Three years ago this week, I lost my grandmother. She lived a long and full life, but her passing was still deeply upsetting for me. I think of her every day, and I hope that some part of her lives on in the name that we share.
Anyway, I don’t wish to go into it too much here–last week’s trip to Red House wasn’t particularly humorous and I hate to let you guys down with another non-uproarious post! But I did want to share a bit of Alice as she is greatly on my mind and in my heart this time of year. I used to have a bit of my creative writing up on the website, so some of you might have come across this little vignette before–but for those of you who have not, here is the first meeting between my grandmother and grandfather (who I never knew) as I have imagined it.
Alice was very beautiful. Her hair was black and curling, and she preferred to wear it pulled back from her face. She always painted her lips and nails a ripe pink, complementing her dark eyes and pale complexion. Her little nose slightly upturned at the end—a trait her children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s children failed to inherit.
It is said that the first time the Doctor beheld Alice, he declared, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry!’
* * *
Alice answered the phones in the lobby of the Med School. Staked behind a desk, she watched the students, professors, doctors come and go, titupping across the marble floor.
Usually plenty of people stopped by her station for idle chatter, but today was different. Rain drummed on the windows; Alice drummed her pink fingernails against her cheek. There was nothing doing. Occasionally wet shoes squeaked through the door with the rustle of umbrella and exhalation of breath—but it was otherwise still.
She sighed at the thought of the magazine she had left on her bedside table; reading material was scarce and she was quite bored if she cared to admit it.
Really quite bored indeed. With a slender finger she pushed an apple to edge of her desk. The fruit teetered on the brink and Alice was obliged to scramble and rescue it back again. Absurdly, the apple’s brush with death brought colour to Alice’s cheeks and made her heart flutter. Never mind, for when the Doctor stumbled into the lobby, she was rendered all the more radiant by her excitement.
* * *
Of course, the Doctor was not yet a doctor and he had forgotten his umbrella that morning. The ambitious student entered the building sodden and dripping, the pages of an ineffectual newspaper limp between his fingers.
His equally drenched friend skittered in after him exclaiming, ‘Dammit all!’
As the exclamation echoed through the lobby, the two men (boys) bent double with laughter.
Alice narrowed her eyes at the delinquents… although… was one of them handsome?—the one with the silly newspaper-umbrella and the full lips?
Miraculously, Frances appeared at Alice’s shoulder with some pretence of a memo in her hand and gossip on her lips. Alice turned her best silhouette to the ambitious student and spoke to Frances with self-conscious animation.
For Frances, Alice had charming smiles and merry laughter. [Frances fancied herself quite hilarious all of the sudden!]
She could feel eyes on her—those dark eyes beneath the dripping black head of hair—as she rambled on, flirting at nothing, flirting with the air around her.
Then, perfectly placed, one haughty look in his direction—fleeting under arched eyebrows.
At last, when Frances was gone, Alice looked down so her black lashes showed to their best advantage against her white cheek.
* * *
Robert was transfixed. And very soggy.
Paul was saying something to him, they had been laughing—who the hell cared—he was mesmerised by the dark-haired beauty guarding the phones.
She paid him no mind, wet dog that he was. She was engaged in conversation with a red head—lucky receiver of smiles and looks! Her laughter bounced sweetly off the walls while her delicate fingers were busy twisting the stem of an apple.
In an instant, the beauty’s eyes flashed to meet his and then away, sending a thrill through his breast.
The stem snapped from the apple and her feathery lashes drooped to survey the damage.
He felt sick, he felt sweaty.
Grabbing Paul by the elbow, Robert declared, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry!’
This Weekes Word (used above, astute reader) is an onamonapia (a word that phonetically mimics the action it is trying to describe). I recently came across it in Howards End and find it to be a most excellent and tragically underused word.
Tittupped/Tittupping: (intransitive verb of tittup) first used in 1703 to describe the rhythmic sound a horses hooves and coming to mean to move in a lively manner often with an exaggerated or affected action. Ex: Staked behind a desk, she watched the students, professors, doctors come and go, titupping across the marble floor.
xWG // @dazeandweekes // @weekes