Going Places by A. R. Barton
Sophie, the dreamer and Jansie, the pragmatist …
Sophie and Jansie are two friends returning from school. They are in their early adolescence, and, as is natural at this age, think romantically about their career and future. Sophie says she will start a boutique on leaving the school. Jansie cautions her saying it might need a lot of money to start the venture. Sophie says she will garner the money anyhow. Jansie again tries to drive some reason to Sophie’s optimism. She says it takes a long time to save that amount of money.
Sophie says, she will work as a manager until the time she has enough money to start the business.
Sophie wants to be a ‘Mary Quant, a wizard in Fashion design trade…
Jansie again puts cold water in her friend’s audacious hopes saying no one would hire him to the post of manager right away.
Sophie has heard about the iconic fashion designer, and idolizes her. She says, she will emulate Mary Quant, and impress the employer as one with extraordinary talent in the fashion designer trade. She could develop the most amazing fashion shop in the town.
Jansie knows they are to work in a biscuit factory as ordinary workers …
Jansie knew beforehand that both of them had been chosen to work in a biscuit factory – a job far more mundane than the fashion design trade. She felt sad about Sophie’s unrealistic soaring dreams.
The duo reach the street from where Sophie’s house is quite near. Before leaving her friend for the day, Jansie again tries to make Sophie see reason. She says working in a fashion shop does not fetch a good salary, and her father wouldn’t let her take up such a job.
Sophie refuses to see the reality, and vainly thinks she could be an actress …
Sophie again erupts into a bout of fantasy. She says she could be an actress, and have the boutique running too. The actress’s job is not full-time one, it would leave her with enough time to run the boutique. Actresses are paid very well too. She could be a fashion designer instead. Anyway, she would do something sophisticated. Sophie enters her house, leaving Jansie in the street under rain. She is not happy with her modest house.
Sophie irritates her working-class father with her boutique dreams, and draws a sharp retort …
Within the earshot of her father, she blurts out that if ever, she had enough money, she would have a boutique. Her father naturally is not impressed. He retorts saying if ever she earned enough money, she should buy a better house instead.
Her father was eating a dish called Shepherd’s pie. He had returned from a hard outdoor work, and his face looked soiled and dusty.
Even Derek, Sophie’s younger brother chides her……
Derek, Sophie’s younger brother, was standing behind his father’s chair. He mockingly said that her sister thinks money grows on trees. The mother looked resigned.
It was getting dark. Dusk was setting in. The room was cramped with piles of clothes, a stove burning to cook something, and the tired father making groaning mildly with the pain of the day’s grind. Sophie bent over the sink to wash her face and saw the nice smart bow she wore. This small little thing looked so incongruous in that stifling, congested room.
Sophie tries to start a conversation with Geoff, her reticent elder brother..
Sophie went looking for her brother Geoff. He had spread a newspaper on the floor, and was trying to repair some part of his motorcycle. He had completed his school three years ago, and was working as an apprentice in a factory quite far from his house. He commuted the distance daily. He was quite an adult now, and Sophie didn’t quite know what he did in his leisure time. He also never said anything about his activities. On the whole, Geoff was unusually reticent, and Sophie didn’t quite like her brother for such tight-lipped ways. Sophie felt her brother was lost in some distant domain unknown to her. She felt intrigued by her brother’s escapades.
Sophie wonders what Geoff does in his free time …
Sophie thought a lot about her brother’s circle of friends. She was curious to know them, but he seldom spoke anything about it. At times, Sophie wondered if her brother, by nature, was too much of an introvert. Sophie wished she could endear herself to his brother so much that he could, one day, take her to meet his friends. Their father didn’t encourage such friendships, and Geoff had never given any inkling about his choices or preferences, if any.
Sophie feels she must venture out and explore the world, in the company of her brother, possibly ..
This made Sophie conclude that Geoff felt she was too young for such matters. Sophie felt her home to be too narrow a space for her soaring ambitions. She wanted to go out, do things she liked, and meet many interesting people.
She fantasized pillion riding with her elder brother – he dressed in his black leather outfit, and she in her yellow dress with a cape that flew behind. And the waiting crowd would accord them a rousing applause.
Geoff was examining a small part of his motor cycle keenly.
Sophie breaks the news about her meeting Danny Casey, the dashing footballer …
Sophie couldn’t wait any more to start a conversation. She said she had met Danny Casey. Geoff turned around to ask her where she met him. She said she met him in an arcade. Geoff was incredulous. He asked her if she had told their father about it. Sophie expected his brother to remember that he was her most trusted man to confide in such matters. Geoff continued to remain unconvinced about the meeting.
Sophie divulged that when she was window-shopping near the Royce’s, Danny came and stood beside her.
Geoff probes Sophie about Danny. They exchange some rare banter. Sophie says Danny is rather short, and has green gentle eyes. Around this time, their father returns from bath looking fresh and refreshed. He sat down on the chair to watch the television.
Geoff apprises his father about Sophie’s encounter with Danny. Surprisingly, the father seems approving ..
Geoff broke the news that Sophie had met Danny. The father turns around to look at his daughter. Sophie is not pleased with this. Surprisingly, the father looks approvingly at the evolving relationship. He thinks Danny might eventually be a resourceful man. But, the father has his apprehensions, because he reckons he is rather too young. Sophie buts in to say that he is older than her in age. She also says that Danny is going to buy a shop. But, the father finds it hard to believe this. He looks at Sophie quizzically. His tone is one of caution.
Geoff probes Sophie further to see if her account has any substance …
Geoff and Sophie got into a conversation about Danny. Geoff asked some searching questions to his sister about Danny’s fidelity and his commitment towards her. Sophie went out of her way to dispel her brother’s apprehension about Danny. She disclosed that she had sought his autograph for Derek, when neither of them had a piece of paper or pen. They had agreed to meet later. Geoff got up to wear his jacket. Sophie was still pleading him about Danny’s love for her.
A visit to the football field …..
Next Sunday, Sophie, her father and two brothers went to see the football match where United was playing. They broke rank, with Geoff going to join his friends, and the father and Sophie with Derek heading in the opposite direction towards the goal post. United won the match 2-0. Danny Casey scored the second goal. Danny was very deft with the ball, and scored a spectacular goal. Sophie’s was in Cloud Nine. Geoff was overjoyed too.
They reached home. Derek was excited too. The father went to the pub to celebrate.
Jansie enters the scene with her fact-checking intention …
Next week, Jansie broached the subject with her friend Sophie – about Danny Casey.
Sophie was caught off-guard, but conceded that she, in fact, had met Danny. Sophie was furious with her brother Geoff for having spilled the beans. She never wanted Jansie to know about the matter. Sophie was not happy at the turn of events. She told Jansie not to tell this matter to anyone.
Sophie is compelled to tell everything to Jansie….
Sophie narrated the encounter with Danny and about her asking an autograph. Jansie became curious. Sophie told her how her dad had virtually dismissed the idea. Sophie didn’t like her mom’s attitude either.
Jansie assured Sophie that she would never disclose anything about this matter to anyone.
Sophie goes to meet Danny …
Sophie’s heart was aflutter with love for Danny. As the evening arrived, she walked along the canal side road to reach a place where she found an empty bench. Generally, this place is considered ideal as a private rendezvous for young lovers. The light from the way side were feeble, but distinct. With her heart in a tumult, she waited for Danny. She knew he would come.
The wait is long and vain. Danny doesn’t show up………
She vainly waited for him. At times, she imagined that he was emerging from a distance. This was just an aberration borne out of extreme longing. Gradually, it dawned upon her that perhaps he was not going to come.
Sophie is shattered…
The agony began to grip her mind. Danny, had devastated her by not showing up. To make matters worse, she had to grapple with the embarrassment at home. Those like her brother Geoff, who had been cynical about the whole affair would be proved right, and she would have to hide her face in shame.
Sophie prepares to tell others that Danny didn’t come ….
She waited for some more time, as the fear of jitters and mocking began to impel her. She tried to condition her mind to the pain of living with this let-down for ages. Coming to terms with this frustration was not going to be easy, she felt. She wondered how she would break the news of Danny’s no-show to her brother Geoff. He, too, wouldn’t take Danny’s rebuff kindly.
On entering the street, she saw her father’s bicycle kept resting the pub’s wall. She was relieved somewhat as he wouldn’t be there when she goes into the house.
Sophie struggles to keep Danny out of her mind ….
The brief romantic interlude with Danny near the arcade kept popping up in her mind. She remembered the conversation he had with her, and his loving words, and her asking him to sign an autograph. His face kept appearing in her mind like an apparition. His green eyes, and his gentle demeanour were irresistible.
She pined for Danny with a wounded heart. The scars would never heal, she felt.
Another visit to the football match for more self-inflicted pain….
Next Saturday, she went to the football match again. She could see him fleetingly. It was a match that Danny dominated with his swift surgical strike to score a goal. The crowd gave a thunderous applause. Poor Sophie just looked on as a spectator, one tiny dot among the multitude of watchers!
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