It has since been published in Breeze 1 magazine, available here – http://www.oceanbooks.co.nz/breeze-1.html
“You should have seen me,” I say to Kevin as I sit at the mirror applying my eyeliner, “because I was wearing this amazing outfit. It had an ankle-length dark purple skirt that was really classy, and a mauve blouse with rows of tiny pin-tucks down the front, with a row of small covered buttons in the middle. And the collar – it was high, right up on my neck, with the most gorgeous mauve lace around it. Honestly, it would cost a fortune at Stax, but I think I’d have to have it dry-cleaned, because it looked a bit delicate for the tumble-dryer.”
The dryer’s my pride and joy at the moment because I've just finished paying it off – twenty-five dollars a week out of my wages, which made it a real squeeze what with paying all the rent and the power and the food as well. But it's worth it because what with working all week I’ve only got the weekends to get the washing done.
“Oh, and my hair was different too – it was long and piled up on my head, the way I'd want it for our wedding. If we ever get married that is. Actually,” I add, as he stands by the window towelling his hair dry, “I reckon I looked really nice – like one of those ladies you see in the old photos, you know the brown ones. And, look, if you're going to stand there displaying yourself like that at least pull the nets across.” I get up and do it for him because he makes no attempt to do it himself and I don’t want that woman over the road stopping me and complaining on my way out again.
Anyway, in this dream I’m at work in my office. I bet the real Kate Sheppard would have got a shock if she could see it, because there we are up on the eighth floor, with floor-to-ceiling glass, chrome furniture, the telephone speaking to me without my picking it up, the fax machine spewing out screeds of paper, and the computer beeping every two minutes to say there’s new e-mail.
“And do you know what happened?” I ask Kevin when he comes into the kitchen and sits down at the table that I've set ready. He reaches over and takes the toast off my plate, so that as I tell him the story I have to butter and peanut-butter another piece.
“Well, Mr Hamperson comes in for his messages and, you know, he's the one I've told you about, that comes up really close and reaches across you so his arm sort of accidentally on purpose brushes your boobs. Yeah, that's right, Sexy Selwyn. That's Julie's name for him, but I told her I don't think he's sexy at all, just slimy. Slimy Selwyn I’d call him.”
“Anyway, I was telling you what happened in my dream. Well, he comes in the way he usually does and goes to reach across, as usual, but then he stops and looks at me and it's as though he sees me differently, and well he would, wouldn't he, because I don't usually dress like that, do I? And he sort of steps back a bit, and instead of reaching he asks ‘Are there any messages for me?’ and I say, as proper as you like, ‘Yes there are, Mr Hamperson’, and I hold them out to him. He takes them from my hand without even holding on to it the way he usually does, and backs off and goes into his own office. No suggestive sort of questions about how I got on last night, or what I'm doing in the weekend – nothing like that.”
“But that's not the best part,” I go on. “Hold on Kev, don’t go out of the room, because I haven’t finished. I'm still getting to the really good bit.” So he stands there while I clear the table and put the dishes into the sink and run some hot water over them so I can do them with the dinner dishes tonight.
“Then I dreamt I asked Shirley to make me an appointment with Mr Randall, you know, the Head of Human Resources, because I was going to ask him for an increase in pay; and she looks at me as though I’m mad and says I don't have a snowball’s chance in hell. But I insist and she puts me down for eleven o’clock when he has a cancellation.”
“So when the time comes I walk in – that is, I give a tap on his door, open it, go in, and sit down in the chair that the President of Wilson, Madgwick and Saunders has just vacated, and the same one that the Minister of Employment sat in on Friday.”
Kevin is standing by the table cutting his fingernails with the clippers and the bits are shooting out in all directions over the floor, so I get the brush and dustpan out of the cupboard and sweep them up while I go on.
“So I sit there, don't I, and put my case – how I found out that Richard in the accounts section is getting seven thousand dollars a year more than I am and I've been there a year longer than he has. And how I think I should get more anyway now that Stephanie's gone and I've had to take on most of her work as well as doing my own.”
Kev starts to walk out of the room without saying anything so I follow him, still telling him about what happened in my dream.
“Then I see him, Mr Randall that is, tap his pencil and look towards the clock. And I've been watching him closely all the time, haven't I, because of that book on body language I got from the library; and having worked with him for so long I know how he likes to operate. So that's when I hand him the paper I've prepared and brought in with me all ready. It sets out everything I’ve been saying like a real business proposal – what I'm asking for, the reasons backing it up all lined up with bullet points. And – and this is the clincher – at the bottom I've put a quote:
Truer and clearer perceptions of truth and justice, of rights and duties have been gained...It has been realized that the peer and the peasant, the male and the female, are fashioned out of one common clay; that the accident of birth or the incidence of sex cannot be allowed to bar the right of each human being to self-development.
“And under the quotation I put ‘Kate Sheppard, 1919’ because I got it out of a book I've been reading about her in my lunch-times. And then I signed my own name.”
In the time I've told Kevin about my dream I've finished making the bed and tidying around. I slip my feet into my blue shoes and pick up the bath-towel that he's left lying on the bedroom floor and hang it on the towel rail in the bathroom. Then I come back to pick out my blue handbag and transfer my wallet and compact and things into it as I answer his question.
“Kate Sheppard – you must have heard of her. You’ve seen her picture often enough. Look,” and I pull a ten-dollar note out of my wallet. “See,” I show it to him. “She was the person who led the women who took on the government ages ago and forced them to pass the law giving women the vote. The franchise,” I add, using the word I learned from the book. Kev takes the note from my hand and stuffs it into his pocket, saying he needs it to buy his lunch. That’s going to leave me short, I think, but it’ll be all right. I'm meeting Caro at lunchtime. I’ve been telling her about what I’ve been reading in the book, so we’re going to the library to see an exhibition on the suffrage petition. We’re going to look and see if any of our great-grandmothers signed it. Caro will lend me enough for a sandwich till I can pay her back on Thursday.
I begin to tell Kev about handing Mr Randall a brochure for the new computer that I'm asking for as well because mine’s too slow, but he starts on about isn't it time I got off to work, and to make sure I don't forget to get back in time to run him to his soccer practice. At least he’s stopped asking me to lend him my car – he knows I won’t while he’s still banned. Then he adds that I had better not bloody dream about that woman again tonight because he doesn’t bloody want any women with ideas above themselves in bed with him. So I go, but all the way into work I'm thinking about it and, it's silly, but then I find myself wishing that I had one of those blouses that come right up your neck and with all those pin-tucks and lace.
When I get home again he's going on about his soccer shorts being dirty so I start to say “well you've been here all day,” but I can see he's in one of his moods and I leave it. All afternoon I've been thinking that there are some things that really piss me off about Kevin, so I ring up Shorty Allen and ask him to come by on his way to practice and pick him up so I don't have to wait around down at the park while they play and then have a beer or two. When the two of them have gone I get down Kev’s carry-bag from the top of the cupboard where I put it when he moved in thirteen months and ten days ago and start packing his gear into it. It’s big enough, because I don’t put in all the stuff I've given him over the past year. I put the bag outside on the front step.
Then I sit down with a cup of coffee and think about all that’s happened today – Mr Hamperson with his comments, Kev, and my great-grandmother whose signature I found on the petition. And I’m thinking that next week I’ll look around town for a new top. Mauve coloured, with a high lace collar.