Lily looked out of her window at the children playing in the street. She was not one of these old people like some people she could mention who hated the noise of children. She delighted in their laughter and would laugh quietly to herself at their antics. Little ragamuffins , she would think, shaking her head in mock alarm at their battles and disputes. The children would always go the shop for her and never accepted the money she tried to press into their hands. They would sing the song, 'Lily the Pink' at her but they meant no harm. The children knew it made Lily laugh when they sang it and much to their delight she would even join in on occasions !
Her little dog Tim sat beside her at the window and she would talk to him. “Oh look Tim Mrs. Beswick's shouting at the children again!” Tim would look at her and seemed to shake his head in disapproval. “I wish she'd leave them alone, they're doing no harm.” Lily would grow anxious at times like these. She knew all the children hated 'Bessie' as they called her and Lily did not blame them. Mrs. Beswick confiscated their footballs, told tales to the children's parents and generally acted in a very hostile manner. Lily would watch as the children reciprocated by stealing flowers from Mrs. Beswick's garden and played Postman's Knock at her door. Lily would pretend she had not seen a thing. She felt almost in league with the children and in return the children recognised Lily as a kindred spirit.
When she had a few difficulties there was no end of men in the street who would help her. They would change the fuses, her light bulbs , help her with decorating, all manner of things. She was lucky to have such good neighbours. Lily looked in the mirror and did not see the plump old lady, with snow white hair and smudged pink lipstick. She saw the young women that she had once been. Her heart beat with pleasure at her own beauty. No wonder all these men were willing to help, she thought. In Lily's world she was still the girl of twenty with a bright future mapped out before her.
Lily's life was simple. She never felt depressed or worried. She always wore a smile. Her neighbours were kind and supportive. It always seemed to be sunny. Lily did not look back, her memories were hazy, jagged almost. Sometimes she was found wondering the streets with tears running down her face, but she never remembered these incidents. Life to her was a gentle rhythm that never seemed to miss a beat. It was only when a slight deviation occurred that she would feel the panic growing inside of her. If she kept to her routine she was fine.
Lily was right in remembering that she had once been a beautiful. When she was a young women her features had been delicate and with her smooth ivory skin she appeared to be out of sorts in the harsh working class environment that surrounded her. She had been small and slight, fragile almost compared to most of the other girls. Her eyes were a pale blue with flecks of green that seemed to change colour almost at will. Her hair had been a chestnut brown that framed her face and accentuated her skin to perfection. Lily had stood out from the crowd much admired by the men and deeply resented by the women. What Lily Pink failed to remember was that she had once been a young wife madly in love with her husband.
Lily did not remember when her husband had first hit her or that she had curled into a tiny ball as his fists reigned down on her. She could not remember his pleas for her forgiveness or their reconciliation. She did not remember being heavily pregnant when he had kicked her down the stairs. She could not remember the still birth of her child or the subsequent miscarriages. She could not remember the aching need for the children that she had never known. Her mind went to a place that no one could penetrate not even her husband's fists. She remembered a dark cloud passing as one day she heard a door close to a retreating figure who never returned.
Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night with her heart pounding and glimpses of her past would float up to her in the dark but if she wished hard enough they always went away. Forty years had passed and to Lily it was nothing more than a bad dream. Lily Pink lived alone in a small terraced house. Everyone was kind to her. Sometimes a frown would crease her brow and she would hear crying but she soon forgot. She would look out the window and smile and the children would sing, “Lily the Pink, the Pink, the Pink...the saviour of the human race...” Lily would chuckle to herself. She would stroke Tim and Tim would wag his tail.