This is a work of fiction. A short story, of less than 1500 words.

Sandra had finished doing her hair, and showed her the back in a hand-mirror. Doreen nodded, to indicate her satisfaction with the finished style. “A special occasion is it? Going Somewhere nice this evening?” The girl spoke the words in a monotone, as if she was reciting her times-table. The same question to every customer, five or six times a day. As she fetched Doreen’s coat, the older woman replied. “I’m only going to the Bingo as usual, but I always like to look my best.”

On the way back to her flat, she made a stop at the large branch of Marks and Spencer, the new one that fronted the shopping centre. After a while perusing items in the lingerie and hosiery departments, she made her purchases and walked across the road to Betty’s Tea Shop. Betty’s had the very best home-made scones, and Doreen never missed an opportunity to enjoy one with a pot of tea. Later, she decided to get the bus home. Save her legs. After all, it was free with her pass. The number six passed the Bingo Hall where she would be going later, and she glanced over at the closed building, with its colourful posters, and rows of glass entrance doors with their shiny chrome handles.

Just a light meal, she thought. Looking into her fridge, she decided on some cheese, eaten with the thin cracker biscuits that she always enjoyed. The big scone had been quite filling, and anticipation of the evening to come had reduced her appetite anyway.

With an hour to go before it was time to leave, Doreen went into her bedroom. It was her favourite room in the house, somewhere she always felt special, and she loved to look at the feminine things placed here and there. She chose the black dress from the selection in the wardrobe. The one with silver flashes along the sides. It was a little low at the front perhaps, but that would suit her purpose nicely. Removing her clothes and underwear, she avoided the reflection in the mirror. The body that had driven young men wild with lust was that of a stranger now. Wrinkled skin like crepe paper extended from her throat down her chest. The once-proud breasts fell away to the sides, as if they were attempting to drag themselves off from the point of attachment. Doreen could just about cope with the ravages of time on her face, but she had never become accustomed to what had happened to her body.

She arranged the new items on the bed, carefully removing the plastic tags, size cards, and price labels. The new bra was perfect. It held her in, lifted her up, and displayed her wares in just the right way. Slipping on the matching panties, she thought that the silky combination was well-worth dipping into her savings for. She took the tights from the cardboard wrapper, and turned her rings around, so as not to snag them as she put them on. Lycra support, and a control top. That would deal with the saggy thighs, and the dark colour would conceal the ugly blue veins that clustered around the back of her calves. Stepping into her dress, she finally looked at the finished product in the mirror. Some might have thought it showed too much of her chest, and that she shouldn’t wear something above the knee, at her age. Not long ago, she might well have had the same thoughts, made the same catty comments that she would hear behind her back tonight.

Doreen was in the first group to be allowed in, as the doors opened. She walked quickly to the tables nearest the stage, happy to get a corner seat with a view of the caller’s rostrum. She bought her game books from the young man walking around, then ordered a drink from a waitress who looked to be about twelve years old. Music was playing, and the large video screen on the stage was advertising the jackpot game that would be played later. In truth, she wasn’t that interested in the excitement of the game, or even that concerned about winning the big prizes. She was only there for one reason, and it was making her heart flutter, just thinking about it.

Dominic was her favourite caller, and she knew for sure that he was working tonight. It had been as long ago as last November, that she had first noticed him looking at her. She turned around, sure that he must have been glancing at someone else. When she looked back, he winked at her, and she felt her face flush. After that, she used to check at the desk, ask when Dominic would be working. He did the circuit, only appearing in her local hall a couple of times a month. Doreen generally managed to get the same table, one where she could see him clearly, and be seen by him in return. She stopped chatting to the other women around the table, feeling herself come alive as Dominic ran onto the stage and took his place for the build-up to the jackpot. And she started to get her hair done, wear smarter clothes, sit on the corner seats, where he could get a good look at her.

One eventful night, she had a win. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but enough for the management to ask if she would appear in a photo with the caller. She would be holding a big card, with the winning amount shown on it. They used to put them in the foyer to prove that people won, and they changed them every month. They took her backstage to meet Dominic for the photo. Close up, he was even better than she had imagined. Tall and handsome, with smart black hair, and lovely teeth. He couldn’t be more than forty, she thought to herself, as he wrapped a strong arm around her shoulder. After the photo, he kissed her on the cheek. She could smell his aftershave, the feel of his firm lips making her tremble inside. It had been a long time since Arthur had died, and she had been alone. So alone. “It’s my lovely lady from the front row.” His voice had boomed in her ears. “Great that you have won at last. I hope to see you again soon.”

Three weeks later, he had joined her at the table during a break. Smiling and chatty, budging up close to her side, making her body quiver. “Call me Dom” He insisted. “After all, you are one of my special ladies. One of my winners.” When he had to get back to the stage, he turned and whispered. “By the way, you look lovely tonight.” Doreen walked home as if floating on air. He had told her that she was special, said that she looked lovely. Perhaps next time, he would suggest meeting somewhere outside the club, or offer to see her home. She couldn’t believe her luck. The months went by, and he always waved, winked, or nodded. But he never sat at her table again. She considered leaving him a note. Maybe she might ask him to her flat for a meal, or drinks after the Bingo. She thought she should at least leave her name, address, and telephone number. After all, he had no way of contacting her.

She left the details written in a nice notelet. “Please make sure that Dominic gets this.” She had looked sternly at the girl at the reception desk as she spoke, then changed to a smile as the blonde replied that she would hand it to him personally. Doreen was sure that he would get the message she intended, and she determined that her clothes and appearance would leave him in no doubt too.

Dave was the warm-up caller that night. When he finished his set, he went into the dressing room shared by all the staff. Dominic was smoking a cigarette, checking his watch to see how long he had before it was his turn to go on stage. Smoking wasn’t allowed of course, but Dominic was the golden boy, and nobody was going to say anything. Dave called across to him. “Hey, Dom. Your girlfriend’s in again tonight. Flashing her boobs and showing some leg. People say she’s worth a few quid too. Reckon you’re in there, mate.” Dominic looked up. “What, draggy Doreen you mean? Did you hear that she sent me her address and ‘phone number? Talk about desperate for it.” Dave grinned. “That’s the one mate. You should take her home. There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle, so they say.” Dominic stubbed out the cigarette, and straightened his tie.

” I might give her a go, Dave. Then again, I might not.”

27 thoughts on “Doreen

  1. I noticed that cigarettes play a role in this story, and in “QWERTYUIOP,” which I’ve just read. Maybe influenced by your June 13th entry, “Dying for a Cigarette.” In any event, cigarettes always make for character building in a story. As for “Doreen,” the main character is not really all that delusional. After all, she avoids her reflection in the mirror. And she’s well aware of her body’s deterioration: “The body that had driven young men wild with lust was that of a stranger now…” / “…she had never become accustomed to what had happened to her body.” Despite her keen awareness of the ravages of time on her physical appearance, she still dresses up for Dominic. I don’t think she actually believes he’s attracted to her. Young men often pretend to find an older lady “special.” It may signify a polite compliment, a show of sympathy, a form of amusement, or even mockery. I suspect Dominic is just amusing himself. Anyway, in my opinion, Doreen is just living out a cognizant fantasy (she knows it’s pure fantasy, but she’s enjoying an opportunity to play make believe). Her fantasy provides some excitement in her life, something to make her superficially forget, if only for an evening, the sad truth of her waning existence. It’s a way of reliving the past, experiencing once again what it was like to be a ravishing woman, desired by men. Of course, nothing pleases a woman more than to be desired by a younger man, no matter how suspect that desire might be.


    1. That’s a nice appraisal, David, and thanks for taking the time. You are sort-of right about cigarettes. The smoking in ‘QWERTYUIOP’ was used to waste time, and along with the typewriter, to set it in a certain time period. (1970s) In ‘Doreen’, it was used as a character description. In novels and films, smokers are often portrayed as ‘bad boys’ too, so I was guilty of that reference in this case.
      Although I no longer smoke, I do notice myself using the ‘vape’ a lot more, when I am typing.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.


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