Looking out of the window in her kitchen it really was the most glorious sunny day. It was Sunday afternoon and Mel was just finishing off putting the plates away after lunch when the phone rang.
‘Hey Mels’ said the familiar voice of her friend Debbie, ‘Fancy a walk on the downs?’
‘You read my mind!’ smiled Mel. ‘Give me about half an hour?’
‘Sounds good, I’ll pick you up at 3.’
Melanie and Debra had been friends since their daughters had been in the same class at the local infant school, and they often went walking together at weekends now that the children were much too old and proud to be seen out walking with their middle-aged mothers.
It was one of those blissful autumn days when the weather was rather sheepishly trying to make up for a dreadful summer – the best it had managed was a couple of sunny days in early July. The sky was a clear blue dotted with little fluffy clouds and it was warm enough to be out in a comfy jumper. A welcome opportunity to soak up a last dose of vitamin D before the grey, murky miserableness of winter set in.
Three o’clock saw her standing by her gate in the pink wellingtons with peppa pig all over them that the kids had got her for Christmas, faded jeans, a rust brown chenille jumper that went really well with her hair, and a rucksack with a flask of coffee – just in case the kiosk in the car-park was surrounded by sweaty cyclists as it often was on a nice day.
‘How’s it going?’ asked Debbie as she got into the car.
‘It’s been a grotty week again, customers driving me crazy – how about you?’ She replied.
‘Quiet… boring… the usual!’ said Deb. She worked in a little cubicle in an office with four other people and often complained that she got bored; however the work wasn’t too taxing. This contrasted with Mel, who worked in a shop and never got bored, but had to deal with difficult and demanding customers on a regular basis. They both lived on the edge of town, about a twenty minute drive from the beginning of a countryside walk that was popular with dog-walkers, horse-riders and ramblers.
The path was a bit muddy after the torrential rain of the previous week however it was easily passed in wellie-boots. The trees were heavy with conkers and berries and the leaves were mainly still a lush mixture of greens, however a few more crisp bright days and they would start to proudly sport the latest autumn colours. After a while, the path opened out to go along the edge of a field with a tall hedgerow along the right-hand side. Their eyes lit up at the sight of fat blackberries hanging thickly on the branches.
‘The good thing about not having the kids with us is that we can do this!’ said Debbie carefully picking one avoiding the prickles, and putting it straight into her mouth. ‘I’d make the kids wash them before they ate them just to be safe, but a few germs never hurt anyone!’
‘Not to mention the odd dog lifting its leg!’ grinned Mel as she saw her friend’s disgusted expression.
‘Good point.’ Said Debbie, getting a plastic bag out of her handbag, and collecting great handfuls. ‘I saw a recipe I want to try for a loaf cake using Greek yoghurt with blackcurrant puree swirled through.’
‘Sounds great, but can you hurry up before someone sees us!’ laughed Mel. ‘I work in a supermarket remember, if anyone from management hears about me doing this, I’ll get the blame if the takings are down!’
They’d just finished and stashed the bag away when another family group came round the corner towards them.
‘Perfect!’ groaned Mel. ‘It’s my nemesis!’
‘You’re a middle-aged mother of three who works on a till at Tesco’s – how can you have a nemesis?’ laughed Debbie.
‘Shhh! He’s the customer from hell! She hissed. ‘Every week he comes in and insists that I help him find five bananas exactly the same size and shade – like I have nothing else to do! “The customer might always be right,” but that doesn’t stop him being a pain in the neck! We just have to smile and say “Can I be of any further service?” while I really just want to shove one of the bananas somewhere painful.’
‘Like I say – your life is never boring! Maybe I should get a nemesis? I could start with Sue – she borrowed my stapler and returned it empty the other day, so I had to walk all the way to the stationery cupboard in the corner of the office to get some more staples!’ smirked Debbie. ‘Do you want to turn round and go the other way?’
But at that point the man’s face split into a huge grin of recognition and he bounded forward.
‘Hello! You’re the lady I talk to at Tesco’s every Saturday aren’t you?’ he said. Funny – but when he was smiling and relaxed, he looked completely different – almost attractive. Quite surprising. He waited for the rest of his family to join him and took the hand of a little girl with her hair in perfect blonde plaits, who looked up innocently at him.
‘Ellie sweetheart, this is the lovely lady who always helps me choose the bananas for your lunch – what do you say?’
‘Thank you lady.’ Said the little girl solemnly.
‘She only eats yellow food and the bananas always have to be exactly the same size and colour. I’m so grateful that you take the time out of your busy day. It can be a struggle sometimes’ he said catching his wife’s eye and smiling over Ellie’s head, ’but you’re always so helpful – like nothing is too much trouble. It means so much, you’ve no idea! At least she’s eating yellow food at the moment – it was a nightmare when she had a melt-down if her food wasn’t round and purple. There’s only so many plums and grapes you can give a seven year old! Thanks again!’ he said, and grinning a farewell he caught his family up.
‘So …. You planning on getting another nemesis?’ asked Debbie slyly, looking sideways at her friend as they continued their walk. It really was the most glorious sunny day.