'Sixty' by Mary Thompson
It's Julie's first festival and she's here for her sixtieth. We sneak in Prosecco which we pop open and drink out of plastic glasses purchased in Tesco's. We demolish rolls stuffed with fatty bacon and ketchup, and burn our tongues on piping hot coffee. Then amble over to a tiny stage in a bosky clearing and plunk down on bales to listen to one random band after another.
We dance the Lindyhop to Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald and when the rain starts, we seek shelter in a cocktail bar blaring out Hawaiian tunes, and Julie tells me about her relationship. He's ten years younger and she worries he'll leave her.
'What would he want with an old cow like me?' she says, her eyes glistening with tears.
The rain is lashing down so we fling kagools over our dresses, huddle together and share our stories. Of fucked-up flings, tragedies and love. She tells me he hit her for the first time last week.
'He's so stressed at work,' she says. 'It won't happen again.'
'Sure,' I say and squeeze her hand.
We drink more and talk more, and by the time the rain stops, she has resolved to leave him. I hug her and we go for a wander, stumbling across a stall selling Vintage flamenco dresses and handwoven flowers for three pounds a pop. Julie slips on some rose-tinted spectacles and gazes into a cracked mirror hanging from the roof. The sunset-pink merges with her dress and she breaks into a smile.
'What do you think?' She does a little twirl and her skirt spins out like a paper umbrella.
'I can't believe you're sixty.'
'Who cares about sixty,' she says.
In the evening, we trundle back in the train, Julie's head lolling against the window, specs falling off her face.
'Leave them on, they suit you,' I say.
'I know,' she slurs and giggles.
'I'm here for you, Jules. Whatever happens.'
'Thanks, darling,' she says.
Later on she texts me. 'Things cool with Gareth. All sorted.'
'What did he think of your glasses?'
'He loved them,' she says.
I don't reply, but lie on my beanbag in the failing daylight listening to Chet Baker and drinking more wine.