I'd missed twenty-first century food--or so I thought, until in front of me sat a bowl of Coco Pops while the smell of toast permeated the room, and my appetite suddenly vanished. I wanted to eat it, I really did, but the chocolatey sweetness refused to be swallowed and I was feeling sick.
“I can't eat this,” I said miserably. “I'm not used to it.” Mum looked at me, puzzled (after all, it used to be the only cereal I ever ate when I was younger) so I tried to explain. “It's too sweet. Food where I was ... it was much plainer, and additives weren't the same.” She got it then.
“Something plainer--would that be better?” But I couldn't eat a thing and said so. Trying to be nice, Mum suggested that I go and change out of 'that ridiculous nightie into some real clothes'. I agreed.
My wardrobe hadn't changed, and I was glad to see my old jeans and baggy tops, but I had. I was taller, slimmer, more muscular and above all, I wasn't used to wearing trousers. “Mum!” I yelled, staring at the too-small outfits in dismay. “I have nothing to wear!” She came immediately and, seeing that this was true, promised to take me shopping straight away.
“For now, wear your black skirt and a plain t-shirt. I'm sure you can get away with that. It was pretty long to start with.” Now it was knee-length which to my poor mother seemed perfectly acceptable, but to me seemed rather short: I resolved to put up with it, knowing that I'd have to adjust. I wasn't a Victorian at heart. I had to get back to my old self.
“I’m ready,” I said, picking up a bag that seemed to have the necessities in it and walking down the stairs to where my mother waited for me. “Let’s get this over and done with.” We made our way to the car and as it lurched into motion I clapped a hand over my mouth, desperately trying not to be sick. It was exactly how I had felt the first time I had travelled at speed in a horse and cart, only far worse. “I’m just not … used to it,” and as I said that I realised how many things I wasn’t used to.
“Will you be okay until we get to the shopping centre?” she asked. “I don’t want you throwing up in the car. We can stop for a minute if you want.” But I shook my head. I would sit through this: it was all a matter of disciplining my mind to believe that it didn’t feel so ill.
We arrived and instantly I was struck by the number of people already awake and shopping. Some of them were girls my age, chatting and laughing with bags of clothes on their arms; others were men who looked like they had been dragged along by the wives and daughters that even now were pulling on their arms and dragging them into shops; still others dutifully pushed trolleys through the big automatic doors at the front of Sainsbury’s. It was crowded.
“I’m scared,” I whispered to Mum, and she held my hand, surprising herself and me. I couldn’t remember the last time she held my hand, so it must have been a very long time ago.
“It’s all right,” she said. “Where do you want to go?” But I didn’t have a clue and so she took me to one of the big clothes stores. This was going to take a while: I needed everything, and that meant underwear, shoes, a coat, clothes, socks…
With dread in my heart and resignation on my face, I entered the shop.