“When’s your interview love?” Ivy lowered her knitting into her lap and peered over her bifocals.
“Tuesday at 11.00 am sweetie.” Holly was beaming, even her nicotine stained teeth seemed to brighten.
Ivy nodded. Her dimple showed when she was pleased. “I am so proud of you, pet,” was her enthusiastic response.
Holly basked in the sunshine of Ivy’s approval. After two long years Holly was really hopeful this time. She was going to get this job; it had her name written all over it. It was only part time, a couple of days a week in the local library. Holly’s job had been in Executive Admin Services. She had been made redundant and her skills did not transfer easily into the private sector or the public sector at the lower levels.
Ivy stood slowly, reaching for her walking frame. She was stooped as she shuffled into the kitchen. “I’ll put the kettle on sweetheart.”
“Ok darling.” What Holly really wanted was a beer. But a cuppa could have to do.
Holly’s friends had all drifted away ever since she had been made redundant. At first, Holly was optimistic. She applied for everything. Damned if she was gonna wear lipstick or a skirt to the interviews; she owned a cupboard full of corporate pants suits. But the interviews never came. Holly was adrift, cast aside by her employer after 35 years of faithful service and disconnected from the world.
Then she trained as a barista. That was fun, and she finally learned how to use the coffee contraption at home. But everybody else on the course was 20 years old, bouncing pony tails and tiny titties with nary a wrinkle to be seen.
Then Ivy had an operation. Then another one, then another one. Holly was needed at home. While Ivy recovered Holly fetched the breakfast tray five times a day and learned to play guitar. She treated it like an exercise in admin, prolifically printing off song music and lyrics, cataloguing and filing by songwriter, year, genre and title. The folders expanded and filled several shelves in Holly’s home office. She hardly had time to play the instrument itself.
Ivy was 30 years older than Holly. They had fallen in love when Holly was a student in Ivy’s tutorial. Ivy was a lecturer, so of course, they waited until after Holly graduated, learned to drive and left home. The threat of being caught was part of the early thrill. The danger of being outed. Eventually Holly came out to her family to find her brother had already beaten her to the announcement.
Ivy, on the other hand, still had four children living at home. Two were in their 20s and they soon moved out and got on with their lives. The two youngest eyed Holly, the interloper, with suspicion across the dinner table. When they left home it was wonderful.
Soon Ivy and Holly were holidaying in Europe every year, attending the Theatre Royal in London, the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and seeing the Northern Lights in Norway. It was a charmed life, spoiled only briefly when Ivy’s husband Gerald came to live with them for a year, bankrupt and suicidally depressed. Holly grumbled under her breath that Ivy was not his mummy. After 35 years, in spite of the age difference they had the same pear shaped bodies, the same steel grey hair, the same lilting posh voice, faintly British in origin. Loose skin wattled at their necks and arms. Holly did everything she could to fade the years between them. She took up smoking, gained 30 kilos and never wore sunscreen. They were like two peas in a pod. A vast, opulent, comfortable pod with four bedrooms and two loungerooms and a two car garage.
They were both watching the television during the news. Gay marriage was finally legal in Australia. It was a great day for the country.
“Darling,” said Holly, patting Oberon, the 10 year old German Shepherd on the couch between them. She wondered if twin Holden Colorado Utes might best represent 35 years of lesbian marriage. Sighing, she supposed she would never find out.
“Yes sweetheart, it’s wonderful news.” Ivy was peering sideways at the television, wondering if she needed her cataracts done again.
Holly wanted to say, “we could get married now,” but the words wouldn’t come. Holly had always left the decisions up to Ivy. Where to go to dinner, what couch to buy, which country to visit next. Ivy was the more forthright of the two. “There’s another terrific Hamlet at the Royal on at the Cinema Paradise love,” she said instead.
“That would be terrific,” said Ivy. “Let’s go on Friday after armchair Tai Chi.”
“Dawn and Margaret are getting married,” Holly blurted. Holly rubbed her freckled hand into Oberon’s soft ears.
Dawn and Margaret were friends from the Lemon Squeeze Literary Society, a book club to which they both belonged.
There was a long, long pause. Holly wondered if Ivy was asleep. She peered across the dog.
“We don’t need to get married, do we? It doesn’t matter now, does it sweetheart?” Ivy’s thin lips disappeared. She was 83 years old and didn’t have the energy, quite frankly.
“Well, I, er, I thought, um.” Holly’s parents were both dead, her friends had all but evaporated and she had no job. “Yes, it does, it does matter, darling.”
Ivy stared over her spectacles, her silence bringing bad news. “I never did get a divorce from Gerald,” she said. “Anyway it doesn’t matter now, and I’ve made provision for Gerald in my will.”
Holly stood up, thunderstruck. “Come on Oberon, let’s go outside.” She sucked hard on a much needed cigarette. I won’t think about that, I won’t think about that, I won’t. She would file it under ‘U’ for unmarried, or ‘B’ for bastard or ‘F’ for . . . Forget it. “It’s not fair is it Obie?” she said to the dog.
Jay Jay Adams is a writer, an artist, a former teacher, and now a heart patient. She has a blue heeler called Lucy.