NOT THE QUEEN
Maggie Lockhart spent her life trying to work out what she’d done to deserve it. Things
don’t just happen. Sometimes the reasons are a long time coming, but when they finally do,
they are clearly printed like her pension slip. Most things Maggie worked out to her own
satisfaction, though getting people to see the thinking behind her reasoning was hard because
nobody took her seriously. Maggie didn’t have the temperament for teasing and was never good
at being teased even as a child, before the nose, the mouth and the cheeks set. But even the most
sweet-natured woman would have baulked at what Maggie had to put up with. It wasn’t easy
to live with That Face. Nobody could look at her face without thinking of the other one’s.
And even she had the odd feeling when she glanced in the mirror that she wasn’t seeing herself,
but the Queen. All right, not dressed in those uptight suits in all sorts of colours, with
the brooches and the silly hats, but the Queen just the same. Even with a cigarette dangling out
of her mouth and no make-up on, Maggie had the bad luck of looking the spitting image of Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Never one to put herself first or forward, Maggie would have been
perfectly happy going through life taking a back seat. But That Face made her take a front seat.
Still, for years she endured, believing that it just had to have some sort of purpose. Otherwise,
what was the point of it all?
One year as she’d stepped off a plane in Cyprus, a whole flock of people had gathered around
her. Maggie had had to wave her hands “No, no! I’m not who you think I am,” until her husband,
Charlie, pushed the way through the crowd. But she knew that Charlie loved it, to see her
awkward and embarrassed and to take her arm and rush off as if the pair of them were famous.
Yet, there was something about Charlie’s attentiveness that sometimes drove her up the wall.
When he came back from London with a mug with the Queen’s face on it and prepared a tea
for himself in it, she yanked it off him and put it in the box for the jumble sale.
On the other hand, Charlie was always the one to look after her, particularly now that they were
getting on. When they walked out, Charlie was always on the lookout. Once he even suggested
he could be her full-time bodyguard. But where would they get the money from, even supposing
Maggie wanted a bodyguard?
Now she and the Queen were both in their seventies and having That Face still wasn’t making
any sense. It finally dawned on Maggie that she’d put up with it long enough. She was not
a mug and it was time she asserted herself. She had been saving for some time and now had
a total of three and a half thousand pounds. It had been a toss-up between treating her and
Charlie to a cruise or doing what she had resolved to do. But the cruise would have been
nightmarish, port after port of people squealing. That horrific picture in her mind was what
made her go for the latter.
As far as Charlie knew, she was going to stay with her sister for a couple of weeks. That would
give her time to get over her bruises, and let things settle. She’d already been down to London
a few months before to see the man she was putting her faith in. She wanted a longer nose,
higher cheeks and a different chin, but he’d told her that all that would involve an enormous
amount of work and wouldn’t be good for her face at her age. Eventually, they had settled on
just changing the nose. But as with any big decision, now sitting in the taxi going up to the West
End, Maggie was getting cold feet. Had she not been a bit touchy all her life? Couldn’t
somebody who liked a good laugh have enjoyed herself with the Queen’s face? Had Maggie used her face as a scapegoat to cover her own inadequacies? Would things have been different
for her without That Face?
Charlie loved her both for being herself and for looking like the Queen. What would he say if
she came back with a different nose? She was sure he would hit the roof and feel cheated.
And then he would cry. Charlie had only cried twice – when his father died and when Scotland
lost in 1974 – and both had filled Maggie with pity and compassion as Charlie had gone for the
whole waterworks, bawling his eyes out like a man who hadn’t had a chance to cry since he
was a child. That thought pulled her up short. What the heck, Maggie! Have the Queen’s face
and put up with it. Maggie looked out of the cab window as it passed Piccadilly Circus only to
see people excitedly looking in. She gave them the smallest of waves.
adapted from Not the Queen by Jackie Kay