The Exciting Life
go and see her. Even though Nesta could hardly speak
these days and had no movement down her right side. Just to be in
the same room as her would be enough for Annie. She needed to be
with someone who loved her unconditionally.
    But she
couldn’t just go to Switzerland on a whim, so she pushed her
feelings to one side and got on with business. She was going over
to Whitechapel to meet with a cobbler called Solomon Glass. Out of
the cobblers she’d contacted, he offered her the cheapest price,
and promised that he could knock out a pair of shoes in an hour.
She’d had had no commissions so far, but Annie was determined to
get a couple of pairs made and persuade friends who were actresses
or models to wear them, in order to be seen.
    Kenneth
was right. She had taken a huge gamble on her new venture. Her
Uncle Michael had left her five thousand pounds – a considerable
sum of money, and instead of having it in monthly instalments,
she’d chosen to take it in one lump sum, and invested the lot into
converting The Fortune into her emporium. The top two floors were
being made into an apartment for her to live in, and the rest would
eventually be taken up with salons where women could go to have
shoes fitted and maybe even one day she would be able to make
clothes. She still wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to
transpire, and she knew she would have been better off selling it
to Kenneth and using the money to buy a little shop somewhere. But
Annie had always had a reckless streak – it was how she’d ended up
marrying Mario, and she wasn’t going to change any time
soon.
    Entering
Whitechapel, Annie got a flashback to her childhood - before she
was taken in by Nesta and Michael. The cobbled streets. The smell
of horse shit and diesel. People who looked as though they hadn’t
washed for ages. The area of Battersea she’d come from was very
similar to this and just being in this environment again made her
determined never to be poor again. It was imperative she made
something of herself, because to live like this was out of the
question.
    Solomon’s workshop was down a tiny alley that was sandwiched
between two dingy looking shops and barely noticeable. As Annie
walked along the uneven cobbles, she was glad she’d worn flat shoes
as she would have fallen over in stilettos. The area was so dark
and dingy, she kept thinking about Jack the Ripper walking around,
looking for victims; and it made shivers run down her spine, glad
that whoever it was, was probably long dead, or too old to inflict
any more damage.
    To her
surprise, outside the workshop was a very shiny, impressive-looking
convertible Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Annie knew a lot about cars -
it would have been strange if she didn’t after all those years
married to Mario. And this was not the sort of car one imagined a
back-street cobbler to own.
    Entering
the front door, her nose was hit with the smell of leather and boot
polish. She could hear the sound of hammering from all around her,
and she wasn’t sure where she should go. It was dark, and it was
only as she squinted her eyes, that she made out a light behind a
leaded window at the back. The floor was as uneven as the cobbles
outside, and she was scared of tripping.
    As she
got closer, she could see ledgers on shelves and realised the room
was indeed an office. She briefly knocked on the door, and a voice
called for her to come in. At first sight, on entering the office,
it looked as if it had come straight out of a Dicken’s novel. It
was lit by lamps; smelt of dust and every surface seemed to be
covered in ledgers and paperwork. It was only as she looked again,
she spotted the tall man standing at the end of the room in a
smart, grey suit. As she turned around, she gasped in shock to
discover Soloman Glass was no more than forty and very handsome,
with swept back, wavy dark hair and a craggy, well-boned face.
She’d been expecting some wizened old man.
    ‘ Miss Holland?’ he asked, coming towards

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