Life Beyond… Part 1
[This story was originally written in 2004. I updated it in 2010 and again in 2014 and yet again in 2016 so I thought that it was time it got posted.]
Many of us have seen the people selling the Big Issue plying their magazine outside the Tube stations and other prime locations. They come and go over the years. They sell a copy and pocket a bit of money from the sale. They work hard and for most of them it is the first step in their return to some form of normality from whatever deep dark place that have been.
A lot of people who buy their copies don’t read them but still continue do make their purchases just so that they can feel good about helping someone out.
I usually buy a copy not that I read much of it but at least these Guys (And a few Girls) were trying to get themselves and their lives out of the gutter. You never know when it might be you who finds themselves out of a job and homeless.
Those who sold this esteemed publication usually last between 3 and 6 Months before they either moved on to pastures new or went back to sleeping rough.
The current seller of this publication who plied their trade outside Moorgate Tube Station was a not unattractive woman probably in her mid twenties. She had been occupying this prime City pitch for nearly 4 months. In that time, her attitude to her customers had softened considerably until now, she knew some of her regulars by name and would sometimes be seen passing the day with customers during the less busy parts of the day.
Her mode of dress made it somewhat difficult to determine an exact age. Underneath the copious amounts of makeup, huge dreadlocks and multiple layers ‘Goth’ clothes it was not easy to tell. Her face was also adorned with numerous pieces of jewellery in the form of piercings. Her lips, nose, eyebrows and tongue were all pierced at least once. She might have had at least a few tattoos for all her customers knew.
One of her more irregular customers is a man named Martin Wilson. He was an occasional visitor to London on business. Mr Wilson is a very private man, but also a lonely man. His work entails designing security software for a number of the most security conscious and most private financial institutions in the world.
Underneath all those layers, he could see that she was an attractive woman. From the albeit brief conversations he had with her over the weeks she came over as someone that wasn’t thick or backward and actually seemed to have a good sense of humour.
His work would take him up to London once or twice a week. At other times, he worked from home. He had just been getting by at home since his last housekeeper had left a few months before. It had been an amicable yet sad parting of the ways. So far, the very temporary replacements had been next to useless and none had lasted more than a week or so.
Then one day he had an idea. His slightly weird idea was to offer the woman who was selling the ‘Big Issue’ outside the Tube station the chance to get a job out of the cold. Winter was fast approaching and although she had the prime pitch at this Tube station the wind chill in the winter at this particular spot could get you very cold quick quickly.
With this crazy idea firmly planted in his mind, he left the offices of one of his clients that afternoon well before the evening rush. The markets were still open so the number of people using the tube station was far below the peak it would reach less than half an hour later.
He afforded himself a little smile as he approached her pitch.
“Big Issue. Big Issue. Get your Big Issue Here” came her familiar cry.
He stood in front of her.
“Do you want one mister?”
“No, I bought one from you this morning thanks” was his reply
“So?” came the slightly suspicious reply.
“I just wanted to ask if you were looking for more some permanent employment.”
“It depends,” she said suspiciously.
“Upon whether or not you want to get inside my knickers”
“I don’t understand.”
“Look here mister, I get offers of Sex almost every day from you lot. Yeah, I could make a whole heap of dough giving quick one to you City Slickers but for how long? How long before I get ‘dobbed’ in to the police? How long before I get a dose of the clap if not HIV eh?”
He nodded his understanding but he was prepared for this tirade.
“So if that is what you want then you can take your offer and stuff it up your tight arse”, she continued.
“Thank you for the very clear explanation. The answer is no. Most certainly No, that is not what I want at all”, and again.
And finally came the obvious, “I don’t do nude pinups or porno films either.”
“Good for you” he answered calmly. Her outburst was not going to deter him from at least answering.
“So what is this job offer then?”, she asked with a look of defiance on her face and one hand on her hip.
“It’s a housekeeping position.”
“What sort of housekeeping?”
“Oh the normal stuff. Cleaning the house. Cooking and generally running the place while I work.”
“Where is this place?”
“It’s near a village called Sissinghurst, in Kent.”
“That’s no good. I live in a Squat in Camden. Now if it was Islington or Highgate then I might be able do it.”
“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. The job includes accommodation, all your food and it pays 20% above minimum wage.”
“But?” he asked.
“I move in, and things are all ok for a week or two and then you want to have cheapo sex with the live in help. What do I do then eh Mister?”
“Look. Think about my offer. You don’t have to say yes or no today. Come down on Saturday to take a look at the house and where you would be living. If you are interested then I’ll draw up a contract that fully describes the services you will be required to do and the hours you will be working and all that stuff.”
“Can I bring someone with me?”
“That’s not a problem. I fully understand any personal safety concerns you might have.”
“Ok I’ll do it. I’ll come and visit provided you cover my train fare?”
He gave her his business card.
“Take the train from Charring Cross to Staplehurst. Call me when you know what train you are on and I’ll meet you at the station. I’ll certainly pay for your tickets even if you say no to my offer. Is that fair enough? Deal?”
“Its fair enough. Deal.”
“Good. I’ll look forward to seeing you on Saturday then.”
He turned to go but she reached out a hand and stopped him.
“Why did your last housekeeper leave?”
“She left for a role more suited to her talents.”
“Yeah and my name is Julia Roberts and you are most certainly not Richard Geere.”
Her directness surprised him but the irony of her statement was not lost on him.
“I’ll let you call her on Saturday if you want. She will describe the job and what I expect from my Housekeeper if that will help?”
“We’ll see. We’ll see.”
“Fine. I’ll see you Saturday.”
He left her holding his business card and studying the address.
Martin rose early Saturday Morning and did his best to tidy up some of the ‘single guy living alone’ mess. He is a naturally untidy person much like most men. He would argue, why put something away that is either going on the wash or being worn the following day? Still, he made a decent impression in the mess. At least the kitchen was clean and all his clothes were put away and a load of washing was in the washer.
He was putting the final touches to dusting the living room when the phone rang.
“Hello?” He said into the phone.
“Mr Wilson?” asked an unfamiliar voice.
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“My friend Angela asked me to call. It’s about the job offer thingy you talked about with her.”
At least he knew her name now.
“Yes?” He said almost hopefully.
“She’s on the 12:10 train from Charring Cross to Staplehurst. She asked me to call to let you know that she was on her way.”
“Thanks for letting me know. Can I know your name so I can tell her you called?”
“It’s Zoë. Tell her Zoë.”
“Well thank you very much Zoë I appreciate the call and for letting me know that’s she’s on her way.”
Martin looked at the clock. 12:30. He judges that there was still time to do a bit more ‘housework’ before he had to leave to meet the train.
He finished the bit of dusting was doing, ran the vacuum cleaner over the carpet upstairs and put a few more things away. Then he got in his car and drove the few miles up the A229 to Staplehurst Station to wait for the train from London.
The train was the usual five minutes late. Angela was the only person to alight from the train.
She walked along the platform looking around nervously.
Martin got out of his car and went towards her with a smile on his face and said,
“Hello Angela. Zoë called to say you were coming. I’m glad you decided to at least come and take a look at my offer.”
She returned the smile with a warm one of her own.
“I didn’t decide until this morning. It was Zoë who eventually persuaded me to come.”
“Does Zoë live in the Squat with you?” he asked trying to make some conversation.
“Nah, she works on a clothes stall in Camden Market. It is where I buy most of my clothes. It was her who got me the job on the Issue. I help her out from time to time. I was doing that when she basically strongarmed me Camden Tube saying that thins might be the break I needed.”
They got into his car and he drove to his home. Angela spent most of the journey staring out of the window at the late autumn landscape.
Martin noticed that she was wearing the same clothes that she’d been wearing when he’d suggested the housekeeping job. This made him wonder if she possessed any other clothes.
He detected a whiff of scent. He also noticed a bit of an odour. It was obvious that she needed a bath.
Her clothes probably could have been cleaned as well. Such was life at the bottom of the heap.
He turned off the A262 about half a mile east of the village and turned down a small country line. A few hundred yards later, he turned into the driveway of his house. When she saw it, she gave a gasp.
“Oh wow. Do you live here alone?”
“Yes. I inherited from my parents.”
“No Mrs Wilson then?”
She heard a visible sigh from her host.
“There was but she went off with my best man after we had been married for just over a year.”
She didn’t answer. She almost did but thankfully stopped herself from putting her foot right in it. From his tone of voice, she could tell that the episode was still hurting.
He stopped the car and turned to her.
Before he could say anything.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I just wanted to know the real reason you want a housekeeper. Why you want someone like me for that role.”
“And why is that?”
“You want someone to skivvy for you. Plain and Simple eh?”
“Close but not entirely correct. Still, that is what a housekeeper does isn’t it?”
She didn’t answer but got out of the car to avoid having to.
He opened the door and let her inside.
She was looking intently at the house and everything in it. Not that there was much of obvious value on show. Death Duties and a spendthrift ex Wife had taken care of that. The money he made from his consulting business was invested for the long term and not in huge amounts of trendy stuff for the house.
He took her coat and hung it up by the front door. He guessed that it was probably an ex-military great coat and was pretty heavy. Underneath it she wore more black, a long skirt with a few frayed ends and a stretchy top all in black. On her feet were boots. Again black with thick soles. Very Goth style or so he thought. Then he realised that they were DM’s.
He got things started.
“Come on through to the kitchen. I have prepared some lunch. Let’s have that and then I’ll take you on the grand Tour”, he said leading the way into the kitchen.
“I hope you like vegetable soup? It’s homemade. The Veggies come from an organic farm a few miles away” he added with a smile on his face.
“Is this some sop towards me in case I’m a Vegetarian?” she queried.
“Not in the slightest. I get a vegetable case delivered every week. I also buy locally produced meat. I thought that on a cold day like today a bowl of soup would be appropriate. Are you a Vegetarian then?”
“No” she smiled. Then she added, “Not really. But everyone in the squat is. It’s a long time since I had any meat other than in a Burger or Kebab.”
“That’s not real meat. Is it?” He said as he dished up the soup
“Not really,” she said with enough of a smile for him to know that he was right.
They both sat down around the large fairly rustic wooden table with the bowls of soup in front of them.
There was also some Wholemeal bread and cake. Martin explained that these were bought from the same farm that supplied by Veggies.
“This is good soup. Thanks,” said Angela as she tucked in with some gusto.
“I’m glad you like it.”
“Why do you need a housekeeper if you can cook like this?”
“Cooking is a pleasure and a change from my day job.”
“What is your ‘day job’ then?”
“Me? Rather boring really. I write very specialized computer security software for Banks. Boring. Like me I suppose?”
They chatted as they ate lunch. As it progressed, he started to feel more hopeful about Angela and her chances of her coming to work as my housekeeper.
As a prelude to he possible role in his household, he let her stack the dishes in the sink after lunch. It was already clear to him that she was by nature a much neater person than me.
When she was finished, he gave her the grand tour of the house.
As he did so, he explained in detail about the job.
“Your duties would be to clean the house, cook the food, pay the household bills, get the gardener in, basically run the place. That sort of thing.”
“That is rather a lot of responsibility. Are you sure you are prepared to trust me?”
“Yes. If I weren’t sure then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
She couldn’t argue with that.
“What days do I work? I do need some time off. Even selling the Issue is only a 5 day a week gig on my pitch.”
“You would be on duty every day apart from the two days a week I go to London. So, it is in reality a 5-day week. However, if you want to do something like go to college then you can have time off to do that. Also one or two evenings a week, I’ll do the cooking. As I said over lunch, I use it to relax. There will be other evenings when I’m out usually on business so you will be free to look after yourself.”
He continued the tour of the house. She continued to ask very detailed questions. This was a pleasant surprise to him and helped him get his hopes up that she’d accept the offer.
At the end of the tour, they returned to the kitchen. Martin put the kettle on for some tea.
“What do you think? Of this place and of me?” he asked hesitantly.
In her typical direct style, she responded.
“What I think is that there is no where near enough work to keep a housekeeper occupied for three days let alone 5. What I think is that you don’t really need a housekeeper. You need someone who comes in a few days a week and ‘does’ the job for you.”
He was clearly stunned by her directness.
“So what’s the catch?” she said slightly angrily.
“Angela. There is no catch whatsoever.”
She stared at him.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way.”
The stare got stronger.
He tried pleading with her.
“I have seen you selling the paper every time I went up to London over the past few months. I sort of got a bit of a conscience in that I had had it so easy all my life. So I got this crazy idea about offering you the job as housekeeper.”
“What did your previous one do all day?”
He smiled back at her.
“I’ll let you speak to her in a minute if you want. While she was here, she went to college and finished her A levels. When she left, she was half way through an Open University Degree. Her job here let her have time to better herself as well as earning some money. If you want to, you can do the same.”
“Was she an Issue Seller like me?”
“Oh no. Far from it.”
He chuckled at the memory.
“Laura, the person who you will speak to on the phone, was a petty criminal. I knew from… well before. She called me one day asking for a job. I gave her one and a chance to get her life sorted out.“
He smiled at her.
“At the time she called me she was living with a total looser but she couldn’t see that at the time. She was infatuated with him and they were doing a job together. When the alarm went off he left her to face the music. She, rather unluckily got stuck inside the wardrobe in my bedroom. She ratted on him but took her punishment, 9 Months in Prison. I put in a word for her with her Probation Officer and as a result offered her a job when she got out much the same way as I have done with you. She worked here for me for nearly 3 years. Does that explain things a bit?”
“It does. I still want to check to see if you really are a dirty old man underneath that polished exterior.”
“Here is her phone number. Her name is Laura Mitchell. I’ll let you call her in private. She doesn’t know about you and my offering you the job as her replacement. Just explain who you are and why you are asking. She won’t bite.”
He left her alone and went into the living room.
It was nearly 15 minutes later before Angela came to join him.
“Did she confirm what I told you?”
“There was something she didn’t say. There was obviously something she was holding back. She mentioned someone called Chloe who sometimes visited. I sort of got the impression that the two things were connected but it is only an impression though.”
“Do you have any other reservations?” he asked
“I almost fell off the chair when she told me about the Dress Code. I now believe you about the Sex thing.”
“Does this mean that you will accept the job?”
She smiled and as she brushed the dreadlocks out of her eyes.
“Yes. We have a deal but naturally subject to contract.”
Martin felt very happy. He thought to himself, ‘she is a sharp cookie’.
Naturally, subject to contract. Laura had obviously explained the contract she signed when she came to work for him.
During the rest of the afternoon Martin got to understand a bit about how Angela came to be on the streets and living in a squat.
When she’d told all, made a suggestion.
“I don’t mean to insult you but is it difficult to have a good wash living in the squat?”
The implications started to make her angry.
“Are you saying I smell?”
He tried to placate her.
“Just a little underneath that perfume. I was only going to suggest that you might like to have a good soak in the bath then it’s fine by me.”
“And let you come barging in on me?” she said angrily.
“No. No, you’ve got it all wrong. You can stick a chair under the door handle if you want. I was offering you some hospitality with no strings. The offer still stands even if you turn me down.”
She looked at him long and hard.
Then a smile appeared on her face.
“Laura said that you were a naturally kind and generous person. I’m sorry but until now pretty well all the men I’ve known only want one thing.”
Martin didn’t know what to say.
“I was wrong. You are a kind person and yes, I’ll have that bath.”
It was dark when he took her to the station for her journey back to London. She had seen the draft contract and actually laughed when she read some parts. Martin guessed the bits she was reading.
As they waited for the train to arrive, Angela turned to him and said,
“I’ll think about everything I’ve seen today and let you know when you come up to London next week.”
“What’s so funny?” she asked in a slightly hurt tone.
“I’m away in Geneva and Zurich all next week.”
It was Angela’s turn to look a bit hurt.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll meet you for lunch on Saturday. How about outside Camden Lock around midday?”
A beaming smile appeared on her face.
Martin stood on the platform watching the red taillights of the London train disappear into the distance. He’d had a lot of fun with her that day. He dearly hoped that it was not going to be the only time that happened.
Despite their agreement, he’d rather hoped that Angela would have called him during the week. Swiss Bankers were good at their job but were exceedingly boring. It was a real relief to get back to his hotel in the evenings. Even the attempts by two rather beautiful women on Wednesday evening to get him to return to their rooms failed to interest him. The only thing on his mind was Angela. He was sure she’d accept his offer and was getting rather irritable at the waiting.
The cold rainy weather of the previous week had cleared away nicely by Saturday lunchtime. Martin was full of hope for a positive outcome that day.
His smile broadened considerably when he saw Angela threading her way through the crowds of shoppers.
“Hello Angela,” he said cheerily when they met.
“Hello Mr Williams.”
His heart sank. This didn’t sound too hopeful.
“Why the formality?”
She looked seriously at him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t accept your offer.”
“Why? I thought you liked it? You said you liked the house, the country?”
He nearly added, ‘You liked me’ but didn’t.
“Oh I did. You bowled me over with the job, the house, with everything but I just can’t. Something in me says no.”
Angela looked very sad.
“I’m sorry Martin, I just can’t.”
Then she left him standing there alone.
Angela headed for the nearest back alley and burst into tears.
Martin stood there stunned. His day was in ruins. He was rooted to the spot for nearly five minutes. Eventually, he stirred himself and went home still unsure what he’d done wrong. His wastepaper basked took several hard kicks later that day. It was lucky he didn’t have a cat.
Once again, his work kept him away from London for another 10 days. When he did travel up to town, the Kent Countryside had turned white. An early and extremely heavy snowfall had caused transport chaos. At first everything seemed to grind to a halt. Two days behind schedule, he managed to get into London for a lunchtime meeting near Liverpool St.
He emerged from the meeting and immediately had to wrap his coat tighter. The stiff wind coming in from the east was bitingly cold. Instead of heading towards Bank Tube station and the Northern Line to London Bridge and home, he headed towards Moorgate. He’d see if Angela was still there. If she wasn’t he’d still be able to take the Northern Line south.
As he turned the corner near the station, he could see her mass on unruly hair. His heart skipped a beat.
“Hello Angela,” he said calmly as he approached her pitch.
After a slightly surprised look, she smiled back at him.
“I’ve not seen you in these parts recently?”
Martin smiled back.
“Work and this awful weather.”
She nodded her understanding.
“I was wondering…wondering…”
“Yes. I’ll accept.”
He grinned from ear to ear.
“Why. Why did you change your mind?”
“Would you want to be standing out here in this all winter?”
“Come on, let me buy you a hot drink?”
“The place round the corner is pretty good,” she suggested in an instant.
Five minutes later they were both in the warm clutching large mugs of hot chocolate.
“Thanks Martin. I’m frozen.”
“Have you been here all week?”
“Why didn’t you stay at the squat and not go to work?”
“What squat? We got evicted last Friday. I’m kipping down at Zoe’s until I can find somewhere of my own”
“Why don’t you get your things and come down tomorrow?”
“You are serious about the job offer being still on the table then?”
“Yes. Why else would I have come looking for you today?”
“Then, Mister. Williams, I’ll accept and yes, I’ll be down on Saturday with all my things. I owe it to the Issue people to see out the week.”
She shook his hand to seal the deal.
Martin was waiting impatiently and anxiously for the train to arrive the following Saturday Morning. It had started snowing heavily once more.
Eventually, it arrived this time some fifteen minutes late. Angela staggered off the train lugging a huge soft bag and dragging a small, wheeled suitcase.
“Hi Angela. I thought you didn’t have very much stuff?”
“Neither did I until I tried to pack it up last week,” she said laughing.
“Come on. Let’s get out of this snow”, said Martin as he picked up the huge soft bag.
They dashed as fast as we could towards the car. The bag was so big; it would only just fit in the back.
Once Angela had settled in, the two of them sat down in the kitchen to complete the formalities relating to her position in the house.
“When I first read this contract I couldn’t believe this bit here. In this day and age, I thought why? Then I thought about it I realized it was for your protection as much as mine. I will not be sorry to see the back of these though,” she said fondling her dreadlocks.
“Why do you have them if you don’t like them very much?” he inquired.
“When I moved into the squat, I was shacked up with a guy who had huge ones. I was so desperate to find and keep a roof over my head I soon started putting my hair in locks as well. When he went off to Jamaica last year, I didn’t know what to do with my hair so I kept them. Whoever cuts them off is going to have their work cut out putting a comb through this lot. They have not been properly brushed out for nearly 3 years”
They both laughed.
“Are you ok to sign then?” asked Martin.
“Yes I am.”
He signed two copies. Angela signed them as well and gave one copy back to him.
“Angela. Welcome to my house. I hope that your time here is enjoyable and a long one.”
“Thank you Mr Wilson.”
“Thank you Martin,” she said with that wry smile he was coming to know on her face.
During that first week he could see a dramatic transformation in the house. Every room apart from Martin’s office had been completely cleaned and sorted from top to bottom.
Angela had altered some of Laura’s old outfits and was wearing them until some of her own arrived. With her agreement he had carefully measured her that first Sunday for the two types of uniform that we had agreed in the contract.
As he did the measuring, he thought to himself, ‘I think one style was a going to be a big change for her but which one she wore was going to be totally up to her’.
She also made an appointment to get her haircut the following Friday.
Martin went up to London on the Thursday as normal. As he was leaving for the station he said to Angela.
“I’ll cook tomorrow night. You can have the night off. If you want to go up to London to see your friends after your trip to the hairdressers and come back on Saturday, then you are more than welcome to do so. Just let me know tomorrow morning.”
“Ok Martin. I don’t think I’ll go up to London. Besides, most of my so called friends think I have sold out by coming to work here.”
“What about Zoë?”
“She’s cool with me working her. She really gave me grief for not accepting right away.”
She smiled at him and then asked.
“Is it a problem for her to come down for a visit in the future?”
“None whatsoever. Please invite her whenever you like.”
Martin returned home that night to another meal from Chez Angela. It was more, greasy spoon level than Michelin Star cuisine. However, she appeared keen to learn. He sincerely hoped that she would.
When dinner was over Angela, was clearing away the dishes when Martin joined her in the kitchen.
“Angela. Here is some money. I’m cooking tomorrow night so I think it might be appropriate to dress up a bit for dinner. You are already going into Maidstone to get your hair done so why not buy yourself something suitable. The same bus that runs to Staplehurst goes onto Maidstone. There are busses every hour”
Angela thought about it for a second. Then she shook her head.
“Thank you Martin but I shouldn’t accept this. I have some money of my own. If you don’t mind, I’ll use that.”
“Ok, have it your way. The offer still stands,” He said firmly as he put the 5 crisp £50.00 notes on the table.
Angela left him alone and went off to her hairdresser’s appointment just before 9:00am. The house was silent once more. Even though it had only been a week, it felt strange for it to be silent again.
Martin tried really hard to get on with work but his mind was not really concentrating. Eventually, just before lunch, he gave up the cause and called it a day.
Over a lunchtime sandwich he created the list of ingredients for the evening’s meal. When the lunch things had been cleared away, he got in the car and went shopping. As he left the house, he smiled to himself. Before Angela had arrived, he’d probably have left the dirty plates and stuff sitting in the sink.
Now? She was having an effect on him all right.
When he returned home, he could hear that Angela had returned and was upstairs. She was in her bedroom and had the bedside radio turned on. He left her alone as they had agreed that Martin was not allowed in her room when she was there.
He respected her desire for some privacy. She had told him that this had been in short supply in the Camden Squat and the Welsh commune before that. He also wanted to prove that he wasn’t an ogre like most of the other men in her life. She deserved better than that.
Just before 6pm, he started preparing the meal. The local butchers had supplied some locally reared Organic Wild Boar. He reckoned that Angela had never eaten this type of meat.
Time flew by and it was nearly 7:00pm before he had everything under control and had time to a quick shower and change before dinner.
Martin was just thinking about calling Angela in her bedroom to ask if she wanted an aperitif before dinner when she walked into the kitchen.
“Oh my God Angela? What have you done to yourself?”
This was not the same person I had left this morning.
“I’m sorry to startle you Martin. I really had no other choice.”
She was almost totally bald.
“My hair was pretty well stuffed. Not only were there lice but also the knots were just horrific. So in the end, I said cut it all off. I’ll let it grow again. So, here I am, almost as bald as a coot. Just a bit of hair left.”
In an attempt to change the subject, he said.
“The dress you are wearing is very nice.”
“Thank you. It is a total change for me. I have never worn anything like this before.”
She gave him a twirl.
The long satin dress suited her to a tee. She was also wearing heels.
“I expect my feet are going to pay for this later but there was no time to shorten it today so I had to buy some high heels. It is a long, long time since I have worn shoes like this.”
“I must say you look very nice indeed.”
“What else do you notice?” she asked.
He looked at her. Then he realized what it was.
“All that jewellery. It’s gone.”
“Not quite but most of it has been consigned to the bin. I decided that I needed to make a complete new start to go with my new job. New Hair, New Dress, New Start.”
“I think you have made a good start in your new job. The house looks much nicer.”
“Thank you Martin. Whatever we are eating tonight, it smells good.”
“It’s Wild Boar. I hope you like it. They are truly wild around here,” he replied.
“I’m sure that I’ll enjoy it.”
They talked about general things over dinner. Angela had revealed that she had had some trouble adjusting to living here.
“It’s so quiet. In London there is always some traffic noise. Here, all I hear are the owls at night. For a few nights, I had to go to sleep with my radio on. It was so weird.”
“It is very quiet here. This is one thing I like about it.”
“Did you like the Boar?” he inquired.
“It’s not like Pork at all. Much Stronger. Very tasty though.”
She paused for a moment.
“If you can cook like that you should have been a chef.”
He laughed at her comment.
“I nearly did become one. It was a toss up. Eventually, I decided the long hours were not what I wanted. Even so, I do sometimes have regrets about not giving it ago.”
She looked sad.
“I’ll never be as good a cook as you.”
“Don’t worry about it. This meal was supposed to be special. “Beans on Toast” is fine by me. Take your time and if you are prepared to receive some really truthful comments then I’ll gladly be the guinea pig for your culinary trials.”
“Thank you Martin. You are so understanding, so amenable. Why?”
“Why are you so understanding? I make lots of stupid mistakes. Look at that Vase I broke this week? Then there are the chipped plates.”
“Don’t worry about the Vase. It is a physical object and as such, can be replaced just like the plates. They are only a cheap set from Ikea. My ex took the decent ones, not that I bothered. We are here on this Earth for out Four Score and Ten Years and that’s it. We must make the best of it and live our lives to the best we can.”
She thought for sometime before replying.
“I’m not sure I can live up to your high expectations though.”
“Angela. As long as you try and do your job here, I’m going to be happy. Is that clear?”
“Yes Martin. Thank you.”
Martin lay in bed unable to sleep for hours that night. There was something about Angela that was going to be very difficult to resist now she has changed the way she had this past week. The difficulty in reducing his obvious hard-on that was ever present during dinner was going to be a problem. Angela was not only the hired help; she was ten years younger than him. He was also sure that his pretty obvious attraction he had for her was not going to be reciprocated.
Angela’s uniforms arrived later that week. She’d been given two options on styles, neither, of which was the sort of uniform that most men desired in Maids. Angela was housekeeper so Martin gave her the choice of a knee length dress and an almost floor length Edwardian Style black skirt and white blouse. She laughed at the latter option but Martin gently reminded her of the contract she had signed.
“At least it’s not a ‘French Maids’ uniform” she joked.
“Exactly” agreed Martin.
“I’m going to look a real dork going out in that.”
“You can always change into something else if you want. My only condition is that you wear a uniform while you are on duty here.”
“So if I have to go out to do some shopping I can change?”
“Yes. Actually, it might be better if you did. After all, you are a free woman not some form of indentured slave. Some people might get the wrong idea if you wore uniforms especially the more revealing sorts when you went out.”
“Don’t go putting ideas in my mind,” joked Angela.
She modelled them for him with a good degree of panache.
Martin applauded the efforts she was putting in to do her job and have a bit of fun at the same time.
When she had finished showing Martin the last one he asked.
“Angela, are you enjoying life here?”
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Nope. None. At least, none so far that is.”
“Well I hope it continues.”
“I have made one decision though.”
“I’m going to stay with this short hair. Well for at least the time being I am. I’m going to get a wig so that I don’t get to many stares when I’m out and about. After years of not doing anything to my hair with the Dreadlocks, the next best thing is almost no hair and still not having to do anything in the morning.”
“Angela. You are an adult. You can do what you like with your hair. If you want it purple with blonde streaks then that’s fine by me.”
“Ha-Ha. I might take you up on that sometime.”
Secretly, he hoped that she might just to that at some point in the future.
Martin went up to London a few days later. As usual, he secured his office and switched on the security camera before leaving. Working on banking software meant that he had to take security seriously.
It was very late when he got home. Angela was in bed. He dumped his bag, took a shower and quickly fell asleep.
After breakfast the following morning, Martin went into his office and opened up his systems ready for work. There was an email from his security server. It told him that someone or something had been in his office.
Puzzled by this, he scanned the security video. The server automatically saved the section of video that had caused the alarm.
As soon as he saw it, he burst out laughing. It was so loud that it drew the attention of Angela.
“Martin? Is there anything the matter?”
“No. Most certainly not Angela.”
He rapidly regained his composure.
“Angela, would you come in here for a moment please?”.
“Can I help with anything Martin?”
“Please take a look at this.”
He set the video to play.
She went very red in the face.
“You have been spying on me! You pervert!” she shouted.
“Calm down. Calm down. If you recall, I told you that you were not to come in here when I was not in the house.”
“But you have video cameras. How long have you been spying on me?”
“There is ONE camera. It is in here. That is why you must not come in here when I’m not at home. If you do enter this room you will be captured and the system will alert me.”
“But you were spying on me!”
“I was not deliberately spying on you. Besides, why were you doing your duties naked?”
“Was that what made you laugh?”
“I laughed at the total surprise to see a beautiful naked woman wielding a duster in my office. By the way, that tattoo on your back is very beautiful. I don’t normally approve of tattoos and frankly most are stupid and crass but that one is very beautiful.”
“I feel rather invaded.”
“I expect you do. I did provide you with uniforms to wear yet you decide not to wear them. That is your choice and I respect that.”
By now she had calmed down a bit.
“Angela. I do appreciate the work you have done since you came here and the changes you have made in your life. But if you do want to clean this room, please do it when I’m here. If you want to go naked when I’m not here, then you are free to do so. Actually, I think it is very liberating to have the nerve to do that. I certainly couldn’t sit here and do my work naked.”
She gave a little smile at that. He expected that she was trying to imagine him without any clothes on.
“Are you comfortable with that?” he asked.
“Yes. I have to admit that I forgot about not coming in here when you are out. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it. You may get on with your duties.”
She didn’t move.
He looked at her.
“That video clip. What is going to happen to it?”
“I can keep it as a memento or I can delete it. What do you prefer?”
“I don’t want you sitting here and jerking off while you looking at my naked body. Would you delete it please?”
He did a few commands on the computer.
“Here you do it. Press the delete key,” He asked.
She pressed it.
She was asked to confirm the deletion.
“It’s gone,” he said confidently.
“No its not,” she said.
“It’s in the recycle bin,” she added.
“Ahh. Yes, the recycle bin.”
She looked at him in that way that sent shivers down his back.
He pulled up the recycle bin. The file was not there.
“On this system when you delete something it is deleted. Nothing goes into the recycle bin as it would normally do.”
“Ok. I believe you. Thanks.”
“No Angela. You are right to be suspicious. However, if I was going to really spy on you and use this to as you say jerk off while ogling your naked body would I really have told you about this?”
“I suppose not.”
“Good. Let’s consider the matter closed.”
Then he had an idea.
“Look Angela. I’m really sorry about this misunderstanding over the video. Can I make amends somehow?”
“It’s ok really,” she replied.
“Let me take you out to Lunch. We can go for a walk over the High Weald and finish up a great pub I know. Forget your duties today.”
“What about your work? Isn’t that rather important?” she asked.
“Sod the work. I’m well ahead of schedule on my current project so I can take a day off when I want. I am my own boss after all and deciding when to work is my choice,”
“I’ve nothing to wear.”
“What’s so funny?”
“What is it with Women when they say that they have nothing to wear?”
She found it funny too.
“In my case, it is true. I’ve really only my old clothes, your uniforms and the dress I bought using your money.”
“Ok. We can remedy that easily. Put on the same clothes you used to wear when selling the paper in London. They will keep you warm.”
“What about this?” she said patting her nearly bald head.
“I haven’t got around to getting a wig yet”
“I have a woollen hat you can wear if you are that self conscious.”
“I suppose I am now. When had it all cut off I didn’t care but I think I would like to get a wig for when I go out. This really short hair just looks out of place with some sorts of clothes.”
Martin thought for a few seconds.
“We can do that today. Why don’t you go and get changed? Then we will do some shopping before we have a walk and some lunch. I need to make a few phone calls and get ready but it won’t take long.”
In fact, it was almost an hour before Angela was ready. She had indeed put her old clothes on. Also adorning her face was the heavy makeup. Making a return was the white face and big black eyes.
Martin felt rather strange seeing her almost hiding behind it once more. Around the house, she had worn very little and he’d felt she looked all the better for it. At least she had not work all the bits of metal into all the holes in her body. She only had put on a ring through her septum. Still, it didn’t look out of place.
Martin drove them into the old spa town of Tunbridge Wells. He knew there were a few shops where Angela could get the things she wanted especially the wig but he wasn’t going to let on about that.
“I’m sure you don’t want me tagging along behind so here is some money to get what you want.”
“No please come with me. I would really value your opinion.”
“Are you sure? My ex wouldn’t have me in the same shop as her when she was buying clothes.”
“She sounds like a bit of an odd character, your ex.”
“She was. Perhaps I’ll tell you about her sometime.”
“I’ll keep you to that promise,” replied Angela smiling.
The ‘couple’ spent actually an enjoyable two hours shopping with Martin offering little bits of advice only when asked. The end result was that Angela found herself a wardrobe far more suitable to her new life in the Country.
Finally, Martin directed her towards found a shop that sold Wigs. He deliberately didn’t tell her that he’d had looked it up in the phone book and made an appointment earlier that morning.
As they entered the shop Martin said to the assistant.
“Good Morning. This is Angela Smith. I believe there is an appointment for her.”
She looked at him with razor sharp eyes.
He smiled back.
“One moment please,” said the assistant.
“I booked it this morning when you were getting changed,” he said to put her out of her misery.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
At this point, the assistant returned.
“Mr Cohen will see you now Ms Smith.”
Angela followed the assistant into a back room.
She found herself surrounded by wigs and hairpieces.
Martin was daydreaming some 10 minutes later when the assistant returned.
“Mr Wilson. Miss Angela says that this will take a while. Why don’t you go and get a coffee at the shop over the road? She will join you there shortly.”
“Ok” It made sense. He stood up and went to pick up the various bags that contained the purchases she had made that day.
“No leave them. They will be fine here,” said the assistant.
Martin left the shop and crossed the road. He purchased a coffee and sat down to wait for Angela.
His mind turned back to Angela. First she wanted him to accompany her then she didn’t. Can’t they ever make up their mind and stick to it? Women? Pah?
Then he chuckled to himself, the words ‘Prerogative’ and ‘Women’ passed through his mind on several occasions.
Martin was rudely woken from my daydreaming when Angela entered the shop. She was wearing her new clothes and a beautiful new auburn shoulder length wig. She had removed all of her war paint and even the nose ring. She looked gorgeous. Martin secretly felt so jealous of her.
“How do I look?” she asked.
“Beautiful. Fantastic. Will that do? Or do you want the whole plethora of plaudits?”
She just smiled back and said.
“Come on then, its time for our walk. Then you can buy me lunch”, she said offering him her hand.
Without thinking he got up and held it as they left the shop.
They had walked a bit down the road before he realized she was not carrying any bags. He let go her hand and said.
“The shopping bags and your old clothes. You left them in the shop”
“I’m wearing all I want. Mrs Cohen was very understanding when I said I wanted to get changed in the shop and all that old stuff has been consigned to the bin. We can pick the rest up later on before we go home.”
She looked at him and then said,
“Besides, I don’t need them any more. I think it is time that part of my life was consigned to history. Don’t you agree?”
“If you are sure then yes I agree.”
A beaming smile appeared on her face.
“Come on then. I feel the need for a walk and then a nice lunch as you promised.”
He drove them out to a village in the High Weald. Martin knew of a three-mile long walk that would take us to some lovely scenic views over the surrounding countryside. Angela was well kitted out for the walk in her new Wellies, Waterproof Jacket and a head scarf holding her wig on in the fairly stiff breeze that was blowing from the southwest.
They walked on for about half a mile before Angela said,
“A penny for them?”
“A penny for your thoughts. You looked so deep in them you were not really enjoying the countryside. I can see why you wanted to come up here but it’s plain that you are not really enjoying it.”
Martin looked at slightly hurt.
Then he replied
“I’m so sorry Angela. I was engrossed in my own thoughts. I must try to stop that when I’m with you. It was one of the things that my ex cited when she ran off…”
“Martin, there are times when silence is very appropriate. However, this is not one of them ok?”
“Yes I suppose so.”
“Then tell me about your ex. What was she like and where did it all go wrong? From the short time I have known you; you are a very nice and considerate person who should not be on your own. So, spill the beans and let Agony Aunt Angela make a diagnosis?”
They both laughed at the joke.
Martin let out a big sigh.
“I suppose so.”
They walked for an hour during which, Martin spoke for most of that time. By the time we had reached the pub he was just about done.
He ordered two pints of the excellent local beer and they both sat down to examine the menus.
After he’d placed their order they sat back enjoying the heat from the log fire and the refreshing beer.
After some minutes suddenly Angela said to him,
“Martin, are you gay?”
“Me? No way,” he said laughing at the very suggestion.
“So why don’t you have many friends? In fact, you don’t seem to have any that call you at home. There has been none visiting while I’ve been living there. So why?”
“I suppose I have always been happy in the company of myself. I was an only child. That probably goes a long way to explain it.”
“Do you fancy me?”
“What a silly question to ask?”
“I don’t think it is silly. So do you?”
“I suppose I do but I’m your employer and nothing is going to happen between us.”
This was a total lie but he hoped she believed it.
Angela smiled in such a way as to say ‘Oh Yeah, really?’
“This woman Chloe that your former housekeeper told me about. Where does she fit into your life?”
“She appears from time to time and makes me very happy.”
Angela did something I didn’t expect. She put her mobile phone on the table in front of me and said,
“Call her now. Invite her down for the weekend. I’m serious about this. I can see an innate sadness in your life. If she can cheer you up, then that’s the better for you. So ‘phone a friend’?”
“I can’t call her,” he protested.
“Does she exist?”
“Yes she does.”
“Is she in this country?”
“Not at the moment. She’s a long way away.”
“So why can’t you call her then? I’m sure she’d like a call from a friend.”
He didn’t reply.
“She is! You sly dog you!”
“It’s not like that. We’ve never kissed. We are just good friends. My ex couldn’t understand that a man can be really good friends with a woman without there being any sexual motive in it,” he said hoping that he’d believe his excuse.
“Wouldn’t she see it as a threat to her?”
As they ate a very late lunch Angela said,
“About yesterday, and me going into your office.”
“What do you mean, I thought matter was closed?”
Then she continued,
“That was my first and last time in the buff so to speak. There are draughts everywhere and the place is frigging cold when the heating goes off.”
Martin smiled and said,
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t your job description include running the house?”
“So run the house. Get some people in to quote for new windows and doors and anything else that is needed to sort this place out. Then we’ll go over them and decide which ones to accept.”
Angela was patently stunned by this sudden shift in responsibilities
“You’d trust me to do all that?”
“Yes. Why shouldn’t I?” was his straight to the point reply.
She didn’t say anything for quite a while.
It was well past sunset when they arrived home.
“Martin thanks for today. I really enjoyed it. It has been a long time since I went on a date with a man and he didn’t try get it off with me.”
“Was that a date? I didn’t realise,” replied Martin egging her on a bit.
Angela glared at him.
Then she started laughing.
“Sorry. Bad choice of words.”
He didn’t reply, he just smiled at her.
[continued in part 2 of 3]
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