Tread­ing softly and care­fully – and tak­ing a round­about route – is the best way for Enid to put her mind at rest

My Weekly Special - - CHRISTMAS FICTION MINIMAG - By Amanda Brit­tany

Hello,” I said down the phone. “Please may I speak to Mr Jones?” The woman asked me to hold, and I imag­ined her head­ing across the of­fice, search­ing for the young coun­cil­lor.

I didn’t know Joseph Jones, but in a pic­ture I’d seen that he had dark hair swept back from a hand­some face, and a charm­ing smile. I sus­pected he would be friendly.

“Hello, Joseph Jones speak­ing. How may I help you?” I was right – very friendly. “I’m Mrs Enid Shep­herd,” I said. “And I’m scared of ice.”

Af­ter a pause, he re­sponded. “I see,” he said, but I felt sure he didn’t. I’d blurted out a lu­di­crous state­ment, but he seemed too po­lite to say so. “Could you be a lit­tle more spe­cific, Mrs Shep­herd?”

“Well I’m not afraid of ice gen­er­ally,” I said, as I fid­dled with the baubles on my Christ­mas tree. It was only a lit­tle tree. My grand­daugh­ter, Gemma, had put it up for me. “I rather like a couple of cubes in my G & T.” He laughed. “Don’t we all?” I laughed too. Chortling, Gemma called it. She said once, that she’d never heard an old lady laugh as much as I do. Cheeky thing! I was only eighty at the time, and felt twenty-one in­side.

I just wished I could kick my leg in the air like I could when I was twen­ty­one. My mother used to say, “Enid, you’re made of elas­tic, my girl.” “So how can I help, Mrs Shep­herd?” “Well, I like snow, Joseph. May I call you Joseph?”

“Yes, of course.” There was a def­i­nite smile in his voice.

“Al­though it’s been a while since I built a snow­man.” I walked to­wards the win­dow. The gar­den was a blan­ket of snow, and mem­o­ries of Gemma play­ing in the fluffy white stuff as a child, made my eyes well up. She’d been on my mind for so long – so frag­ile and low af­ter a painful di­vorce a while back – al­though lately she’d seemed hap­pier, and I des­per­ately wanted her to stay that way. “So you like snow, Mrs Shep­herd?” “Yes, and do call me Enid, Joe. May I call you Joe?” “Yes, of course.” “Well, the thing is, Joe, I love watch­ing the snow fall and set­tle, like ic­ing sugar on a cake.” I smiled, re­mem­ber­ing the cakes I’d baked for Gemma’s birth­days over the years. How she’d loved to blow out the can­dles, blue eyes squeezed shut as she made a wish.

“But I don’t like it when it’s icy un­der­foot. I’m wor­ried I might slip over on my bot­tom, legs in the air. I feel more could be done, don’t you?” He sighed. “Well, sadly, Mrs Shep­herd, al­though the coun­cil’s re­spon­si­ble for the ma­jor high­ways, un­for­tu­nately they don’t clear res­i­den­tial path­ways. They just haven’t got the re­sources.” “Oh, dear.” “I’m so sorry I can’t be more help­ful.” “No, I quite understand.”

“In the mean­time, have you tried over­shoe ice-grips? I wear them all the time in this weather.”

“No I haven’t,” I said. “I’ll give them a try.” I paused for a mo­ment, preparing my words. I thought back to how Gemma cau­tiously moved for­ward af­ter her hus­band left, as though walk­ing on ice. I took a deep breath.

“Now, Joe,” I be­gan, “while I have you on the phone, can I be sure you will take care of my grand­daugh­ter, Gemma?” There was a brief si­lence. “You’re Gemma’s grandma? Good­ness – I’ve heard so much about you.” “Now, call me in­ter­fer­ing if you like…” “No. I wouldn’t dream of it. And if it helps, Mrs Shep­herd – Enid – I love your grand­daugh­ter very much.”

My heart flut­tered with hap­pi­ness for them both. He was clearly a nice young man, and I felt a bit naughty check­ing up on him. But I couldn’t bear the thought of Gemma get­ting hurt again.

“That’s good to hear,” I said, know­ing al­ready that Joe would never let Gemma fall again – he would be her ice-grips.

“Well, I’d bet­ter go,” I said, look­ing up to see my hus­band plac­ing a cup of tea for each of us on the cof­fee ta­ble. I took in the twin­kling tree and the fire flick­er­ing in the grate.

“I do hope to see you and Gemma over Christ­mas, Joe,” I added.

“That would be lovely, Enid,” he said. “I’ll look for­ward to it very much.” ❋

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