In those days the first day of the year was not a holiday, for most people it was the first day of work after the Xmas holidays. There was a lot of nothing to do, an inventory, the hanging of the new calendar, bills to pay, late Xmas cards to open and read, chatter about the Xmas holidays.
I was there until late, not that I really worked hard. I put on my boots for the wet and slushy walk through the woods and went home.
And there she was, on a bench, where the drunks would have been but for the snow on the ground and Brasslans. No, no drunks in Brasslans, just no.
Her arms were blue, I thought about the little match girl, her clothing was very thin and very short, she had no chance. But I am the Mayor of Brasslans and I had to do something.
“Hello! Haven't you got a home to go to?”
“No! I had to leave the home?”
“Er, leave home? Leave the home?”
“I don't know what to do.”
Time for an executive decision, though I felt like a paedophile.
“Would you like to come with me?”
She did. We walked along the well-lit road and through the dark woods, but she said nothing and shivered a lot.
There was the house.
“This is where I live. It's called Copper House. The roof is green but you can't see that now.”
We went inside and I took her directly to the kitchen.
“Oh, it's nice and warm in here.”
“Oh, yes, very cosy and better still, here is a mug of cocoa to warm you up from the inside.”
“Oh, I've never had this before, it's very nice.”
I looked at her, I talked to her. Her name was Deirdre.
She was shy. She looked like a thirteen-year-old girl. Her clothing was very simple and ugly grey in colour. She had a small cardboard suitcase.
She said that she didn't know where to go and what do. She said that she had to leave the home because today was her eighteenth birthday.
She also stank of disinfectant.
I finished my cocoa. “Would you like another mug of cocoa?” A bit more time to think.
Think about what? She stank. She was cold. Her clothes were awful. She stank.
“I know. What about a shower, a nice warm shower, and some other clothes?”
I took her to the bathroom and without thinking much removed her clothes, pushed her under the shower and washed her. I dried her with a big towel, put her in a white bath robe and brushed out her tangled hair.
It hit me. Twice! You have just removed the clothes from a young teenage girl that you picked up in the street and you have mauled her. And even worse! Where are those clothes that you wanted to put her into? You ain't got none. You fool, you!
What to do? I picked up the phone and called the Lans.
“Peter Lans here. How can I help you, Yudi?”
“Hello Peter, can I speak to Jean please.”
“OK, I'll get the wife.”
I fell apart. I couldn't get the words in the right order.
“Jean – washed her – teenager – home had to leave – no clothes – eighteen today – wet – no dry – what to do – Deirdre little girl – no clothes – help!”
“Yudi, calm down! Do nothing! I'll be there as soon as I can. I'll take the car.”
Jean came as fast as the fire brigade and with a big suitcase. “Deirdre, I've got some clothes for you. And you, Yudi, go to your bar and drink a couple of stiff ones.”
Deirdre did look good, really festive and I said so.
“Of course Deirdre looks wonderful. It's her birthday today and we're having a party. You're invited too, Yudi.”
Jean drove us to the Residence, the big house where the Lans live. Jean quickly prettied herself up and got a huge meal together. Peter tied a big red sash around my waist and another around his. The house was still full of Xmas decorations and it was very festive.
Jean gave Deirdre a nice brooch and pinned it on her blouse. We all sang “Happy Birthday, dear Deirdre.” and Deirdre cried. It was really too much for her. No one had been nice to her for years or ever.
But Jean knew what to do.
After dinner the ladies withdrew to the drawing room and the gentlemen retired to the library to smoke cigars and drink port.