Mary had just finished drying the dishes and had started to stack them in the cupboard over the sink when she heard Mr. Brown coming home. She put the dishes down, wiped her hands and ran out into the hall to greet him. But stopped dead in the doorway when she saw that he had a strange girl with him.
Mr. Brown shut the door, turned around and smiled at Mary, putting his hand on the other girl’s shoulder.
“Welcome home, Mr. Brown,” Mary said automatically.
“I’ve got a new friend for you, Mary,” Mr. Brown squeezed the girl close to him for a moment.
“That’s nice,” Mary looked at the new girl.
She was wearing a battered leather jacket over a new red cotton dress and red shoes that she did not seem very comfortable in.
“Introduce yourself,” Mr. Brown gently pushed her forward.
She looked up at Mary, said “Hello, my name is Celia.” and looked down again.
Mary smiled at her. “Pleased to meet you, Celia. My name is Mary.”
“Head up, Celia,” Mr. Brown took his arm from her.
She looked up, saw that Mary was smiling at her and tentatively smiled back.
Mr. Brown took his scarf and gloves off and Mary stepped forward to take them from him. He unbuttoned his coat and Mary stood behind him to help him off with it. She put it over her arm and stood beside Celia.
“Take your coat off and follow me, Celia.” Mr. Brown went into the living room.
Celia took off her jacket and turned to face Mary.
Mary held out her hand for the jacket. Celia half raised her hand to give it to her. But stopped.
Mary smiled at Celia’s reluctance to hand over the jacket. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll keep it safe for you.” She smiled again and Celia gave her the jacket.
Mary turned to put the coats into the hall closet. “You’d better go in to Mr. Brown,” she said as she hung Celia’s jacket up. “He doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Celia turned and walked into the living room. Mr. Brown was sitting in a soft armchair beside the unlit fire. Celia stopped just inside the door.
“Come over here so that I can look at you properly,” Mr. Brown pointed at the floor in front of the fireplace.
Celia walked over and stood facing Mr. Brown, her head bowed.
“Are you comfortable in those shoes, Celia?” Mr. Brown unfastened his tie.
Celia thought for a moment before answering, “They are different from the type of shoe that I would normally wear.”
“You’re not used to high heels, then?” Mr. Brown kicked off his own shoes.
“No,” she shuck her head slightly. “All my previous pairs of shoes have had flat heels.”
Mary picked up Mr. Brown’s shoes, took his tie from him and turned to put them in his room.
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