Sarah went back into the shop and saw the woman turning the card display stand. She wore a loose striped shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, revealing strong muscular arms and a tiny emerald scorpion tattooed on her wrist.
“I’m just about to put out some Easter cards as well if you are interested,” Sarah offered.
“No, I don’t think so,” came that deep chocolate voice, “ but I could also do with a couple of men’s shirts if you have them.”
“Certainly. We’ve got loads. What size is he?”
“Oh not for him. For me.” The dark head peered out from behind the stand. “They’re so comfortable and practical for work.”
Sarah pointed out the rail of shirts hanging at the back of the shop and the woman bought three of them as well as half a dozen cards. When she left, she put her purchases in a bag on the back of the wheelchair and then bent over the man again, giving him a hug and a kiss.
Penny noticed Sarah watching them leave and said, in a confidential tone of voice, “Oh that’s the artist woman, well sculptress actually, who’s been coming in recently. My friend up at the Manor told me about her. She’s very famous apparently. Mary Reid, I believe her name is. She’s very well known for her sculptures of bosoms.” Penny added this last detail while pulling her lambswool cardigan over her own well covered bosom.
“I think I might have heard of her. So is that poor man her husband? She was being very affectionate with him.”
Penny smiled and her eyes glittered. Sarah guessed that she had some privileged information to impart. “Come on, Penny, what’s the story? You know something, don’t you? You’re going to have to tell me now.”
“Well she’s not married to him or anyone else for that matter and I’ve heard that he’s not the only man she likes taking out. My friend Betty, who visits at the Alders says she takes out an elderly man there as well.”
“Honestly Penny, I can’t see anything wrong with that. A lot of people in homes don’t have family who can visit them regularly. Maybe she’s just a kind generous person who likes to be friendly with people who don’t get out very much.”
Penny’s lips pursed and she gave a knowing nod. “That’s right. Kind and generous. In ways you and I wouldn’t expect, if you know what I mean.”
“Penny, you’ve completely lost me. I haven’t the faintest idea what you are going on about.” Sarah was laughing at her colleague’s obtuse phrasing. “You’ll simply have to spell it out for me more clearly!”
In a lowered voice, despite the fact that there was no one else in the shop, Penny said, “Well what might a man miss if he is not able to lead a normal life like other men? She’s got the personal touch, so I hear. That’s what she likes to do for them.” Penny punctuated this statement with a definitive nod of her head and stared triumphantly at the younger woman who gasped with astonishment and disbelief.
“You don’t mean…..Oh my God! I don’t believe it! That’s really unpleasant! Ooh, I feel quite queasy! I wish you hadn’t told me now! I think I had better go out for some fresh air and buy some Easter eggs for the window after all.”