1. First Encounters

The soft click of the alarm was enough to take his attention away from his early morning dreaming. There was no morning disk jockey inanely greeting him to a wonderful day, no tuneless pop music to shake him from slumber. He had long ago learned that the clock radio with the sound turned down was enough. An almost inaudible click and he was awake, if not exactly ready to go just yet. Edward had been lying half dreaming and half watching a small spider spin a web in the corner of the bedroom. He leant across and took the remote and clicked on the TV. Sky News came up and he scanned the headlines – nothing really grabbed his attention. He flipped the sheet and duvet off and raised himself from the bed. His feet sank deep into the carpet, its pile caressing and embracing his toes as he walked to the ensuite.

Edward turned the mixer tap on the hand wash basin to get the hottest of water ready for the morning ritual. He warmed his face with a towel held under the hot water and juggled from hand to hand due to its heat. His face pink from the heat, he applied the white of the shaving gel, massaging it into the growth prior to the scrape of the blade. He looked at the head on his shaver and decided that a further day was undesirable, flicked the button, dropping the old blade head into the waste pin before clicking in a new replacement.

A press of the button and a small buzz was audible as the shaver vibrated in his hand. Dipping the head under the hot water he looked at the white bearded man in the mirror and scraped. Hot water dripped onto his chest from the blades as he moved slowly down his cheek, feeling the new blades slice through the stubble, leaving his skin bald of both nicks and hair. A sluice under the hot tap was followed by an upward stroke that met the previously cleared path. Again the blade under the hot and then it was the turn of the other cheek, down then up. Inexorably the white Father Christmas beard shrank and cheeks and chin, pinked by the hot water, were revealed. Finally all that needed to be removed was the white moustache, the most difficult of all manoeuvres if the pink were not to be joined by the stinging spots of red. Small slight downward strokes were used, with a reapplication of the white gel and lather to allow a final stroke or two to capture any renegades that had avoided earlier decapitation. A final rinse and then an application of cooling aftershave gel re-hydrated his skin and calmed the burn from the razors’ passage.

A pink faced man with green eyes looked at him from the mirror. A critical examination of nostril and eyebrow hairs revealed no need for further trimming. What was important now was to wash away the perspiration of a night under a winter duvet. He pressed the on button for the electric shower and entered, the rest of his body now getting the attention it so desperately needed. Edward stood and leant his hands on the stall wall as the water cascaded onto his head, rivulets across his shoulders combining once more at his buttocks, his eyes shut as the torrent poured across his face. He stood back a little from the main flow and added a little Nina Ricci Mémoires D’homme shower gel to his hands and then lathered his hair. A little more gel followed and he ran his hands across his trunk, his hands going up into his arm pits and shoulders before sweeping back down into his groin. A few moments attention and his whole body was covered in a fine patina of bubbles, mildly scented and ready for the rinse. Edward stepped forward and changed the setting to needle and faced the powered jet from the shower and even the most tenacious of bubbles was washed away. He turned the shower off and stood dripping, clear soft water drops falling away to seek and follow the bubbles that had already left.

He stepped out of the shower and stood on the scales, and was disappointed to see that he had added a kilo, now weighing in at eighty five. At six foot tall, he considered that at eight five kilos, he was turning to flab, definitely time to work out more he decided. Stepping from his scales he went to the dresser and took a pair of dark blue Chinese silk under shorts and a pair of dark mid calf socks and dropped them on the bed. An Egyptian cotton pure white double cuff shirt was added to the pile, followed by a pair of gold cufflinks with a single small eighth carat diamond in each and a dark blue silk tie completed the inner clothes. A dark pinstriped single breasted suit provided the outer wear, but he was not ready yet to wear his outfit. He slipped on a robe and went down to the kitchen, turning on his coffee machine to warm, selecting a dark roast pod for his morning caffeine jolt. As the water for his coffee heated, a bowl of muesli was drowned in ice cold milk to complete his breakfast. Eating quite quickly before the cereal softened and lost its crunch, he emptied the bowl savouring the textures of the different grains and nuts, crushing the contents of his spoon between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Once the bowl had been emptied and stacked in the dish washer, he took his coffee upstairs, slipped off the gown, hung it back on the hanger and took a deep breath. Now it was time to dress and face the world.