There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Queenie – Coming back to Life
Queenie Denton contemplated the crumbs on the plate in front of her. She barely remembered eating the toast and marmalade and wondered if she was losing her marbles.
It was six weeks since her husband of fifty-five years, Donald, had died peacefully clasping the silver cross he had bought at a charity shop in the high street the month before. He was not a religious man, but he had worked for an insurance company as man and boy, and she supposed he thought it prudent at eighty years old to cover his bets. She on the other hand went to church every Sunday and was a member of the church ladies group that arranged the flowers and kept the place spotless between services.
They called themselves the Holy Dusters, and she realised with a pang that she missed seeing her friends every few days. They had been marvellous of course, bringing around Victoria sponges and sitting with her in the first few weeks, but she had then begun to ignore the doorbell; sitting in solitude in Donald’s recliner.
She must make the effort and get back to normal. She could just imagine what her husband would have to say about the state of the house, and the fact that she had not put her make-up on for weeks.
There were a few other things she had neglected since Donald had suddenly collapsed and been rushed into hospital. She had cancelled her regular Wednesday morning hair appointment and she could see that her normally pristine and beautifully manicured nails needed immediate attention.
She picked up her plate, cup and saucer and popped them into the kitchen sink before reaching for the telephone on the wall.
Two days later, looking and feeling more like herself; Queenie put the telephone down from talking to Mavis who was in charge of the dusting rota. She would be starting back next Tuesday; giving her time to get her own house in order. But, with Donald gone and nobody to fuss over, she needed a project and immediately her mind veered to thoughts of her as yet single granddaughter Penny. Now there was a challenge if ever there was one.
Penny was a brilliant psychiatrist who worked at the local hospital. Tall and rather striking, she had never married, and at thirty-five didn’t seem to have any interest in doing so. Queenie loved her dearly, but having set her heart on being a great grandmother before she followed Donald into the great beyond, she felt it was time for an intervention.
The following Saturday with her house back to spick and span order, Queenie piled a tray with cups, coffee pot and red velvet cupcakes and carried it into the living room where Penny was removing her coat and scarf.
‘Here we are darling,’ Queenie smiled warmly at her granddaughter, who came over and took the heavy tray from her.
‘Those cupcakes look delicious Nana. Are you back to baking again?’ Penny placed the tray on the coffee table and sat in the chair next to her grandmother.
‘No dear, I must be honest, I bought them from the new bakery next to my hairdressers, and I must admit to trying one or two already.’
Niceties out of the way, Queenie decided to get a few details ironed out before she outlined her project for her granddaughter.
‘Penny,’ she started hesitantly. ‘I hope you don’t mind me being a little indelicate, but are you in the wardrobe?’
Penny cocked her head to one side and contemplated her grandmother, barely able to contain her laughter.
‘Whatever do you mean Nana,’ she composed herself.
‘Well I was in the hairdressers the other day, reading a magazine where a young woman about your age said that she had recently come out of the wardrobe to her parents, and they had not been very understanding.’
‘Ah… I get it now Nana; actually it is usually referred to as being in the closet, and do you know why she might have been in the closet?’
‘Of course darling, I am not that old fashioned, and in fact when I was a young woman it was quite common for two maiden ladies to move in together and not to marry. It was understood that there was an arrangement and nobody really thought anything about it. Of course it was much more difficult when two young men moved in together; which never seemed fair to me.’
Penny was relieved to hear that her grandmother understood the situation so well, but felt that she ought to put her grandmother straight on her own state of affairs.
‘Nana I’m not gay and I wondered why you should think that?’ She looked at Queenie in amusement.
‘Well, you have often said that you have no intention of marrying or having children, and I just feel that it is such a shame to go through life alone.’ Queenie paused for a moment and gathered her thoughts.
‘Marriage is not always perfect, and goodness knows I drove your poor grandfather to distraction with my little foibles. Not to say that he didn’t have his own, although it was difficult to get him to admit it. But, our love was strong enough to weather any storm and I just wish that you could experience that for yourself.’
Penny looked down at her ringless hands and tried to forget that she was a psychiatrist for a moment, and just a granddaughter who was about to share her very private thoughts for the first time.
‘Nana,’ she began quietly. ‘When I was at university I fell in love with another student. He was two years ahead of me studying medicine, and when we met at one of the dances we clicked immediately.’
Queenie leant forward in her chair watching her normally composed granddaughter struggle to tell this story.
‘Go on darling,’ she encouraged smiling across the space between them.
‘His name was Aaron Bernstein and came from Israel. We moved in to a flat together a year before he finished his degree, and he was planning on doing his hospital rotations here in England until I finished my own. However his parents came over to visit shortly before he graduated, and told him in no uncertain terms, that they would disown him if he chose to marry someone not of their faith.’
Tears rolled down Penny’s cheeks and she took a tissue out of her handbag.
Queenie was speechless, she had not heard this story before and she was angry that her son, Penny’s father, had kept it from her.
‘Did your parents know about this Penny?’ She tried not to sound hurt and angry.
‘No, Nana, I told no-one, especially when Aaron felt that he could not go against his parents and disappoint them. He returned to Israel straight after graduation and I haven’t heard from him since.’ She paused and looked at her grandmother’s expression of dismay.
‘I did try to find him by searching online for a number of years but I eventually gave up and tried to put him out of my mind.’
This was a bombshell indeed and Queenie felt herself getting very angry at this dreadful slight against her only granddaughter.
‘I’m so sorry darling,’ she reached across and held Penny’s hand. ‘Haven’t you been out with anyone else in the last ten years that you might have had feelings for?’
Penny smiled at her grandmother’s concerned face. ‘I have dated quite a bit Nana, but never met anyone like Aaron. He was simply my soul mate and I don’t want to settle for less.’
This disturbing conversation replayed over and over in Queenie’s mind in the next few days and after her next visit to the hairdressers, and after reading a very interesting article, she contacted her friend Doris.
The next day she arrived at her friend’s house looking immaculate in her a new emerald green jacket and her pearls. She was not going to make her debut on the international worldwide webby thing looking anything but her best.
Doris led her into her dining room where the two of them sat side by side in front of a computer screen.
‘Now Queenie, you said that you wanted to find your granddaughter a soul mate online so I have got the links for some recommended dating sites we can try.’ She looked over to her friend to see if they were on the same page.
‘Actually Doris, I have something else in mind after reading an article in a magazine yesterday.
She slipped a piece of paper across the table to Doris who picked it up to study.
‘Okay, that is an interesting approach,’ and with that she typed in the link onto the screen.
Two weeks later Penny was surprised to get a phone call from her grandmother at nearly midnight, and was immediately concerned that Queenie was unwell.
She assured her granddaughter that all was fine, but she needed to see her on Saturday morning urgently. Queenie uttered a quick ‘love you’ and put the phone down.
Penny duly arrived at ten in the morning and was relieved to see that Queenie was resplendent in pink jacket and beautifully presented as normal. Her only concern was that she looked slightly flushed and over excited, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it right away.
‘Okay Nana, I’m here so what is so urgent?’
Queenie placed her hand on her heart and took a deep breath.
‘Darling, I know that you feel that there could never be another soul mate for you and I do understand that,’ she paused before continuing in a rush ‘I hope you don’t mind but I have done something rather serious.’
‘What have you done Nana?’ Penny was not sure where this was leading but she had a suspicion that she was not going to enjoy it.
‘Well darling, you said that it was several years since you last checked online to find Aaron, so I thought that I would give it a shot, and Doris and I have been investigating. Penny who had no idea that her grandmother even knew how to switch on a computer was stunned at this surprising development.
Seeing the bemused look on Penny’s face, Queenie took her by the hand and led her into the living room where she pulled her down to sit beside her on the sofa.
‘Darling, I found him, I found your Aaron.’ Penny put a trembling hand over her mouth and stared at Queenie completely speechless.’
Queenie excitedly continued. ‘I found him on this place called LinkedIn and it has to be the right one. He served in the Israeli army for ten years before going to America where he is a top heart surgeon at a large hospital in New York.’
‘Oh my God Nana, I don’t believe it.’ Penny stared at her grandmother as if she had never seen her before.
‘And that’s not all,’ Queenie continued. ‘Doris is on LinkedIn too because of the fancy job that she had, so she was able to send him a message thingy, asking him if he was the one who trained in England and knew a girl called Penny.’
Completely mortified Penny stood up and walked to the window. Her heart was thumping madly in her chest and she could barely breathe. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that this would lead anywhere; after all he was probably married with children by now.
At that moment she saw a black taxi pull up outside the house and the back door open. A tall man with slightly greying hair got out and leant through the front window as he paid the driver. He turned and opened the gate, walking briskly to the front door. He turned as he caught a movement in the bay window and after a moment of simply staring at each other, he smiled, his eyes crinkling in a very familiar way.
She heard Queenie walking down the hall to open the door and then footsteps across the parquet flooring.
Penny held her breath with her eyes closed as she felt his presence behind her and then his two hands gently resting on her shoulders.
He pulled her back in to him and whispered in her ear.
‘I am sorry I was not brave enough then. Please forgive me and tell me it is not too late.’
They did not hear the front door close or see Queenie as she walked down the path and disappeared from view.
She was smiling as she made her way to Doris’s house; eager to get cracking on their next adventure online which was to sign up for one of those Mediterranean cruises in the Spring. She was sure Donald would not approve, but as Doris reminded her, you are only young once.
©Sally Cronin 2015
I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally
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