Long, long ago in a city far, far away…
(the world according to Jane)
Jane would’ve gone anywhere, even to the outskirts of the Arctic tundra to sit her considerable derriere down on a block of ice inside an igloo. She would even stick her nose out the door, every now and then to catch fish all day, if it weren’t for the probable fact that she would be freezing all 20 of her cute and quaint nail polished digits off in a millisecond. Besides which she never could see the point of rubbing a familial or romantic interest’s nose in greeting; totally too blasé and unromantic for Jane’s taste and Green Peace would hunt her down for causing years of damage to the ice layer with her pointy, sexy, red high heels. She was also sure that a polar bear would inevitably fall for said high heels and she couldn’t spend the rest of her life camouflaged as a spruce tree or a snow storm. Perhaps she would’ve travelled to Death Valley, in the Mojave Dessert to languidly simmer in the shade of a rock formation on a 58 degree day. Although trapped in a hot and obviously steamy environment, Jane would still have been all alone and miserably single without so much as a wispy cloud of consensual action on the horizon. Her biological, sensual temperature gauge was on the blink and refused to work if no one was around to help her out of this sticky predicament. Point being, Jane would’ve gone anywhere, far, far away, if it meant that she would not, for one more single working day or nanosecond, spend her life and time working for the monstrously old, devilishly rude Mr. Strange or be single and miserably alone (forgive us for stressing the point needlessly but Jane had no Tarzan).
Mr. Strange was a tall, grey haired (what little hair he had left, mostly his beard and those curly ear hairs which seem to have a life of their own) Brit who flew in every so often to check in on his photographic portrait studio and laboratory which was situated in the dingy dungeon of a tiny and uncomfortable castle (read shopping mall). The Big Giant Head’s (this was what Jane called Mr. Strange behind his back for his head was truly, obscenely large and she couldn’t help wondering how he kept it bobbing atop his scrawny neck) office stood in the very centre of the studio, pertaining to the very importance of the man. It was here, in this very studio, in a grungy, cobwebbed corner that Jane plied her trade as chief secretary, working from 9 to5 (yeah right, only as the song would have it and only in America; here in South Africa her workdays were an hour longer; 8 to 5). How exhausting and stressful it was whenever Mr. Strange was in town. Jane had a very sweet, nervous and blushingly shy, gentle soul; she found life and stern people in general extremely taxing!
Once upon a time, Mr. Strange had a meeting with somebody new, a business man of some sort. Jane feverishly kept typing away at an urgent memo Mr. Strange had drafted, secretly hoping she deciphered his handwriting correctly. To her, it looked like a mixture of snail’s trail, snake’s slither and a crab’s zig-zag across the sand. Jane always took personal pride in deciphering Mr. Strange’s cryptic messages with haste even though, in times like these, Jane wished she completed her typing course, but then again self-taught typing also got the job done, sometimes by the very hair of her chinny chin chin!
Mr. Strange suddenly opened the door to his office and asked for”proper” tea; if only Jane had a clue what exactly “proper” tea was. Jane was born and raised in South Africa…she didn’t know that much about other worldly cultures. She had never travelled on a jet plane and apart from her vivid imagination and romantic day dreaming, she longed to, but had never gone overseas.
Jane wasn’t that big on etiquette either…how many people are nowadays? So, poor, sweet, innocent Jane, without any thought, anxiously and mechanically, whipped up two teas with milk and sugar in complacent, comfortable coffee mugs, thinking that she had indeed injected that extra bit of love and warmth in each of the servings. She thoughtfully arranged the mugs on a lace tray cloth and added some Marie biscuits in a chipped saucer. Her grandmother loved dipping them in her afternoon cup of tea.
Mr. Strange popped his large head around the office door, looking mildly irritated at the delay, just as Jane was about to knock. The sudden appearance of a giant head startled poor Jane and she spilled some tea onto the virginally white cloth. She smiled sheepishly at Mr. Strange and the business man as she presented them with her offerings. That very smile would soon turn into a rapidly spreading redness of cheek and frog-in-throat-itis as tears welled in her large, blue eyes.
Mr. Strange publicly scolded her, in front of the business man!
“For goodness’ sake girl! Didn’t your mother teach you anything at all about manners & etiquette? You are supposed to bring teacups and a teapot on a tray and never ever add the milk last! What the blazes are those?” he asked pointedly staring at the offending Marie Biscuits.
“They resemble dog biscuits. In England we serve cucumber sandwiches with high tea”, he grumbled.
Mr. Strange profusely apologized to the business man and Jane added her apologies timidly, not daring to look up from her red high heeled shoes. She crawled back into the kitchen dragging a grey and somber shadow of emotion behind her. Her pride and self esteem lay shattered in tiny shards like a window pane hit by a tennis ball. She remade the tea, presented it correctly, excused herself and went to the ladies’ room where she silently cried for a little while, before mustering the courage to go back into the lion’s den.