By Liz Parkes
IT was the shoes that caught Martin’s attention. They were open toed, red and eye wateringly high. It was Martin’s job to look at people’s feet. He knew he should disapprove, to tell the wearer of the bunions, corns and crossed toes that lay in the future, speak to her about distortions of the spine but all he could bring himself to say was, “Are you waiting for an appointment?”
He felt gauche as she turned and gave him a scathing look, “I’m waiting for Mrs Cook. She has an appointment for 12.30. She should be finished any moment now.”
“Look I’m awfully sorry. Of course you’re too young to be a client here.” He wanted to add, ‘you soon will be if you insist on those shoes’, but he knew that this approach would not endear him to her and he wanted to get to know this elegant woman better.
“Are you her daughter?”
“No. I’m hired by her daughter to pop in and do for her in the working day.”
“I suppose that’s a good job to fit around the home and kids.” He was fishing now, testing the water.
“A good job to fit around my degree course, yes.”
Mentally Martin punched the air. “Yes!”
For a moment Martin felt her cool eyes scrutinise him and it unnerved him a little.
“I suppose you want to know what I think about your technique?” she added.
“Oh God,” Martin thought “Was I that obvious?” he said.
“Six out of ten.”
“Maybe you could give me some hints over a drink tonight? Eight hours of other peoples’ feet, surely you can find sympathy for a fellow in such a predicament.” Appeal to their soft side it always works.
“Look give me your number and I’ll see what I can do.”
He circled the number on his business card, hoping that the crisp card would impress her. She slipped it into her wallet without a second glance. Martin had the feeling that it had become part of a pack, the four of hearts he thought balefully as he ushered in his next client.
He was surprised that evening when his phone bleeped and a text appeared giving place and time. It was a summons more than a request. His first instinct was to delete it, the tone irked him, but those red shoes…………was this a fetish he was developing? Ask her about it when they knew each other a little better. He’d succumbed without thinking it through.
She was late. He had decided to give her 10 minutes. It was actually 13 minutes when he heard the purposeful click of high heels on the tiled floor. This time she wore petrol blue shoes with a fine black line spiralling down the narrow heel. There was no apology. Had he really expected one?
“G & T, thanks,” she replied to an assumed question. Martin was beginning to ask himself what he was doing here.
The evening passed quickly. Despite her rather off-putting manner, she was an interesting companion. He told her about feet, how he could tell a person’s character just by looking at their feet; not just their character now but their whole history. The girls who had worn sensible shoes into spinsterhood and the flighty bits who had teetered on points while carrying yet another unexpected child; the sportsmen and the couch potatoes. She seemed fascinated. Why wouldn’t she be? Wasn’t this close to her studies?
Despite the unpromising start, the relationship seemed to flourish. Martin began to look forward to weekends in a way that he had not before. It was in bed one morning, six weeks since their first meeting, that she broached the subject of Mrs Cook.
Martin already felt that he knew a great deal about the old lady. She had a feisty streak which could make her seem awkward. Her daughter, whose manner seemed to be unnecessarily officious, had taken charge of her diet. She was not to be allowed biscuits or sweets at any cost. “Diabetes, you know,” the daughter would say with a martyred look.
This was a problem for her carer as Mrs Cook had a decidedly sweet tooth and an equally strong will. The daughter was demanding and Martin’s paramour was torn between the conflicting stances of the two women.
Mrs Cook had been the only daughter of the Cook in ‘Best and Cook’, a large cake firm. She had sold her shares to Mr Best when she felt too old to carry on and her daughter showed little interest. She had more money than she could ever spend on nick knacks, deep pile carpets and curtain swags. Her financial adviser came regularly and spent hours locked away with the old girl, while her carer took the time to get on with her dissertation.
One day Mrs Cook had put down the newspaper and declared that she had no faith in advisers of any sort. The building society in which she had invested a third of her savings had overstretched itself and was about to collapse. She spent hours holding on the phone, fretting and declaring that she would never again let her money out of her sight.
The daughter was summoned to draw the money out as soon as humanly possible.
Martin was amused at this story. Many of his clients had been caught up in similar situations and he could imagine it all too well.
“Mart.” She had said as she pulled him towards her, “Mrs Cook can’t possibly need all that money.” He made no answer being deeply involved in the sensations she was stirring. “Mart, I’m struggling to make ends meet on this course. I need the degree and the stingy daughter doesn’t pay enough to keep a mouse.”
‘Not to keep you in shoes,’ he thought as he nibbled her ear.
“Mart, there’s an old biscuit tin under her bed. I saw it one morning when I got her out. She keeps it well hidden but I check it’s still there with my toe. It’s still there.”
Martin stopped the conversation there and then with a deeply passionate kiss.
She returned to the subject morning and night. Martin could almost recite it word for word before she had the first sentence out, then one day the recitation changed.
“Mart, I’ve made you an appointment to come and do Mrs Cook’s feet on a home visit.” Martin’s passion wilted.
“I can’t take the tin, Mart. She’d know it was me, but if I distract her she wouldn’t even know that you’ve gone in her bedroom.”
“She does need it, Mart. We do. What would she buy at her age? It will all go in nursing home care any way.
Martin’s fear translated as anger. She was stunned into silence. It was weeks before she dared another approach.
“Mart, I’m pregnant.”
This time it was he that was stunned into silence.
“Mart, we are going to need somewhere to live.”
The second appointment at Mrs Cook’s house had been easy to arrange, she had taken to the pleasant young man. If she had had a son, he would have been like this, diligent, charming and hard working. Coming out to an old lady after work, it was that kind of enterprise that had made Mr Cook’s fortune.
She had been easy to dupe. Martin had been left in the lounge, while she made the tea. His partner carried on a loud conversation to convince her that they were both sitting chatting, two casual acquaintances.
He found the tin easily and dropped it out of the window behind the bushes.
They drank the tea scalding hot. Mrs Cook was disappointed that Martin had to leave so soon for his next appointment. He was such a hard working boy.
Why did she always wear those ridiculous high heels? As she tip tapped towards the car Martin was surprised to find a moment of loathing. He ducked low beneath the window and retrieved the tin.
Throwing it onto the seat he jumped in but she couldn’t wait. Her red nails hooked like claws over the edge of the tin. Her eyes were round with amazement as the lid came off and she saw the tin stuffed to the top with…………Jammy Dodgers.
Martin laughed. He laughed until his sides ached. He laughed away all the guilt glad that some providence had been watching him since her arrival in his life.
She leaned across and opened the car door. Revving the engine she said, “Out.”
© Liz Parkes 2016