Bethany Carson is thinking about Giles Woodward again. Touching thirty, with skin like alabaster, a gracious aquiline nose and a fine feline chin, she’s lovely enough to have been painted by Rembrandt.
Bethany is a successful businesswoman. She designs jewellery for some of the largest retailers in London and they say her designs are so beautiful they are almost of another world.
She sees a figure strolling along the street towards her flat. He is a tall young man with the build of a rugby full-back.
Bethany gulps. She glances at her reflection in the window. She knows she’s adorable, yet she’s made no impression on the man whom she longs to become her paramour; the man, in fact, whom she is watching striding purposefully along the road.
Bethany grabs a hairbrush and drags it across her shining dark hair. She has to look her very best.
Giles hesitates, looks up at the window, then self-consciously rings the doorbell. Bethany picks up the entryphone.
‘Beth? It’s Giles. Can I pop in for a minute?’
She hears the lift door clang shut and his footsteps ring out along the parqueted corridor. He taps at her door. She opens it.
‘Hello, Beth. Brought you these.’
From behind his back, like a guilty schoolboy, he produces a bunch of freesias and hands them to her.
‘Thank you,’ she says. ‘I’d better put them in water.’
‘I’d find a vase first.’
‘You’d better take your things off and sit down,’ she says.
‘What, all of them? Down to my boxers?’
‘Your coat, hat, scarf and gloves, you dimwit,’ says Bethany.
‘Thanks. It is a bit parky out there - the wind slicing off old Father Thames like a scalpel.’
‘I never say no to a cup of Rosie Lee.’
Bethany goes into the kitchen to prepare it. What is it about this gauche young man that makes her want, nay desire, him so much? You only have to crook your little finger…She shakes her head and carries the two cups of Earl Grey back to the living-room and places them on coasters depicting steamships on the Thames at the turn of the twentieth century.
‘Fine coasters, those,’ says Giles. ‘Did you know that the ‘SS’ prefacing the name on a modern ship refers to “Screw Steamer,” even though steamships died out scores of years ago?’
Bethany shakes her head. How maddening he is. Here she sits, as attractive as an English rose, smelling of exquisite perfume, tall, queenly, as elegant as a model caparizoned by Dior, and he’s rabbiting on about steamships.
Giles sips his tea.
‘Ah, Earl Grey. You know it’s named after Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834? The original recipe simply calls for black tea with the addition of oil of bergamot, squeezed from tiny lemons grown…’
‘Giles, I couldn’t give a fig what Earl Grey tea is made from or named after. You’re a fount of bloody useless knowledge. Look at me.’
Giles reluctantly raises his eyes from his teacup.
‘What do you see?’
‘I see you. What do you expect me to see?’
‘Is that all?’ asks Bethany.
‘Well, everything seems to be in the right place,' replies Giles. 'You haven’t any facial hair, or a squint, your eyes aren’t too close together, and to my knowledge you’re not wearing a wig.’
‘Oh, Giles, will you stop striving to be funny? It just doesn’t suit you. If you try this stuff on a judge...’
‘Magistrate - I’m not successful enough for judges.’
‘Magistrate, then. If you tried these jokes on one of them, you’d be struck off. Now, tell me what you see when you look at me.’
Giles pauses. He realises how serious this has become, and for once, he needs to speak the right words. He gathers breath before replying.
‘Well, Beth, apart from the fact that you’re exquisitely beautiful, with the figure of Aphrodite, there’s not much else to say.’
‘And that means nothing to you?’
‘Beth. You are a successful businesswoman whose designs of bangles, baubles and beads are the envy of the fashion world, whilst I am a hapless lawyer who spends his time defending careless driving charges at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court. The twain ought never to meet.’
Bethany loses her temper.
‘You buffoon! Can’t you see that I’m in love with you?’
‘Head over heels.’
‘I had no idea. But I did come round to offer you something.’
‘On the off-chance, I bought you this.’
From his pocket, Giles withdraws a small box. He opens the lid. In it is an emerald engagement ring.
‘Oh, Giles, you’re proposing?’
‘I suppose I am, yes.’
‘Then I accept. One thing, though.’
‘What is that?’
‘You might have picked a ring that I designed.’