Halfway Up The Street
She stops to light a fag, watches some sparrows fight over batter-bits, left by a slow-blown chip-paper that tumbleweeds across the Courthouse grass.
From the pavement she squints to make out the headline exclaiming Sandie Shaw a winner.
She drags deep on her fag, exhales, puts both hands back on the pram and starts walking, steering around a curled mound of dog muck.
Jean and her sisters watched the Eurovision on their new second-hand black and white TV on Saturday night, bought by her mam the weekend before from a woman at work.
Jean and her sisters gasped when Sandie’s microphone didn’t work at first, and then moved as one to the edge of the new second-hand settee when Sandie’s voice came through loud and clear.
Jean would like her hair cut like Sandie’s, but for now she wears it in a beehive.
She stoops by the cenotaph to pull the backs of her sandals up, and to stop her heart beating fast she sings the first line of Sandie’s chorus, almost breathing it into the mouth of the pram.
Say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there.
She frowns, drags on her fag, then starts reading the blackened names on the cenotaph.
For those who fell.
She gets as far as Evans G, then understands these names mean nothing to her, and placing one hand on the pram, she moves on in slow measured steps, fag in mouth, using her free hand to check her hair.
In the mirror this morning she thought she looked older. This is something she wants, and has been practising an older face. The older face doesn’t smile.
She takes her fag out and glances down to her belly and legs as she walks. In her brown suede miniskirt her belly has lost its little pudding, and she thinks her legs have gained nothing after the birth.
In the distance, the Post Office clock looks like it reads a quarter to one, but she can’t be sure without her glasses.
Jean puts the brake on the big old pram and moves around to the side of it, peering into the flaky chrome struts that hold the hood up. Her black eyeliner is thick today, and her slate-grey eyes stare back between curls of peeling silver.
She rubs the loose flakes off and wishes she had a new pram.
When the woman from the Social came to tell her someone had donated a used pram and did she want it, Jean felt happy. She walked all the way across town to a big old house to collect it. The woman who was donating the pram smiled at Jean, but she could tell the woman was judging her.
Jean’s mam warned her people would be like this when she came home with the baby.
Jean knew this anyway.
Lifting the brake with the toe of her sandal, Jean and the pram move off slowly. She still has quarter of an hour until she meets Mick, and Mick is always late.
Her heart starts beating faster again when she thinks of him, and she hates herself for not being strong and calm like an older woman would.
She parks the pram by the bench and sits down, pulling her skirt down lower.
Stamping her fag out, she remembers Mick’s face when she told him she was pregnant. She remembers the flicker of shock in his eyes, the blink, then the grin, the Oh well I suppose we’d best get married then.