‘Martin, we need to go to the shops and get Louisa’s school uniform sorted out.’
‘Can’t we leave it for now? We’ve still got a month before she starts.’
‘Martin! There is so much to be done! I need to start it now!’
Martin sighed and put down his newspaper. ‘Why do you need me to go with you?’
‘Because you have the money, Martin.’
Martin rolled his eyes and looked at Louisa. ‘Well, at least I’m good for something! Okay, Louisa go and put your shoes on. Hurry now! I don’t want to waste the whole day.’
‘What did you have in mind for today, Martin?’
Louisa’s father looked confused. ‘Er, well, this and that. You know the kind of thing.’
‘No, I don’t. I’ve got plenty of things for you to do though.’
Martin glanced up at the clock and jumped out of his chair, allowing his newspaper to fall to the floor. ‘Look at the time! Come on! Let’s get this started. We’ve got so much to do. Have you made a list, Angela?’
Now it was Angela’s time to look confused. ‘Er, yes, okay. Louisa! Hurry up! Before your father changes his mind!’
Louisa ran to get her shoes and coat and came back into the room with one arm in a sleeve and hopping as she tried to put on a shoe.
‘Whoa! Here, let me help you.’ Martin laughed at his little daughter. ‘You’re in a big hurry now!’
‘Yes, Daddy! We’re going shopping!’
Martin suppressed a sigh. Another woman eager and ready to spend his hard-earned money.
The bus ride into town was quick but to Louisa it was the best part of the day. She loved watching the world go by as she sat high up on the seat. Her mother insisted that they always sit in the middle of the bus if they could, as she said the further back you sat the more bumpy the ride would be. Louisa longed to sit on the back seat and feel the bumps. As much as she loved the bus, the smooth ride could only be improved by a few bumps!
The bus stopped in the centre of the town and the family got off along with other shoppers.
Angela took Louisa’s hand. ‘Now, don’t let go of my hand! Remember what I said about strangers?’
Louisa nodded absently. All the lights in the shop windows! And so many people!
‘Louisa! Are you listening?’
‘Yes, Mummy.’ Louisa allowed herself to be dragged along. She tried to take in everything as she walked.
‘Come on! Stop dawdling! You’re pulling my arms off!’
Louisa stared at her mother’s arms. They didn’t seem to be coming apart but perhaps that was because her coat was hiding them.
‘Now what’s wrong? Come on, child! We haven’t got all day! Your father has work to do when we get home!’
Martin paled. ‘Let the child look around, Angela! She doesn’t get out often!’
Angela gave her husband a stern look but didn’t reply.
Their first stop was the shoe shop. Louisa had never seen so many shoes in one place.
‘Mummy! I thought you had lots of shoes, but this shop has even more than you!’
Martin burst out laughing. ‘Out of the mouth of babes!’
Angela gave him a sour look before pushing Louisa towards a stool. ‘Sit down there so the man can measure your feet. Take off your shoes. Come on! Quickly now!’
Louisa did as she was told and sat swinging her legs as she waited for the man.
‘Okay. Well now, what kind of shoes are you looking for?’
‘Something suitable for school.’
‘Okay, let’s get her measured and then I’ll bring out a few pairs for her to try.’
Louisa watched in fascination as the man put her foot into a strange contraption with lots of numbers on it. He slid a piece of metal down until it was just resting against her toes. Her heel was cradled in a little metal holder, so he was able to read her size using the numbers. The he took a strap and pulled it firmly over her foot, so it looked like she was wearing a strange looking metal shoe.
‘Mummy? Is this my new shoe?’
The man laughed. ‘No. This tells me what size will fit you best. See this number here?’ He pointed to a number level with the tip of her toes. ‘This tells me what size to try. This strap here …’ He indicated the strap … ‘tells me the width of your foot so I can get the most comfortable shoe for you.’
Louisa looked at him with wide eyes.
He smiled and addressed her mother. ‘Black, I suppose?’
‘Oh, yes. Definitely black.’
Louisa turned to her father. ‘Daddy, can I have pink shoes? Like those over there?’
Her father looked shocked. ‘For school? Of course not! Yes, black it must be!’
Louisa was disappointed but not for long.
‘Okay, let’s try these on.’
The man was back with two long white boxes. He opened the first box and there, nestled in tissue paper were two shiny black shoes. He slid one onto her foot and buckled the strap. Then he began to squash her toes and tug at the shoe until he was satisfied.
‘Yes, they should do her for a while.’
Louisa’s mother dived forwards and began squashing Louisa’s toes and tugging at the shoe the same way that the man had.
‘Yes, I think you’re right. Martin? What do you think?’
Martin shrugged. ‘They look fine to me.’
‘Oh! You’re no help!’ Angela dismissed her husband with a wave of her hand. ‘Okay, they seem fine. Let’s try the others now.’
Louisa sat patiently as the process was repeated.
Finally, Angela seemed happy. ‘Yes, they are perfect.’ She pointed to the first pair.
By this time, Louisa didn’t really care which pair she got, she just wanted to get out of the shop and on to more adventures.
Martin followed the man to the shop counter. Louisa watched as he pulled out his wallet. He stopped for a moment but one look from her mother silenced him and he reluctantly handed over the cash.
As they left the shop, with their purchase tucked under Angela’s arm, Martin took Louisa’s hand. ‘Okay, so we’ve got the shoes. What’s next?’
‘Now we need to get some black stockings, a pinafore, a vest, blouse and a cardigan.’
Martin looked at her in horror. ‘If it took that long to get shoes, how long is it going to take to get all the rest?’
‘As long as it takes, Martin! The child has to have the proper clothing for school!’
By the time they had finished shopping for the rest of her outfit, Louisa was ready for the bus ride home.
‘Okay, will we go to the hotel for a bit of dinner?’
Angela smiled. ‘That’s a great idea!’
Louisa sighed. She had hoped that the long day was finally over, but it looked like she was wrong.
As soon as they arrived at the hotel, Martin made his way to the bar and ordered a pint. ‘What’ll you have, Angela?’
‘Could I have a pint too, Daddy?’
A quick clip on the ear from her mother silenced her. She could feel her tears welling but she refused to let them fall.
‘She’ll have a lemonade, Martin.’
Louisa sniffed and quickly wiped her nose on her sleeve.
Martin brought their drinks to the table before going back to the bar for his pint. He spent the next ten minutes deep in conversation with the barman. Louisa looked around the bar. It was quiet. There was an old man in the corner falling asleep over a pint and a younger man nervously checking his watch every few seconds sitting near the door.
Martin came back and sat down beside Angela. He inclined his head towards the barman. ‘He says the jewellery shop got raided last week.’
‘Did they get much?’
‘Cleaned the place out. The police haven’t caught anyone yet.’
‘They will. They’ll put their best detectives on it.’
‘Yes, poor old Mr Richards, he didn’t have any insurance.’
Angela tutted. ‘In this day and age? How did it happen?’
‘A young man walked in and demanded the goods. He threatened to kill the old man.’
Angela looked shocked. ‘You just don’t expect it here, do you?’
‘No. They have a few leads to follow up—people saw the man leaving the shop—so hopefully, they’ll get his goods back.’
Louisa looked from one parent to the other. ‘What’s a detective?’
Angela glanced at her. ‘You shouldn’t be listening to grown-up conversations.’
‘A detective is a man who solves mysteries. He’ll look for clues and try to find out what happened.’ Martin explained.
‘So, he’s like a superhero?’
Angela rolled her eyes while Martin laughed. ‘Yes, something like that. He’s one of the good guys.’
‘Can a girl be a detective?’
‘No, Louisa. Only men have the right brains for the job. Right! Let’s take our drinks into the restaurant and order dinner!’