You could call her the quintessential ‘English rose’ but Chrissy Ingram couldn’t be further than the truth. Her job at the local estate agent had been her one and only job since leaving school, she was looking at 25 and beginning to wonder if this was all there was to life. Her colleagues wondered about her at times, she would be throwing herself into her work one minute then in the same day rant and rave in the cloakroom about some undeserving couple who to her mind didn’t warrant buying a house she considered to be ‘too good for them’ Her love-life was an empty page still waiting to be scrawled on; she was fussy and had many times during her teens and twenties rebuffed some pretty well meaning males. At one stage she began to wonder if she was ‘batting for the other side’ but her body told her otherwise when an attractive client called in smothered in Paco and sitting just across from her at her boss Bob Padgett’s desk. She would give them marks out of 10. Hair, dress, smell, eyes, smart shoes, whether they smoked or not-a minus if they did-skin, hands, nails-nicely manicured and how they conducted themselves-their voices. So far none had come up to par as far as she was concerned. Days came and went, lunch was always spent down The Flag on the corner, where she would munch on her cheese and pickle sandwich sipping her chardonnay trying to engage in conversation with her fellow colleague Sheena Adams while all the time her deep blue eyes would be scouring the pub for...what? A nudge in her ribs usually brought her back to earth.
‘Hey dreamy, are you going to eat the rest of that?’
She pushed her plate towards Sheila and gave a long sigh.
‘Do you ever wonder why we bother?’
‘Do you ever wonder why we go on the way we do?’
‘Oh gawd, are you off on one again?’
‘No, really. I’ve been working at Shaw and Simpson for nearly eight years. I get up, shower, get dressed, have my toast and cereal-boiled egg if I’m lucky, check myself in the hall mirror and charge out the door for the 21B.’
‘Oh, I don’t know...it gets so repetitive sometimes, I just wish that something different would happen...’
‘What, you mean have a bath instead of a shower?’
‘Shut-up, it’s not funny, you know what I mean, it all gets so hum-drum, so monotonous at times’.
‘Change your job’. Hearing this Chrissy shifted in her chair. ‘Trouble with you Chrissy Ingram you’ve got into that comfy safe place they call a rut’.
‘Yes, rut. I’ve been at that place a lot longer than you, my old man is just about due to retire and I’m dreading it’.
‘He’ll be home all day, making his plastic aircraft models and asking me when tea is...’
‘But surely when you jack it in it will be a whole lot better won’t it?’
‘Chrissy love, why do you think I have hung into this job for so long? Yes, it’s been good to me in more ways than one. But the main reason is, it keeps me out the house’.
‘But, I thought-’
‘You thought wrong sweetie. My sanity would be seriously compromised if I left now, he would drive me nuts’.
‘I didn’t realise...’
‘Forty-five years this year. When people hear that they look amazed, partly because some couples today don’t make it past forty-five weeks!’
Chrissy drained her glass and felt suddenly as if her problematic life had shrunk by half.
‘Better not, this pickle plays havoc with my digestive system and another glass will make me sleepy. I’ll be falling asleep over the computer’.
Back at the office things rumbled along with a few clients popping in to pick up keys and some making enquiries about a property they knew they couldn’t afford, ‘time wasters’ as Chrissy so fondly categorised them. Halfway through the afternoon a man came through the door. Tall, blond, a bit ‘Scandinavian looking’ Chrissy thought. He sat down right in front of her and gave a nervous cough as she carried on typing her notes. Her fingers paused above the keys and her eyes looked at him over the top of the computer.
‘Good afternoon sir, can I help you with anything?’
‘Eh, yes, if you wouldn’t mind. I see you have a property for sale on the outskirts of town, this one?’
He produced a newspaper displaying the details of a rather expensive detached mansion commanding a hilltop view of the out- lying area. Chrissy was impressed, but he wasn’t Scandinavian.
‘Oh yes, a beautiful property, been on our books for a while now. The owners have moved abroad and left it with us, would you like to arrange a viewing?’
‘Could I? How soon can it be arranged?’
‘Can I take your name and contact details if I may?' Sheila glanced up at such over the top politeness; Chrissy felt eyes boring into her back.
‘Sure. Ben Peterson, I live temporarily at ‘Firbank’ guest house. I’ve been out the country for a while’.
‘Oh yes, The Firbank, a lovely place, I’ve been there a few times myself’ Chrissy heard a muffled cough from the back but carried on. She noticed he had well-manicured nails and dressed smart but casually and he smelt rather nice too...’herbally’... ‘Well Mr Peterson, if you wouldn’t mind waiting just a moment I shall see if we can arrange an appointment for a viewing for you’
The man nodded and his smile was very pleasing. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties and there was no wedding ring. Chrissy fairly skipped out of her manager’s office.
‘We can arrange a viewing for you tomorrow morning’.
‘Yes you are-I mean it is’.
They shook hands and his felt large and cool. ‘Cool’ thought Chrissy as she settled back down on her chair. She counted to five then Sheila appeared, eyeing her over her specs.
‘Well, he was nice’.
‘Wasn’t he just’
‘You going to show him round?’
‘If the car is free...’
‘Oh I’m sure it will be’.
Chrissy had a restless night. Flashes of blond hair, grey eyes and long fingers kept her from a proper night’s sleep and she had a lot of trouble rousing herself for work.
She arrived at the office only to be greeted by Ben who looked just as beautiful in a blue roll neck sweater and grey cords. ‘Got to be gay’ Chrissy suddenly surmised. She picked up the keys to the house and the car but Ben insisted they take his and so with slight hesitation Chrissy slid into the front seat and directed Ben to their destination. She watched him steering, so confident and self-assured and still no sign of a ring. ‘Got to be with someone’ Chrissy mused again, nearly missing the turning for the property.
It was impressive to say the least. Six bedrooms all with ensuite, a huge lounge, magnificent games room and dining room and a beautifully fitted state of the art kitchen. The study was a good size too and overlooked the garden where a large swimming pool took centre stage by a fair sized patio. Ben folded his arms and smiled a smile that was wider than a Cheshire cat’s.
‘Yes, it is a lovely property’
‘You think so?’
‘I guess you would say that as it’s on your books’
‘Well yes, but even if it wasn’t Mr Peterson, it would tick all the boxes in my book’
He looked at her for a moment then glanced away.
‘Would you want to live in a place like this?’
‘Now that is a question...it would be too big for me, and anyway-it’s way out of my price range’
‘Where do you live now?’
‘A three bed semi in town, just the right size for me, but this, this is a family home, meant to be filled with people and music and laughter...’ Her mind was starting to wander; he was looking at her and started to laugh.
‘Well, that seals it for me...where do I sign?’
Chrissy couldn’t believe what she was hearing; she’d made a sale on ‘Fleetwood’ at last. Back at the office the wheels were set in motion concerning the offer which Ben put in a little below price but not much. He found himself shaking hands again with the short perky strawberry blonde.
‘No, thank you’
The door closed and Sheila’s voice broke the spell.
‘You’re misting up the glass’.
‘Shut-up. Oh, but he was lush...’
Chrissy couldn’t concentrate; twice she made mistakes on her notes and then wrongly filed a letter. She couldn’t face the pub for lunch and decided to have a drink at the Firbank. It was a lovely old fashioned place, all oak panelling and carpeted creaky floors. She sat in the bar with her glass of chardonnay and tried to look sophisticated. Short legs were not meant for crossing she decided and suddenly wished she was a six foot tall leggy blonde with pouting lips and long hair, instead of a five foot, blonde bobbed, 25 year old. She had good legs and her pointed high heels helped with her height issue.
‘Miss Ingram?’ It was Ben; he’d spotted her from his table. Chrissy nearly lost her balance on the stool.
‘Oh, Mr Peterson, what a surprise’.
‘You eh, eating something with that?’
‘Well-I just thought I’d pop in for a quick drink before I head back to work’. ‘Is that wise to just drink and not eat, you must be hungry’.
‘I don’t usually eat a lot lunch time, my friend ends up pinching it’
‘No, it’s not like that. I never manage to finish it’.
‘Let me get you something’.
‘No, honestly, I’m fine’. But Ben ordered a large club sandwich which they both ended up sharing in the end. She could smell that herbal smell and noticed his blond wavy hair which was combed back.
‘Can I ask you something Mr Peterson?’
‘Fleetwood is a big house, I was wondering if it was just you wanting to live there?’
It went quiet then he smiled and turned to look her in the face.
‘To be honest...I’m not sure at the moment’.
‘You sound disappointed’
‘No, not at all. It is none of my business. I just thought it being such a large property...’ Her voice trailed off as his eyes held hers.
‘Well. You see it’s a long story and a really stupid one at that.’
‘I guess I haven’t been entirely honest with you Miss Ingram. You see, I have been to your office before’.