A Bit Of A Nudge

Shutterstock © Lady sitting at window, looking out to go with uplifting short story A Bit Of A Nudge


Carol’s grown-up son needed a not-so-gentle kick in the right direction… but so did she! Would this be it?

Carol had had a difficult day at work so when she let herself into the house and saw the mess in the kitchen it was the last straw.

“Tom!” she called. “Can you come in here and tidy up!”

“In a minute.”


Fuming, Carol surveyed the chaos: dirty dishes and mugs, bread spilling out of an open packet, a knife stuck in the peanut butter jar. It looked like a teenager’s after school snack attack, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Her thirty-year-old son came in, moved things around and gave the worktop a cursory wipe. “Hi Mum,” he said sheepishly.

Carol sighed. He was her only child and it had just been the pair of them since her husband died when Tom was ten. She loved him to bits but clearly she hadn’t done much of a job of domesticating him. While she was out at work all day it wasn’t a huge problem. Now, though…

Over dinner she told him her news.

They’re making me redundant.

His face split in a wide smile. “That’s great. You were going to leave anyway. This way you’ll get a pay-out.”

All true. Carol hated her job in the council offices. She had been trying to find the courage to leave for months, putting it off because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do instead. For a few minutes after her boss had given her the news, she’d actually felt a sense of elation, glad that the decision had been made for her. Also, Tom was right – the redundancy package meant she didn’t have to rush into another job. However, the elation had been overshadowed by a fluttering sense of panic. What was she going to do with her days?

She watched Tom shovel shepherd’s pie into his mouth and took a deep breath. “I was also thinking that it’s time you looked for a place of your own.”

This wasn’t a new thought or brought on by the redundancy. He’d moved in temporarily five years ago, after splitting with his girlfriend and just sort of stuck. He worked in IT as a games developer and made good money. Carol had been trying to nudge him out of the nest for a while now and had decided a more direct approach was needed. Besides, he worked from home most of the time and if she was also going to be at home tiptoeing around they’d soon be at each other’s throats.

Tom paused, fork halfway to his mouth and looked at her. “OK,” he said.

That was it? Carol had been ready with a whole speech about living with his mum being no life for a young man. His easy acceptance took the wind out of her sails.

“I’ll start looking,” he said and went back to his dinner.

Although Carol was pleased he’d taken it so well, she was also a bit deflated that he hadn’t put up more of a fight.

So many changes; panic fluttered in her chest once more.

“Any progress on the house hunting?” she asked sometime later.

“Yeah,” said Tom. “I put an offer in the other day.”

Carol blinked. “You did what?”

“I saw a house I liked and put in an offer. Mortgage is sorted, too. See you later, Mum. I’m in the office today.”

“Wait…” But he was gone.

He’d bought a house just like that? Without consulting her? She caught herself. He was a grown man. She should be glad he didn’t need his mum’s advice on everything.

In what seemed like no time at all, the small, two bedroom terraced house in a village a few miles away was his. Once she was over her initial shock, Carol couldn’t wait to see it. She’d finished work now and saw helping her boy set up home as a worthy way to fill her time.

Yet when he took her to see the house she struggled to whip up any enthusiasm. A sunnier bedroom would have been nice, and there was no storage space.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“You’ll have to paint,” she said tactfully, eyeing the fussy wallpaper.

“Yeah,” he said so happily that she couldn’t help being pleased for him.

Tom and his mates ripped up the gruesome carpets and painted the walls. They were good lads. She’d known them since his school days and Carol realised she would miss them when they stopped coming round to fill her kitchen with noise and scoff her food.

Of course she would miss Tom too. Even his mess. She gave herself another shake. This, the fact that she had grown far too accustomed to having him around, was why she’d known it was time for him to move out and live his own life.

“The TV will be here tomorrow and the internet will be connected the day after, then I can move in,” said Tom.

“But you haven’t got any furniture,” she protested.

He blinked. “Didn’t you hear? I’ll have a TV.” He gave her a hug. “This was a great idea, Mum. Thanks for the kick.”

Luckily she managed to persuade him that he needed more furniture than that, but to Carol’s dismay he did all the shopping online. Clearly this was not to be her redundancy project.

“Why would I go round the shops when I can do it all from my desk?”

“The desk you don’t have yet?”

“I will by tomorrow. Which reminds me, Mum. Can you be in for deliveries if I’m not home?”

“Of course,” she said, happy to help in any way she could.

“Thanks,” he kissed her cheek.

Two days later she was at his house, awaiting a delivery. She had to concede that the place did look brighter with a fresh coat of paint and with watery sunshine streaming in the windows. While measuring up for curtains, she looked out at the small garden. On the day she’d first visited she’d paid it little attention but now she could see some brave flower spikes poking through the weeds. A bit of TLC and the beds would look lovely.

While the men fitted the washing machine and dishwasher Carol stepped out into the garden to make a start on the weeding.

“Hello? Are you moving in?” An older woman, bright and smiley, looked over the fence.

“Not me,” said Carol. “But my son is.”

That nice young man? He and his friends carried an old freezer out to the garage for me. I’m Peggy, by the way. Would you like a cup of tea?

Carol’s own neighbours were friendly enough, but like her, they all worked long hours and she hardly saw them. “I’d love one thanks,” she said.

“It’s a lovely village,” said Peggy as she poured the tea. “There’s always something going on. We had a street party for the Platinum Jubilee, and the village does a Living Advent Calendar every Christmas.” She saw Carol’s confusion and explained, “Twenty four villagers draw lots to decorate a window in their house, a new one every day during advent. People stroll round in the evenings to look for them. The kiddies love it.”

Carol had heard about the Advent Calendar before but always been too busy to visit. This year she’d make time, she decided firmly.

A few days later, after ensuring Tom would be home, she came back to double check one of her window measurements. The sun was out and on a whim she parked the car and took a stroll through the village. Hanging baskets, a butcher’s shop, a green grocer and a gorgeous looking bakery. On impulse she went inside and bought some buns.

Instead of going back to the car, she walked to Tom’s along the canal and noticed a colourful houseboat with flowerpots and a café sign on the bank. Three ginger kittens played on deck under the watchful eye of their mother.

Intrigued, Carol stepped aboard, the kittens tumbling down some stairs after her, into a cool, airy tearoom. A man behind the counter closed the notebook he’d been writing in and smiled at his only customer. “What can I get you?”

“Just tea, please.”

He was close to Carol’s age. Bearded, and wearing an Aran jumper, he looked as if he should be out at sea, rather than manning a teashop in a houseboat. He laughed, as if he’d read her mind.

“This is my sister’s place,” he explained. “I’m just helping out.”

“Sorry,” Carol realised she’d been staring, and incredibly, felt herself blush.

“Day off?” he asked.

To Carol’s surprise she heard herself tell him about the redundancy. “I hated the job. I don’t even know why I feel so lost,” she confessed.

“Change can be difficult,” he agreed. “But it isn’t always a bad thing. I was a fire fighter,” he continued. “I injured my back and couldn’t do the job any more. Then my wife divorced me. I thought my life was over, but,” he indicated the notebook and now it was his turn to blush.

I’m following my dream to write a novel. I never had the time to do that before.

“Are you published?” asked Carol secretly storing away the knowledge of his divorce.

“Not yet.” He smiled. A very nice smile. “I did say it was a dream. I’m Greg, by the way.”

“Carol.” The conversation flowed easily after that until Carol checked her watch. “Sorry, I have to go.”

“No problem. It was nice to meet you. Listen, this may sound presumptuous but my sister is short staffed. I know we’re quiet today but it can get busy over the holidays and at weekends. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a part time job, just for a bit while you make up your mind about the future?”

Carol had shyly confessed her tentative thoughts about training to become a teacher – a dream she’d abandoned when her husband died. His eyes twinkled. “I’m here a lot, too.”

Carol was smiling as she pushed Tom’s garden gate open. He opened the door at her knock but seemed oddly flustered. “Mum, I–”

“Sorry I’m late.” She breezed past him. “I’ll only be a minute and won’t disturb – Oh!”

Carol stopped abruptly, seeing a pretty blond woman sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee.

“Mum, this is Molly. She lives next door but one,” said Tom.

Carol couldn’t miss the way her son was looking at the young woman.

“Pleased to meet you Molly.” She grabbed the tape measure from the drawer and dropped the bag of buns on the table. “I don’t have time to stop, so you two may as well enjoy these. I’ll be two minutes, tops.”

As she measured the window on the landing she heard Tom whisper to Molly, “Sorry. Mum’s having a bit of a hard time letting me go.”

Cheeky beggar, when she’d practically had to throw him out!

“You’re such a good son,” said Molly.

“I’m done, love,” called Carol. “Speak to you later.”

She was grinning as she let herself out. She hoped Molly was single. It had been a long time since she’d seen Tom so entranced by anything other than work. Nudging him out the nest had been for the best. And maybe, just maybe, her redundancy had been the nudge she needed too.

Carol was doing a trial shift with Greg on the houseboat on Saturday. That same day she’d be taking home one of the ginger kittens.

And after that? Suddenly she couldn’t wait to find out.

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.