Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (01) Soft Lips and Sensible Shoes (Part 02)
On the many evenings the house was taken over by Thelma and her cronies, Geoff either went out or more often than not hid himself away in his study with his books.
He would sit in big leather chair with a book in his lap and his headphones on to drown out the chattering.
And that was how he would spend his evenings a good book and Rachmaninov or Mahler for company.
It was on one such evening when he first saw her.
He had been to the kitchen to get himself a coffee and it was when he was on the return leg to his study when there was a knock on the front door and as he was the closest he diverted to open it.
When he had done so he found a small woman in her early thirties with bobbed brown hair on the other side of it where she stood at the threshold staring down at her sensible shoes.
When she looked up she said in a small timid voice
“Hello, I’m Annest, I’m here for the meeting”
“Annest?” Geoff said “what a beautiful name”
“Thank you” she responded as her eyes returned to her shoes
“I’m Geoff, come in. the meeting is at the end of the hall”
She gave a weak smile and walked on down the hall and Geoff paused to watch her as she progressed in her black woolly tights and sensible shoes.
A nervous little kitten headed into the lion’s den.
When he was seated back in his study he Googled the name Annest and found it was of Greek origin and meant "pure or holy"
Over the following weeks he came to recognize her delicate knock on the door and more often than not managed to get there first to let her in.
She always appeared at the door the same way, eyes fixed on her shoes, dressed in black woolly tights and rather frumpy understated garb.
And when she finally glanced up he would see she wore little or no makeup, the merest hint if any at all, nothing to make her noticed, understated like her clothes, leaving her almost anonymous.
He found that the new visitor was so different from his wife’s normal cronies that she rather fascinated him.
As his curiosity was roused on one of the rare days when he and Thelma were engaged in rare conversation he said
“I noticed you have a new face among your number of late”
“Well there are several actually, which one do you mean?” she replied tersely
“Five foot nothing and sensible shoes” he clarified
“Oh the mouse” she replied
“Yes the others call her “mouse” as in “quiet as a church mouse”
“Because she’s quiet and she spends a lot of time at the church”
“Why are you so interested?”
“I’m just curious” he replied “she just doesn’t seem to fit with your normal intake”
“No she doesn’t” Thelma agreed “A nice girl though and she’s very efficient, she actually does everything she’s asked to do in a timely fashion, most don’t”
And then as if to anticipate his next question she added
“I met her when she volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau”
And before he had a chance to respond she left the room.
Later that day Thelma was in the kitchen and as she stood at the kitchen sink she was watching the man she had once loved to distraction as he stood on the lawn raking up the autumn leaves.
Thelma regretted being sharp with Geoff earlier, it was the first time they had spoken sentences to each other for months and it was also the first time he had shown any interest in anything other than his books and music for years.
As she reflected on the conversation she hoped he had asked about Annest out of more than just curiosity as he had suggested and that it might lead somewhere because she had come to realise that things had to change.
Her fortieth birthday had been a watershed for her and when someone at work said
“Life begins at 40”
“Yes it does” she replied
That simple phrase “Life begins at 40” had really struck a chord and she thought about it and decided that hers very definitely would.