Sheela - a warning against lust
Stacey loved spring. The time of the year for exfoliation, depilation – basically all sorts of stripping off of layers to get ready for the better weather, once it finally came. Her Nan called it moulting.
“You’re moulting, girl. I don’t know what you’re thinking”, she’d say. “Scrubbing yourself clean to put more dirt on your face. Cutting your own gorgeous hair to weave in that fake hair. And don’t get me started on your eyelashes and nails. Is there any part of you that’s real any more?”
Stacey took it all in her stride. She styled it out. Adding the make-up and picking up tips from the beauty vloggers, as her Nan whistled the old Cliff Richard song, ‘Living Doll’.
Besides, it was her choice, wasn’t it? These days, a young woman could be exactly who she wanted to be. And if the person Stacey chose to be happened to have a different hair colour, eye colour, breast size and eyebrow shape to what Stacey had naturally – then that was nobody’s business but her own. These days, it was all about seeing what you wanted and going for it.
Which kind of brought her to where she was right now… She’d seen Leon, wanted him and gone for him. The fact that he was Anna’s boyfriend made Anna - what was that phrase she’d heard her stepdad use the other day? Collateral damage.
She didn’t know what had made come out here to the little church at Kilpeck. She’d been here years ago with her Nan and the place had stayed with her. It was about twenty minutes out of Hereford and she’d got an afternoon off from the nail bar; so she’d thought, why not? She’d put on some banging tunes and drove fast and hard through the greening lanes, stopping abruptly in the layby at the church gate.
The afternoon was beautiful and she walked anti-clockwise round the church, treading carefully on the uneven paving stones. Her gaze was upwards, not at the intense, blue sky, but at the odd, gargoyle-like figures roosting under the church’s eaves. She’d downloaded the app on the church as she’d got out of the car and she listened to the (admittedly dull) voice, informing her the figures were called corbels. They were frightening and at the same time, funny, and she wasn’t really sure what to think as the voice told her they were to stop medieval sinners sinning. What she was sure of was, they certainly didn’t look very holy.
The pictures on her phone, when they appeared, came in a torrent. Her and Leon in pose after pose. Position after position. And the sad thing was, she had no recollection at all of him having his phone out. Bastard. She’d been so in to him, she’d not had time to look up from his…fitness. He had obviously got other ideas. And then to share the images on fucking Facebook. That was cheap. And cold.
Anna’s comments were not very clever and not very nice. But you know what? Stacey wasn’t that bothered. If she said so herself, she looked pretty hot in every picture. Deffo a lot fitter than Anna would do in the same situation. Stacey put her phone away for a minute and concentrated again on Kilpeck’s corbels. She’d come to the one called the Sheela-Na-Gig. The small, stone woman with the inscrutable expression and her hands splaying out her ridiculously, large vagina for all the world to see. And, thought Stacey, they call me an exhibitionist?
Na - a fertility symbol
Forty-eight wasn’t the best age to be, Carol mused. No longer young. Not old enough to shout, “I’m forty-eight, you know” with impunity, in the way you could when you were eighty-eight.
In fact, if you thought more about it, what was there actually to look forward to at this age? Menopause? A cancer scare, or two? Possible over-looking for promotion at work because you were now both not sexy enough and too expensive. Wey hey! Happy days.
At least, there was always Doug. Solid, dependable, second husband Doug. Salsa dancer extraordinaire, expert on old maps of Manchester. Sexual ingénue. Yep, there was always Doug…
Though, actually this was the problem. Even Doug (bloody Doug!), had started to have roaming eyes. And as sure as shit follows Sherlock, Carol knew that where roaming eyes go, roaming hands are sure to follow.
She’d seen him eyeing up Stacey’s mate, Anna, when she’d come round to swap lipsticks and blusher brushes. He’d started at her eyes and wandered down to her cleavage (the clichéd bastard) and even gone lower to where her treggings caught in her crotch.
This couldn’t stand obviously, as Carol knew that in the history of lonely, inevitable paths – after Doug (or insert another, one syllable, inoffensive name), comes the void.
So Carol hatched her grand plan. It wasn’t one that Doug would necessarily like, but it had a certain, iron will to it - Carol was going to get pregnant.
Sure, her last baby had been twenty-three years ago when Stacey had wriggled out, but Carol figured that that was long enough for her bits to have had a rest and now was the time to try again. Besides, Doug might have a wandering eye, but bigger than this was his sense of doomy responsibility. Anyway, it would serve him right – he should never have taken a sneaky peak at Anna’s tits.
The only fly in the ointment was the act of creation itself. Even if she could endure the tawdry tickling that counted for sexual intercourse with Doug, would she even be able to get pregnant? Which brought her to Kilpeck. Looking up towards the cloudy sky at the grey stone Sheela-Na-Gig.
She didn’t want to pray to her exactly – that would all seem a bit too pagan – but she had fixed on what she wanted. When she looked more closely at the Sheela-Na-Gig, Carol tried a spot of envisioning. She imagined her own vagina was the corbel’s. Wide and accommodating. Fertile, fecund. She imagined Doug’s dreary, half-baked sperm, limping up the tubes to fashion a baby, and she hoped that seeing would indeed be believing.
What did bother her though, on further reflection of the Sheela-Na-Gig, was the green fur growing round her lady parts. Yes, it was probably the result of leaking water from the nearby drainpipe; but even so, she hoped it wasn’t also a sign of years of obsolescence. She only had to think of her own mother to know where an obsolete minge got you. And after all, a working vagina is a healthy vagina.
Gig - a warder off of evil
Margaret had a pussy and a pussy. Hard to believe, she knew, at her age; but the facts were the facts. Hodge, pussy number one – tortoiseshell and lithe. A whirlwind of a cat. Her other pussy? Mrs. D; her very own privates.
She knew most people found it difficult to think of her as a functioning, sexual being at the age of eighty-three, but call the police – she was! And the truth be told, she’d never felt more comfortable in her own skin than she did now. She didn’t need to please anyone but herself and there was a wonderful, joyous freedom in this realisation.
She often thought of her daughter and her grand-daughter and their fakeries and mitherings. Their false eye-lashes and false relationships. No, she was past all that and she didn’t miss one previous stage in her life in the slightest. What Margaret had now was the certainty of death within probably the next five years (and there was comfort in this certainty) and the thrill of the hair-dryer on her naked skin when she dried herself all over after her daily bath. No man could have controlled her like the Babyliss 2000 could and this was just the way she liked it.
Not that she didn’t worry about her family, no. It was her duty to worry - actually her right as the family matriarch. It was this that brought her to Kilpeck on a late winter morning. The churchyard was teeming with snowdrops and crocuses and she almost felt life was so apparent there that the very dead stretched and yawned in their graves. On the trees, tentative blossom began its slow unfurling.
And what Margaret did was look up at the Sheela-Na-Gig and smile and then implore. She’d seen her many times over the years and remembered with fondness the visit she’d made with Stacey when she was a young girl. Margaret had never claimed to know what the expression on the Sheela-Na-Gig’s face meant, but this morning, she thought she knew. It was pleasure. Coy, private pleasure, but pleasure never-the-less.
So Margaret contemplated her with a mixture of awe and chutzpah, imploring her to keep her daughter and grand-daughter safe, away from the harms of the world. For her part, the Sheela-Na-Gig looked back at Margaret with the benefit of centuries. But she saw into Margaret’s heart to the secret that all old women know: spring will come. Spring will come.
(After visiting Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire.)