Chasing A Dream

shutterstock © An illustration of a lady potting some plants


With her sons grown and time on her hands, Wendy could afford to be patient and nurture herself – as well as others…

Wendy’s eyes were drawn to the fork-lift truck. It was the nearest she’d get to driving a tractor again. Her three sons had grown and left home, and it was time she did something for herself.

“Do you need any help?” asked a man in a green polo shirt with the garden centre’s name on it. He was a nice looking, outdoor sort of chap and was clearly taking an interest in her petite figure. Wendy wasn’t interested, but being 50+ it was nice to be admired.

“I see you’re advertising for warehouse staff,” she began. His smirk riled her.

“Have you got your forklift licence?”

She answered with a more confident voice, “No, but I grew up on a farm and drove tractors.” She smiled at his surprise. “I’m keen to learn, if you offer training.”

“I’m sorry…” he began.

He was interrupted by a young lad who’d been quietly sweeping the floor. “Derek’s retiring soon, so we do have a vacancy,” he said, earning a scowl from the older man. “I’ve been offered the training when I’m eighteen,” the young lad added. “But that’s another two years.”

It was Wendy’s turn to smirk as she looked back at the more senior employee.

“How do I apply?”

“Come to the office. I’ll get you a form.” He strode off. Wendy had to run to keep up with him.

“We’re a family firm,” the guy told her, “We don’t currently have any women working here. You might want to think about that. Maybe somewhere else would be more…”

“No problem, I’ve got four older brothers and three sons, so I’m used to male company.”

She took the application form home and completed it over a coffee, intending to return it straight away. Do I really want this job, or am I just trying to prove a point? she asked herself, topping up her coffee cup.

However, when she returned to the garden centre, she noticed an elderly man helping unload a delivery. He reminded her of her father. The young lad on the till made her think of her middle son. She realised she’d feel quite at home here.

Instead of giving the form to Mr Grumpy, she approached the elderly man and explained she was looking for a job.

He was now rearranging pots in order to replenish with new stock. “Do you know anything about gardening?” he asked without even looking up.

“I grew up on a farm. We kept a small herd and grew crops. Everyone mucked in. Now I’ve got an allotment and grow a mix of veg and flowers, but my garden resembles a football pitch.”

He looked up at that, and for the first time took in the diminutive middle-aged woman beside him.

“You’d have to learn to drive a forklift,” he said as if this would put her off.

I have four brothers; they dreamt of Ferraris, Audis and Lotus Elans. All I ever wanted was a Massey Ferguson!

He chuckled at that, but it was true.

Mr Havers, Jim, took Wendy on a tour of the place, ending up in the office where he made her a mug of tea and gave her biscuits to dunk. An hour later, she walked away, not only with a job but with a promise she could do the forklift training.

She wasn’t given a warm welcome, but then she hadn’t expected one. She was here to work and to learn.

On her first day, she was given a leaking watering can to water the plants. They asked her to clean the cups, make the tea, sweep the floor, serve the customers. She did everything she was asked with a smile, but made sure she didn’t let down her guard. That day exhausted her but she’d learnt a lot just from observing the others and the hierarchy of her colleagues.

She arrived early on her second day, taking the initiative and improving the display near the entrance. The rest of the time was spent tucked away in a cupboard-like space doing a First Aid course and going through the health and safety documents.

“I thought I’d have done this on my first day,” she told Jim.

Peter interrupted.

I thought you’d only last one day!

Wendy kept her head down and got on with her job. She’d completed the Health and Safety online course for driving forklifts and had a date for the actual test but it wasn’t for a few weeks.

“You still here?” Jim the owner, asked one evening as he was wandering around switching off lights.

“The lads won’t even let me sit on a forklift,” she told him. “How am I supposed to pass if I’m not allowed near one?”

“Come with me,” he said and headed toward the warehouse.

Patiently Jim talked her through the controls and let her have a go. Wendy thought back to when she was learning to drive; she had more confidence nowadays and this was much easier.

“My pie’s in the oven,” Jim told her, “If you want to stay late on Friday, I’ll have more time then. The chip shop’s open later, you see.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate it, and you’re welcome to join us for lunch on Sunday. It’s just me and the boys.”

Jim looked up at her with a surprised expression, “I wish we’d had a girl,” he said, “She’d have been more help when Maureen died.”

“Was Maureen your wife?” Wendy asked. He nodded sadly. “Don’t any of your sons have wives to help you?”

“Two are married. One moved away, the other’s busy with my grandkids. Peter would help, if I let him,” Jim told her.

Peter, Wendy had since discovered, was Mr Grumpy. He seemed to make a habit of avoiding her.

“Why won’t you let him help you?” Wendy asked.

“He needs to get a life of his own,” Jim told her.

“Dad?” It was Peter’s voice coming from outside the warehouse. “Dad? Are you alright?”

“Go and let him in.”

Wendy left the comfort of the forklift and went to open the warehouse door.

“I might have guessed! You’re trouble!”

Peter! Enough of that. How many times do I have to tell you, not all women are the same. Wendy’s OK, trust me.

“So, what’s she doing, keeping you late when you should be at home with your feet up?”

After that, Wendy thanked Jim for his time and made a hasty retreat.

The following day she took in homemade brownies.

“What’s this in aid of?” Peter asked as he picked suspiciously at the corner of one. “I hope you’re not after a pay rise!”

“A civil word from you would be nice,” Wendy said. “It is my birthday, after all.”

An hour or so later, Peter sought her out with a mug of tea.

“Peace offering,” he said before leaving her the cuppa.

Wendy took her drink and went to look for a brownie.

“Did he find you?” Jim asked.

“Peter was good enough to bring me tea,” she said. There was no one else around, so she asked, “What’s his problem?”

“He married young, but the lass was flirty, tried it on with all the lads here and then ran off with a sales rep. Good riddance I say.”

“He also says, that was twenty years ago and I should have got over it by now!” Peter stood in the doorway and reached over for the last brownie.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” Wendy told Peter. “Can we go halves on that?”

He broke the last brownie in two.

“Well, now you know about me,” he said, “But you’ve only mentioned sons, no hubby?”

“Fair enough,” Wendy turned to face him. “He preferred the girl next door. She was young and pretty and not tired out with looking after three boys under five.”

“And are any of your lads taking you out tonight?” Peter continued.

“No, but we’re all getting together at the weekend,” Wendy told him.

“That’s alright then.”

Wendy watched him return to potting plants. Had she hoped for a date? She wasn’t sure. Probably it was best not to mix business and pleasure.

For the next couple of Friday evenings Jim patiently went through the best ways to manoeuvre a forklift. Wendy soon picked it up – and bought him fish and chips as a thank you.

All too soon the day of her test came around. The inspector arrived, but Wendy had spent night after night revising, and probably knew the manual as well as any instructor did.

The warehouse, usually a hive of activity, was as empty as Peter’s heart, but Wendy was pleased not to have an audience, and guessed Jim had assigned them all jobs around the garden centre in order to give her a fair chance.

“I’m pleased to tell you you’ve passed,” the inspector told her without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Wendy, however, could have thrown her arms around him, but restrained herself. Her dad would be so proud!

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Customer after customer wanted help with this or advice on that. She’d hardly had a moment to pause for breath.

As Jim did his rounds locking up and switching off lights, Wendy suddenly felt at a loss. What was she going to do now? All her evenings had been spent revising and now… now she had nothing to aim for.

“Lock up the warehouse for me, will you?” Jim said and threw her the keys.

Wendy thought nothing of it and headed for the large warehouse at the back of the depot.

He must have known she’d have peeked inside before locking up. As soon as she did, a single beam lit up “her” forklift. There it was as she’d left it, only now it had been decorated with pink balloons saying Congratulations and, resting on the steering wheel, was a massive bouquet of flowers and a card.

Wendy moved closer and suddenly became aware of all the other employees stepping out of the shadows. It was the young lad who came forward first to pat her on the back.

“Well done, Wendy,” he said with a big grin.

“Thank you,” she said aloud to everyone. She picked up the flowers and then retrieved the card. To her utter amazement, it was from Peter, not only praising her but inviting her to dinner!

One of the guys smirked.

Hey Peter, you never gave me flowers when I passed my forklift test.

“He didn’t fancy you,” someone else shouted, and everyone laughed.

“Haven’t you got homes to go to?” Peter said rattling the keys he’d taken from Wendy. They filed out, congratulating Wendy as they went.

At last, they were alone. Wendy had been studying the flowers as though she was going to have to paint them in detail.

“Was that dinner tonight?” she asked.

Peter shrugged, “Is tonight good?”

“I’ve nothing else to do and the fridge is empty,” Wendy laughed. “Tonight, would be lovely,” she said, “Although I’ll need to change first.”

“Shall I pick you up in an hour?” Peter asked, and for the first time since she’d met him, he smiled – not a smirk, but a genuine smile. “I knew you’d pass so I’ve already booked a table for two at The Crown, but if that’s not –”

“The Crown’s perfect,” Wendy told him. “Will you switch off the lights and lock up? I’ve got to hurry,” she said. “I’ve got a date and I want to look my best.”

More uplifting short stories:

Read The Sunflower Sisters, Breakfast With TimothyBehind Closed DoorsSweet Delights, and The Midnight Bakery, plus many more in our archives.

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.