ALH Anna Lee Huber

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An Interview Between Two Dames
October 16, 2017

A tall, blond woman in her forties, sporting a fashionable hat and a cupid’s bow of red lipstick, bustles through the doors of a (hotel /tea shop). She glances around her before striding toward a young woman with auburn castle-bobbed tresses wearing a forest green dress seated at a table in the corner.

Beryl Helliwell: (Flashes a wide grin.) Sorry to be late. London traffic is a bit of tangle, isn’t it?

Verity Kent: (Smiles and then speaks in a well-modulated upper-crust British voice.) It is, isn’t it? And they say it’s only going to get worse. (Offers Beryl her hand.) You must be Miss Helliwell.

Beryl: Indeed I am. I’m delighted to meet you, Mrs. Kent. (Glances over her shoulder toward the window.) Was that your currant-red Pierce-Arrow I spied?

Verity: A beauty, isn’t she? You should hear her engine when I can really open up her throttle on the roads outside London.

Beryl: (Sits.) How lovely to meet a kindred spirit! I feel just the same about my own Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.  Tell me, what attracted you to motoring?

Verity: Honestly? (Her eyes sparkle with humor.) A boy. Before we were married, my husband would take me for drives through the countryside in his Pierce-Arrow and I loved it. I’m sure much of my initial excitement derived from being in Sidney’s company, and escaping my mother’s rather stifling chaperonage. But soon enough I came to enjoy driving simply for itself. The rush of the wind against my cheeks, the roar of the engine, the thrill of its gathering speed. Sidney taught me to drive her. (She leans forward conspiringly.) Much to my mother’s chagrin. And then encouraged me to take his prized motorcar out from time to time while he was fighting in France. Said she needed to run. (She laughs.) Like the Pierce-Arrow was a thoroughbred or something. (She sighs, her gaze turning a bit sad.) I couldn’t bear to part with her when that German bullet got him.

Beryl: My condolences.

Verity: (Waves her hand to dismiss it and determinedly pushes the shadows from her eyes.) What of you? I’m sure in all your travels you’ve experienced even more exhilarating modes of transportation. Didn’t you pilot a plane?

Beryl: I have flown many planes over the years. Hot air balloons too.  As a matter of fact I have made a living over the last few years careening around the globe racing one sort of vehicle or another. How about you? Do you love to race or to travel?

Verity: (Pauses to consider.) I’m not really sure.  When I was younger I had great plans to travel the world. But then the war happened. That rather put paid to that. (She tilts her head to the side.) But now that the war is over perhaps I’ll seize the opportunity. I’m rather at loose ends at the moment. I hear Paris is lovely in the spring, and it wasn’t too terribly damaged by the war.

Beryl: It seems that somehow everything was touched by the conflict, no matter where you go. If you wish to travel to Paris I would do so without hesitation. 

Verity: What about you? Are you in London to stay or just passing through?

Beryl: I am passing through London but am making England my home until Prohibition is repealed in the States. Such nonsense. The winters here are milder too than the ones back home and I have found that I quite enjoy not bundling up for six months at a time.  Do you make your home in London or are you also here on a bit of a jaunt?

Verity: Ugh! Too tedious. What’s one to do without a decent gin rickey? I’ve made London my home, and I believe I’ll stay. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now really.

Beryl: You say you’ve made it your home. Are you from elsewhere originally?

Verity:  I grew up in the Yorkshire Dales. And though my mother pesters me to return home, there’s little chance of that. Not after the hustle and bustle of London.

Beryl: I find London very satisfying but I’ve realized lately I’ve craved the restorative powers the country provides. Do you ever find you miss the quiet life?

Verity:  I have a cottage in Sussex which serves well for the occasional jaunt. And I can always rely upon friends to invite me to their country homes. I’m off to a house party in Dorset next week, actually. (One corner of her lip quirks.) But London is where all of the best nightclubs are, as well as the most attractive company. (She considers Beryl closely.) Good breeding tells me I shouldn’t inquire, but somehow I suspect you won’t mind. That’s one thing I rather like about Americans. (She leans closer.) I’ve heard stories of your…exploits. How much of it is true?

Beryl: I never care a jot about breeding unless the subject of the conversation happens to be horses. As to my adventures, I suppose that all depends on exactly what you’ve heard. Does your curiosity run to my travel exploits or my romantic ones? (Beryl leans in with a sparkle in her eyes.)

Verity: (Laughs) Oh, I’d love to hear about your travels. But I admit, I’m most curious about your romantic entanglements. Is it true you’ve had several husbands?

Beryl: As a matter of fact it is true. Let’s just say I’ve had more than three and less than a dozen.  Husbands are such a boring notion, I’ve found.

Verity: (Grins slyly.) But somehow I suspect that doesn’t mean you find men to be boring companions.

Beryl: Now, romantic weekends and short-term entanglements are far more interesting. Especially those that happen on foreign soil. Although, I have been sadly devoid of the company of gentlemen since making my home in England. You know, you’ve given me something to think about there. I may need to take a holiday to Greece or Italy to keep my hand in, so to speak. How about you? A lovely and charming young woman such as yourself should not be without some admirers of her own?

Verity: (Lowers her eyes to the napkin she begins to fiddle with.) I’ve had my share of flirtations since Sidney died, but nothing serious. I mean, I enjoy the dancing, and the flattery, and the witty repartee. But… (She seems to choose her words with care.) It’s too soon for anything more. (She pushes the napkin away.) Time will tell. Now…

Beryl: (She lowers her voice and looks casually around the room.) Yes, we should talk of the real business at hand. (Beryl reaches into an inside pocket of her capacious silk duster and pulls out an envelope.) I understand we have a friend in common whose current address is unknown to me. Would you be willing to pass this along to him? We lost touch during the war and I am very eager that this letter should reach him. He was one of the few people I personally kept apprised of my adventures during the war years and I always think it best to maintain such valued connections. You never know when you may wish to renew them, do you?

Verity: Too true. I don’t see him every day anymore, you understand. (She arches her eyebrows significantly, and then takes the envelope and slides it into her chic handbag.) But I can make certain he receives this. (Her lips curl into a coy grin.) So lovely to have finally met you in person. Reading your correspondence has been one of the highlights of the past few years. They were certainly never dull.

Beryl: I’m glad you found some enjoyment in my letters. I tried to make sure my missives delivered a bit of cheer along with what all else they were meant to express. (Beryl slides back her chair, stands and extends her hand)  I’ve enjoyed meeting you too. I shouldn’t be at all surprised to meet up with you again in future. 

Verity: (Clasps Beryl’s hand warmly.) I’m counting on it.

(Beryl pulls on a pair of long crimson, kid driving gloves before heading out the door.)


To read more of Beryl’s adventures, check out MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE by Jessica Ellicott, out Oct 31st. And to read more of Verity’s adventures, check out THIS SIDE OF MURDER by Anna Lee Huber, available now. 

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