Rae had been restless all day. Whatever she did, her thoughts kept returning to Douglas and their two-year-old engagement. Most of her friends dreamt of getting married, but not Rae. She felt sure she had a lot of living to do before making that sort of commitment. She had met Douglas at a dance, and though he was a good dancer and a nice person there were no sparks. Still all their friends thought they were a perfect match.
Normally this would not have swayed Rae, but her mother learned that Douglas worked for the Post Office. Her snide remark (‘So, he’s a stamp licker.’) made Rae view her suitor in a more favourable light. Who do you think you are, she thought, but stopped short of saying anything.
When the phone rang, Rae considered not answering it for a second in case it was Douglas.
‘Hello?’ Hearing a resonant male voice respond, she relaxed immediately.
‘Good afternoon, Ted Wood here, may I speak to Win Baker please.’
Feeling slight flustered Rae had to sit down, ‘I’m sorry but Win isn’t at home right now.’
‘Are you Laurie’s daughter by any chance?’
‘No, Laurie is my uncle. I’m Rae, Win’s daughter.’
‘But Win doesn’t have a daughter, her brother Laurie does though.’
Then it clicked, Ted Wood probably wanted to talk to the previous tenant, who by a strange coincidence was also named Win Baker. She felt inexplicably disappointed; however, he did not seem at all bothered that they did not know each other. ‘So tell me a little bit about yourself Rae.’
Over the next hour, they chatted easily about everything from current events to what they did for a living. Ted smoothly rounded off the conversation by asking Rae out to dinner. This made her blush with pleasure, but she declined gracefully, cursing her engagement to Douglas once more.
Rae had intended to call off the engagement from the moment she’d accepted, but had never found the courage. As luck would have it, Douglas turned up on her doorstep a couple of days later with an ultimatum that propelled her into action.
‘Our engagement has gone on long enough. I’m giving you two months, Rae. Set a date for the wedding or I’ll call it off.’ He stood there awkwardly waiting to see what her reaction would be.
Rae was shocked, but more so to hear herself saying, ‘I really don’t feel confident enough to take such a step Doug. I think it would be best for everyone concerned if we call it off now.’
There, it was out. She had finally told Douglas how she really felt and it was a relief. With those words, a weight lifted from her shoulders and her life was filled with possibilities again.
As the months passed, Rae sometimes thought back to the conversation she’d had with Ted. After what seemed to her like an eternity, he was back in Wellington on business and rang up to invite her to dinner. Even though she’d been enjoying her freedom, a little voice told her to go for it. She agreed to meet him the following evening at his hotel, the Royal Oak, one of the most prestigious hotels in the city.
Rae felt apprehensive as she drove her blue Humber 6 to Manners Street, realising for the first time that she had never seen the man she was about to meet. The manager was manning the reception desk when Rae entered the hotel foyer, and inquired if he could help her. Subduing the urge to bolt from the lobby as fast as her stilettos would allow, Rae smiled nervously and announced that she had come to meet Mr Ted Wood. Picking up the desk phone, the manager directed her to wait in the lounge. Sitting there opposite the door, the apprehension came back and the desire to bolt returned. Thankfully, before she could act on her impulse a tall well-dressed man walked over to her, hand outstretched.
‘Hello, Rae, sorry I’m late. I’ve just come back from calibrating a ship. Would you care to join me in my room while I freshen up?’
Paying no heed to her mother’s teachings, she accepted. Ted exuded confidence, he was relaxed and charming, which put Rae instantly at ease. As he shaved, he chatted amiably to her reflection in the mirror. The click, clack of his rocker razor was unique, just like the man standing in front of her.