Before I get into a long discourse on my fabulous Aunt Polly, I should inform all readers that the delectable Polly Summers was in no way a blood relative. In fact, she is not even my aunt at all. I just call her my “Aunt” or address her sometimes as “Auntie” simply because it is a source of amusement to us both and a joke that only we share with hidden laughter.
Aunt Polly and I were thrown together by the fortunes of fate on a cold winter day that cut right through to the bone whilst standing on a snow-covered station platform. I am not in the habit of talking to members of the opposite sex without a proper introduction and the likelihood of my engaging in conversation with a well-behaved female in a public forum was certainly close to nil. This accurate account of my persona makes our meeting highly unlikely and I must accord it the well-deserved designation of unexplained “divine intervention”.
The name of the station or the particular line of travel is not important and we will dispense with such tomfoolery because it is not in the least bit relative to our story. I have recently read a supposed fictional book of mystery that was so dedicated to describing this station and that station and the exact times and the number of passengers as well as points of interest along the route that I despair of such tricks of “filling the pages” with trivia unnecessary to the plot.
I will admit right up front that I was a bit sparkling with good will at that point in time by the unrelated circumstance of imbibing spirits beyond my usual point of moderation before mounting the stairs to the bitterly cold platform. I regretted the absence of my little silver flask that I had fallen into the habit of taking with me on journeys that were not business related. It seemed inappropriate because I was on my customary Friday trip into the city to make a circuit of my banks to verify the status of my accounts. Please do no laugh at my old-fashioned lack of trust in such matters, but my grandfather had reminded me more than once after some long ago and far away “crash” that such diligence was necessary to keep one’s finger on the pulse of financial fortune. Besides, it was a good excuse to get out of the mausoleum of a home that I occupied with only servants that I had inherited from my recently demised step-mother.
Mama Agatha had been a bewildering older woman of complicated agendas prone to periods of extended silence and with no emotions visible to human perception. She would address me only with the single word “Boy” and look at me with her hand-held glass that made her eye look much larger than it actually was in reality.
Yes, even with the brisk winter wind and the crowded platform, it was a relief to be out of the atmosphere of decay that had surrounded me at 444 Prefontaine Place. I wondered what life would be like there after the servants went on to their reward in another space and time. I expect I would wander the halls like some ghost of Christmas past muttering about opportunities I had ignored or relationships I had wasted because of asinine pride or selfishness.
Right in front of me on the platform was a female person wearing an impossibly high hat that was more ludicrous than impressive from a designer’s point of view. I was a bit of an expert on head pieces having been the unlucky winner of a seat behind the monstrosities on female heads at some interesting stage play or sporting event that required absolute concentration and a clear line of sight.
Just as the train came sweeping into the station with a rumble and a noisy entrance, an errant wind caught the lady’s hat broadside and launched it straight in front of the monster-like engine. I sensed rather than saw the lady lose her balance reaching to retrieve her doomed hat in a desperate last grasp of rescue. Fortunately for her, I managed to grab her coat right where it fitted loosely over her generously proportioned heart-shaped posterior and pulled her back into my arms with saving grace.
“You tremendous oaf of humanity!”
Her words of gratitude were less than complimentary, but I suspected they were a reflection of her suddenly perceived loss of her much-valued item of clothing and she had transferred that sense of loss to me in turn. The lady fixed me with a glare that would have melted hard steel like butter in its path. Instead of being nonplussed by the lack of gratitude, I marveled at her ability to glare with such blatant hatred at the person responsible for saving her life. I knew it was the loss of her beloved hat that incensed her to the breaking point and her bad behavior was of no consequence to me in the slightest.
Of course, we both boarded the train and sat opposite each other on the hard-backed bench. I was tempted to introduce myself, but was forestalled by her still visible glare of annoyance openly cast in my direction.
A young girl came down the aisle and sat next to us.
She was most attractive and I remembered seeing her on more than one occasion on this particular route.
“Aunt Polly, I saw your beautiful hat eaten by this beast with nary a hint of apology. Please be of good cheer. I know you have a whole closet filled with the things and you can easily switch your affections to one of the other designer masterpieces.”
The woman almost too busy shooting daggers in my direction finally lost her concentration of hatred and turned to the young girl and replied in a firm and determined voice.
“I would have rescued it if it weren’t for this young foolish fellow right here. I think he might have damaged my best winter coat as well. I am quite upset at him for seizing the opportunity to grope my rearward privates like I was some girl for hire on the street outside the station. It is so distressing to suffer the humiliating actions of the general public with absolutely no concept of the proper behavior of a true gentleman.”
This little speech was distressing to say the least, but I saw a twinkle in the young girl’s eye and knew she was fully aware of the true circumstances and understood the danger her “Aunt” was most recently subjected to as the train pulled into the station. That was enough to mollify me and I simply smiled watching her smile back in amusement and saw “Aunt Polly” quake with the pent-up rage she restrained in my passive presence.
“Do be an angel, darling Lucy and inquire of the fellow his name so I might put it in my book to forbid him entrance to my door no matter the reason.”
The girl leaned over and in a low throaty voice, asked me,