Sunday, February 24, 2008
‘Hello’ said the stranger as he approached the counter. Celia smiled nervously. ‘Are you being served?’ she asked. ‘I just dropped in to pick up my order’, said the stranger. ‘Oh’ replied Celia, trying not to look flustered. ‘What name please?’ The stranger told her his name. Winchester, Ted, Squadron Leader, DFC, KPMG, RSPCA. Celia crouched down to the draw marked ‘W’ and opened it reverentially. She peered in and lifted out the customer’s order: Boxers in RAF blue, with squadron leaders stripes and gold braid. She held them up to the light, the gold braid glinting in the sun.
‘You know’, began the stranger, 'I spend my whole life above the clouds but I don’t believe I’ve ever been as close to heaven as I am seeing you’. Celia blushed. ‘You’re mocking me’, she smiled nervously. ‘Well’, said the stranger, ‘judging by the number of stripes on those pants a small compliment is the least I can do because it seems you just gave me a promotion, those are Air Vice Marshall’s underpants. Celia’s embarassment was now unbearable. She replaced the object of her uncharacteristic faux pas in the draw and took out the right ones this time. ‘So have you just finished work?’ she asked, trying to change the the subject. Ted nodded. ‘Just finished Red Arrows practice’,he explained. 'Just fell out of my seat you know, did a loop the loop, saw the blue in your eyes down below and thought I must still be looking up at the sky. Actually, I'm just on my way to the puppy rescue centre and orphanage where I help out in my spare time’. Celia sighed. ‘Hmmm, those look like mine’, he said.
Celia was relieved. The shop got a lot of custom from Ted’s squadron. Those Red Arrows pilots seemed to need new pants after every airshow , but she had never had Ted in her department before. He was different. ‘They go very well with your helmet’, she said. Ted lifted his visor ‘Thanks err..’ he said leaning forward ‘...Thanks Jane’. ‘It’s Celia’, said Celia. ‘Sorry celia, must be going blind or something’, he laughed. Celia gazed into his eyes and hoped he didn’t notice the little heart shaped jet vapour trails streaking across them. ‘Best be going, those orphans need me’, and with that he saluted her, tucked his pants under his arm and left Celia’s briefs counter. Would she ever see him again, she thought. ‘Will I ever see you again?’ she asked. Ted looked downcast. '’Fraid I have to go to a new posting in the north soon’, he explained, ‘so I’ll be moving back to my family’s ancestral gothic mansion up there’. She realised she mustn’t have such thoughts about a customer, who she might never see again. Who knew what might happen to him all alone up in the hostile wilderness of The North, so she set about tidying the athletic supports draw and tried to put the tall, handsome, brave, caring, thoughtful Ted Winchester out of her lonely, single, unhappy, manless mind, but she soon found she had to sit down, just a little breathlessness, she thought, nothing more…