FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW
Treading softly and carefully – and taking a roundabout route – is the best way for Enid to put her mind at rest
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.” ❋