Initial Encounter



His sapphire eyes flashed as she stood in the open doorway.

Leaning against the jukebox his body stiffened slightly, then relaxed back against the soft thrumming. His select group of friends never even noticed her. He stealthily glanced around at the other Teddy Boys that filled the café with the steam of their overheated pubescent bodies, drawn close in their own select groups, mumbling together, an occasional head bobbing in time with the barely audible music playing. No! They hadn't noticed her either.

All sounds around him muted together as he relaxed further, all instincts though poised ready to strike first.

A warm breeze flurried in, along with a tinkle of street sounds, twining around her neck, picking up then depositing her heady scent around the enclosed space. She gently and very carefully untied her headscarf, dropping its silky threads into her neat handbag, revealing her bouffant of bleached blonde hair. Patting and smoothing, she tenderly checked her long curving fringe, curving outwards like her shapely bosom, making sure every tiny strand was in place. With shiny pale pink fingernails she lightly cleared her fringe to reveal dark eyebrows, then forefingers twined in unison to curl the pieces of hair at the sides of her face. She smiled shyly to herself with full lips, shiny pink to match her nails. She looked at no one!

Next she smoothed her elegant pink cardigan, teasing the short sleeves so that the thin fading scars were well covered, tenderly rearranging the unbuttoned front to make sure her delectable bust was framed just right! Gliding her hands down her wide skirt, peering down to check the hem was perfectly level and no lace petticoat showed; she then peered down at her feet squashed into pink stilettos, demurely kicking out each foot to confirm what lovely slim ankles she possessed.

"Shirley! For goodness sake, shut that flippin' door and get over here." Her friend, Martha, was already at the counter, on tiptoes so that she could lean her elbows on the formica, smiling and chatting gaily to the young man who served her.

Shirley glared, just very slightly, at Martha, before her smile returned, almost too wide a smirk at first before it settled back into the shy smile. She shimmed around the tables, like a fairy tale princess, head held high, though not too high, handbag neatly in place on her folded arm, though surreptitiously checking that no dirty table edge came into contact with the dress she had only just finished sewing last night.

She glided into place at her friends' side; her eyes widened for an instant at the grubby ring stained worktop that her friend gladly spread her bare forearms onto. Shirley's slightly overlarge snub nose wrinkled at the stale sandwiches in their condensation filled display case.

"Like a coffee, Shirley?"

"No Martha," she intoned. "What else is there?"

"I don't know, I'll ask. I always have coffee. It is after all a coffee shop!"

Shirley settled sulkily on a diluted orange juice. She insisted on a straw, didn't want her polished lips to come into contact with the grimy glass. Refusing to sit on a crooked metal-legged chair, slammed roughly into a soiled table, they made their way to a space along the wall where Martha could place her cup and saucer on the thin shelf. Placing her handbag on the floor, she carelessly removed her headscarf, casually twirling the silk between her fingers, her mind blank as she tried to think of how to start up the conversation with Shirley. Why had her mother insisted she bring this nutcase out to her favourite meeting place? What if others realised who she was?

It was Shirley that started the conversation, turning her head to the wall so others couldn't see that her smile had disappeared, hissing between clenched teeth,

"At last you've taken that thing off! Your hair is all over the place. And I thought you were getting dressed up. That dress looks like something your mother would wear!"

Martha took a huge breath, the sound drowned out by a fresh record beginning to play on the jukebox behind her. She momentarily bit her bottom lip, but keeping her voice as jolly as possible, replied,

"It's my newest dress! You're lucky. You've been taught dressmaking. You can knock up a new dress whenever you want."

Shirley lowered her voice to a snarl. Her large innocent eyes became slits.

"Don't tell me I'm lucky. You know where I learnt to sew. Don't you dare mention that place to me! Or to anyone else! If you ever mention that place in my company I will…" Here she hesitated while putting together her worst bribe, her voice slowed, changing to the style of a nursery rhyme. "I will drag your little brother to Haversham Gardens. I'll take him out in a boat and row to the middle of the lake. And at the deepest point." She drew out the last word, waiting to gauge the reaction. "I'll push him in!"

"Look I didn't mean anything. I, I wasn't having a go. You look beautiful. I just meant your dress is beautiful and you are really clever. That's all."

Martha had turned instantly from a confident, joyful young woman into a breathless, pleading coward, her head bowed to her chest. Only last summer her little brother had been in an accident on that very lake. It was only a small lake really, and not very deep, but somehow her brother and three friends had capsized the rowing boat they had hired, and by the time anyone had reached them the youngest occupant had drowned. Martha's brother was devastated, and would wake screaming from the nightmares for months.

She still blamed herself, as did her mother. All that morning he had been complaining of boredom and she had promised to take him to the lake that afternoon. When afternoon came the weather had turned cloudy and looked like rain. Thrusting pennies into his hand she instructed him to knock on a few doors along the street and get together some friends to go boating with, complaining bitterly that she was fed up of looking after him while their mother worked, why should she take him, he'd be a lot happier with his friends. And he was half her age. And he would only expect her to do all the rowing anyway.

Suddenly, Shirley spitefully clutched Martha's fluttering hands and pressed them firmly to her sides. Startled, Martha looked up. Shirley looked serene again, like a butterfly had just daintily flitted across her face. A deep, almost sensuous voice boomed into Martha's ear. She jumped.

"Hello! Haven't seen you in here before."

Martha's head swivelled from Shirley's angelic expression. Her gay voice instantly returning, she almost sang out in relief, "Oh hello Bryan. How you doing?"

Bryan's sapphire eyes twinkled momentarily deep into Martha's eyes, then switched to view the apparition before him.

His stare bored deep into Shirley, seemingly searching out her innermost secrets that she kept locked away. Her pale blue eyes were hypnotised and she stood transfixed for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven seconds. She blinked her thickly daubed eyelashes like a deer blinded in a car's headlights, realising her bottom lip had dropped, her entire composed appearance unravelled. Bringing her dainty fingers to her lip she gave a slight cough, using her splayed fingers as a shield to re-assemble her smile. Not daring to view his eyes longer, her eyes travelled to his succulent, scornful lips. Trying to regain her composure she settled on his sharp, almost overlarge nose. It was his only feature that didn't draw her in!

"Haven't seen you in here before," he re-iterated. His eyes turned cold then twinkled as the sneer playing around his lips turned to a friendly smirk.

He tossed his grease ridden plume with an arrogant flair, filling out his chest, almost popping open the one button, to further accentuate how extra wide were the padded shoulders of his jacket. Behind her fingers, Shirley huffed in derision at this peacock. Even his jacket was coloured like a peacock; turquoise that shimmered as it caught the light, contrasting with the black velvet on the collar, cuffs and pocket flaps. His thin drainpipes were the same colour, pressed with a perfectly straight crease line.

Lowering her hand, Shirley released a timid smile, demurely dropping her head, then lifting it slightly to one side to watch the conversation between Martha and Bryan.

Throughout their friendly catch-up chat, Bryan's sapphire eyes blazed, never leaving Shirley for an instant.