When Ollie started at Mulburys’, work brightened up and so did the windows. He arrived just in time to create the Christmas window displays and he brought new ideas.
‘Every window tells a story,’ he would say to the other window dressers. ‘Most of your window shoppers could never afford the dresses in the window or the houses the models appear to live in. But we’re going to make them feel they could one day…that’s the magic of Christmas.’
It seemed natural that Ollie and I would become close. Ollie knew how to treat a lady and my confidence grew as I worked with him. ‘Nobody leaves Izzie in the corner,’ he would joke.
True to his word, Ollie had created a story which started at the side of Mulburys’, opposite the tube station. An old man sat at his computer, Skyping. On his mantelpiece were plenty of cards and photos – photos that matched the moving pictures on the computer screen. The next few windows took shoppers around the world and around Mulburys’ until they reached the main entrance. Scenes of the old man’s family getting ready for Christmas, a BBQ somewhere hot, a ski hut somewhere very cold, a cruise ship; every scene so realistic, but always with glamorous women dressed in Mulbury outfits, from bikinis to winter coats.
On the other side of the main entrance was the busy airport scene, followed by the airliner up in the clouds with Father Christmas waving as he passed by. The window on the corner showed a street scene, Christmas trees in windows and the old man taking his dog for a walk, looking longingly at the bright windows. How the children loved these scenes; to find out who was in the plane they were directed upstairs to the Christmas grotto. I was dressed as the glamorous elf welcoming children and adults to the final scene, bigger than any window could accommodate. The old man opens his front door and surprise, surprise all his family have arrived.
In the middle of December Ollie bought himself a shiny new red car and parked it at the front of Mulburys’ in the ‘ten minutes only pick up zone.’ Just long enough for us to look admiringly from the window. There was much amused chatter about the new traffic zones; single occupant cars were banned from the city centre, everyone had to be seen to be car sharing.
‘No probs,’ said Ollie, ‘I shall give Izzie a lift.’
I was as surprised as everyone else, or rather they were amused. Ollie knew what my circumstances were, but gave no hint that I had no home to have a lift to.
Like the gentleman he was, he helped me into the leather passenger seat. ‘Well, darling Isabella, how jealous other drivers will be when they see my glamorous girlfriend.’
I couldn’t help smiling, I thought we were just good friends; any physical closeness had been within the confines of the store windows. How I enjoyed the drive, looking out at the Christmas lights, watching the busy pavements as shoppers and workers made their way home.
Ollie’s flat was not in a smart building, but as he helped me up the narrow staircase and opened his front door I was delighted to see the interior decor had the same style as Mulburys’.
‘I can tell from your enigmatic smile that you like it Isabella, but it hasn’t been a real home till now, with you here.’
He sat me down on the comfortable sofa. ‘Relax and watch television while I rustle up something to eat.’
And so my evenings were no longer lonely, Ollie and I had the same easy relationship we had at work, but I had to admit I preferred it when we were alone. At the weekend he had a few friends round, not from work, people I didn’t know. They seemed to enjoy their visit and laughed and talked a lot.
‘So this is the delectable Isabella, the mystery woman I saw you with at the traffic lights.’
‘Yes, the woman of my dreams.’
‘Has she got a sister?’
‘She has actually, but I’m not going to introduce her, she’s too good for you.’
After a few visits, I began to realise I was different, I thought I must have one of those syndromes. I couldn’t really join in the conversations, never quite understood what they were talking about, although it was obvious they were often talking about me.
Other times I felt totally ignored. Like when Joe from work dropped in looking rather wobbly, I thought he was never going to leave. I think Ollie was fed up with him but too polite to say so. Joe went on and on about someone called Milly.
‘How am I going to get through Christmas, I was going to propose to her, now she’ll be in New York with Miles.’
‘You’re best off without her mate, she’s a bitch, we could all see that except you. I know it’s unbearable, I’ve been there, but it will get better. Reckon I’m the lucky one. Isabella would never look at another man and would never utter a word to hurt my feelings.’
I almost blushed at his words, but I wondered where it was that he had been and how did words hurt your feelings.
‘You don’t know how I feel Ollie, you have a wooden heart, just like your cold girlfriend there.’
I glared at the awful Joe, so different from the Joe we knew at work. I was not cold, never felt the cold; that’s why I was happy to wear the low cut sleeveless dresses Ollie loved to see me in.
Christmas Eve came and Ollie was going to a party.
‘Sorry to leave you by yourself Izzie, but I know you don’t enjoy parties. Come and sit by the window and look at the lights, have you seen the great big tree in the garden opposite? Tomorrow it will just be us, no work, we’ll watch sentimental Christmas telly together.’
A few merrymakers passed by and waved to me, I almost felt as if I was back in the shop window. When at last Ollie came home he was a bit wobbly, but his hands were as gentle as they were at work when he undressed me.
‘I bought you some new lingerie, well actually I pinched it from work. You and me go well together, two lonely souls. Won’t you tell me truly what you think, do you love me? If I wished hard enough, in ten minutes time at the stroke of midnight would you talk to me, would the blood run warm in your veins?’
I did not understand his words, but I was just glad to have Ollie home again, where he belonged, with me. But for some reason I wasn’t keeping him cheerful, there was water running down his cheeks, like the dreadful Joe had that time, but with Ollie I wanted to reach out and hold him. For a moment a strange feeling came over me, just below the neckline of the lovely red lacy garment. But as the clock on television started to strike twelve I felt cold for the first time.
Ollie turned away from me and covered his face, then turned back. ‘It didn’t work, did it? Beautiful cold Isabella, this isn’t a fairy tale, you will never be a real woman. On Boxing Day I shall take you back to the shop window where you belong, in time for the sales.’
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© 2017 Janet Gogerty
Janet loves writing novels, short stories and blogging. Her favourite theme is how ordinary people cope when strange things happen to them.