He stood glumly on the pavement and stared at the shop window. It contained prominently displayed photographs of weddings as well as portraits of an assortment of people, children and domestic animals. He agonised for ten minutes and then with great determination strode to the door, opened it and walked inside.
A bell sounded as it swung shut behind him. The shop was deserted. In front of him was a small counter, behind which was a stack of filing cabinets. He approached the counter and looked around him. More photographs, similar to those in the window, adorned the walls. To the left of the counter a small door led to a back room and to its right, a wooden flight of stairs led upwards. There was a clatter of feet on the stairs and a very pretty golden-haired girl descended. She stepped behind the counter. “Can I help you?” she asked in a polite soft voice. Her eyes were bright blue and her smile sparkled.
George was mesmerised by her beauty but he managed to summon up some words. “I … I wish to speak to Mr Gloam,” he stammered.
“There is no Mr Gloam,” she replied.
George was confused but he blustered on. “The sign says V. Gloam.”
She nodded, still smiling. “That’s me … Victoria Gloam.”
“I was looking for Victor Gloam,” George continued.
“Victor Gloam was my father. He died two years ago.”
George felt a surge of relief. “Oh really,” he breathed. Fate was on his side again.
The girl’s smile changed to a frown. “Well there’s no need to look so pleased about it,” she said.
George’s face reddened. “I’m extremely sorry, I didn’t mean …”
“What did you wish to see my father about, Mr … er … um? What did you say your name was?”
“Oh, er … um … Smith,” replied George and added hastily, “I was asked to look your father up. I’m sorry to have troubled you, good-bye!” He turned quickly for the door.
“Good-bye, Mr Smith!” Victoria Gloam called after him.
Once outside, George hurried across the road to a telephone box. Life was pleasant once more. He could hardly contain himself. He snatched open the door, grabbed the telephone receiver and quickly dialled his aunt’s number. His call was answered by the butler. “Hello, Gumage,” said George, “is my aunt there?”
“I will see if I can find her, Master George.”
Some moments passed and then Aunt Jane’s harsh voice sounded at the end of the line. “Hello, George,” she said.
“Hello, Aunt Jane!” George said breezily. She would be pleased that he had acted so speedily and successfully. “I’m calling from Tidburn!”
“Yes.” Then George remembered to lower his voice and tried to sound not so joyful. “I’m afraid Victor Gloam is dead.” There was silence at the other end of the telephone.
“Did you hear me, Aunt Jane?” asked George
“I heard you, George.”
“So I can’t give him half my inheritance.”
“I realise that, George.”
“Well, I thought I ought to let you know as soon as possible. Now I had better be going as I am phoning from a call box and I haven’t much change. Good-bye, Aunt Jane.”
“Yes, Aunt Jane?”
“Did he leave any family?”
George felt his heart sink. “Family, Aunt Jane?”
“Yes, George, a wife, children.”
George began to stammer. “I’m … I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean, you’re not sure?”
“I’ll … I’ll have to check.”
“Well make sure that you do, because if there are any relatives then they’re entitled to get what should have gone to Victor Gloam. Is that clear, George?”
“Yes, Aunt Jane,” said George sadly. “Good-bye.”
George slowly put the receiver down. Well that was that. He would have to see the girl again. It was now clear that his quiet comfortable life would definitely change. Well, it could not be helped. He crossed the road and entered the shop once more.
Photograph : 123RF konstantin32