Short Story Preview: The Simla Palace – Sue Hampton
Norma and Brian had been to The Simla Palace for their last seven or eight anniversaries, including the Silver Wedding. That year Norma had been allowing herself to imagine Paris. He’d probably had Chicken Korma and a Peshwari Nan on each occasion but Norma thought the word had a fanfare about it that those evenings didn’t deserve. Topping up her foundation, she looked at the grooves that had been ploughed through her skin since their wedding day. That eye bag could be down to money worries – his, the infectious kind that spoiled things. And the creases on the side of her mouth, making her look like a Thunderbird brother, were probably thanks to Hayley and Jemma – and the way they used to scrap, or tug at her like two blackbirds with different ends of the same worm. Still, it was quiet without them.
She sprayed on some perfume, placed it back among the pots and tubes of creams that didn’t seem to be doing their job and considered juggling a few of them, whirling them through the air just to prove she still could. Brian used to show her off. In pubs she’d toss beermats, and in coffee shops it was teaspoons. He’d laughed off the first breakage, bound to happen now and then. But now she thought his doubt set in before hers. So many things had gone the same way as the French verbs she used to decline. Looking back, she could see the road from crowd pleaser to health and safety liability was a short one, and maybe she’d slept through it because she didn’t remember a thing about it.
The ears remained functional enough to report that Brian was still watching Eggheads. But she had to admit it took him all of two minutes to get ready, zap a bit of aftershave up his armpits and work a comb. He still had lovely hair, much thicker and sleeker than hers; she kept on encouraging him to grow it like a younger Rolling Stone but he said it wouldn’t go down well at work. With retirement a few years off she wasn’t sure why he hated disapproval. As far as Norma could see, being past caring what people thought of her was the one and only triumph that came with getting on a bit and she’d made hers worth strutting about for a while now.