Brush hair, brush teeth, forget about eyeliner, just go for mascara and a dust of bronzer. Squirt of deodorant...blast, none left. Put that on the shopping list. Where is the shopping list, anyway...?
Sally Richardson had a million and one things on her mind as she hastily buttoned up her shirt and pulled on a pair of black trousers over skin still damp from the shower.
Friday mornings in the Richardsons' house were even more manic than usual because on Fridays and Saturdays, The Beauty Spot, the beauty salon that Sally owned and ran, opened at nine instead of half-past. That extra half-hour made a huge difference, Sally thought, every time Friday rolled round. She had to be out of the front door at eight forty-five on the nail to drop the boys at the day nursery instead of the rest of the week's more leisurely nine fifteen.
There was no time to dawdle over toast and coffee not that much dawdling ever went on at the Richardsons', with two working parents.
Sally told her friends that she never had fantasies in which Jude Law ripped off all her clothes and told her she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen in his life. No, her fantasies were about the household running to a strict timetable, where she was perkily out of bed and showered by half-past seven (with make-up on, hair perfect and no snags in her tights), ready to drag three-year-old Daniel from his bed (four-year-old Jack would already be up and beheading a few Action Men). Dressing the boys and getting breakfast ready would happen without too much cereal ending up on the floor and without small boys squabbling, and there might even be time for Sally to share a cup of coffee with Steve before he raced out of the door at eight twenty. Of course, this was the stuff of daydreams, as Sally often admitted to her mother-in-law, Delia. (She nearly told Delia about the Jude Law thing but then thought better of it. Delia was more of a Sean Connery woman, anyway.)
"It can't be good for the image of a beauty salon when the owner arrives out of breath, without a screed of make-up on her face and her shirt buttoned up all wrong," Sally had once pointed out.
But Delia, who knew how hard her daughter-in-law worked and thought she looked just as good with her creamy skin and flashing dark eyes free of cosmetics, laughed and said that early morning rushing was the working mother's daily marathon. "I was as slim as you when Steve and Amy were young, and now look at me," she said ruefully. "Upholstered hips and arms like a weightlifter."
"You look great," chided Sally, who adored her mother-in-law and treated her like a surrogate mum. Her own had died of cancer when Sally had been only twenty.
Kids definitely kept you thin, Sally decided on this particular Friday morning in February. She'd been up for an hour and still hadn't managed more than a sip of tea because Danny had upended his Rice Pops all over his jeans and sweater, necessitating a complete change. The toaster had decided to have one of its off days and burned Steve's toast to charcoal, setting off the smoke detector.
"Damn!" came his muttered voice from the hall where he was attempting to silence the alarm.
"Damn, damn, damn," repeated Danny happily, at the kitchen table, where he was having a good go at spilling more cereal.
"Damn, damn, damn," joined in Jack, banging his spoon against his fortunately empty dish.
Sally, foreseeing days of "damns" morning, noon and night, sighed. "Language," she mouthed at Steve when he appeared a moment later, fiddling with his cuff.
"Sorry," he said. "Forgot. The button popped off while I was reaching up. Where's the thread?"
Sally prised the last bit of charcoal from the toaster. "To be honest, Steve, you have a better chance of finding another clean shirt than of finding a needle and thread anywhere in this house. Will I iron you another one?"
"No, love, thanks. You don't have time. I'll do it." Steve leaned over his tiny wife and planted a kiss on the top of her head.
Steve was six foot two while Sally was a petite five three. "I never realised how ridiculous we looked together until I saw our wedding photos," she would joke. Height aside, they made a handsome couple, Sally's elfin, dark-haired, dark-eyed looks a dramatic contrast to her husband's clean-cut features, fair hair and unusual rich brown eyes. The boys took after their mother, their inky black eyes, like hers, gleaming with mischief.
Steve was not a natural with the iron and he grumbled as he wrestled with another shirt. "Today of all days, with the boss leaving, and I'm late as it is..."
"If the worst thing that happens today is your shirt button and this pair screaming 'damn' when your mother comes to mind them this afternoon, then we're doing fine," Sally pointed out.
Steve nodded, teasingly. "You're right, Pollyanna."
"I'm not Pollyanna," protested his wife. "It's just that Mum always used to say count your "
" blessings. I know." Steve pulled on his ironed shirt and then drained his coffee.
"I don't want to be a pain in the you-know-what," Sally went on earnestly, "like some Goody Two-Shoes always looking on the bright side."
"You're not," Steve said, shoving the ironing board away with a clatter. "But your optimism is one of the things I love about you. C'mere."
They exchanged a proper kiss this time.
"Mummy, what's a pain in the you-know-what?" asked Jack innocently.
His parents laughed, then Steve picked up his jacket from the back of a kitchen chair. "Bye, brats," he said, kissing his beloved sons.
"Bye, Daddy," they chorused.
"Bye, Pollyanna." He ducked as though Sally might throw something at him.
"You're the brat!" she yelled good-humouredly.
The front door slammed and Sally glanced at the clock. Eight thirty-two. Blast. Late again and Danny was only a quarter of the way through his cereal. She sat down beside her younger son and urged him to hurry up, which inevitably made him slow down. Danny had a stubborn streak.
Ruffling his unruly hair lovingly, she thought of how lucky she was, having Steve and the boys. Steve might tease her about it, but her mantra had always been that you shouldn't take anything for granted in this life.
As her mum used to say: you never knew what was around the corner.
Copyright © 2003 by Cathy Kelly