“As You Made Me” by Ailsa Abraham

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, Jean gets a visit from a long-forgotten friend.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “As You Made Me” by Ailsa Abraham:

“Thank you, Marie-Annick, that’s the end of your lesson. You did very well and I’ll email your homework for us to correct together next time. Bye-bye.”

Jean cut the Skype connection and stared blankly at the wall above her laptop. There had to be more to life than this. Ploughing through stilted conversations electronically with low-level English students had never been thrilling but it was beginning to drive her to distraction. Even working at the language school, badly-paid as it was, had involved interaction with her colleagues. She missed the banter, the shared lunches, even the bickering.

She slouched through to the kitchen to pour more coffee strong enough to dissolve the enamel off her teeth and fought an urge to kick some furniture. How had it got to this? Where had it all dissolved from a rural dream to a nightmare of isolation and frustration? The extent of her socialising these days was a bit of chit-chat with the girls in the local supermarket, exchanging remarks about the weather with neighbours while out walking, or the odd village do in the hall on feast-days. She glared at the kitchen thinking how many people would give their eye teeth to own a rustic period-cottage like this. When Yves signed it into her name, when his job was threatened, she’d been happy, but now it was as if the whole house was a weight on her back.

An icy breeze fluttered against her cheek. Damn! The front door must have blown open again. The wood swelled in damp weather and it wouldn’t shut. Now it was dry, the door opened of its own accord all the time.

“I’m ashamed of you, Jean.” The voice behind her nearly made her jump out of her skin. Spinning around, dropping her bone-china mug on the stone flags where it smashed to pieces, Jean confronted the gorgeous young woman facing her.

Words didn’t come. Not even the “Who, what, why?” that were rattling around in her brain. She stood with her mouth open.

“Remember me? Cazzie – you should remember me, Jean.” Blonde, immaculately made-up and wearing more in high-fashion than Jean spent in a month on groceries; the young woman folded her arms and smiled grimly at her.

“I wouldn’t have let things go this far and I’m very surprised you have.” She was brutally frank. “You know he’s having an affair, don’t you?”

Jean just nodded. Yes, of course she suspected that Yves was having an affair. He worked in Paris all week, staying in their “studio,” coming home for weekends most of the time. And he was French… of course he was having a bloody affair. She didn’t just suspect—she knew, but it had taken someone else to make her admit it. The times he couldn’t make it home, the phone ringing endlessly or his mobile being switched off. She knew it.

“The boys don’t need you now, do they Jean? They’re both off and settled. Why on earth are you still living here?” Cazzie’s perfectly manicured and polished nails tapped on the pristine embroidered tablecloth. Her sumptuous lips curled up in a sneer.

“It was for them,” Jean nearly wailed. “We wanted them to grow up in the country. It was better for them, more healthy, less chance of them getting in with a bad crowd.” She fumbled in the pocket of her baggy cardigan, looking for a tissue, and not finding one, ripped off some kitchen roll to blow her nose.

Cazzie merely looked back stonily, one perfectly plucked eyebrow raised.

“Come with me.” She seemed to glide rather than walk through to the back room where the door of the storage wardrobe swung open silently. Jean looked at the rail of gorgeous clothes she used to wear for work, suits that hadn’t seen the light of day for years, luxurious coats just too good to wear for shopping and her eyes filled with tears.

“Time to act, Jean.” Cazzie was right next to her shoulder, her freezing aura causing Jean to shiver. “Remember how we met? Remember the magazine? Paris? The life we had there?”

Jean nodded. It was a lifetime ago, in her early twenties, bilingual PA to an editor, living the good times, invited to all the places where the in-crowd went, mixing with the glitterati. That was where she’d met Yves, and if she were honest, that was the beginning of the end. Not the boys, of course; she’d never regret them, even if they were off doing their own things now – Marc in the Air Force and Richard working the Rhine-cruisers with his girlfriend. That was how it was meant to be but… but…

“Look at me, Jean.” Cazzie’s tone had softened. “I’m as you made me. I WAS you. Remember?”

Jean stifled a sob and nodded. Yes, that one chic-lit novel she’d got published – it had been entirely based on her life in Paris then. Cazzie was the crazy, bright young woman who, after nearly losing him to another girl, got off with her boss and then, dear reader, she married him. Pity stories didn’t always finish with “and they lived happily ever after.”

“You can do it again. I’ll help you. We can do it together, Jean, just like we did before.” Cazzie was urging her on. “You can write. You can still do anything you want to.”

Misery had given way to anger as Jean marched back into her office and tapped into Yellow Pages. Cazzie stood by the desk, grinning impishly as she heard Jean speaking in rapid French.

“Hello. Is that the Estate Agent’s? I’d like you to send out someone to value my house. I want to get it on the market as soon as possible. This afternoon? Yes, that would be perfect. Thank you so much.”

Cazzie held up a hand to give a phantom high-five.

“We’re back in business, Lady!”

Ailsa Abraham is of Scottish/Irish descent but has lived in France for the last 22 years. Since retiring early from teaching she has been able to devote herself to her two passions: writing and motorbikes, both of which she has been doing all her life.  This story is her first short story to be professionally published. She has subsequently published four novels in two genres under two names. Her pagan fantasy romance “Shaman’s Drum” was released in January 2013. Her web page contains more information and free short stories in her pagan-based genre.

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  1. Oooo!! I really enjoyed this. Now I want to know what happens to Jean! Will we be seeing another instalment?

  2. This was a super fun read, Cameron! I liked the cattiness of Cazzie and how she got Jean to break through her barriers. It’s a bit like it is for writers in real life, isn’t it? We can take some cues from our characters who often are our alter egos. Great one!

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