Ponytail by Last Exit
Bank Holiday weekend – cars crawled round the car park searching for a space and then their drivers crawled round the supermarket, queueing to select their purchases, seeking the best bargains and hoping the fine weather would keep. Harassed mothers towed small children, refusing their requests for the sweet and sticky treats so temptingly displayed. Students sauntered along the aisles, filling their baskets with bottles and cans of alcohol and calorie-laden snacks. Lovers wound their arms round each other and ambled around the vast emporium, oblivious to everyone else and preventing them from finding the items they sought.
I was in a hurry. I had not intended going out to shop but my grocery order had been delivered with some of the vital ingredients ‘unavailable.’ Most irritating, particularly as I had guests arriving for dinner in a few hours.
Having found everything, apart from water chestnuts, I looked for the fastest-moving queue. Every check-out desk sported a long tailback of shoppers anxious to unload their trolleys and get home to their barbecues, their drinks parties, their assignations or simply their precious, limited time off. Bank holidays are rare in the UK and each one is anticipated with pleasure.
I joined a queue and began my usual pastime of covertly scrutinising the purchases of my fellow shoppers. Then I began to watch the people in front of me. Each trolley load was swiftly checked out – there was an orchestra of beeps from the check-out desks. Surely the cashiers must hear them in their sleep.
I focussed on the woman in front of me. She had the usual array of tasty treats many people buy to pamper themselves – luxury chocolates, a couple of bottles of good red wine, a glossy magazine and a fine selection of fresh vegetables, fish and meat. I judged she had a family waiting for her to return and cook a delicious meal. I noted her hair – expensively cut and coloured and artfully arranged in a high ponytail, with loose tendrils curling at the sides. Dainty diamond drop earrings threatened to tangle with them and I watched to see if they would catch but they didn’t. At her neck was a silk scarf, one end casually tossed over her shoulder, complementing her crisp blouse. She was so slender! I glanced down at her feet, neatly shod in smart loafers, her slim, pretty ankles just visible beneath the hem of her long, flowing skirt. I looked at my own ensemble and felt shabby in my trainers and gilet. I was envious. It seemed this young woman had all the time and money required to be beautifully presented at all times. Her nails were manicured and polished to perfection and adorned with beautiful rings. A gold charm bracelet caught the light as she packed her items.
With the final things in her bags she turned to pay. With a shock I realised, far from being young, she was a woman of very mature years. Suddenly the hair and clothes seemed wrong, too young, not suited to her age. She caught my eye and smiled as she said, ‘I could have worn purple, you know,’ and I blushed.
All the way home the words of Jenny Joseph’s poem went round and round in my head. ‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me’ and I resolved to be less judgmental in future.
Thanks to Tess for this prompt. Go here to read other offerings.