Anne is sitting on the stony beach flinging smooth rocks into the sea. The low winter sun sparkling on the waves makes her eyes water, but she forgot her sunglasses when she ran out of Paul’s house. “Paul’s house” she spits scornfully at the herring gulls. They screech back at her misery. He took her to meet his mother today. She was looked over and dismissed. Paul’s mother only asked her one question.
“Where on earth did you meet my Paul?” The emphasis on “you” was cutting. This “you” contained a thousand prejudices – the wrong side of the city – Northside; lower social class – her dad was a bus driver – and the wrong set of friends. She knew nobody who could be of any use to Paul’s career. Anne saw herself reflected in Paul’s mothers hard gaze, felt a sharp pain twist in her gut as the other woman’s lip curled. Paul dropped her hand as if his mother’s piercing look had burnt him.
“We’re just friends, Mum,” apologised Paul. The pain in her gut intensified as she watched him distance himself from her. He shrugged his shoulders, his mother smiled, satisfied and Anne ran, humiliated rejected.
Sitting on the beach reminded Anne of childhood day trips with her father, her chatting and him smiling indulgently. She stood up, brushing loose sand from her jeans. She smiled. “A lucky escape” flitted across her mind. Anne didn’t have Paul, she had much more. It was time to go home.