“My friends call me Angel.”
It had been her favourite line, delivered with a slight tilt of the head and playful smile intended to lay bare the lie, to seed the notion that she was – if they played their cards right – anything but angelic. She had stood before her bathroom mirror and rehearsed, her smile rising from a panoply of memories, from the past rather than any anticipation of her immediate future.
And now, having made the decision to get off the tube two stops earlier than she needed to, and standing by the door as the train pulled into Green Park station, she saw the fragments of her reflection whisked away by the bright lights of the platform. The mirrors offered by the underground were fleeting and rarely flattering.
Her favourite mirror adorned the large mahogany chest of drawers in her bedroom; a gift from many years ago that would have made a suitable heirloom had she someone to whom she might pass it. Its wooden frame – a little like the rest of the piece – was beginning to show its age with a slight discolouration in its now uneven patina. And even though the mirror itself was beginning to bloom a little under the glass in the corners nearest the window, it had always been faithful to her – indeed as it had been that morning when she sat before it to once again apply her rouge. It was that almost religious certainty her old and trusted friend offered which allowed her to dismiss the windows of the Victoria line with such superior ease.
She left the station to the northern side of Piccadilly more out of choice than habit – even though the former and the latter were so closely intertwined after all these years. Angela had always been quite clear-cut on Piccadilly: one could only walk along its north or south side, not both; crossing half way was a redundant endeavour bordering on pointlessness. Her preference for the northern side arose via trial and error in the days of her youth, and then through sheer practicality. She had come to navigate by those landmarks towards which she initially felt she might have an affinity, and after that, to those where she had actually established some kind of connection. She preferred, for example, to walk and be able to see and admire The Ritz or Fortnum’s, eschewing immediate proximity in favour of taking them in. Hence north over south. In the case of the RA, the opposite was true. Indeed, even though she admired its interior (with the exception of one room in particular!), she despised the external facade with a passion, so getting past without having to look at it was a victory of sorts. In terms of practically (or habit!), all those years ago she had found herself most often around Berkeley Square, and so that too made leaving Green Park on the northern side of Piccadilly the only option that made any sense.
Standing on the edge of the Berkeley Street pavement, waiting at the lights on for the green man, Angela looked away up the street trying to transport herself into her past as if the surrounding throng and the hubbub of speeding traffic were not there. There was an Audi showroom just behind her and, about half-way up the road, she could make out where they sold the most expensive Range Rovers. But momentarily she was propelling herself beyond these to where Berkeley Square itself started and the Jaguar showroom stood.
How old had she been when she first went in there? Twenty-one perhaps? Twenty-two? They had let her sit in the front seat of their pride a joy – an E-Type that had ostensibly not been for sale – and even though its red leather clashed dreadfully with the peach of her light summer frock, she swore she had never been happier. Dicky Johnson bought the car outright, there and then, in spite of what the Manager had said. Dicky told her he had never seen anything so beautiful, her sitting behind the wheel of an E-Type. Jaguars still meant something in those days; they were special. And of all the cars in which she had ever sat, that memory was the most precious.
These are the opening paragraphs from “Angela”, the first story in my collection of short stories, “Secrets & Wisdom”.
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