Seedcake or Eccles Cake by Graham Crisp

“So, go on then, how did it go?” Jean Symonds frowned as she watched her companion scoop two rather healthy spoonfuls of sugar into her cup of tea. “I heard there was a bit of excitement, involving a certain Roger Cameron?” 

Martha Mosely sipped the heavily sweetened drink and picked up a sugar-coated Eccles cake that had been perched neatly in the saucer beside her cup. She munched on the cake, her eyes fixed on Jean, who waited patiently for a response from her sweet-toothed friend. 

Finally, she put the half-eaten cake back down onto the saucer and carefully wiped away the crumbs that were deposited in each corner of her mouth. “Well, you know in the first place it was Maud’s idea, you know, to get all togged up and have a glamorous day at the races. “ 

Jean nodded. She took a small sip from her unsweetened cup of coffee. “So, we both had a quick ring around all the girls. Betty, Elizabeth, Margaret, Jackie and of course, Joyce herself. They’re really all up for it, so Betty books us in and I get the minibus organised. It’s a pity you missed it, Jean, you’d have enjoyed it.” Jean looked down at her cup and saucer and uneaten seedcake. Her eyes glistened. “I have to pop over to Mum’s on a Wednesday. With the state she’s in, it would be hell for me if I missed a visit.” 

Martha, lightly held Jean’s arm. “She’s not getting any better then?” Jean shook her head. “I wouldn’t mind if she was consistent. One minute she’s laughing and joking, then she suddenly goes off on one and calls me all sorts of horrible names.” Martha squeezed her arm tightly. “Sorry, Jean, that was insensitive of me, we’ll have to fix another one up.” 

Jean straightened up and bit aggressively into the seedcake. A small chunk of cake broke away and dropped silently into her cup of coffee. The pair burst out laughing. Jean grinned, “I’m such a pig at times. Look away and I’ll get it out.” Martha watched as Jean retrieved the offending lump and slipped it into her mouth. “Mmm. That actually tastes rather nice.” 

“Anyway, go on with your day at the races. How did Joyce’s dashing Roger find out about it?” 

Martha lightly scratched the side of her nose. “Well, that was me really. I mentioned it to him when I saw him at the bar of the club. I wanted to make it plain to him that it was a girls’ day out and no men were invited. Because you know what he’s like, always trying to muscle in when he’s not wanted.” 

“Joyce is mad on him though, isn’t she? You tell by the way she hangs on to his every word and those puppy dog eyes. She’s like a flaming silly teenager when he’s around.” Jean knitted her eyebrows in a deep frown.

Martha let out a short giggle. “She’s lucky to have him, I mean, after that bastard, excuse my language, of a first husband, Roger is a real gentleman. I would, if you know what I mean, if he wasn’t spoken for!” Martha gave Jean a sly wink. “He’s quite well-off, isn’t he? Made some money in business. No, fair play to Joyce, she deserves some fun.” Jean finished off the remnants of her seedcake and licked her fingers. 

Martha drained her cup. “Anyway, I’ll carry on, it's nearly lunchtime and this place will be heaving.” She took a short intake of breath. 

“So, we had a lovely meal, the weather was great, you know, really sunny and warm. We all had a little flutter. Margaret won a tenner on the first two races. I think the rest of us were down a bit, but it didn’t matter, it was just a bit of fun.” 

“We all lined up outside for the last race. I must say we all looked rather good in our glad rags, a proper bunch of ladies! Then as the final race was just finishing, Joyce gets a text message. We could see her frowning at her phone. She showed it around. It was from Roger. It just said ‘look up into the sky’” 

“So, did you?” Jean leaned forward. 

“Yes, we all looked up and there was a little aeroplane pulling a great big banner behind it. We were all a bit stunned.” 

“What did it say?” 

“Well, would you believe it, it said in great big capital letters - ‘Joyce will you marry me? Roger x.’ You should have seen the look on Joyce’s face. It was a picture. But that’s not all. When the plane doubled back, the banner read on the other side – ‘Well?’” Jean wiped her eyes, “How lovely. How romantic.” Then she halted. Her eyes narrowed. “What did Joyce say?” 

Martha laughed, “She just turned around and whizzed off to the ladies, without saying a word. We all huddled together, speechless. Then Betty says she’s going to find her and off she trots. Anyway, a couple of minutes later, there’s Betty waving at us furiously, grinning all over her face, with Joyce just behind her, giving us the thumbs up.” So, when’s the wedding?” Jean sighed, her head tilted to one side and her hands cupped her chin. 

Martha shrugged. “I’m not sure, but I saw Joyce in that bridal shop on the High Street, just yesterday. So, as the man says, watch this space.” 

The pair simultaneously got up and arm in arm, headed for the door.

Published in Issue #12

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