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Rose Lane Ch14

by Jubbly 

Posted: 12 January 2004
Word Count: 4127

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chapter Fourteen

Dear Melanie,

I hope your computer isn't broken, I can only assume that that's the reason you haven't written or emailed me lately. I thought joining the email world would make it easier for us to keep in touch especially with you having an arm in plaster, I know how much bother it is to post a letter over there in that silly country. You can do just about everything in their post offices, except post a letter it would seem. Do you remember my friend Irene? We met when we were both 17 and working as shorthand typists. Anyway, she's been very sick for years now, I blame her husband Barry, he's a very controlling person and always shouting, if anything's going to make you sick it would be him. Anyway the other afternoon about half past three, it started to rain, very heavy it was but only lasted for a few minutes then when it stopped the most gorgeous rainbow came out, absolutely beautiful like a proper one from the Wizard of Oz or something, then the later on that day I found out poor old Irene had passed away, and guess what? She died at exactly 3.30pm, so that rainbow must have been Irene saying good bye to me. Which was just like her cause I was meant to go and visit her last week but I couldn't get there because my old beetles on the blink and there aren't any buses and its impossible to get a taxi and that stupid Barry was meant to take me but he didn't call and by the time I got in touch, she wasn't feeling well and had gone to bed then the next day she was too sick to see anyone then my arthritis was playing up and then it was too late. Anyway at least we got in touch in the end, I'm going to send some virtual flowers to the virtual memorial garden in her memory. When I go I'll try and leave a message for you, I don't know if it will be possible to do anything from here, you wouldn't notice if I made it rain in London away, its always raining over there. I'm still waiting for those test results but I feel fine. Better go , I've got the dogs dinner on the stove, they're having boiled chicken with brussel sprouts, they love that.

lots of love

Dear Jean,
Glad you're well and keeping busy. Sorry I haven't been in touch, there's no excuse really - just sorting out a few things in the house. The weather is great here at the moment, I know you won't believe me even if you see it on TV or read it in the papers. I've got quite a bit of colour and that's just from lying out in the garden. Ben and Alfie sound like they're having a brilliant time in France it's a very good experience for them and they assured me they'd send you a post card. Matthew and his girlfriend seem to be handling them alright so at least I don't have to worry. Thanks for all the clippings you've sent me but there's no need, I can read Australian newspapers on-line these days on the same day they come out.
Loads of love and I promise to email regularly.


Dear Melanie,

Personally I think it's very selfish of Matthew to go off with his mistress and leave you all alone in your condition. I think you're mad to put up with it, why don't you tell him you don't want his tart coming in contact with your children. They're still very impressionable boys and the last thing you want is them growing up thinking all women are little tramps like her.
As for reading the newspapers on the internet that's fine for you but not everyone wants to sit up straight on a hard backed chair trying to read the paper. Some of us especially those with back problems prefer the comfort of the lounge and something they can put on their laps. But if you don't want me to go to the trouble of posting something to you I won't bother. It'll certainly save me having to cross that treacherous highway to get to the post office and you can't rely on the cars to stop at the crossing not on your nelly and I'd hate for you to hear I'd been mown down by a car whilst trying to send you a cut-out from a magazine. Oh by the way I sent you some Cherry Ripes the other day, I know how you miss them. I sent a bumper bag so there'll be plenty for the boys too unless you get greedy and eat the lot. Better sign off I've got to take Jedda down the vets she keeps throwing up and she's got the runs which is damn nuisance, I've been mopping up my kitchen lino every five minutes, which can't be any good for my back.

Love Jean

Four hours until Melanie had to meet Oscar Keane for dinner. Well she didn't have to go, no one was forcing her. Sarah had been thrilled.
"What's he look like? How old is he? Has he got money?"
But all Melanie would say was that he seemed interesting.
"Now for Gods sake Melanie, don't sleep with him on the first date, we're neither of us spring chickens any more, and nobody expects sexual athletics from middle aged women."
They don't, thought Melanie rather baffled.
"He will expect sex eventually Melanie, but don't go showing off on the first night that's all, don't get down on your knees or go in for anything too spectacular, he'll only expect it every time and at our age, you're bound to disappoint."
Well that told Melanie. It'd been ages since Melanie had slept with someone for the first time, in fact the notion of it was a bit of an ordeal.
She couldn't let him see her tummy, not now, what with all the elasticity drained from her once taut skin. Never mind orange peel, her stomach looked like an enormous lump of pizza dough and that was on a good day. What was her bottom like now? Where was it? God knows she never saw it anymore, there was a time when she was younger when she knew every feature and every flaw, every mole and every scratch on her body. She wouldn't have dreamed of going out without a trip to the beauty parlour, the gym then inspecting her entire physique for any visible flaws. But now, ignorance is bliss.

Anyway she thought, who says it's that kind of date, we're going for a curry and chatting about art, he's probably got a crush on Elise and wants to discuss it with me, and I shall tell him to have a cold shower and forget all about her. She's far too impressionable to be getting involved with a bloke his age.

Melanie dressed carefully. Her bed was soon piled high with reject outfits, there were more discarded black items of clothing than could be expected at an Italian funeral.

Finally she settled on some colour, perhaps psychologically she was coming out of mourning. A blue top with three quarter length sleeves , exposing her plaster cast and a v neck. The cuffs and neckline were trimmed with leopard print ribbon and she added a calf length denim skirt that flared slightly at the thigh and teemed it with a black cardigan, a gesture of caution, London summer nights can never be taken for granted. Comfy Nike sandals, bulky enough to pass for a boot, and not too "date' heels. Not your follow me Fuck me's, not now at her age!
Oh sod it , she quickly unvelcroed her sandals and stepped into her summer open toed, leopard print kitten heels.

Mel pulled her straggly much in need of a good cut hair back into a pony tail and carefully combed a flyaway strand to one side. Then a simple almost night time make up with a slightly darker, crimson lippy, and Voila, not too much trouble but a bloody good result.

Just a cigarette and a teeny glass of wine and I should be ready to go, she thought. Quickly changing into her best black, Marks and Sparks knickers.
Yep, she said out loud to her reflection, we might just get lucky tonight.

It was a short walk to the restaurant, one of those pleasant summer evenings when people spill out onto the pavement from crowded pubs, where the clientele doubles in the summer. Melanie remembered that well from her time pulling pints in the Covent Garden pub all those years ago. Same job, same pay only you had to work three times as hard in the summer.
Many restaurants had placed tables and chairs outside to create a European dining experience, but with the odour of dog shit wafting off the pavement, the atmosphere wasn't as enticing as it should have been. Melanie was excited, she walked tall and more than once checked her reflection in shop windows. This was in contrast to her recent gait, which consisted of tramping, head down , arms folded in front, the classic low self esteem demeanour. The position of a woman who'd given up, but now here she was, freshly made up, glossed lips literally air kissing as she strode along Church St, very aware that she looked damn good. Men her own age, noticed her as she passed them, pints in one hand and fag in the other. Even a couple of younger lads eyed her still shapely legs which she was convinced were lengthening with every step.
When she finally arrived at the Indian restaurant, she paused outside. Suddenly her bravado drained. She knew once she'd walked through that door there was no turning back, well yes she could just about face and exit the restaurant, running all the way home but that simply wasn't an option. This was it, fight or flee time, and after all this time she was certainly up for a good Barney.
Jingly jangly music accompanied her entrance, she might well have been starring in some Bollywood flick from now on. Everywhere purple velvet, gold and green brocade cushions , pink, silk curtains cordoning off private areas.

As the waiter approached her, she felt awkward.
"Um, I'm meeting someone, um..."
She quickly glanced around the room, nope, a long table seating a dozen family members celebrating some birthday or anniversary, no doubt as the evening wore on the occasion would become transparent. A very obvious lesbian couple deep in conversation. A foursome, the men chatting animatedly about football and the women appraising each others new outfits, an absolute snapshot of cliché gender society.

"Um...is there a reservation in the name of Keane?"
The waiters face lit up, and nodded excessively.
"Yes, yes, you are with Oscar, come this way."
He ushered her through the restaurant and to a small room in the back. There were no other diners and only a few tables set.
They sat down amidst yellow satin bolsters in a private booth in the corner and Oscar immediately ordered a bottle of white wine, a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Australian of course.
"I always buy Aussie wine, it's my contribution to their economy I suppose." she said.
"You've just about lost your accent, was that deliberate?"
Mel was a little thrown by his direct approach, a personality trait that would continue long after they'd quaffed two bottles of wine and stuffed themselves with an assortment of Indian delicacies, right down to the moment when he asked her if she wanted to view some of his sculptures which is really a professional artists way of asking if she'd liked to see his etchings. Real artists don't usually have etchings that are worthy of such intense private scrutiny, not in the home anyway.
And after her senses were assaulted by the bright fluorescent colours of thousands and thousands of plastic toys melted together and positioned strategically all over his tiny flat, like a crazed Toysarus Santa's grotto, his direct approach took her breath away, quite literally as she lay naked on his bed, his cock filling her mouth, she gasped for air. But he didn't stop, his spicy tongue seeking out places her body had forgotten it owned. His fingers reaching inside her and fucking her as he licked, and just as she could take no more and was about to arch her body and come like she deserved to, not forgetting of course to release her grip on his penis to avoid biting it off, he stopped, pulled on a condom, climbed on top and entered her. Each thrust sent her spinning, she hadn't had sex for months and this was no perfunctory, weekend marital seeing to, this was bloody fantastic, semi porn fucking with a bloke she'd only met once before. atta girl Melanie, you've still got the touch.
When they finished Oscar poured two glasses of brandy and rolled a joint.
"So, what are you working on?"
Over dinner they'd discussed her job, his exhibition, Matthew and the boys, he'd told her about his ex girlfriend Tanya, a fashion designer who'd left him to go and find herself in Thailand along with some very cheap fabrics to export and make huge profits on at the market. They'd eaten fabulous food then eaten each other and fucked themselves stupid but finally Melanie found herself blushing.
"Working on?"
"Yeah, Elise said you paint."
She felt more naked than she actually was, if that was possible, now her skeleton and vital organs were also on display, he'd seen her fanny but now he wanted more.
"Oh, nothing really, just getting back into the swing of things."
"I'd like to see some of your stuff, really."

When they'd drained their glasses , and the clock struck two, Oscar kissed her and before she knew it they'd started again. And as she sat on his face balancing herself with the bed head she saw the photo, a pretty girl, in her early thirties, short boyish blonde hair and bright blue eyes. It was taken on some holiday the sea making its presence known in the background and specks of sand
stuck fast with sun cream on her face. She took time to notice all these things while he worked away at her , images filling her mind, summer holidays with Matthew, sex in the pool, other men, other boys, other one night stands. Two strong arms enveloped the pretty girl, the top of the mans head was obscured, but his identity though, was apparent. A tattoo of a Japanese symbol decorated his forearm, exactly the same as the one on the arm attached to the hand squeezing her nipple as she rode the oral merry go round of satisfaction.
Again, whoa, over forty and still having multiples , Sarah would be impressed.
When the sun finally crept up on the lovers, Oscar was snoring, deep in slumber, maybe he had a video hidden away somewhere and he was already making the sequel to his installation film,'Sleep 2, this time with some sex'.
Melanie's bladder had woken her like it always did. She found her way to the bathroom and stumbled back along the corridor littered with plastic dolls, shabby old shoes and piles of unopened windowed envelopes.

Just then the phone rang, once, twice, Oscar didn't stir, the ansaphone clicked in.
"Hi babe, it's me...Tanya, did you miss me. Listen bit of a surprise , the conference has been cut short due to Industrial action, anyway I'm flying home tonight, should get in around seven tomorrow morning, flight number BA 209, love it if you could pick me up, I'll make it worth your while in the car park.
Love you, bye."

Typical, the lying git, oh well, let's face it, she wasn't really serious about getting involved with a bloke who lived in 'Santas grotto', time to bail out.

Once home Melanie showered and changed into her old tracksuit bottoms and t-shirt. She'd left before Oscar awoke there was no need for any after pillow talk, there was nothing left for them to say. But she felt different, wanted, human, alive and she was going to get on with her work, so that the very next time someone inferred they wanted to see it, she'd have it ready.
Melanie had started painting again, that's what she wasn't ready to tell Oscar, it was early days and she wasn't ready for constructive criticism or 'when can I see it? Is it finished yet?' queries.
It had been nearly 14 years since she'd stopped trying to be an artist. Friends put it down to the birth of her first child, Ben. Motherhood had simply taken away the desire for something more. She was complete now, didn't need to prove anything to anyone, besides she still had a job, she was still toiling in the art world so to speak, what more did she need. But the real reason was much more complex than that. She stopped pursuing her career around the time Pattie passed away. It wasn't a conscious decision and certainly not a plan Pattie would have wanted, it just.... happened. The mother / daughter relationship is an intricate one. A six thousand piece jigsaw depicting several shades of white. Once you've started piecing it together you either work obsessively until it's finished or give up and throw the whole thing in the bin, screaming, "What a bloody waste of time why the hell did I ever start?"
And there was the terrible guilt compounding the whole situation. Melanie had just given birth to Ben and Pattie decided she was ready and entitled to take up the role of doting granny. After all hadn't she always loved googgly, burpy little bittie babies. Children were a different ball game and teenagers a total no go area, but her own baby grandson, she simply had to see him, she was going to come and visit, stay a few weeks, help out her only daughter, heal the rift that time and lack of common interests had created over the years. Pattie had never been out of Australia before, no need .
"I don't want to go gallivanting all over the world, catching filthy diseases from foreigners besides if I did come, the only thing I'd be interested in seeing in England is the Queen and I saw her when she came out here in 1971."
But Pattie relented, she packed a bag of presents, home made booties, bonnets and brand new blue baby grows. Stuffed koalas and kangaroos and Melanie's very own christening shawl.
"You have to get him baptised Melanie, just in case anything was to happen, God only lets in the little babies who've been christened, the other poor things have to stay outside heaven all by themselves."
But Pattie never did board the plane and soar through the air to foreign climes, or hold her baby grandson tight to her chest and warn him of the wiles of the world. As the Qantas employee paged the last passenger for check- in Pattie lay collapsed on her lounge room floor, her newly packed luggage surrounding her. Pattie's poor old heart having taken an early retirement from a lifetime of beating and pumping. She was gone, quickly and quietly and in some ways with great determination.


Melanie started painting the day she decided to tidy up the spare room. When she opened the wardrobe she saw them, dozens of them. Old children's coat hangers. Baby coat hangers aged 1 1/2 to 2 years, all the way through to 10 - 11. She'd kept them, why? That's the sort of pathetic sentimental gesture her mother would've made.

Her mother had kept all her old toys, when helping clear out one of the many sheds years after Mel had left home, she found a box full of old teenage dolls. Barbies, Sindy's, even poor old redundant Midge with her freckles that focus groups decided put little girls off and discontinued her way back in 1967. One of the dolls was black, a Julia doll, from some old forgotten sixties TV show. The Julia dolls feet were missing, little bite marks in her remaining ankles and legs left no real clues.
"Must have been mice," said Pattie examining the doll, "Probably thought it was chocolate."
Melanie nearly died on the spot, thank God they were on their own and none of Melanie's friends had heard her, poor Pattie a bag of contradictions, right wing bigotry and racism and compassion for homosexuals and single mothers all coated in a sugary ignorance that bore little relationship to the real world.

But it was like magic, sat there on the floor, cradling a bunch of old discoloured plastic coat hangers, she remembered the clothes that once hung off them. The tiny blue sailor suit with matching cap and socks, the winter blazers and bright coloured Gap fleeces, football shirts and winter coats.

How did it all go by so fast? Growing up was a bit like drowning as they say, seeing your life flash before your eyes, and that was the sum of it, her boys, her babies almost grown men and already independent, and most probably soon to have a new mother.

Melanie cleared out the spare room, bundling up old clothes and toys in bin liners then leaving them to fester in the cellar, to be cleared away at a later date, a time that was easier, where no pain would be felt. She pushed the queen size guest bed up against the wall and threw cushions on it to create a lounge, somewhere she could recline and revitalise her creativity, well that was the idea, so far it had been brilliant for lying on and reading OK magazine then dozing off and waking just in time for The Archers.

She brought up her old easel from the cellar and bought some new canvas's. The little low backed bedside stool was perfect for her and there she went, every day after morning coffee.

I think I'll call her, 'Still life with girl.'
The eyes stared back at Melanie, they knew her. Hazel eyes, or perhaps she'd make them more emerald green, jet black hair framed her face, her name is Mimi, she laughed to herself, very French, so I'll always know where my soon to be ex husband was when I painted this. But the girl just stared back, defiant, with Mel's assistance a steely smile crept onto her mouth and soon Mimi was realised.
Melanie sat back and looked at her work, her girl, but her mind couldn't help wandering to other girls and other times and of course, the body found in Brian's garden.

Who the hell could it be? Could it really be somebody I knew. Though she'd tried not to get hung up on this damned detective mystery, she felt herself drawn to it, like a small child to a bag of forbidden sweets.

It was no good, She took out an old fashioned reporters note pad and started to write, her list of possible casualties.
There was Jenny Lincoln of course, pretty perfect Jenny. 19 years old the last time Melanie had seen her, sobbing, taking refuge and comfort in Brian's arms. There was talk she'd gone to live in Melbourne with some cousins, so long ago. Then Inge Fauber, the blonde of Germanic descent, tall, muscular, could have been a weight lifter in another life, was she still working as an air hostess, no too old.
Her peer group, Cindy, Angela, the little Yugoslavian girls, what were their names, who were they now? What about Christine Maguire, her mother adored Christine. She was older than them, and sang in the chorus, she was about 26 and worked full time in a solicitors office. Christine was plump and jolly and always laughing.
"Oh she's a lovely girl that Christine, I wish she could settle down, she's very good with children you know,such a shame."
Pattie had a view that anyone over a certain age who was childless was somehow unfortunate, bereft of a great love.
"That's Jean's problem, no kids of her own, that's why she gets so involved with you Melanie, thinks she's some sort of second mother, I said to her once, leave my daughter alone Jean, go and have one of your own, but of course she didn't, too selfish, that's my sister for you, doesn't care about anyone but herself and her latest bloody dog."

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Comments by other Members

Anna Reynolds at 17:27 on 13 January 2004  Report this post
Julie, this is starting to have quite a different feeling to it- I think maybe that's the emails, which suddenly condenses time massively, and brings Jean so much nearer- ie. the past and the present coming together, and also right at the end of this chapter, the resurgence of the mysterious body in Brian's garden- and both of those quite big threads sandwiching the date with Oscar, which I have to confess was what I was dying to read. I wondered where her sudden confidence came from, and how smoothly the date seemed to go- or is that the point, then the payoff comes when he reveals himself to be just another liar/cheat with the ansaphone message? The body in the garden feels a bit like something we left behind quite a while ago, in terms of it being a strong plot- how crucial is this overall? melanie is delightful as always.

Jubbly at 18:13 on 13 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Anna, thanks for you comments. I think I probably need to bring Oscar into the story more, at present he is just a cyphon for more misfortune. The body and the reveal of the identity and how it came to be there are quite integral and come into the story quite soon. The feedback from here is really helping me, so as long as people are reading I'll keep posting.



Account Closed at 22:50 on 13 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie,
Here are my comment for what they’re worth.

They don't, thought Melanie rather baffled. –is this a question?

This was in contrast to her recent gait, - I like the contrast but I don’t like this line, seems a bit clunky.

She knew once she'd walked through that door there was no turning back, well yes she could just about face and exit the restaurant, running all the way home but that simply wasn't an option.

Why wasn’t it an option? Maybe you need to explain.

she was certainly up for a good Barney. A good argument?

"I'd like to see some of your stuff, really." The meaning of the really isn’t clear from the punctuation.

there was nothing left for them to say. I don’t find this line appropriate for their relationship and a bit clichéd.

A six thousand piece jigsaw depicting several shades of white. V. good, strong!

I’m glad we’re getting into the story now. Her big come back! You spent a lot of time describing Mel’s preparation for the date and actually getting there but then the resto scene seemed too short. I could have done with a bit of dialogue there. I think this whole restaurant-his flat section needs a good re-write. It doesn’t work for me. Sorry, that isn’t very helpful, is it! But I’d say look at it again.

I also feel you need to work on Pattie’s death. At the moment it reads like another anecdote but it’s a tragic tale which certainly affected Mel deeply. This doesn’t come through at the moment.

She's thinking about her mother, clearing out that room with all its memories and then suddenly thinks about the dead body and stops and writes a list?

In fact I have the same feeling as I had with your other novel. You are a very funny writer but there are moments when the comedy covers up something deeper and you need to let the deep feelings show through and drop the comedy act. The contrast would be so much more marked then. (Sound like a new age book, doesn’t it?!) Do you see what I’m getting at? Pleas let me know if you agree.

Bye for now

Jubbly at 08:29 on 14 January 2004  Report this post
Yes Elspeth, I do agree with your comments and they really are very helpful. I tend to write like I live, when things get too much I crack jokes. Casebook denial - which can work in fiction but I take your point, the contrast needs to be obvious to the reader. So they too, can see the crying clown I guess. Thanks again, I'll do some re working.



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