I only met her once. I was working in market research at the time. Nothing flash, just door-to-door grunt work.
The weather was exactly the wrong sort that day. Clear skies and too much sun in them. The sort of weather that looks very attractive until you have to spend all day walking around in it listening to people tell you they won't do a survey but isn't it nice weather you've got for walking? I much prefer the rain.
We were doing toilet paper that weekend. I could tell as soon as she opened the door. I wasn't going to get a toilet paper survey out of her. Maybe a hair care but that was the week before.
Her hair was baby blue cotton wool sitting on the crushed geranium of her face. She looked at me over her champagne glass. "Come in then boy!" She pointed the way with the tip of her Malboro. Anything to get out of the sun for awhile. I entered.
The smell started as I moved through the hall. It became startlingly strong when we entered the sitting room.
Dead roses covered the furniture. A single stem to each well watered vase. There must have been fifty of them. She must have used some sort of scented spray to heighten the effect. The room was very clean.
"Have a drink. Sit down." She pressed a glass into my hand and let go before I could refuse. I sat opposite her on what appeared to be a mound of lace and cushions.
"Always had roses around me. From my husband you know. Birthdays. He died on the toilet through there." I glanced towards the open doorway.
"Heheh. Everybody looks." She smirked. A victory grimace. She'd won this game before.
"I'm sorry". I took a sip. Warm and flat. She seemed to be waiting for something more.
"Uh. Heart attack?" It seemed necessary to enquire.
"Funnelweb. Don't be sorry. You didn't do it." She placed a strange emphasis on the word you. For a moment she sat still. I shifted forward in my seat. It seemed a good moment to quietly disappear.
"Do you know what I do every Thursday boy?" I sat back again. "I take a taxi to the hairdressers for a rinse and set. And do you know why? Because I want to look good in my coffin. Then they wheel me around the corner to the club for a drink and the Keno. I won fifty dollars last week. What do you want boy?"
"Well. I'm doing a survey. About toilet paper."
"Indeed. Rotten job. That wasn't what I asked."
"It's not so bad. Pays the bills."
"Yes. I don't use the nasty stuff so I'm no good to you for that."
There really was no answer to that. I never bothered to argue with people who use such excuses. For that matter she could have been telling the truth. She was certainly old enough to have grown up with newspaper. Time to get back out into the sun. I stood.
"Tell me about your wife." It came out of nowhere. I looked at the ring still on my finger. Six months can sometimes seem a very short time. Especially when they all hit you in the same second. I thought I'd already got past the worst.
"Ah. I see." Somehow I knew she did. She seemed to be smiling again. "Not that you'll believe it boy but it does get better. Things got better for me quite soon after my husband passed on. Do you know why I get my hair done every week? I want to look good in my coffin." I'm certain she actually cackled at this point. "He looked good in his. Always did look good you know. Attractive to the ladies. Not so attractive now though. Dead on a toilet with a funnelweb. They could have saved him if the door hadn't jammed. Couldn't get to the phone. I was at the club. I won fifty dollars that day. Quite a bit of luck. He hadn't dared to give her a key you see. I still keep the roses. Helps me remember him properly. Like that ring I expect." My finger started to itch.
"She fell down stairs. My wife. The light had gone. I have to go now."
As I left I brushed against a patch of ivy. She reached up and plucked a daddy long legs from my hair. The spider danced across her hand.
"Always did have a way with the things. I expect you'd be quite handy around the house. Goodbye boy." She never told me her name. On the way out of the gate I took off my ring. It made quite a splash in the storm water drain. The sun was very hot.