They worked in the card shop in the High Street. Margaret, a stout no-nonsense woman in her forties, was the manager. Carol was her assistant manager, and the two part-timers were Penny and Bev. Four very different women who surprisingly all got along quite well together.
Margaret was a very motivated manager, passionate about sales figures and suchlike.
“Celebrating the different times of the year is one of the best things about the greeting card industry,” she said as their delivery rolled through the door.
“And I’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day with the backache to end all backaches. I‘ve only just recovered from Christmas,” Bev grumbled to Carol as they heaved boxes onto the shelves in the storeroom. “Not that I’ll be celebrating. Valentine’s Day is a load of nonsense.”
“It helps keep this shop in business,” said Margaret sharply from the doorway.
“I like Valentine’s Day,” protested Carol. “It’s a bit of fun.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Margaret. “Now, let’s get this shop tidied up. Our esteemed Regional Manager will be here within the hour. I’ve got Penny coming in earlier, she should be here any minute. She hasn’t got any lectures today.”
Penny was training as a physiotherapist, keen to take whatever extra work Margaret had to offer as long as it didn’t clash with her lectures. Carol envied young Penny’s prospects for a good career, something that had eluded her. Or, if she was truthful, something that she lacked the drive and ambition to achieve. Although she liked the extra wages of the Assistant Manager position Carol dreaded covering for Margaret on her days off. Responsibility was not her thing at all. Though in truth she had happily shouldered the responsibilities of parenting three children and now, in her fifties, willingly looked after her grandchildren when required.
Bev had just become a grandmother at thirty-eight. Her daughter Becky had produced a strapping eight pound boy, but the baby’s father was conspicuous by his absence. Rumour had it his new girlfriend was also in the family way. Carol shook her head, pondering that easy access to benefit payments these days made it too easy for youngsters to procreate carelessly.
“Ah, Valentine’s cards!” sighed Penny, hanging up her coat. “I must look out for a nice one for Trevor, the best ones seem to get snapped up quickly. Last year I had to make do with one more suitable for a woman. Not that he seemed to notice.”
“It’s usually women who are organised and buy their cards well in advance,” said Margaret as she planned the Valentine layout.
“Yeah, it’s the men who roll in out of the pub just as we’re about to shut up shop on Valentine’s Day,” said Bev.
“Luckily the last minute customers usually spend quite a lot. Probably out of guilt,” added Carol.
Margaret was pleased to see steady sales of Valentine’s cards and gifts over the next couple of weeks, glad to have something to boost turnover between Christmas and Mother’s Day.
By the time Valentine’s Day came around the shelves were already looking quite sparse.
“I think I’ll get some red ribbon to decorate those bears we had left over from Christmas,” said Margaret as soon as she’d opened up the shop. “They’ll fill some of the gaps and hopefully we’ll sell a few. I’ll be back shortly.”
Just after Margaret left a vast, extravagantly wrapped bouquet arrived. “To Penny, all my love, Trevor,” read Bev from the card, pretending to vomit in the waste paper bin.
“I’ll put these in water until she arrives. Lucky Penny,” sighed Carol. “Ron gave me a card, but he never buys me anything.”
“Load of rubbish,” reiterated Bev as usual.
“Ah, you’re probably just saying that ‘cos Andy didn’t get you anything. Sour grapes and all that.”
“Andy never buys me a Valentine’s card, and I never get him one. As far as we’re concerned, every day is Valentine’s Day,” she retorted.
“What do you mean?” asked Carol, mystified.
“We treat each other kindly all the time. Every morning he makes me a cup of tea and brings it to me in bed. I massage his back when he comes home after a hard day’s work. He takes care not to leave toast crumbs all over the kitchen ‘cos he knows that irritates me, and I always cook the roast beef well done as he likes it that way even though I don’t. It’s all about give and take. And most of all, I know I can trust Andy. Whereas we both know how much grief Trevor has caused Penny, running around with other women. Coming home to a faithful, considerate husband is far more important to me than fancy cards and teddy bears with red ribbons.”
“Hmm, I see what you mean,” mused Carol.
At that moment another floral delivery arrived. “To Maggie from a secret admirer,” was the message on the card.
“A secret admirer?” echoed Bev.
Both women dissolved into giggles. Margaret was always Margaret, never Maggie. A spinster who lived alone, who hadn’t shown any interest in men during the years they’d known her. Hardly a likely candidate for such an extravagant romantic gesture.
“Shush, here she comes!” hissed Carol as Margaret’s abundant grey curls bobbed past the Valentine banner in the window. The pair held their breath, waiting for Margaret’s reaction.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015