"Hullo, Jock," said Effie, ignoring the other two.
"Hullo. What can I do for you?"
"I've got some paintings and would like your opinion. Can you come up and see them?"
"I'm just about to get back to work," said Jock, getting to his feet. "Thanks for the company, ladies."
Effie followed him, practically running to keep up with his long strides. "What about this evening?" she panted.
"Oh, all right," said Jock. "I'll be up at six. I'm meeting friends for dinner."
She gave him directions and then asked, "What friends?"
"Run along, Effie. I'll see you later."
For the rest of that day, Effie scrubbed and dusted until her cottage was shining. She took a bath in the brown peaty water that always came out of the taps and then dressed in a white wool dress and black velvet jacket. For the first time in her life, she wished she had some make-up. She had never worn any before, claiming it blocked up the pores.
Then she sat by the window. At five minutes past six, she was beginning to despair when she saw his car bumping and lurching over the heathery track that led to her cottage.
She flung open the door and stood beaming a welcome.
Jock ducked his head and followed her in. "Now, where are these paintings of yours?" he said.
"I thought you might like a glass of whisky first."
"I'm pressed for time."
Effie had laid out a selection of her small framed paintings on the table. "Here they are," she said.
He picked one up and took it to the window and held it up to the light. "I'm surprised you can do anything in here," he said. "There isn't enough light."
The painting was of a thrush sitting on a branch of berries. The red of the berries glowed.
"This is exquisite," said Jock. "You're very good indeed."
Effie blushed with pleasure.
Jock appeared to have relaxed. He admired painting after painting and then her pieces of pottery. "Do you have an agent?" he asked. "These are much too good just to be shown in Patel's and the gift shop."
"No, I don't have one."
"My agent, Betty, will be here soon on holiday. I'll bring her along, if you like."
"Oh, Jock, that would be marvellous." She had moved so close to him she was practically leaning against his side.
He felt uneasy. "I've got to go, but I'll let you know when Betty arrives."
Jock made for the door. "Where are you having dinner?" asked Effie.
"The Tommel Castle Hotel. Bye."
He walked out to his car. He stopped for a moment and breathed in deep lungfuls of air. Then he got in and drove off.
Jock was not meeting anyone for dinner. But he decided to treat himself to dinner at the hotel.
He entered the dining room. A beautiful blonde approached him and said, "Have you come for dinner?"
"We've one table left," said the vision. "Thank goodness the tourists are back."
"You're a very glamorous maître d'," commented Jock.
Copyright © 2006 by Marion Chesney
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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