Tuesday, 21 August 2012

113: Happy Endings

The shelves of the shop were covered in row after row of pastel coloured boxes, each about the size of a shoe box. None of the shelves were marked and the boxes didn't appear to have labels on. Still, Mrs Wheatlake knew the contents of each box and exactly what to prescribe for any of her customers.

Not anyone could become a customer of Mrs Wheatlake, though. Nobody knew the address of the shop and nobody knew how to contact her. It was said she'd find you, if she thought you needed her services. There might be a card dropped through your letterbox or she might approach you in the street, laying a hand on your arm and smiling up at you. Then she would take you to her little shop and help you.

Caitlin had woken one day to find a yellow chrysanthemum plant on her doorstep, with an invitation to Mrs Wheatlake's shop tucked between the leaves.

Caitlin pushed open the door of the shop and as she entered a bell tinkle announcing her arrival. Mrs Wheatlake smiled from behind a mahogany serving counter. “Come in, my dear,” she said. “Let me help you with your problems.”

Two cups of earl grey later, Caitlin had told the story of her rotten luck with men. How she had met a man and fallen in love, only for him to marry another girl because she had family money. How a holiday romance in Greece had led her to being used as a ticket to a new life, then dumped. How she didn't dare trust a man again and how that made her lonely and sad for the future.

My shop is very special,” said Mrs Wheatlake. “These boxes all contain happy endings. There is something here for everyone, but some people can't quite find their happy ending so I help out. Go ahead, look around and choose one. Only one of these happy endings will be the right one for you so choose carefully.”

Caitlin looked round at the boxes. She touched one then another with her fingertips before choosing a peach box and removed it from the shelf. Inside was a woman in a business suit, sat at a desk in a large office. “A successful career woman, respected for her opinions and sought for her experience,” said Mrs Wheatlake.

The next box she opened was lilac. Inside were three children in matching Gap clothing, a woman with keys to a Range Rover, a coiffured show dog and an au pair. “The trappings of a marriage to a high flying businessman,” said Mrs Wheatlake.

Inside the cream box was a large pile of money. The blue box contained an elderly couple, surrounded by photographs of smiling children and their busy parents.

How do I know which one to pick?” asked Caitlin. “Any one could be my happy ending.”

I have one special happy ending for you,” said Mrs Wheatlake. “Try that lemon box high up on the shelf near the window.”

Caitlin reached up for the box and took it down. It felt warm in her hands and the yellow glowed just slightly. She opened the lid and looked inside.
It's me,” she said. “Just me.”

Yes, my dear,” said Mrs Wheatlake. “You are the answer to your happy ending. Only you can decide and you know what to do in your heart.” She gestured at the shelves of her shop. “This may all be magic, but you must look inside to make yourself happy.

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