Note: This is my homework (!) for my writing class in Oxford. It is a true story, though ever so slightly embellished.
“I can’t find them,” I said slightly exasperated and squashed by hubby and the three girls in our family changing room at the local leisure centre. That was a generous name for the space we were in. I wasn’t sure what size family the person who designed it meant it to accommodate; maybe a mother of two? With the five of us, we might need to grease the walls to get out.
“Are you sure? They must be there somewhere,” hubby offered, still dripping from the pool. He reached over and took his faded blue sweatshirt from my hand and bumped his head on the particularly low ceiling in our corner cubicle. As he grumbled under his breath, a vapour took hold of my nose. I couldn’t quite place it. It reminded me of school washrooms…
I rummaged through the pink and white flowered re-usable shopping bag, the first thing I grabbed from the closet when we decided to catch the last hour of the family splash session. I took out each item and shook it. Damn. I liked my purple bra. I had purchased it on a recent trip to France with my girl friends. There was a 30 percent off sale on at Bon Marche and I briefly thought it would be fun to bring home lingerie to hubby, who was playing single dad for the weekend while I sipped cafe cremes and ate at Michelin-starred restaurants. After pouring through baskets of lingerie tangled together by straps and tags, I settled on a sensible one, and was thrilled that it wasn’t white or beige — but a brilliant shade of peacock purple. It was comfortable, and more importantly, it fit perfectly; didn’t show any funny lines in the front and no rolls of 40-something flab in the back. There were matching panties too. They must be here somewhere…
I checked to see if they were hidden in my navy sweatpants. Nope. Then Alexandra’s pink leggings with the chocolate stains that I can’t seem to get out, even after dousing with an entire bottle of Oxi Clean. Defeated, I put them down in the tiny corner of the floor that wasn’t afflicted from the offending mixture of pool water and dirt dragged in from the soles of shoes.
“I’m cold mummy” said Alexandra, still in her swim suit, her towel a wet clump on the floor. I don’t know why they don’t take off their suits when they get out of the pool. After swim lessons they will sit in wet swim costumes and damp towels shivering, clattering like a hole punch on overdrive. If they weren’t in the bag, where were they?
“Maybe they’re in the locker, or the cubicle where we changed?” Emily, 7, the sensible one chimed in. “Do you want me to look?” she said, still shivering and wet in her swim suit. “Why don’t you check lost property?”
I was dreading this. I deal with the man at the front desk on a regular basis. Every 10 weeks when the girls swim sessions expire, we go through a very drawn out conversation about which date is best, what level they are in, are you sure, what day did we say and 45 minutes later we are finally sorted. Also, there’s the small detail that last year I complained about people leaving their belongings in the cubicles (it’s a small centre and the cubicles fill up quickly) and I’m afraid I have a bit of a reputation. I had written a letter to the manager, and it was this man, Ed, that was on duty at the time.
“Hi Ed,” I said putting on my friendly voice. “Has anyone turned in any, ummm, clothing this afternoon,” I asked, avoiding his gaze.
“Noooo Mrs. Scott,” he said avoiding my gaze as well. Instead he was looking down at my sweatpants. In my haste I had put them on over my swimming costume, and there was a wet spot starting to spread around my bottom bits.
“Are you sure?” I asked, moving closer to the counter. “I’m sure I was wearing them when I got here.”
“What did you lose?”
I took a deep breath and felt my face get hot. “A purple bra…. and panties.”
All my dignity gone in one fell swoop. It didn’t help that when I went home I found them on my bedroom floor. Right where I left them…