‘Is Milo in?’ She was tall and floaty.
‘No, I’m sorry - he’s just gone out.’
‘Do you know when he’ll be back?’
For some reason, I felt compelled to say something positive. ‘Oh, he won’t be long.’
‘It’s just that time’s a bit tight. He promised to get it done this afternoon.’
‘Yes … He said he had some fabulous idea. Didn’t say what it was. Typical him.’
I murmured. Mumbled. Hummed.
She just stood there. ‘Well, I suppose he didn’t tell you anything about it … er …what was your name again?’
I told her. Not again, but for the first time. I never know why people have to play these games with words.
Still she stood there. She was getting twitchy. The feet were stamping. She looked up at the clock. Her breaths became heavy and audible. The classic tropes.
‘Well, look, if he trusts you enough to be his assistant …’
Did she expect an answer?
‘It can’t be that difficult. You’ve got all the equipment you need.’ She seemed to sneer, but maybe I do her a disservice. ‘Of course, it won’t be what Milo would have done, but …’
I felt the need to smile but I sensed at once that my mouth had betrayed me.
‘You know the brief.’
‘A still life.’
‘I need a still life. For the campaign.’
‘The campaign? Oh! Yes, I see-’
Luckily, she interrupted. ‘Something intriguing. Something Miloesque!’ She laughed extravagantly. It would have been rude not to have joined her.
‘Now I need it by 5. That’s very important.’
‘By 5. I understand.’
‘I’ll be back in three hours …’
And she was.
Well, I’d improvised. Nobody could say that I hadn’t improvised. But maybe, in truth, I had allowed myself to get a little carried away. Certainly she seemed to think so.
She made her point well. Forcefully, but well. Fortunately I wasn’t unfamiliar with such language after all those Christmases with Uncle George.
I never did see Milo again after that. Perhaps it was for the best.