In an impulsive moment of deep inner warmth which began somewhere low down in her pelvic floor Cynthia pointed her French baguette (wholemeal) at the neatly arranged boxes of Frosties launching it at the third tiger from the left. Next, she grasped the juicy blood grapefruit from her basket, and with the grace of a Hungarian shot putter, hurled one of her five-a-day at a Valentine’s promotional pyramid of dark chocolates containing brazil nuts. Cynthia’s heart pounded. For the first time in years she felt alive. She was the master of her own destiny and the whole day lay ahead of her.


Cynthia is an experiment in writing. Having begun, the idea is to continue without going back and changing anything. Who knows where this will lead?


Cynthia hadn’t been back to the supermarket for a whole month. There hadn’t been any trouble. Disappointingly nobody had noticed. What scared Cynthia was the fear of unleashing those same emotions. Where had they come from? Where would they lead? As punishment she had forbidden herself butter and gone to bed early every night with a series of Mills & Boon from the library. So it was with trepidation that she found herself, armed with a list, back in the freshly baked section. She blanked the baguettes heading straight for the fresh fruit and veg. Nothing much had changed. The bananas were still under ripe and the avocadoes felt like hand grenades. The Valentine’s Day display had been replaced with Easter Eggs. She still couldn’t find the tin foil and was just about to ignore the woolly socks and electric goods (because she never needed woolly socks or electrical goods) when something made her stop in her tracks and change direction.

 

Strictly a list-in-hand shopper Cynthia never trawled the isles looking for a bargain or a new product. Marketing was a devious tool wielded by men wearing suede shoes. Cynthia could never trust a man wearing suede shoes. As for technology, it was an unintelligible foreign concept to Cynthia, just like punk rock and politics. So Cynthia was surprised to find herself so close to a curious array of mobile phones with strange sounding names. Embarrassed at the thought of being spotted by somebody who recognised her, she quickened her step. She paused at the greeting cards to catch her breath. She didn’t need a “Get Well Soon” card. It wasn’t on the list. But thinking she had been seen by a neighbour she placed the card in her basket. Strangely for Mrs Davies from number six she didn’t speak. If it hadn’t been Mrs Davies then it certainly looked like her double.


Unpacking the shopping in her kitchen Cynthia slid the card into a drawer crammed with till receipts, packets of flower food, house bills, unopened mail and unnecessary greeting cards. It wasn’t an unattractive card and it might come in useful one day.


April slipped quietly into May. Then the sun began to shine and it wasn’t long before every bird in the neighbourhood was venting its spleen. The sound filled the daylight hours.  It grew in volume day by day. Nipping into the downstairs toilet to change the hand towel Cynthia discovered birdsong had percolated through the fabric of the house seeping in through an air brick in the wall. It was a chorus of delight which tempted her into a spot of spring cleaning. Cynthia started by opening all the upstairs windows.


Downstairs, balancing on a stool, Cynthia grappled the net curtains above the kitchen sink. Reaching made breathing harder. After a quarter of an hour, flushed but determined, the nets had been landed. Cynthia decided to stop for a cup of much needed refreshment.


The kettle puffed and coughed. Cynthia rattled a silver teaspoon in a china cup decorated with pale pink rose buds. The aroma of Earl Grey tea lingered above the cup. A fly zipped along the ceiling. Reaching the newly exposed window it bounced unceremoniously off, complaining as it did so and leaving a greasy mark. After the nets Cynthia decided she would wash the windows. It was going to be a busy day which was good as sometimes the days were not busy enough to fill the time. The sound of birdsong had melted into familiarity – like the wallpaper; like the sound of the clock on the wall; like the act of making a cup of tea.


Cynthia paused. How nice it was. How easy it was. How boring it had become.


With the silver teaspoon (a souvenir from a weekend in York which seemed like a lifetime ago) she squeezed the tea bag against the inside of the china cup decorated with pale pink rose buds and lifted it carefully from the cup into the small recycling bin marked “Food”. As usual, drops of amber tea dripped onto the white kitchen work surface. As usual, Cynthia placed the silver teaspoon on the saucer (on the opposite side to the handle of the cup). As usual, she tore off a single sheet of kitchen paper and dabbed at the stains. As usual, she placed the tea-stained kitchen paper into the recycling bin marked “Paper”. She considered opening the biscuit tin but glancing at the clock she decided, as usual, it wasn’t a good time for a snack.


The tea cooled. Cynthia sipped silently. Without the net curtains the world outside her kitchen appeared brighter. The lines of the fence were more in focus (although that might have been her new bifocals). Cynthia noticed for the first time that year there were daisies growing in the lawn. She took another sip of her favourite tea – the only type of tea she ever purchased. Carefully she replaced the cup onto its matching saucer. Bending down she gathered the net curtains in her arms and tossed them into the dustbin which was not marked with a label as it was for general waste. It was still six minutes past ten. Nothing had changed but Cynthia decided to have that biscuit after all.

 

Had anything changed?  Would anything ever change?  Were things really so bad that they needed changing any way?  


Perhaps the net curtains were just the beginning.  Cynthia wanted to peel away the years.  She wanted to be young again.  She wanted people to notice her; to talk about her; to wonder what she was thinking; to desire her company; to find her attractive.  Wasn’t it Esther Rantzen who had stripped off in her back garden?  Cynthia did a quick risk assessment.  The neighbours were a major stumbling block.  The older couple from Birmingham were very liberal minded.  They went to Spain every Easter and she had no qualms about going topless.  However, the young family who had just moved in next door might find the sight of Cynthia in the roses a bit of a shock.  They had only exchanged pleasantries about wheelie bins so far.  It might be better to wait until they were better acquainted.  And by then the weather would have turned.  Cynthia made a mental note to give them the telephone number of the window cleaner.  They might even be persuaded to join the Neighbourhood Watch scheme.  


The clock on the mantelpiece chimed eleven and Cynthia’s thoughts turned to the same mundane tasks she faced every day of every week.  Leaving the washing machine purring away on economy cycle Cynthia locked her UPVC front door behind her.  She placed her shopping basket on the passenger seat of the car and set off for town in her small and reasonably priced motorcar.  On the way to the Co-op she would stop at the library and still be back in plenty of time for lunch and to catch up on the news.


And that is just how it happened.  Everything was normal.  Well, almost everything ...  


Cynthia parked in the same pay and display car park behind the library, in her favourite spot.  She had the same conversation with the lady who worked behind the counter.  Yes, it was a beautiful day.  She took the same route to the Co-op and bought the same items as last week.  There was nothing unusual about the news that day either.  So what had made her walk straight passed the Mills & Boon spinner and pick up a large hardback book from the “New Titles” display?  Perhaps it was the title that had caught her attention.  In the same shoes would you have been able to resist?  At the time she didn’t know it but Cynthia’s Diary would change her life for ever.


It didn’t happen immediately.  In fact at first nothing happened at all.  It was the end of June and every evening Cynthia sat up in bed listening to the birds and wondering whether or not it would be cooler with the window open or with the window shut.  She lit a scented candle to deter the mosquitoes.  It hadn’t rained for thirteen days and Cynthia was down to a nightie and a single sheet.  She usually spent half an hour reading before setting the alarm clock for the morning and settling down to sleep.  The first night she read Cynthia’s Diary for an hour.  The second night it was longer.  By the third evening she took herself off to bed early to have more time for reading.


CoNtInUe ReAdInG ...