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'It's astonishingly dangerous for a woman to become reliant upon her husband. It's vital that a woman learns to be self-sufficient. After all, what will happen to her if her husband drops dead or leaves her?'

Holly reached across the worktop and switched the radio off with a disgusted sigh. The dratted woman was everywhere today: the newspapers, the radio, she'd even had a six minute slot on the breakfast news, spouting her self-righteous nonsense.

Holly looked around the kitchen, returned to order after the chaos of breakfast. She caught sight of Adam's football boots and frowned. Typical Adam. He always forgot something. She considered ignoring them, hoping to teach him a lesson about organisation, but relented. He never learned anyway and if he didn't have them he'd be given a detention, and then she would have to fight her way through the rush hour traffic to collect him.

Grimacing, she scooped the boots into a carrier bag and dumped them by the front door. The pile of laundry awaiting the iron spilled from the basket. It would have to wait. Will's parcel had to be posted this morning. She planned to drop Adam's boots off on her way to the supermarket after doing battle with the post office. Hopefully she would be back before the electrician called to repair the television socket.

As soon as she started the car the radio leapt into life. 'It's about self-fulfilment. How can a woman possibly derive satisfaction out of being a “yummuy mummy”? There is nothing more fulfilling than a successful career and the knowledge that you are capable of maintaining yourself independently.'

'Oh, for crying out loud!' snapped Holly, stabbing at the radio.

The roads were busy, presumably with other 'unfulfilled' stay-at-home mothers, hurrying about their chores. She drove through the back streets and parallel parked behind the post office, snatched the parcel and hurried to the front to join the queue.

The post office counters lined the far wall of the store, giving the waiting customers plenty of opportunity to admire the magazines and sweets. Holly gazed at the latest celebrity tabloids with their garish headlines about the latest fad diet and marital breakdowns. The latest release from the X-Factor factory bellowed out from the shop speakers. Holly was suddenly overwhelmingly depressed.

The queue shuffled forwards as an elderly lady tottered away from the counter with her walker. Holly looked down at the parcel, smoothing the brown tape hastily applied by Will. He had been apologetic as he'd handed it to her, ruefully admitting that he should have posted at the weekend.

The music stopped. 'That was “You Left Me” by LEv8, currently holding the number one spot for the eighth week. And now, I'm delighted to say that Ms Gillian McDonnell, wife of the media mogul Neville McDonnell, is here with us today, and she has a thing or two to say about work and motherhood. So Gillian, what advice would you give to your two daughters?'

'That's easy, Rupert. Work hard, have ambition, don't settle for second-best. You've got to have a career that earns you both self respect and a decent income. The idea that it's better to be a stay-at-home mother is ridiculous. What sort of example is that for our future generation?'

'Well, we have had some calls from listeners saying that child care costs make it tremendously difficult to for working parents to actually make any money.'

Ms McDonnell could be heard scoffing. 'For heaven's sake! I simply do not accept that argument. How can you possibly be worse off by working?'

The woman in front of Holly snorted. 'Silly cow!' Holly chuckled and the woman turned around, scowling. 'I worked for the first two years. Busted a gut, trying to do it all. I finally got wise. I was just working to pay someone else to look after my own kids! There was nothing left for us by the time I'd paid the childminder. She was on a better wage than me!'

The elderly gentleman behind Holly waved his stick at the woman at the checkout. 'I say Ella, turn this dreadful woman off will you?'

Applause rippled through the queue as Ella switched the radio to another station. Holly smiled to herself. The queue suddenly lurched forwards and within minutes Holly had handed over the better part of five pounds and left Will's parcel in the care of the Royal Mail.

She sped to the school with one eye on the clock. The electrician was due at eleven. She should be alright, just. She parked illegally in the school bus bay and jogged into the office, clutching Adam's boots.

The receptionist was on the telephone when she stepped inside. 'Well I told him that, but he just seems to think it's all my responsibility. He thinks I should do everything, Mum. He wants me to work, look after the kids, and the house, and have a shirt freshly pressed for him each morning.'

The receptionist chewed on her biro whilst her mother issued words of comfort. She rubbed her forehead wearily. 'Oh I know. I've told him that. But he doesn't listen.'

Holly shuffled her feet and placed the bag on the desk, spilling a little mud across the receptionist's paperwork.

'Look, I'm going to have to go, someone's here. I'll call you back in a minute.' She hung up the phone and glared at Holly. 'Can I help you?'

Holly withered a little under the stare. 'My son forgot his football boots. Adam Sims, 5JS.'

The receptionist sighed and pointed to the floor. 'Oh, just leave them there. I'll try to get a message to him. You really must impress upon him the need to be more organised.'

Holly bit back a response. 'Thank you.'

As she left the office she could hear the receptionist pick up the phone again, presumably to continue her conversation with her mother. Holly realised with a start that she hadn't spoken to her own mother since last week. There had been so much else going on.

She hurried through the shopping, checking her list carefully. Nobody ever complained if she bought the wrong deodorant, or yoghurts, or if she forgot to stock up the squash cupboard, but it was a matter of professional pride. It was her job, she liked to get it right.

She arrived home just as the electrician pulled up. He smiled politely as she hauled the three bags of shopping out of the car.

'Never come between a woman and her shopping!' he said, in a woeful attempt at banter.

Holly said nothing, wrestling with the bags while she unlocked the door. She edged her way in, kicking her shoes off on the mat. The electrician followed her in, marching across the pale carpet leaving a trail of muddy footprints. She bit her tongue and pointed him, needlessly, to the television socket.

'Do you want a coffee?'

'Please,' said the electrician, from behind the television set. 'White, two sugars!'

She struggled through to the kitchen, placing the bags on the floor and flexing her fingers to restore the blood flow. She set the kettle to boil while she sorted the shopping, then made the electrician's coffee.

She carried it through to see him flicking through the channels on the TV. 'All fixed,' he said. 'Just a loose connection.'

The TV picture panned across a gaudy set with a large orange sofa and focussed upon Gillian McDonnell. Holly groaned. The electrician looked up and chuckled.

'You don't like her, then?'

'Oh she's alright I suppose. It's just that she's everywhere today. And she's so bloody sanctimonious!'

The electrician took a sip of his coffee, wincing as it scalded his tongue. 'She's got a book to sell, hasn't she.'

As if on cue, the presenter held up a book, on its cover was a large photograph of Ms McDonnell smiling regally from the oversized desk in her skyscraper office. Holly resolved to avoid it at all costs. She picked up the remote control and switched off the set.

'So, what do I owe you?'

She paid the electrician and showed him out. Finally, the house was hers for a short time. She decided to treat herself to a coffee before she tackled the housework.

The boys were having a heated discussion about physics, of all things, arguing about the 'Unified Field Theory' as put forward by their professor. They were setting the table while they talked, and Holly began to worry that they might start misusing the cutlery in order to make their point.

Will kissed the top of her head as she served the lasagne. 'Mm, my favourite. Nobody makes a lasagne like you.'

Holly smiled and lifted her arms slightly to allow him to slip his hands around her waist. 'I posted your parcel.'

'Thank you. Where would I be without you?'

'Depends. You might be married to a successful lawyer, or doctor. According to Gillian McDonnell, they're considerably more worthwhile than me!'

Will leaned back and studied her. 'Oh God! You haven't been listening to that silly cow, have you?'

'I've tried not to, but she's made it rather difficult.'

They carried the plates to the table where the boys were now being rather disrespectful about their professor, hooting with laughter at some of his stranger habits. Holly decided it was preferable to the arguing.

Will sat down and sniffed at his meal. 'Heaven!' he sighed.

'Oh, ta for bringing my boots to school Mum,' said Adam through a mouthful of lasagne. 'You're a star!'

Will looked out at the garden. 'It's a lovely evening. Tell you what, why don't we take the frisbee down to the park after dinner? We could stop off on the way back and have a drink at the Royal Oak.'

The boys agreed readily. Holly looked at the tidy house, the empty laundry basket, the freshly swept carpets, the clean windows, and thought of the school receptionist. She wouldn't be playing frisbee in the park with her family tonight, she'd be tearing around catching up with all the chores. She allowed herself just a tiny moment of self-satisfaction.


© 2012 Kay Lawrence.


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