You know that people don’t see you, not really, yeah, their eyes slide over you, on the bus, in the shopping centre, walking along the road, but they dont see you, see whats on the inside, see what you’re really like.
They never get beyond all the surface stuff, big woman, sturdy, square shouldered, wrapped in a coat that makes you seem even larger . Men sized feet shoved into Fuggs, cheap copies of over-priced outdoor slippers, shoes that always break at the heel, make your walk into a shuffle, slow you down, hold up the mission.
Because , make no mistake, you are a woman on a mission, specially choosen, singled out to be his handmaiden.
And its funny, the bigger you get, the more invisible you are to everyone else, but when his eyes are on you, following you around the room at night, when you bask in the light of his love, then you feel truly noticed, completely visible and it makes the loneliness of the task, not hard, but special, a devotional act.
The table is set up for effective production, black marker pens, squares of cardboard, Iris at the Co-Op saves the crisp boxes for you, plain white paper, you experimented with colours, but it didnt seem right, not respectful enough and of course sissors and glue.
You have a routine, a rythmn – kettle on, big mug of sweet milky coffee, a bag of something soft, chocolatey, chewey. You experimented with hard bitey sweets, but the tone was wrong, broke the quiet ritual of feeding body and soul.
Sip of coffee, fudge melting against your tongue, marker pen in hand and you are ready.
You choose tomorrows’ sentence carefully, you want it to be quite right, perfect, words to help, to comfort those who read them.
You know that there are different ways of doing this.
You have met others who believe themselves to be special too, they give up this choice, trust in divine intervention, copy down the words that they are led to, feel that someone else is guiding their pen, their hand.
Sometimes, you close your eyes and imagine someone, a man walking back from work, a mother pushing a buggy, walking up to one of your little signs , stopping, maybe just for a minute and reading the message.
You know you shouldn’t feel pride, it’s a sin, but just for a second , just one delicious moment of warmth , you visualise them, reading, perhaps their lips moving over the words and then walking on, comforted, by your words.
No, not your words.
His words, you are just the handmaiden.
Quite literally, it is your hands that make his words real, your hands that cut the card to shape, your hands that tie the little signs to lamp posts.
You look down in annoyance, you have been careless, made a mistake.
You could start again, but it would be such a waste, the card is already cut to shape, so carefully, painstakingly , you cross out the error, cover up the mis-spelling.
It looks a little untidy, but you don’t think that he will mind, his message is still clear, still easy to read.
And after all, he understood about mistakes, love the sinner, not the sin he said, he will forgive this. He sees that you are tired, cold after the walk home, the long day in the little back office, the one with no windows, the one that the customers don’t see.
You have worked for Mr Solanki and Mr Solanki for almost 15 years now, keeping the books, managing the little office, ordering in, dispatching out. You know they have first names, but you like the formality, the symmetry of surnames.
You keep a bible in the second drawer of your desk, your personal drawer.
The bible, nail clippers, emergency tights and todays’ bag of sweets.
You like to dip your hand into the bag and as you remove a sweet, you let your fingers, sometimes sugar coated, drift across the cover of the little book.
Double comfort, sweetness in your mouth, light in your soul.
You have never told the Solanki brothers what you do after work.
You don’t quite know why, they are openly, noisily religious.
On Fridays, you are left to run the business as they head off for prayers.
You are given an extra days holiday at Eid
In the reception area
There is a photo of the taller Mr Solanki on Haj.
He looks solemn, serious.
You have never asked him about it, but he came back different, somehow quieter, you wonder if this quiet will survive end of year accounts time.
But something, something holds you back from telling them, deep down you are scared that putting it into words, ordinary, everyday words will diminish it, diminish you, so you stay silent.
It’s been a good evening, the text is written up a dozen times, the little notices are ready.
You have a route planned for tomorrow.
Standing up, you stretch, your back a little stiff from leaning over the writing.
In the kitchen, you wash up the cup, plate, knife and fork.
You fill the hot water bottle, wipe down the sink, check there is enough milk left for a single cup of tea in the morning.
You cannot wait for tomorrow to come, you cannot wait to be about his business.