Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 25

Seventies Style

“YOU wear it well . . .” The sound of Rod Stewart’s current hit came from the radio of a Ford Capri, slow-moving along the busy London street, as Marianne hurried up the steps to the office of the solicitors recommended by her mother, Francesca.

There was no music playing in there! If there had been, it would have been Beethoven or someone, she decided as she waited in the reception area. She looked around her at the dark, panelled walls, the shelves of dusty law books and heavy old furniture, none of which gave any sign it was 1972.

Though still young, Marianne was already making a name for herself as an interior designer. And this being the immediate aftermath of the 1960s, the decade in which so much had changed, her own taste was for “light and bright”.

“Mr Jones will see you now.” A receptionist interrupted her thoughts and Marianne followed her along a dimly lit corridor.

“Please come in.”

James Jones stood up behind his desk when she entered and gestured for to her to sit down.

Marianne had expected to see the partner in the firm who always acted for her parents. But probably her affairs weren’t considered big enough to warrant such senior attention. Not yet, anyway, she thought to herself as she sat down.

But she was comfortable with James, who was nearer her age, even though, like the office he worked in, to her he looked incredibly old-fashioned in his dark suit, white shirt and tie.

Suddenly she was aware that he was staring at her with his quiet, grey eyes. Did he think she looked odd? She glanced down at the long, voile dress and pink suede platform clogs she was wearing. Nothing wrong with her clothes – they were the latest fashion!

Shaking back her blonde hair, she shot him a challenging look.

“I, em, was just admiring your necklace,” he said. “The leaves, are they real?”

“Lovely, isn’t it? It’s my mum’s, but I’m always borrowing it. Yes, the leaves are real, from an oak tree where she used to meet a couple of friends when she was growing up in Derbyshire.

“They had some great times under its branches and they each took three leaves as a kind of . . . symbol, I suppose, of their friendship. They’re still in touch, though only one of them lives up there now.”

Marianne moved on to the reason for her visit.

“Look, I’ve got a couple of customers who are ignoring my bills. They’re weeks overdue, and they have the money to pay me. You’ll recognise their names.”

James’s face was blank as he looked at the copy invoices she passed to him.

“That one there is the pop-singer – I decorated his house – and the other is the shoes guy.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” James nodded vigorously, but Marianne suspected neither name had, in fact, meant anything to the young solicitor.

She thought of a science-fiction film she’d seen where time had stood still. It was like that here, as if they were still in the post-war era.

“I should tell you,” she continued, “that the shoe designer might be awkward.”

“Is he saying there’s something wrong with the work you did?”

“No, in fact he recommended me to someone else – a hairdresser who’s opening new salons. And who has already settled his bill.”

She considered telling him the name of the hairdresser. After all, everyone who was anyone went there.

She looked again at James’s hair, fair but darker than her own and tidily parted. Everyone, perhaps, except him!

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.