Caroline stabbed a fork into the roast potatoes. It screeched across the plate underneath, and her mother flinched.
“Caroline, dear, please,” she said, under her breath.
There was silence for a few moments, until Caroline’s grandfather attempted to lighten the mood.
“So, Caroline, what are you planning to do with yourself now you’ve left school?” he asked, looking enquiringly across the table.
“I’m going to university to study physics,” she told him, with a quick glance at her mother. Her lips were pursed, but she said nothing.
“Physics? What’s a girl like you going to do in a physics lab full of men? It won’t get you a job, you know,” he said, grinning.
“Well, times are changing...” she replied, trying to ignore the irritation she always felt when speaking to her grandfather. She knew he didn’t really mean it, was only saying it to tease her, but still... She wasn’t six years old anymore. “I’m going to go to NASA, in America. They say they’ll be the next to get a man into space, the Russians managed it in ’61, and last year they sent a woman up. She wasn’t – didn’t really do any of the proper work though, she just won some kind of competition... I’m going to work on the moon rockets with them, actually help them build them.”
“Really?” he chuckled. “Mary, you don’t look happy.”
Caroline let out a short, derisive laugh. “That’s an understatement. She thinks I’ll go to NASA, get rejected, then stay in America and become a showgirl or something...”
Her mother blushed. “That’s not what I said, Caroline. You’ve just got to be realistic. I know you’re good at school, but a girl like you is never going to get near any spaceship. Leave it to the professionals, dear.”
Caroline tightened her lips, knowing that if she let her anger spill out it would not go well. Her mother refused to believe that her daughter would do anything remotely unusual with her life. She was so conservative, so backward... There’d even been a fight this morning when she’d told Caroline it was disrespectful to wear trousers to visit her grandfather. What was this, 1930?
“Caroline, dear, don’t look like that. You know I’m only thinking of your future...” said Mary, soothingly, although Caroline took it as more patronising than soothing.
She stood up and pushed her chair from the table, another screech emanating from the rub of its legs against the floor. “I’m going for a walk,” she told them, and strode out before they could call her back.
1960s trousers - etsy
Blouse - vintage at southbank, last year
Cardigan - charity shop
Shoes - matalan