sea
blew her dress and she had to hold on to her hat. Frederic took a deep
breath of salty air and watched as she approached. His bad mood seemed
to ease and to his surprise he found himself feeling quite taken with
her. Maybe it wasnt going to be such a bad day after all. His
large brown eyes framed with thick black lashes came to life and he
flashed her a charming smile.
"You look lovely Mrs Bailey. Absolutely lovely," he said holding
out his arm towards her. "Im so glad you could make it. Come
far have you ? Clark Gable OK for you ? Come on, my lovely, let's get
into the warm."
© Alison Shaw December 2006
ali at dadaphonic.com
Ali is studying for
her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth and
is an accomplished singer and lyricist with The Cranes
Stories in Dreamscapes
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