Chapter 3 – A rose by any other name
Danny’s first meeting with Mr Rose went well. Suzie saw to that. She dressed him in his best shirt and most conservative jeans and brushed his hair back behind his ears. She couldn’t do anything about its length but she could make him look as tidy as possible and as least hippyish as possible.
It was a bravura performance that Cheryl put on. She breezed in to Mr Rose’s room to pay the rent. All Danny had to do was keep quiet and nod and smile as required, as instructed.
Mr Rose was short and portly with grey shiny hair, spectacles, grey flannels, a check shirt and maroon cardigan. He seemed a friendly, pleasant man who was still fairly active for a man in his eighties. They went in and sat down while Mr Rose got out his scruffy book and pen to note down the payment.
Danny took time to look around the room, taking in the oil paintings on the walls and the amazing partition that separated the rooms. It was made up of stained glass depicting a rural scene with rolling hills and a sun shining down with bright yellow rays. Danny found it mesmerising. The sun was low and shining through the front window and made the whole four panels glow with colour. He could not stop staring at it.
‘This is my friend Danny Champion,’ Suzie said in way of introduction. She had arranged herself on the chair with legs neatly crossed and a beaming smile, commanding the room with her confident manner.
Danny nodded and Mr Rose formally shook his hand, scrutinising him with a knowing look that made Danny feel uncomfortable. Suzy’s plan seemed a bit flimsy to him. He was sure that Mr Rose was not going to fall for it.
‘He’s staying with us for a few weeks,’ Suzie enthused, leaning forward towards Mr Rose appealingly.
It seemed to go over Mr Rose’s head. It was of little interest. He was carefully filling in the ledger. Then he looked up.
‘That’s my work,’ Mr Rose explained, nodding towards the stain-glass work. He’d noticed the way Danny had been studying it. He’d been taking it all in. Danny was to find out that he was a lot sharper than Suzie gave him credit for. ‘I used to be a stain-glass window maker. That’s all best quality glass.’
Danny nodded. ‘I can see that,’ he said. ‘It is beautiful.’
Mr Rose nodded and closed the ledger. He smiled and seemed friendly enough. ‘That was after I was a tailor. I was a tailor for forty years.’
‘Me and Charlotte are going away for a few weeks,’ Suzie went on to explain. ‘Danny is looking after the flat for us.’
Mr Rose raised his eyebrows and Danny’s heart fluttered. This was the moment he pulled the plug on it. ‘How can he be staying with you then?’ Mr Rose asked, putting the ledger back on the shelf.
‘What I mean is that he is looking after the place for us while we’re away,’ Suzie replied without getting at all flustered. Danny flashed her a look of admiration. He was becoming desperate for that flat.
‘That’s good,’ Mr Rose said, pursing his lips. ‘I don’t like a flat to be empty. It encourages vermin.’ He gave Danny a knowing look which caused him to squirm again. No babies, no pets and no hippies was going round Danny’s head. What was the man thinking? What did he make of the long hair?
Danny nodded his agreement. ‘Empty flats are not good,’ he said lamely.
Mr Rose looked him over again with a stern expression. It was obvious to Danny that he wasn’t falling for this; not one little bit. He was weighing things up. He was going to tell Danny he could not stay. But he eventually looked away and seemed content to roll with it. He was letting it go.
Danny was in, at least temporarily.