Our Last Goodbye by Shirley Dickson Read Online (FREE)
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North East town of South Shields
As the cinema house lights went up and the strains of the National Anthem filled the hall, May Robinson and her mam rose from their seats and stood to attention. May began to sing but the cigarette smoke that fogged the air caught in her throat. She coughed before trying to carry on, ‘God save our gracious king… long live our noble king…’
Mam, standing at her side, turned to her daughter and her plump face split into a fond smile. She too sang along, ‘God save the king…’
When the music faded, folk began collecting their possessions – mackintoshes, umbrellas, handbags – and made for the aisles. May helped Mam on with her black woollen coat, which reeked of mothballs, and, checking they’d left nothing behind, they joined the throng heading to the Regal’s front of house, where they waited with the rest for the doors to open. The lights went out and the foyer was plunged into darkness. May and her mam followed the queue for the exit.
‘Eee, that film did me the power of good,’ Mam said in an enthralled undertone, ‘I’ve never laughed so much in an age. Mind you, not that I’ve had anythin’ to laugh about lately… not with that lazy sod drivin’ us to distraction. I swear your da’s getting worse…’ Mam continued, ‘Those two – Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland – with their dancing and singing, were just the tonic I needed.’
Mam began to hum, ‘I Got Rhythm’, as the pair of them inched forward, into the damp air wafting in from the open doorway.
Today was Mam’s birthday. She didn’t expect a fuss, and as far as Dad was concerned, neither did she get one. But May always tried to make her mother’s birthdays special and today was no exception. She’d planned this trip to the flicks and had used her sweet coupons on two ounces of aniseed balls – Mam’s favourite – from the sweetie shop. Sweets, like most household goods, were in short supply and at times simply unobtainable.
‘And another thing… did you know you resemble yon lass in the film? You’ve got the same look about you.’
May was startled and felt her cheeks flush in the dark. Folk all around were absorbed in their own conversations, but she would die if anyone overheard her mother. Fancy being compared to a famous star!
‘Mam… that’s ridic—’
‘Have you looked in the mirror lately?’ May heard the smile in Mam’s voice. ‘With your bonny wavy hair, dark brown eyes and those Cupid’s bow lips, you’re the image of her.’ Mam sniffed indignantly. ‘And though I say so mesel’… with those high cheekbones, you’re far prettier.’
May sensed folk listening in, and looked around shyly, hoping no one was paying too much attention.
‘I’ve got a ma just the same,’ an amused male voice piped up from behind. ‘She’s never happier than when she’s embarrassin’ us.’