another thousand words into the Novel……and then out into the beautiful Los Angeles day.
It was barely dawn. The street lamps were still lit, not by gas these days, all re-worked to fit electric bulbs, but still within the original early 1800s encasements, black and forbidding, standing proudly to light the way home. A morning bird sang out in the trees at the end of Church Row. Apart from that, a car or two, heading into the center of the city, whooshed past, its headlights beaming quickly into the darkened streets, and then silence again.
Marion walked out of her house in full corporate drag – a tan Macintosh coat, navy Donna Karan shift dress and beautifully tailored jacket and expensive retro T-bar Cuban-heeled black patent leather shoes, the sort usually worn by dancers on a hot night in Havana. Marion had a thing about slightly inappropriate shoes. It always amused her to see how it threw people off when they checked out her outfit from suitably chic corporate attire to – huh? When they got to the shoes.
She shivered a little inside the coat. This place was constantly damp, she realized. A heavier coat was needed. Probably from that place the English called Peter – Peter – what was it called again, she wondered? Ah, yes, Peter Jones. Why was it called that? Was there a Peter Jones who had set up the business back in the day? And didn’t everyone know it was never a good idea to name the business after yourself if you wanted to sell it some day, because, in effect, you would be selling your name. As an advertising executive she had created many a new campaign to cover up the fact that there was no founder in place anymore. Who has the advertising contract for Peter Jones, she wondered, looking up and down the street, trying to remember where there might be a cab rank.
The street was silent. All the drapes in the windows of the houses were drawn. Not a soul stirred. She looked at the flower baskets hanging on the lampposts. There was actual dew on the blooms. Marion raised her eyebrows to the sky and shook her head. This place was beyond cute.
“It kills me,” she said out loud. Her voice, an American voice, here, in the midst of such almost-pastoral splendor, broke the spell. Suddenly a door to the left opened and Annabelle, in a very sweet dressing gown, came out of her house to pick up the bottles of milk on her doorstep. She noticed Marion, and stopped dead, pulling her dressing gown around her more tightly. They stared at each other for a second.
Annabelle’s breeding rose to the occasion. “You must be Marion,” she said, softly, aware that the street was still full of sleeping neighbors.
“Good news travels fast.” Marion did not want to be charmed, but the whole effect of sleepy-head-blonde (probably natural) hair and a pale blue toweling robe while picking up actual milk bottles from a step was adorable. She smoothed down her expensive Donna Karan tailoring and looked down the street again, wishing a New York taxi cab would just pull up outside the house, like now.
“Oh yes,” smiled Annabelle, “You’re an American, I forgot. Lydia did say.”
“Don’t know why you need the newspaper around here, with Lydia on call.”
“She is a terrible gossip,” giggled Annabelle, marveling at Marion’s outfit. She looked like a fashion spread from ELLE magazine. One of those shoots where bold women in brightly-colored skirt suits were always sticking out their hands to get a cab on Madison Avenue. Suddenly the Church at the end chimed six o’clock. Marion rolled her eyes at the cuteness of this place again. She found Annabelle’s presence slightly un-nerving. She was so innocent looking. She just wanted to get out of there. Get to the office. To a place that she understood: numbers, research, campaigns, order and lots of caffeine.
“Well. I must run.”
Annabelle looked down the road to the Church clock to check the time. “Good lord, it’s only six o’clock!”
“I like to start work early.”
“I almost miss it,” sighed Annabelle.
Marion just wanted a cab. She did not want to hear about the travails of the lonely housewife. Not unless she was working on a campaign that aimed to improve the lot of a lonely housewife through some new miracle product. But Annabelle did not need a cue to start talking.
“Somewhere to go everyday. Must be nice.”
“Couldn’t you get yourself a job?”
Annabelle bristled, slightly. Marion was not yet attuned to the cues and missed it. “I have a job.”
“But you just said,” Marion looked helplessly up and down the street. Not a cab in sight. Annabelle pursed her lip and was silent. Marion looked at her, quickly, realizing her mistake. “Right. Sorry. My mistake.”
“Diana said you’re living here alone. You don’t have a family do you?”
Marion never enjoyed this particular conversation. “Why do I feel judged?” she said, seemingly amused.
“I didn’t mean,”
“Yes you did.”
Annabelle was taken aback. She was not used to being challenged. Marion hoisted her expensive Hermes bag onto her shoulder and smiled brightly, but dismissively. “Now where do I get a cab around here?”
“Most people get the Tube.”
Annabelle pointed to the High Street and then motioned taking a left turn. Marion nodded her head and started to walk briskly. A man appeared as if from nowhere walking in front of her, a furled up newspaper under his arm, carrying an umbrella. He walked purposefully towards a building with a sign that said “Hampstead Station” in white lettering on a blue background and a red, white and blue circular motif with the words Underground. She followed closely behind him, watching as he bought a ticket at the machine and swiped it through the electronic gates.
It was nothing like the New York subway system, for a start, there was no one around; the platform was deserted, apart from the man with the newspaper. Marion started to make notes in her small black moleskine journal about the man’s clothing, the Edwardian tile work in the station and the advertisements pasted on the opposite wall.
She did not notice the man was doing the same thing, while glancing covertly at her from time to time.