1. Romances

1. Romances

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



  Mrs Bookworm stood anxiously by the door to her precious bookshop, wondering if now that all the pestilence was over and folk were free to go about their business again anyone would call in to see what might be seen in the various magical corners of her emporium.

In the good old days the road would have been cluttered by souls all coming her way. There would have been boys and girls, the girls hand in hand and the boys joshing and thumping each other in the way boys do. There would have been mums and dads, some of them frowning at the boys and others laughing at the girls. There would have been elderly Derby and Joan types, and if they thought nobody was looking they might sneakily hold hands and gently squeeze fingers that had already almost forgotten how to feel loved. The whole gamut of society would, piecemeal and in dribs and drabs, walk the long straight road towards her shop and some of them come in.

Mrs Bookworm had always felt blessed.

She looked down the road and smiled to herself.

Of course! Jennifer Dewberry was coming her way, The road was long and she was still quite a distance away, but there could be no doubt it was she. Hardly a day had passed in the old pre-pestilence days that Jennifer had failed to pop in, ask if there was anything in the latest titles that would interest her with a twinkle in her eyes and a mysterious twitch ion her face.

Like just about all of her regular customers Jennifer Dewberry assumed that Mrs Bookworm had all the time in the world to read all the latest releases, and Mrs Bookworm tried to give the impression of obliging. She did it by doing a bit of discreet cheating, like reading the publisher’s blurb and the last paragraph of the new books. It usually helped. But, obviously, not always, but she was forgiven by just about everyone who might otherwise have been annoyed by misdirection.

Jennifer Dewberry had a fondness for romances, and not just ordinary romances but the sort best described as “bodice rippers”. She was a single lady in her forties and like many single ladies lived a kind of pseudo love life through the pages of the books she read. Many was the doctor or surgeon or senior policeman or lawyer or army captain she had taken to her bed at night between the pages of many a book, and cuddled up with and fallen helplessly and futilely in love with, and Mrs Bookworm guessed this. So this time when Jennifer walked into her shop, almost stooping as she passed through the door, and smiling nervously as is she wondered if anyone could read her heart, she was ready.

And Jennifer did walk in, just as anticipated, though there was something different about her, but Mrs Bookworm was hard put to decide what.

Good morning, my dear,” she said with hearty gratitude that she had at least one customer to greet that first post-pestilence day.

I’ve so missed calling in, Mrs Bookworm,” gushed the good Jennifer Dewberry, “life’s been so tough this past few months and it’s really good to be able to tread on almost forgotten path...”

And I’m so happy to see you, my dear,” replied Mrs Bookworm, “was there anything in particular that you might be looking for?”

That was one variation of her usual question when a regular customer came in. She mostly knew exactly what they were after but pretended she had no idea. Seeming to be aware of her customers’ peculiarities, she thought, might give quite the wrong impression. It might seem too much like spying, and she was no spy.

Oh, you know me, Mrs Bookworm!” chirruped Jennifer Dewberry, “I like my men rough! I like rumpy pumpy until I’m dripping with perspiration reading it. Or rather, that’s what I used to like. But no more!”

Goodness me!” was all Mrs Bookworm could think of saying.

No, during the enforced, what have they called it, lockdown, I’ve been obliged to do a good turn,” she almost laughed, and painfully joyfully at that.

You have, Miss Dewberry?” enquired a flabbergasted Mrs Bookworm, and then curiosity getting the better of her, she asked, “tell me more!”

I need a seat to rest my weary bottom on,” sighed Jennifer Dewberry, sinking into the chair that a thoughtful Mrs Bookworm has provided for exhausted customers. But, it crossed her mind, Jennifer Dewberry almost never sat down on that or any other chair in her shop, and there one or two scattered about.

It’s been this enforced idleness,” explained Miss Dewberry, “I re-read the better books in my collection during the first week, and I must say that your recommended A Doctor Falls was superb when read for a second, or maybe third, time. Quite superb, the way Doctor Flynn was so loose with his trousers. I never knew a man quite like that, not in all my years, and then came the lockdown.”

Mrs Bookworm could see no relationship between a fictitious surgeon (she’d read the book and Doctor Flynn was a brain surgeon with a flawless reputation and easily lowered trousers) and Jennifer’s apparent escape from the current pestilence, but nodded anyway.

I live in the Newholme flats,” she explained, “there are four flats in each block and the dearest man in the world lives in the one opposite mine.” She flushed as though the memory was so gloriously exciting it had inadvertently caused an enhanced surging of her blood.

I’m delighted,” was all Mrs Bookworm could think of saying.

Exactly,” beamed Jennifer Dewberry, “and when I saw how lonely he was, and believe you me I don’t ever go secretly spying on my neighbours, not even during a horrendous lockdown, I couldn’t help knocking on his door..”

What a...” Mrs Bookworm was going to suggest it was a kindly thing for her customer to have done, then she remembered the steamy fiction the woman preferred and pulled back at the last moment and continued with “...generous thought.”

I knew you’d understand,” beamed Jennifer Dewberry, “so I did it! I knocked on his door!”

I’m sure he’ll be forever grateful,” murmured the bookseller.

Oh, he will, I know that!” chirruped Miss Dewberry, “because the first thing he did was most unexpected. I’d been of the mind he might offer me a cup of tea or coffee, and I was exploding in my desire to accept when, instead, he said, quite out of the blue, “shall I take my trousers off now?”

Mrs Bookworm was suddenly all ears.

Well,” continued Jennifer, not even blushing now that her tale was well under way, “you can imagine I was quite taken aback. You see, I didn’t know him but we’ve shared landing for years and Mr Archer, or Walter as I call him now that we’re acquainted, has always seemed such a quiet and shall I say shy man. And the whole idea of his asking me if he should remove his trousers was part of an alien lexicon so far as I was concerned!

I dared say you made a hasty getaway?” enquired Mrs Bookworm.

I thought that much, of course I did, but then I remembered Doctor Flynn and his stethoscope, so instead of being all flustered and rushing from the door, instead I ask him if he needed any help and that I was just the woman when it came to gentlemen removing their trousers. I don’t know what got into me, I really don’t, but the words came flooding out of me like the dialogue from a really good book...”

Oh my goodness!” was all Mrs Bookworm could think of saying.

Then, when he looked confused, I realised there’d been something of a communication problem between us, so I explained that I was the neighbour who lived opposite and was there anything I could do to help him in these trying times and he smiled so sweetly and explained that he thought I was the lady he’d phoned only minutes ago on the subject of altering his trousers, he having unaccountably lost weight during the pandemic, probably because he wasn’t eating enough, and I clearly wasn’t that lady. So, he asked, what lady was I, and should we start again?”

That explains everything,” smiled Mrs Bookworm.

Not quite,” smiled Jennifer, “so I said I was the lady from opposite, that like him I was all on my own, and, wait for it...”

Yes?” asked Mrs Bookworm.

Did he need a friend during these lonely times, and added that if he wanted I am quite capable of altering his trousers with a needle and thread!”

So kind of you,” murmured the shopkeeper, wondering whether any more customers were going to risk life and limb and socially distance themselves inside her shop in order to actually buy something, a book preferably.

And you know what he said?” asked Jennifer.

Mrs Bookworm shook her head.

He said never mind the needle and thread, but could I help him take them off!”

Well I never!”

And, you know, I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but he wasn’t wearing any underpants! “

Well, well, well!”

And the whole gist is I’ve learned enough from grubby romances! All I need now is recommendation of a good western.

For zooming off to the sunset, side saddle and escaping?

Jennifer grinned and shook her head. “Not likely!” she said, all excited, “so that I can get some idea when it comes to handling a whip like Walter says he wants me to!

© Peter Rogerson 23.06.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on June 23, 2020
Last Updated on June 23, 2020
Tags: romances, bodice rippers, pandemic lockdown


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..