Secondhand Love – A Short Story!

Ksenia Chernaya – Pexels

Tulip Simpson waited nervously at the new cafe in town. It was one of those modern places all brightly coloured with chrome tables and sparkling décor.

For a moment Tulip wondered why she had agreed to this meet-up with a perfect stranger but Brenda her best friend at the warehouse where she worked, had insisted she meet the guy. Brenda assured her they would get on like a house on fire.

Tulip adjusted her glasses on a somewhat plump face and hoped her make-up looked right. Just enough but not too much.

She sipped her coffee and grimaced, it was still too hot and frothy. She would have preferred a nice big mug of sweet tea, but wanted to appear with-it and trendy. Considering what she had paid for it, Tulip was determined to drink the beverage down to the last drop.

She sipped gingerly and looked down for a moment. Brenda had talked her into getting a manicure which she reluctantly agreed to. Now, she hoped her sparkling red nails would somehow add to her appeal.

When she looked back up a guy in a beige sweater was standing hesitantly by her table.

‘Tulip?’ he asked uncertainly.

‘Malcolm?’ Tulip replied.

‘That’s me,’ Malcolm James said before pulling out a chair, ‘don’t mind if I sit down do you?’ He continued.

‘No, no,’ Tulip responded sounding more calm than she felt. Tulip stole a glance at him over the rim of her glasses. Mousey brown hair, a boyish face with a few fine lines under his eyes, hinting at his real age.

He appeared pleasant enough, not exactly movie star looks but then, she was no Julia Roberts either.

After Malcolm’s coffee arrived they chatted lightly about various things. And to her surprise Tulip began to warm to Malcolm’s dulcet tones and easy but firm manner.

‘So,’ Tulip said at length ‘how do you know Brenda?’

‘Brenda?’ Tulip nodded, causing her hair to float across her vision momentarily. She brushed it away delicately. ‘She knows Linda at the local state school where I teach maths,’ Malcolm explained.

‘I see,’ Tulip said mildly beginning to relax even more.

‘Linda teaches English, but Brenda lives a few doors down from her.’

‘Neighbours.’

‘Yes, that’s right,’ Graham said. ‘So which do you prefer Tulip, cats or dogs?’

‘Cats, I like cats.’

‘Oh, that’s a shame, I prefer dogs, they’re more loyal.’

A look of mock disapproval flitted across Tulip’s face.

‘So what are you like? Fifty?’

Tulip dropped her spoon in her coffee and gulped. She nodded her head, pondering on the boldness and quite frankly rudeness of the question. All of a sudden Tulip felt foolish, the clatter and the din of the other diners grew louder to her adding to her distress.

‘Is it that obvious? Tulip quaked

‘No, no not at all, I was simply wondering, that’s all.’

The next day at the canteen Brenda enquired optimistically. ‘So how did it go with Graham?

‘He thinks I’m too old.’

‘What!’ Brenda shouted as she spooned sugar into her tea and stirred vigorously. But he’s the same age as you!’

Tulip shrugged. ‘Says he is still hoping to have kids one day.’

‘Really,’ Brenda exclaimed, not stating the obvious.

Tulip knew what Brenda was thinking and didn’t blame her. Brenda’s two kids were grown up and gone, and as blasé as Brenda liked to be about them at times, Tulip knew she wouldn’t be without them.

‘Did you slap his face?’ Brenda asked now.

‘No,’ I didn’t, ‘what for?’

‘You can’t go around asking women their age, it’s rude.’

‘I know it is.’

And so it was that Tulip Simpson found herself childless and single at fifty years old and living at home with her mum. She had been married before, but that ended when Dave had announced one bright and breezy morning that he wasn’t in love with her anymore and had met another woman.

Friends had tried to set her up with other dates over the years but there was always something she didn’t like about them. And it was only because Brenda was sure they would get on that she agreed to meet up with Graham. And look how that had ended. Tulip resigned herself to a life of being single.

That same evening Tulip thought she might pop into the local supermarket to get her and mum something special for dinner. She deserved a treat and was actually looking forward to whipping up something nice.

As Tulip made her was down the vegetable isle she heard a male voice call her name. Hand poised over the tomatoes she looked up found herself looking into the face of a man she found vaguely familiar.

‘Tulip Simpson, isn’t it? I thought it was you.’

Tulip looked at him, a ruggedly handsome face with a quick smile, dark hair with a few streaks of grey.

‘Yes, it is,’ Tulip answered curiously.

‘It’s Phil Taylor. I remember you from college. You haven’t changed much.’

Tulip took his outstretched hand and shook it, noticing his strong grip.

That was when she remembered him. Tulip remembered also that all the girls had a crush on him including her, but he had his eyes on the very pretty Susan Saunders who he later went on to marry.

‘Yes, I remember you now,’ Tulip heard herself say, ‘how have you been?’

‘Can’t complain,’ Phil beamed. ‘And you?’

‘I’m ok,’ Tulip replied tightly.

‘Good, good. ‘You do look well, am I allowed to say?’

‘Do I? How is your wife?’ she chanced now.

‘Oh, that didn’t work out. She was more interested in taking selfies and keeping up with celebrity gossip than looking after a family. I’ve got the kids now.’

After a few pleasantries, Tulip then said, ‘it was nice to see you again Phil. Might bump into you again.’

‘Actually, Tulip, I would like to get to know you better this time. Could we meet up again? Dinner maybe?’ Phil asked eagerly.

Tulip nodded, more than a little surprised.

‘Hope you don’t mind me being secondhand, so to speak.’

‘No,’ I don’t,’ Tulip declared sweetly, ‘I was married before myself!’

************

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time, Sharon.

Approx 4 mins

Published by Sharon's Writers Tidbits

Sharon is a writer who lives in north London and has a long-held passion for the art and craft of creative writing. Sharon's main interests are novels, short stories and poetry. She also enjoys writing non-fiction. She is an avid reader and has a threatening TBR pile of books!

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