50 Shades of Grey Power

Breakfast Club wasn’t happening every week, however we still invariably spent time together. Our relationships had deepened and we were sharing more of our lives. Real life got in the way of a decadent weekly club dedicated to the first and most important meal of the day. Lil expected us to reserve the time to join her in more pressing pursuits and today was no different. I’d received a call during he week to confirm that my services, and those of Armando, were required at the community centre. The spoils of a year’s worth of patchwork crochet were being sold and the received funds going to charity. Armando wasn’t available due to a staff crisis at the café; news I would have to deliver to Lil.

The Christmas charity sale wasn’t as grand as the recent craft fair and restricted to a smaller section of the hall. There were five or six tables packed with various handmade items, and a general brick-a-brack stall. A couple of gentlemen, I recognised from previous events, were standing at the door as a public relations’ committee – drumming up passing trade.  Lil cooed me as soon as I entered.

‘Ah there you are Wayne, could you get me a tea please. I don’t want to leave my station.’

‘Sure does Cyril want anything?’

Cyril shook his head.

As always tea and cake were being served through the kitchen hatch. I purchased two polystyrene cups of nondescript tea – I had learned not to ask for Assam at these events – and two slices of walnut cake. At 10.15am it was, strictly speaking, a little early for cake, but after forgoing a full vegetarian breakfast with a sausage on the side I thought I deserved a treat. And if Cyril changed his mind when he saw my wares I would venture back to purchase an additional sweet goodie. As my order was being prepared I surveyed the room and felt awash with pride. Lil’s stall was outstanding. There must have been more than 10 crocheted blankets in a variety of sizes and colours being marketed perfectly; spread across three tables and pegged over boards at the back. I recognised a certain grey and pink blanket at the centre of the display as I’d not only seen Lil working on it but felt like I’d lived the birth of every square. The hall was filling up nicely and I had to dodge several prams and buggies on my way back. Lil was chatting to a potential customer.

‘See anything you like?’ she asked as the man fingered one or two of the blankets.

‘They’re lovely,’ he responded as he picked up a toy his child had flung from the perambulator.

‘Thank you. I made this one,’ said Lil lifting the top fold of her personal produce in a tantalising fashion. I did hope I had misjudged her selling technique and glanced at Cyril who rolled his eyes. Was she really flirting with this man, 35 years her junior, with a child in tow? I held my lips tightly together and observed further.

‘It’s great quality, but the colours would clash with our sitting room,’ the man said and smiled apologetically.


‘I can guarantee there are 50 shades of grey in this design,’ said Lil with a wink. Cyril disappeared behind the back boards. The potential customer didn’t know where to look, fumbled in his pocket for change, and selected a small black and yellow blanket directly in front of him.

‘That one looks like a wasp,’ Lil said through gritted teeth as she took the patron’s payment. He moved on quickly.

‘Bloody prude,’ Lil said as he walked away – hopefully too quiet for him to hear.

‘Lil.’ I placed the morning refreshments down with a start.

‘Cake – delicious.’ She accepted the napkin-wrapped item in front of her. ‘I was building up a good appetite.’

‘For what?’ asked Cyril as he emerged from his hiding place. Lil let out an enormous hall filling cackle. I noticed her customer scrambling for the door with his buggy taking the corner on two wheels.

‘Not you as well.’

‘Have you read 50 shades?’ I asked.

‘No, but I’ve heard it’s a bit saucy which I added to my sales’ banter.’

‘I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard enough to know that it’s more than saucy. It’s blue in a deviant sort of way…’ I said.

‘What sort of way?’ Lil asked as her cheeks starting to flush deeper than the already existing rouge.

‘In an S & M way,’ Cyril said.

‘Bondage?’ announced Lil loud enough to elicit odd looks from a number of others in our vicinity. Cyril and I nodded.

‘Well I never.’ She took a large bite from the cake and sat down.

‘Crochet and bondage and all before luncheon,’ Cyril said.

‘Where’s Armando?’ Lil asked swiftly changing the subject.

‘Staffing problems I’m afraid. He said to nip in this afternoon for a cuppa.’

‘Hmmm – I thought he’d support our event.’ Lil thrust the last piece of sponge into her mouth and dabbed the crumbs stuck to her face with the napkin.

‘Do you think you’ll sell your piece?’ I asked moving on from disappointment and unjust criticism aimed at Armando.

‘I bloody hope so. I’ve been working on it for eight months.’

‘It is rather special,’ I said as I ran my hand over its woollen yarn.

‘Don’t you get it all messy with your sticky cake fingers.’

Our conversation was stunted by another customer, a middle aged woman this time, who chose a navy blue blanket.

‘Any news from Gisela?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we received a note confirming she would be back in time for our Christmas lunch next week,’ Cyril said.

‘Fantastic. How is she?’

‘Don’t know. It was a short note – typical Gi,’ Lil said.

‘Let’s hope the trip hasn’t been too trying,’ I said.

‘She was supposed to be here today to help me.’

‘I think we should forgive her in the circumstances, don’t you?’

‘Hear, hear,’ added Cyril.

‘Yes of course, but I did have to interact with that Bellamy woman. She wanted me to switch to this afternoon and I told her in Gisela’s absence I wouldn’t.’

‘Why didn’t you take advantage of the offer? We could have enjoyed Breakfast Club with Armando at the café.’

‘The only reason she wanted me to change is to clean up. The sale finishes at 1pm and the hall has to be left in the same condition it’s found in. I’m not scrubbing for that two-faced hussy. I haven’t decided how to deal with her yet, but deal I will.’

‘Hello,’ came a familiar voice, ‘isn’t this all grand?’

‘Morning Nelly, how are you?’

‘Yes, I’m fine – Marty’s behind me somewhere and I’ve told him to behave himself.’ Nelly shrugged her shoulders and moved along.

‘Poor Mrs McAleen. She is saddled with her brother’s misdeeds,’ Cyril said as he folded his arms across his diamond-patterned sweater. ‘I’m going to take her for tea,’ he added as he deserted his position, linked arms with Nelly and steered her towards the refreshments.

‘Don’t,’ I said to Lil as she was about to complain. ‘You’re lucky he’s here to help you. You could have ended up with Mavis, and then there wouldn’t be anything left to sell after you two had ripped it to shreds.’

Lil laughed and I was just about to confirm my proposed purchase when she stiffened and spoke.

‘Good morning Mr McGuire, your sister’s taking tea with Cyril.’

‘Don’t be like that princess. I was thinking how cosy it would be if we snuggled under one of these blankets together.’

Lil tried to keep her demeanour and lips pursed but it was futile and another cackle erupted. ‘Now get along with yourself Marty McGuire and don’t be so forward.’

Marty winked and moved along happy that relations were defrosting.

‘Is he forgiven?’ I asked.

‘Not exactly but I do enjoy spending time with him. He makes me laugh and I miss that.’

‘I’m glad you’re feeling more positive, but be careful please.’

‘I will, I will.’ She held up her hand, letting me know that the conversation was over. I was impressed she’d let me make a supportive comment.

‘It doesn’t look as if this old thing is going to sell…’ I said holding the corner of Lil’s throw.

‘Early days yet.’

‘I thought I’d put it out of its misery. It would look beautiful thrown over our sofa.’

Lil beamed as we completed our transaction. Lil leant forward and kissed me on the cheek. I smiled and hoped no shade of grey reference would follow.