Second Chances

Submitted into Contest #54 in response to: Write a story about a TV show called "Second Chances."... view prompt



I remember her words as if it were yesterday.

    “You're poor, you are Maureen Edwards!”      

      We were both only seven at the time and Carol was my best friend, but the statement she had used to inflict pain –for eating the last sweet – tormented me for many years.

I guess she was right, but at such an impressionable age the words dug deep as they nestled amongst the little grey cells, smouldering like the remaining embers of a bonfire.

            We didn't have the new cars and fancy holidays that she boasted of – at every opportunity – but I still desperately wanted her company.

    Carol's father worked abroad returning infrequently, but when he did he lavished expensive gifts on his only daughter. I recall one Christmas during the tormented teenage decade that I had received a small radio off my parents. My Mother had lovingly wrapped it with a sheet of expensive paper and adorned it with a big red bow. I was so chuffed that the paper hadn’t come off a giant roll but had been chosen especially for me.

The Christmas turkey was not yet cold on our plates when Carol came knocking at the door. All excitedly I let her in and ushered her into my bedroom. I thought it strange at the time that she didn’t appear to be carrying anything. She sat poised on my bed waiting for the kill. I picked up the radio, “Look what I got,” I beamed twiddling the dial to find radio one.

She took one look at it and huffed, “Oh yeah, that’s nice, I got one too…as a stocking filler!” She then extended her arm and wafted it right under my nose. “Look what I got,” she gushed as a flash of light caught my eye. A diamond bracelet slid down her arm until it came to rest on her wrist. She swivelled it to the right then to the left so that the light caught each individual diamond. “They’re all real too,” she insisted shoving it ever closer to my nose so that I couldn’t fail to be impressed by it.

“Daddy brought it back from L.A. he had a Christmas bonus so bought this for me.” She pirouetted round my bedroom still examining the diamonds. “What else did you get?” she nonchalantly enquired.

As there was precious little else to show her I bluffed my way out of the situation in the usual manner “Oh lots of clothes and books etc.”

How I hated her father for no other reason than that diamond bracelet. The fact that my hard working father was struggling to make ends meet had little to do with my distress at that time. I do however recall the impoverished state of finances being the instigator of many arguments between my otherwise devoted parents.

    With a family of five to support, each penny in our home was accounted for. My mother had secreted labelled tins everywhere. I’d hear the clink of change regularly being dropped into each one. Needless to say, they were often raided when one of us children had outgrown our shoes before time.

I now look back on my grammar school years with a sense of achievement. I recall excitedly presenting my parents with excellent school reports. The effort to refrain from divulging the dilemma of the annual school trip abroad was immense. I couldn't bear to see the elation on their faces whilst reading my report turn to despair, as they would inevitably have to tell me that the coffers were empty.

    The green-eyed monster once again reared its ugly head one evening when I was reclining with the latest teen-mag. The divine Carol sauntered into my bedroom, adorned with enough gold jewellery to put Cleopatra to shame. A designer outfit clung to her ‘Claudia Schiffer’ figure as she brandished at least 100 snapshots of the school vacation skiing in Austria. In deference to our longstanding friendship, I feigned interest in the antics of half my classmates as I choked back the tears. I vividly recall blowing my way through a whole toilet roll that night.

Now older and wiser, I realise that although we were not as affluent as the Bennett family, we had something far more important. We had the wealth of a loving home with two attentive parents who were always there for us.

    Along with this maturity, comes the knowledge that Carol was a desperately unhappy child trying to buy friendship.

After winning a scholarship to a London university to study Law, I said a tearful farewell to my parents and excitedly set off with hopeful prospects for the future.

            The pride on my parents’ faces on graduation day, made up for all the years of sleepless nights working into the early hours. The icing on the cake however, was when I managed to clinch a position with an extremely reputable firm of solicitors.         

    After working with the company for five years, I took a very adventurous step and set up a small firm of my own. With a little luck and a lot of determination, it had become quite lucrative.

 Dealing mainly with divorce, I found my sympathetic ear indispensable.

All thoughts of Carol had long since departed. I had no idea if she’d even finished her education. Therefore, an unexpected encounter with her one-day took me completely by surprise.

  It was a frosty January morning when my secretary popped her head around the door.

    “ Hm hm… Miss Edwards,” Paula announced. “Your 11.30 appointment is here. She said her name is Mrs. Lewis and that…” she hesitated with the strangest look on her face, “that she’s a friend of yours!”

    Paula then escorted a very scantily clad woman into the room. The timid looking woman seated herself in front of my desk and reluctantly lifted her head revealing to my utter shock, the distraught face of Carol.

    I thought for one split that second that my eyes were deceiving me, until she opened her scarlet painted mouth. Hardly stopping to breathe she proceeded to relay the predicament in which she had found herself.

          “Oh Mo, I knew it was you when I saw the name on the plaque outside,” she spluttered. “I'm in a terrible mess, and I don't have any money.”

    The tears began to well up in the corners of each kohl-lined eye, finally erupting forming two black tracks down her ashen face.

“I know that I wasn’t always very nice to you when we were kids,” she sniffed continuously. “How I wish I could turn back the clock and have been a better and kinder friend.”

    She continued to relate the story of how she had become involved with a bad crowd during her final year in the boarding school that her father had chosen for her. How she had managed to get herself expelled, pregnant and married all in the space of six months. Ultimately her father had disowned her after she had refused to leave her newly acquired husband who had become involved in petty crime.

            I assisted in mopping up the rivulets with a plentiful supply of tissues offering a supportive shoulder on which she wept uncontrollably – ruining a brand new Versace suit.

  She disclosed a complex situation, with a failing marriage and three hungry children. Furthermore, she was on the verge being evicted for non-payment of rent. She had mounting debts and an alcoholic husband whose feelings stretched only as far as the nearest whisky bottle. He was refusing to leave or contribute towards the serious arrears that they had accumulated. His regular drunken stupor had been innocuous until recently, when he had become prone to violence.

    As I comforted her I couldn't prevent my mind from wandering back to that Christmas long ago and the words she had used to emotionally scar me. I remembered the vow I had made to one day avenge my wounded pride.

           She looked into my face and pleaded, “Maureen, can you give me a second chance and help me please?”

My gaze was drawn to the over processed hair, and the dark circles under her pitifully, bloodshot eyes. 

      As she sat there wringing a soggy tissue in anticipation, I pondered as to what I should do.

      I was torn between retribution and forgiveness. All ancient thoughts I'd harboured swirled around my head until I felt dizzy, sending me flashbacks of her smugly wheeling her new doll and pram down my garden path and not allowing me to touch it.

    I scanned the pathetic figure in front of me, no longer the vibrant beauty I’d once been so envious of. I now saw before me a miserably inadequate person, aged way beyond her 32 years.

    “Of course I will Carol,” the words spilled out effortlessly. “I will help you in any way I can.”

August 14, 2020 07:36

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Len Mooring
23:35 Aug 27, 2020

Splendid story telling. Keep up the good work.


Marilyn David
08:40 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you. I know I have a lot to learn but the incentive increases when I receive positive comments.


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