A Story by Peter Rogerson

A lonely and single elderly lady reminisces...


When she looked back over her life Josephine Pringle tried to work out when things had started to go wrong.

She was seventy nine now, her heart wasn’t as strong as it had been and she was asthmatic. She was, in her mind, ready to die. There was just one thing getting in the way of her actually dying and that was her certainty that death was the end of everything. In particular, of tomorrows.

All her life had been occupied by the hope that tomorrow would be better than today. And it never was. You’d have thought that her optimism would have died the sort of death she was prepared to enjoy for herself, but it didn’t.

She was in her bath, a nice not bath with bubbles from a bottle, and she heaved a huge sigh of regret. The window cleaner was outside the window, but it was frosted and he wouldn’t see much if he looked at her.

When she’d been a child everything, the future, her long life, was a promise that made her squeal with hope. She’d seen her parents together and that was what she really wanted for herself. The way they’d looked warily at each other on Sunday afternoons and mum had said, “we won’t be long, darling, daddy wants to show me something, just you listen to the comedies on the wireless…” and hand in hand, together, they’d gone up the stairs while she’d settled down to smile at Kenneth Horne.

She knew why they climbed up the stairs together. She wasn’t stupid. Kids at school giggled when they mentioned their own parents doing very much the same thing, only Hilda Fortesque had been told to watch the television rather than listen to the radio because the Fortesques had a television and the Pringles didn’t.

We’ll get one when they’re a bit cheaper,” her father had promised, but that day never seemed to come and Hilda Fortesque enjoyed explaining the incomprehensible plots to films she had seen. “In black and white,” she had said, “they would be just too scary in colour!”

The way that mummy and daddy vanishing up the stairs on Sunday afternoons like they did told her its own story. It told her that they were in love. That they wanted each other and mummy was even prepared to risk having another baby just so that he could demonstrate the depths of his love to her.

I want to be like that,” Josephine had thought, “it must be like Heaven on Earth to love another person so much that she’s prepared to let him do that to her!”

Whatever that might be was an unknown quantity, just something one or two of her friends seemed to know a lot about, and she didn’t. But she did know that whatever it might be she wanted it, in spades.

What did that mean? In spades? She had no idea, but that’s how she wanted it.

She wriggled in her bath, farted and created a new kind of bubbles in the still hot water.

There had been other clues that had made her want the sort of life her parents both had. She knew that sometimes men were nasty to their wives because, even though they were rich and had a television, Hilda Fortesque’s father, a stern man already in his fifties whilst her mum was a pretty young thing and can’t even have been thirty, hit her. Hilda said so. She said that when her mum was childish or did something wrong then her lovely and very clever father hit her and left bruises where he thought nobody would notice.

It’s her mummy’s fault,” she told herself, “being pretty and silly when she should be clever. If she was clever then nobody would want to hit her.”

That theory was thrown out of the window when Mrs Fortseque proved herself clever by writing a book that was published and made her famous whilst at the same time divorcing her clever husband, who it turns out wasn’t so clever at all. Hilda said so when it turned out he was a teacher at the grammar school and got the sack when it was reported in the local paper that his wife had divorced him for cruelty and it was printed exactly how cruel that cruelty had been, and a whole host of parents decided he had been cruel to their innocent offspring as well, and rose up in anger at rhe headmaster’s office. Despite his daughter’s insistence that he was clever he then went to work as a painter of window sills for the council, and she never mentioned his genius again.

The bath was slowly losing its delightful warmth, and she ran quite of lot more water out of the hot tap until it had regained its heat. She sniffed. Life hadn’t always been listening to comedies on the radio on Sunday afternoons before mummy washed the dinner things.

College, for her, had been a nightmare. After she’d completed her “A” levels she’d applied to Fletcher Hall College of Education because she thought hat if Hilda Fortesque’s father could have been a teacher, albeit a cruel one, then so could she, and she wouldn’t ever be unkind and certainly not cruel. She she went to Fletcher Hall College and looked around the student’s common on room for the first time.

There were clusters of girls sitting and giggling near a record player playing Bob Dylan, there were two boys sitting nervously by the door and looking up expectantly when it opened and someone (nearly always a girl) walked in, and she could remember quite clearly as she washed between her toes that were already perfectly clean how she’d hoped and prayed to meet a boy at this college, one who would whisk her off her feet and drive her to Heaven in his sports car.

It turned out to be a girl’s college that had only just started taking in boys and the bossiest, prettiest, most under-dressed girls got the few boys for themselves.

Back then short skirts and frocks had been all the rage and all hers were much too long to be called fashionable. They went down past her knees, for goodness sake!

She had cut one summer frock down and made it a lot shorter and when she tried it on after snipping the bottom off with her scissors she looked practically perfect. Then she sewed a hem on to stop it fraying and it was maybe too short for comfort. But she wore it a lot. Boys liked, she thought, to see legs.

But whatever she did, she was too late. The few boys who were there were either already taken or they preferred other boys. Back then it hadn’t been called gay but they were sporty types, manly, especially fond of showers, even together.

The bath was getting cool again and this time she started climbing out.

Then, pulling her towel around her wrinkled flesh she rubbed herself dry.

She’d still been single when she moved on to become an English teacher… in a school for girls with almost exclusively frumpy women teachers, and one of the girls, Anita Glimp, a fifteen year-old who professed to be in love with Shakespeare and spent ages expainig to her class why Romeo was quite wrong for Juliet because the girl was too nice and needed a clone of herself to sleep with… Josephine got the message alright.

She avoided Anita Glimp like the plague, and breathed a sigh of relief when the girl formed a close friendship with Anna Jones, a Welsh girl with a fascinating accent that sprayed the room when she spoke.

It sprayed Anita until she must have been wet through, but the girl didn’t seem to mind.

Now dry, she let the water out of the bath, wiped the remnants of the bubbles away and went down stairs for a cup of tea.

No,” she thought, “I’ll have gin!”

Her work at school had been a long and very drab affair. She did find a boyfriend eventually and almost accidentally, a spotty young man who worked at the public library and who professed to love her with the sort of intensity that kept him awake at night. He was in his early thirties and much too old to have acne, and when he failed in every respect on the one and only time they had shared a bed together one Sunday afternoon (and Sunday afternoons were special to Josephine, they always had been,) he told her that although he loved her there was something wrong and they’d best call it a day because there was a compatability issue.

They did call it a day. He’d gone a long way to poisoning her concept of Sunday afternoons.

But at least she’d had a boyfriend in his thirties, which was more than could be said of her forties or fifties. She worked in a girls school (and it remained a girls only school until the millennium) and the only friendships she formed were with women. Invariably married women who wanted a bit of female conversation in their lives rather than the rugby and football conversations preferred by their husbands.

Her dream of sharing her life with a loving husband was finally shattered when she reached seventy. Babies had long been a lost fantasy, but it wasn’t just the babies she wanted but wonderful Sunday afternoons like her parents, both of them, had enjoyed while she had been giggling to The Navy Lark.

So where had she gone wrong?

She sipped her tea and the window cleaner called at the back door knocking manfully, and she asked him, out of politeness, if hed like a cuppa, she had plenty in the pot.

I know you’re no spring chicken, but marry me,” he said, sipping it appreciatively, “I cleaned your windows and even though your bathroom window’s all frosty, I couldn’t help admiring you in your bath.”

When?” she asked.

When what?” he said, looking puzzled.

When do we get married?” she asked.

He frowned. Then, “any time at all,” he told her, “as long as we can keep Sunday afternoon’s free for the rugby…”

© Peter Rogerson, 22.03.23


© 2023 Peter Rogerson

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


The universe conspired hard to spoil her Sunday afternoons...It just wasn't meant to be for her. Reading this story, it crossed me how swiftly one ages, as if life is just a bunch of events threaded and there we are, suddenly seventy! So little time to get it all together and right. I enjoyed this story a lot.

Posted 2 Months Ago

[send message][befriend] Subscribe
You did it! Let me say you left me wondering if Peter Rogerson is really a seventy-nine year old woman. ;)
How ever did you get it spot on? IMO
I've never had a woman's thoughts albeit an older one, but I imagine this would be them.
Reminds me of my great aunt who loved to watch 'professional' wrestling on television.

Posted 2 Months Ago

Peter Rogerson

2 Months Ago

I'm a 79 year old bloke, five kids by my first marriage and deliriously happy with my second, if tha.. read more

2 Months Ago

I had no doubt, read your profile fore commenting. Just wanted to give kudos for your excellent depi.. read more
The impending disappointment of desperation hangs like the sword of Damocles above this relationship. Going ahead with eyes wide open but not caring there's a cliff in front of you seems a rather foolish adventure to me. I enjoyed the read, nonetheless, but with a shake of my head in suspended disbelief. Your short story was not without merit. In fact, it reminded me slightly of some of the twists in the work of the master storyteller, O. Henry. Well done.

Posted 2 Months Ago

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


3 Reviews
Added on March 22, 2023
Last Updated on March 22, 2023
Tags: marriage, single, Sundays


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 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..