4. Jennifer and Cleopatra

4. Jennifer and Cleopatra

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



That same day, once a heart-rending sojourn with Shakespeare and his Cleopatra was done and dusted under the frumpily watchful eye of Miss Burrows, Jennifer Sagebrush flaunted her way home and, being what was called a latchkey kid in days of yore, let herself in to her home.

Her favourite domestic object for the moment was the large mirror that hung on the back of her bedroom door. If she stood in front of that mirror she could see all of herself, and she never minded looking at her image in its beautiful entirety. It might have been because there was a streak of vanity in her make-up, and she would never deny that. As far as she was concerned, any girl with her looks would have every right to be vain. She stared for a long moment looking for an imperfection, but couldn’t find one. Even her chest heaved in exactly the right way when she took a deep breath in.

Her hair was almost blond. In the far off days when her mum had been a child it might have been called mousey, but she thought blond sounded a great deal less rodent-like and anyway it was barely a shade off being blond. And it was long. Very long, like, she considered, female hair should be, especially if it was clean and smelt of all manner of cleansing products like hers did. She liked the way some of the boys sniffed the air when they passed her by. It said something, she was sure of that.

Splendid as her hair was, and she ran a finger or two through it as evidence, it wasn’t a match on her legs once she had taken off the white socks the school insisted she wore even though she was seventeen and considered herself to be well past the age of the white school sock. But her legs! Even she could see quite clearly what was special about them. It was the skin, the shape of them, the length of them, the all of them. She touched her thigh gently with just the one finger, and shivered. They felt good, too!


That was mother down stairs. She had arrived home from work mere moments after Jennifer herself.

Mrs Sagebrush was a slightly older version of Jennifer. She, too, had deliciously long hair, fine legs and, to top it all, a perfect bosom, neither too obvious nor too slight. She looked after herself in the sort of way that guaranteed the years would have to wait a long time to touch her. But her own crowning glory was her personality, which included sympathy, understanding, humour and even empathy in one heady mix. She had a job, in an office above a chip shop yet never smelled of chips. She worked for a small private detective. Small, that is, because Claude Spooks was barely five feet tall yet had, through diligent application to a voracious appetite, managed to develop a burgeoning waist-line.

Mrs Sagebrush (let’s call her Violet) had admired her daughter when she was almost dressed in a wisp of a skirt and decided the style might suit her as well because, well, it had been her best ally when she’d been Jennifer’s age and wanting to catch the eye of just the right boy, so she had accumulated a wardrobe that included a few scraps of pretty material that those equipped with a magnifying glass might identify as a skirt.

Yet she was a beautiful woman and nobody would ever suggest she was mutton dressed as lamb. She looked what she was: a successful and lovely woman about town.

What do you want for dinner, darling?” she cooed up the stairs.

I’m coming, mummy,” replied the beautiful Jennifer.

And that’s what she did. She went down the stairs, but not as a charmingly mini-skirted schoolgirl fresh from English Literature with Miss Burrows but an identically dressed beauty queen. Because that’s what anyone with any sense would have thought she was.

Fish fingers?” asked Violet Sagebrush.

Anything,” replied the daughter, “I’m going outside while the sun lasts.”

To show the boy next door your legs?” teased her mother.

I think he’s in hospital,” replied Jennifer, “I saw him on the way to school this morning, and he made a frightful gurgling sound, a bit like something actually dying, and he fell to the ground in absolute agony, and they carted him off in an ambulance. It was gross!”

Oh dear,” murmured Violet, “I’d better pop round and see how he is. Mrs Bingley will be in a state!

Anyway, mum, I’ll have my dinner and go and soak up some sun before it goes away. And I need to check up on how come Anthony and Cleopatra needed asps, and, anyway, what exactly is an asp?”

A sort of poisonous snake I think, darling, at least it was when I was at school and did Shakespeare. Now don’t spend too long in the sun because you can overdo it. And try to keep out of sight of Mr Bingley and his gross shorts!”

I can’t help it if men like looking at me. You should see Mr Longpole at school! They say he’s got the right name for his sort of man, the way his eyes come out on sticks when I hitch my skirt up!”

Violet smiled at her daughter. “Is he still there? He taught me maths back in the day and couldn’t take his eyes off me when I, too, hitched my skirt up!”

Jennifer made her way outside where she erected a deckchair and carefully lowered herself onto it. She could hear the boy Darren’s father whistling in his garden, and the late afternoon sun, slanting in from her left, was warming and, she believed, nourishing in a way she couldn’t quite understand.

She opened a text book and started to read.

Next door, Mr Bingley found the right knot-hole and placed one eye carefully by it. Darren might be spending the night in hospital (for observation in case he suffered from concussion) but he could keep the flag flying.

And there, almost close enough for him to reach out and touch her, was the angel of the estate.

Why, he thought o himself, careful not to put his thoughts into sound, when I was a lad nobody else would have had a chance! Not strictly true, and he knew it, but he could make believe, couldn’t he?

In her deckchair and smiling rather sweety to herself because she knew exactly where he was and what was going through his mind, Jennifer hitched her tiny skirt just the little bit, knowing that a flash of white underwear would put a strain on the older man’s heart.

Darling,” murmured Violet, “don’t you think that’s just a bit naughty? The man’s not as young as he was, you know?”

Jennifer smiled up her mother.

Then he shouldn’t be looking, should he?” she said.

© Peter Rogerson 01.05.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 1, 2021
Last Updated on May 1, 2021
Tags: sunbathe, school uniform, knot-hole


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..