Iva Ballocks closed and locked both her travel cases, rechecked her passport before placing it in her flight-bag, and revelled in her new name. Gloria Valentine. Changed by deed poll after watching a Shirley Valentine DVD she bought from a local charity shop, enthralled by the story of a young woman whose married life mirrored her own. Taken for granted. Ignored. Bored. No glimmer of hope for better on the horizon.
Well now there was …
Two blissful weeks on her own on the Greek island of Mykonos, just like Shirley Valentine, which was why she chose the same destination, same surname. Gloria was from Gloria Estafan, after hearing her single, Get on Your Feet, especially the lines, Get up and make it happen, and Stand up and take some action. Singing them to herself over and over again, she had tried and tried to think of how to implement them in her own barren life, but failed to come up with an answer until she saw Shirley Valentine, and there and then decided to do the same. Escape, if only for two weeks, from her miserable existence and miserable terraced house in a miserable street in a miserable town, to a blue sky and blue sea. And who knew, maybe, like Shirley, find a dark, handsome Greek lover who constantly wanted to make love to her, day and night. Even better, for him to own a taverna, like Costas in the film, and take her on to work behind his bar, and every afternoon, when the sun’s heat kept tourists in their fanned-cooled hotel rooms, for him to bonk her again and again on his kitchen table. The extreme opposite of her life with husband, Billy.
The noise coming from the TV in the sitting room downstairs, confirmed she was doing the right thing. Though not for Billy. But who cared? Eight years she’d been his skivvy, tending to his daily needs, shopping, cooking, taking his meals to him on a tray as he lay stretched out on the sofa, cans of lager on the carpet less than an arm’s length away for him not to overstretch himself reaching for them, and as a consequence getting fatter and ever fatter.
Not that he’d always been this way, or she would never have married him She first met him in the local dance-hall when he was eighteen. Lean but muscular, handsome and dark haired, he’d made a beeline for her as soon as she entered, and they’d stayed together all evening, Billy with his quiffed hair, her in her skin-tight leather trousers, fancying themselves as John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. But necking against a wall after the dance, he’d kicked up at her tight trousers preventing him getting into her knickers. The following Saturday she’d worn a skirt and for two years he’d not been able to get enough of her. Nor on their honeymoon either. But a few months of being married and sharing the same bed, made it boring for him knowing it was always on tap, and it became once a week, then two weeks, then monthly, then stopped all together.
Even more, after they married he’d not been able to keep a job, his inherent laziness evident from the start. The only job he’d ever held was made worse by him being called Willy not Billy, especially when asked. “Willy, would you do this, that, the other?”, and his work mates chorusing “Will he Bollocks”, making a play on his name. And so he’d packed-up work, forcing her to be the provider, a check-out girl at a supermarket, and she’d had to suffer the same indignity of her married surname, especially when tannoy operators seemed to glory in calling her over the system “Would Iva Bollocks come to Personnel?”, and the catcalls from other staff as she vacated her till, red-faced. “Lucky you, Iva, how often do you play with it?”, swelled by shoppers’ laughter. People with small minds. After all, wasn’t there a footballer named Ballack who once played for Chelsea?, and she didn’t think he was ever barracked for it.
Meantime, after packing up work altogether, Billy became a couch potato watching TV all day long, whatever was showing, even junk programmes – which was most of the time – and he was now bald and fat and getting ever fatter, that it was relief to her when he stayed sleeping on the sofa and no longer came to bed, easier for him with the loo and bathroom being on the same floor; not that he ever washed himself and she had to do under his arms for him when his BO got too strong. His more intimate places, too, closing her eyes, because his once pride and glory now looked shrivelled, especially hidden as it was by his hanging stomach folds.
She re-tried on her blonde wig, matching her passport photo, and even though she thought it herself, it made her look glamorous – hey-ho, Mykonos here I come – and put it in her flight-bag. She’d put it back on in a Manchester Airport’s ladies’ room before going through Passport Control, and dye her dark hair blonde when she reached her destination. But she didn’t want to leave the house wearing it or one of the neighbours might be in their window and notice it and wonder why she’d gone blonde, and also might draw their attention to the two cases and flight-bag she was carrying. No, she’d be out through the door in a flash, securing it behind her on the Yale lock to prevent any Nosy Parker entering the house and asking Billy where she’d gone to and how long for, and had she left him enough food and drink until she got back, cold snacks, crisps and suchlike, and cans of booze. They probably knew enough about him through gossip -especially their next-door neighbour’s whose sitting room abutted theirs – and would hear Billy’s TV on all day and all night, to realise he wouldn’t cook for himself.
And playing safe, her passport address was also false – she didn’t want to be found in case she decided to stay living there. She’d found an old man, bordering on being senile, living near her work to visit and chat to, under the guise of being a good Samaritan, and used his address for her passport application and collect all correspondence regarding it.
The TV was still on downstairs, as always. She’d told Billy she’d taken the day off work to go shopping. As for a taxi rank, there was one no more than minutes away, if she walked fast as she intended to, wanting to get away from the place.
She exited the bedroom, hurried downstairs with her baggage, placed them by the front door
for a swift departure, and entered the sitting-room to say “Cheerio, Billy” to him.
Yes, he was still there. Head on the cushion as always, facing the TV.
A sudden wave of nostalgia for the old times hit her.
She walked around the sofa, stroked his bald head, and tossed it in a bin bag with all his other sawn-off bits.