Reader fiction: A broken dream

“Hell’s bells and bottles of blood,” muttered Nicky as she grasped out in the dark to turn the alarm off.  This life was a far cry from what she had hoped for and imagined during those years of stamping her feet on the cold and wet platform where she waited day in day out for the train to take her up to Paris.  Oh, the job was a good one, the best she had ever had, but the Parisian hustle and bustle and forever standing on the 40-minute train journey to and fro had taken its toll. Fifty-two-years-old, Nicky was still attractive, slim and dynamic, but how her feet encased in stiletto heels killed her at the end of the day.  Hence “the dream” to make a break and endeavour to change her life forever. Far from the madding crowd…

The other reason was that she had fallen in love, again.  “This time it’s for real,” as Queen had sung in one of their popular hits.  Following a pretty unhappy marriage which had survived 20 years she had finally managed to leave her husband who, amongst other quirks, continued to count the number of knives and forks in the cutlery drawer and spent most of the money in his account on gambling. One could say that her husband’s credo was “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine”. 

The day she met Gérard her life flew into the stars.  Cuddling up to his chest in the dark Nicky could feel the swelling love she felt for this man, the desire which she had thought forever lost was rekindled, and the sound of her bubbling laughter which she had kept in over all those years astonished even herself.  Gérard had left his natal village as a young man to seek employment in Paris and after 40 long years he hunkered to return to his village upon retirement.

A small meandering stream ran through the tiny village at the foot of the Pyrenees, the daily view of the mountain chain was breath-taking, and the imposing 200-year-old church which stood in the centre of the village often brought passing admiring visitors in quest of an authentic French village church to a halt.  The small village grocery shop situated right next to the church, and which had closed three years’ before, would live again.  Nicky threw herself entirely into redecorating the shop, buying all the equipment, and making contact with her “new” suppliers.

That was eight years ago.  A long, long eight years. 

When Nicky opened the store quite a number of villagers turned up, mainly to drink the welcome “kir”. The first year was as tough as she had imagined, but slowly the population gained confidence in Nicky.  One day, an elderly lady handed her purse to Nicky and said, “Help yourself.” That day she knew that she had gained one gold star.  Gérard kept himself busy with his local politics and although Nicky tried not to let bad vibes invade her she felt more and more that she had become a slave to the shop, and a slave to Gérard.

Gérard loathed the local council and was constantly criticising them. After a particularly nasty disagreement Gérard won the battle against the council. The result was that the local council decided to boycott the shop. Battle won for Gérard, but war lost for Nicky.

For Nicky, the day started at 6 am for her first deliveries. In the winter the temperature in the shop was often -10, when she wasn’t serving customers she had her nose plunged into the shaky accounts, and Gérard became more and more involved with his cronies and less and less involved in the life which Nicky had hoped so much would be the culminate point of happiness.  Holidays were unheard of, 60 hours a week was pretty normal, working all public holidays was essential to keep the business afloat; the salary when it came was peanuts.

Nicky stumbled out of bed pulled on some old jeans and a couple of pullovers, and looking vaguely like the Michelin man, came downstairs and prepared the shop for the new day’s work.

“Hullo Anna,” said Nicky, “how are you today?” No sooner were the words uttered Nicky regretted them. 

“Oh, I’m not all right at all, look,” and with one grubby finger Anna gripped the inside of her cheek and tugged on it showing a rotten, black decaying tooth. Over the years she had seen two men pull their trousers down for her benefit; one was to expose half a buttock and the other half a view of greying pubic hairs to “admire” their operation scars. Normal practice!

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Gerald became more and more distant, and Nicky’s life became more and more desolate. The shop’s accounts became hopelessly precarious until she finally hit ground level and opted out. A quick packing up and flight to the railway station did the trick… Nicky had fled.

Beware of dreams – a dream is sometimes worse than an existing reality!

Woman's Way