Della gulped down her too hot coffee as she made her way to the front door. Shoving her feet in high heeled shoes, she grabbed her coat and slammed the door. Every morning was the same. There was no-one about as she speeded off towards Bigwood Station. She could hear the train coming as she pulled into the car park.
Diving through the doors she headed for the only empty seat. It was an aisle seat so she knew she needed to get her make-up on quickly as the train would fill up at the next stop. With an expertise, that she didn’t appreciate, she shadowed and lined her eyes and added black mascara. She glossed her lips in a subtle shade of pink and with a few flicks of her comb her hair fell into its neat bob. Other passengers watched fascinated at the transformation.
By the next station Della was sitting with one elegant leg crossed over the other and was calmly reading her book. The doors opened and passengers piled in. One lady leaned over Della’s seat. Della gave her a cool look and then sneezed loudly in her direction. The lady shuffled away. The gentleman sitting opposite noticed a hint of a smile hover on Della’s lips.
Alice poured herself another cup of freshly brewed coffee and sat down at the kitchen table with The Times. Absentmindedly she stroked Albert, her Scottish terrier. She waited until the coffee was lukewarm before finishing it and then padded upstairs to the shower.
Although it was a bright day, there was a chill in the air, so Alice slipped on a cashmere jumper over her blouse. She took time and care putting on her make-up in the special magnifying mirror that her daughter had bought her for Christmas. She applied a thin eyeliner to her eyelids and then a layer of mascara to her lashes.
‘Not too bad,’ she thought to herself as she checked the mirror one last time. Pulling on sensible flat boots she slipped a lead on Albert and left the house.
Arriving at the club, she settled Albert in the corner of the room and went to join her friends at the bar. Mary Entwhistle carried Alice’s drink back to the table for her and made a fuss of Albert. Soon a number of other women joined them. Alice knew she was lucky to be part of the Bigwood Ladies group and she settled back to hear all their latest news. Nobody mentioned the lipstick that was too wide for her mouth, the eyes with thick smudged liner or that she was wearing one brown and one blue boot.
Della arrived at the office calm and relaxed having finished another chapter of the novel she was reading. Before she hung up her coat Mr Arnold said he wanted to see her. She raised an eyebrow, but followed him out of the room.
Without preamble he said, “We want to offer you the position of junior partner, here at Arnold and Griffith. Initially you will take over two of my high profile cases, but in the longer term, you will become a senior partner and I’ll retire. What d’you say Della?”
She took a deep breath and held out her hand. “I’m delighted to accept,” she said. Inside she wanted to jump up and down and scream. This was what she’d been working towards for five years. It had all paid off. Now her mum would be proud of her. In fact she’d pop in on the way home tonight.
Alice walked back from the club with Albert, stopping to chat with people along the way. The sun warmed her face. Still there was the rest of the afternoon and evening to get through on her own, so she decided to buy herself a little treat. Popping into the corner shop she picked up a bottle of sherry and three packets of jammy dodgers. She liked these biscuits and so did Albert.
When she got home she couldn’t be bothered to cook. She’d had a proper meal at lunch time so she opened the sherry and the biscuits and settled down to watch Floggit. That Paul Martin was such a nice man. As the sun went down so did the biscuits.
Then she heard a key in the lock. It could only be one person.
“Hello mum,” said Della. “Oh my goodness, what are you doing? Drinking in the afternoon and there’s crumbs everywhere.”
“Hello Della dear, it’s good to see you,” Alice smiled.
“Have you had your evening meal yet? Don’t tell me you’re not eating properly and living on biscuits. You’ll have to go in a home if you can’t look after yourself.”
“Sit down Della. I’ve been out with my club today and had a proper meal and I’ll go into a home if and when I want to.”
“Sorry mum. I worry about you.”
“When it suits you, but in the weeks in between I get on with my life. Now can I get you something?”
Della sat down and brushed some crumbs from the chair. “I wish you wouldn’t let that dog sit on the chairs and if you stopped feeding him biscuits there wouldn’t be crumbs everywhere.”
“That’s true, but I don’t mind if Albert makes a few crumbs. Now have you just come round to nag me?”
Della paused and then smiled. “I’ve been made a junior partner mum. Isn’t that fantastic? Not many women my age are made partners.”
“That’s very nice dear. I’m glad you’re pleased.” Alice stroked Albert’s ears. ‘Poor girl,’ she thought, ‘on her own at thirty-five. There’s enough time to be on your own at seventy two.’ She poured herself another sherry and caught a look of disappointment on Della’s face.
Raising her glass she said, “Well done Della. I’m very proud of you.”
“Are you mum? You didn’t look it.”
“Of course I am, it’s just that I worry about you too.”
“Me? Why on earth would you worry about me? I’m young, fit and healthy and have a well-paid job.”
“You never seem to have time to savour the good things in life. When did you last have a day off?”
“Mum, you don’t understand. I’m in a very competitive business. I have to be sharp and keep working to stay ahead. I’m achieving more than most. Can’t you be proud?”
“I am proud, but just remember you’re not that young and time’s marching if you’re planning to do the married and baby thing.”
“Oh mother! I’m off home. Early start tomorrow.” She paused by the door and looked back. Her mother was ferreting in a drawer.
“Here, Della. Take this. It’s your father’s ring. He would have been so proud of you becoming a partner.”
Della smiled and hugged her mother.