OUT TO LUNCH
In the end I was thankful that we were going over to the Jones’s for lunch. It would take my mind off William’s departure. It would be the first time in my life that I would be alone overnight and somehow being in an apartment over a shop which was empty between the hours of 5.30pm and 9am, made it worse. Gran was in the States and everybody else had their own lives. I would just have to get used to it.
John and Bridie greeted us warmly, gave us drinks and whilst John and William discussed William’s appointment, Bridie showed me her collection of china figurines. But where was the niece?
‘Oh poor girl – she’s had such a time of it lately she’s worn out so I made her have a lie in. She’ll be down before lunch. Did I tell you she’s a model and has just been put under contract to J Arthur Rank no less. My sister’s beside herself! Marta’s only eighteen - would you credit it?’
Bridie’s sister, who was Irish of course, had married an Italian and the result was Signorina Marta Rossi. I couldn’t wait to meet her.
There in the doorway was Marta herself. Pausing long enough for us to take in her remarkable presence and retrieve our jaws from the floor, she advanced towards us. Eighteen she may have been but she had the sophistication of a forty year old.
‘Pat –this is my niece Marta Rossi and Marta this is William, Pat’s husband,’ Marta gave us each a dazzling smile and an elegant handshake. She had a pleasant musky smell. I don’t know about William but I was captivated. I had never seen anyone like her before in the flesh. Thank God I’d washed my hair but I wished I had put on a little more make-up. She was taller than me, as slim and with similar colouring but her hair was short – like Ingrid Bergman’s in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’ And she had highlights before anyone knew about them.
She looked very chic but told me later her clothes had ‘cost nothing’ that it was how you put them together that mattered. She wore a dark grey pencil skirt with a white open-necked shirt. Her waist was clinched with a scarlet belt and a jaunty scarf round her neck tied the whole outfit together.
Over lunch she told us she had started out doing photographic modelling and was sent as a ‘special’ (a step up from an extra) to work on a film. Here she was spotted by Dirk Bogarde who told Rank they would be mad if they didn’t put her under contract. (Maybe it occurred to him – with her slim build she would make a suitable leading lady for him; he was quite slight.) So they did. All was set for her to have a brilliant career.
‘Marta, did I tell you that Pat and William are going down to London for William’s new job and Pat has to find a job herself?’
Marta turned her blue/green eyes on me and studied me from head to toe.
‘You would be photogenic. You can’t always tell but with those cheekbones you are very lucky. I still have puppy fat and have to suck my cheeks in like this.’ She demonstrated and for a moment had Dietrich like cheekbones.
‘Look when you come down give me a ring. Auntie Bridie will give you my number. I’ll arrange for you to meet my agent and see what she thinks.’
I nearly burst out laughing – it was so ridiculous. I - a model; who couldn’t walk in a straight line, who had a blushing problem, had been schooled never to raise my head above the parapet, lacked confidence and was inclined to knock knees.
Looking back it occurs to me that Bridie might have planned this whole thing. She was a wily old bird and had always been very kind and caring towards me. All too soon it was time to go. I could have listened to Marta’s husky accented voice all day.
I was pretty sure when we got home William would pour cold water on the whole idea. Quite right too, but it was fun to daydream.