I ventured into Lakeside today, the large shopping mall in South Essex which seems to be staffed entirely from unhelpful girls with appalling gutteral accents who would rather chat to their friends than serve customers. But that’s another story I’ll not bore you with right now.
As I walked along the busy mall, passing fairly close to the front windows of brightly-lit shops advertising their hugely-discounted sale items, other shoppers whizzed past me, overtook me, jostled and hussled for space and momentum, and were gone; off beyond my field of vision, going about their business, but quickly replaced by a hundred others all doing the same sort of thing.
As I walked along, something caught my eye. A tall brunette-come-redhead, heading towards me, eyes low, hugging the shop-fronts as she made her way along. She was clutching her bag with one arm, and I noticed that her outdoor jacket was dark and largely shapeless, part-covering a knee-length brown skirt and 4-inch plain black heels.
There was something about the hair. I looked back at its odd colour, and realised how thick and lank it looked, catching the bright halogen lights but reflecting rather flatly. There was no natural shine to that hair, and not a lot of shape to it at all. The words ‘badly cut’ sprang to mind, but that wasn’t it. Why was I fascinated by it? What was wrong?
As we got nearer to one another, she came into focus, and I tried to make out her features. Her face was turned down, the gaze of the self-conscious, the unsure. I couldn’t see her face properly, but it was made-up, pale under a heavy fringe with striking eyes, and a hint of blue-grey around the mouth. Odd.
After a few seconds, I had regarded her gait and stride sufficiently to realise what had been so wrong. This was not the leggy, meander of a woman enjoying her feminine heels, nor was it the tottering, unstable stagger of the inexperienced lady trying to walk in heels a little bit too high for her.
No. Her steps were wide apart; long and heavy, but perfectly balanced despite the high heels. I watched her lope past me, then stopped and turned around to see her enter a shoe-shop. Her hair didn’t move at all as the breeze from the shop’s door-heater blasted as she went in. No, the hair didn’t move as it should, and neither did she.