Ruth lifted the shoe box from the top of the wardrobe, steadied herself on the back of chair, stepped down and put the box on the bed. She made the journey less often now.
Joe had bought the shoes for her 19th birthday. She took them out and ran her fingers over the powder blue leather. Joe was the real gift, with a mouth as ripe as a plum….
Joe ordered banana cocktails,
They sat together on high stools at the American bar on High Street Kensington. They were the first customers. Joe ordered banana cocktails, his treat. An interlude during their shopping spree. She kicked off her new shoes and curled her toes round the cool chrome bar of the stool. Joe noticed the clatter as the shoes hit the floor, leaned down and lifted her foot into his lap.
He smiled, held her foot in one hand and with the agility of youth, leaned down again and picked up a shoe. ‘Any cold cream?’
Ruth took a jar of cream from her handbag.
He opened it and put a little on his palm. ‘This I’ll do.’ He took a paper napkin, wrapped it round his finger, and dipped it into the cream. With slow, circular strokes he began working the cream into the leather. He glanced up at her and smiled.
She watched the motion of his fingers, took a cigarette from her bag, lit it, and with a nonchalance that only comes with practice, blew a perfect smoke ring. She decided not to move her foot from his lap.
The waitress returned with two banana cocktails and put them on the counter. ‘Enjoy.’
Ruth had never heard the word used like that – a command to take pleasure. The waitress smiled, and as she leaned forward tassels from her cheerleader uniform brushed Ruth’s arm.
She went over to the jukebox and slipped in a coin. Under its Perspex dome, the chosen disk slid sideways, flipped onto the turntable. The hush of needle on vinyl gave way to the raw energy of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode….
Ruth jumped. There was a loud knock on her bedroom door.
‘Hey Ruthie, you’ll like what I’ve got you.’
‘Go. Just go. I don’t want to see you… Ever again.’
The young man looked at the door and shrugged. He wondered if he should try the handle. ‘I’ll leave it outside.’
He sat in the driving seat of the van, turned the ignition and the engine idled. As he teased the accelerator, he picked up the clipboard from the dashboard and ticked the appropriate box on his worksheet: meal on wheels delivered; client refused to open door.