Oxford street seemed to get longer and hotter every time Jesse exited another shop. This time, outside John Lewis she leant against the doorway and gazed into the distance. Surely she wasn’t running out of shops? She sighed and prepared herself to start the hunt again. Dizziness stopped her in her tracks and she realised that she must rest for a while. Why had she left this so late in the day? Why had she so stubbornly refused her mother’s offers of help to organise the wedding when it would have given her more time to put together her own outfit and would probably have healed the gulf in their relationship?
Jesse walked straight back into the store she had just left because at least there she knew where the coffee shop was. She also knew she had only a matter of hours before the shops closed and her hunt for wedding shoes would be over. Tomorrow she would walk into the registry office in shoes that are too clumpy for that lovely lace blouse that grandma had given her years ago. She had only to replace a missing button to have the sweetest top and then she had actually made the silk skirt herself but the wedding shoes were driving her mad; none of them seemed right.
She was almost weeping with frustration when a gentle voice said ‘may I sit here? I just can’t shop for as long as I used to. Thank goodness this lovely restaurant is still here.’ She paused and then continued. ‘But hark at me babbling on. My names Mrs Whooton, or Mary,’ she added with a smile. Jesse looked up without enthusiasm, she hadn’t time to chat but as she was too tired to move anyway she told Mary her name. Mary reached for Jesse’s hand and squeezed it gently. ‘It sometimes helps to share a trouble.’ Jesse looked amazed. ‘Oh, it’s written all over your face my dear. Tell an old lady and you might be surprised by what she knows.’
Jesse looked at the woman’s softly rounded, powdered face, grey hair escaping in small whisps from a shapeless brown hat; then she saw the large clock hands just touching the four and a moment’s panic made her sob out loud. ‘Come on my dear,’Mary said encouragingly. ‘Tell me what’s troubling you.’ Jesse was surprised by how quickly the story spilled out of her mouth, even including her problems with speaking to her mother and of course finishing with the story of the wedding shoes.
‘Your granny’s blouse was Victorian then?’ She asked curiously. Jesse nodded. ‘Then I don’t suppose you know of a small boutique in Jordan street do you? It’s sort of overshadowed by the new shops but it specialises in Victorian costumes. There might be something there that would suit.’ Jesse’s eyes widened with hope. ‘Where’s Jordan Street?’ She gathered herself together and thanked Mary. ‘Oh I just hope they can help you, she said, then added ‘Your mother, Jesse, you know she only wants to make sure you’re alright.’ Jesse nodded suddenly finding a lump in her throat at the mention of her mother. ‘Call her my dear. You won’t regret it.’
Jesse almost ran to the shop in Jordan Street where she found a treasure trove of Victorian garments. Most importantly she found the perfect wedding shoes to match her silk skirt and lace blouse. As she straightened up to smile at the old man serving her, she glimpsed in a mirror the smiling round face of Mrs Whooton, just taking the hat pin out of her shapeless brown hat.