It was Bank Holiday Monday and Clive came into the sitting room where his wife had removed the books from the first shelf and was dusting it. The volumes had sleek black covers.
"I happened to be talking to Michael last week."
"Michael?" Mrs Beechcroft raised her head in surprise. "What did he want?"
"Nothing important, but..." Clive paused.
"What is it?"
"He thought it might be a good idea if you learned to enunciate your words properly. Sometimes you can speak too fast or too slow and people don't understand."
"It is true that he mentioned that once before" Mrs Beechcroft admitted grudgingly.
"It also so happens by pure chance that this ties in with my wishes."
Mrs Beechcroft looked up, surprised.
"For a few weeks now I have been toying with my desire for you to..." he paused, "speak differently."
"Speak differently?" exclaimed Mrs Beechcroft in surprise.
"Well why not?" That strange eagerness was back in his tone once more.
Mrs Beechcroft straightened up, blue jay cloth and the polish bottle held in her hand.
"I'll be honest with you Clive. You're beginning to frighten me."
"This was Michael's idea not mine" Clive reminded her.
She looked confused for a second.
"I thought you said it was your idea?"
"No, it was Michael's".
"Oh right" she relaxed.
"I didn't want to argue with him. He is your boss after all."
"That's true, oh." She had knocked one of the books off by accident.
Clive bent down and picked it up.
"Wuthering Heights usually has a habit of falling off" he joked.
Mrs Beechcroft laughed.
"Back to Michael. Yeah I'll admit that was a weird request but I didn't want to upset him so I went along with it."
"I asked him if I could teach you myself and he agreed."
"Thanks love" she smiled. "Michael is a busy man anyway and very short tempered. I guess he'd be a terrible teacher."
"Don't tell him that" smiled Clive. "Anyway I listened to some women's voices today and recorded them without their knowing."
Mrs Beechcroft laughed. "You sly fox".
"Well I picked my favourite out of all of them - recorded quite a bit of this woman speaking - in public of course. I'm no stalker". He grinned.
Mrs Beechcroft smiled back.
"So, if you like, after lunch you could listen and I could start teaching you to speak like her."
His wife hesitated.
"Oh come on." he smiled lazily. "I promised Michael."
"Oh yes." She complied quickly. "I wouldn't want you to break your word."
"So it's settled?"
"Excellent." He squeezed her shoulder briefly.
"What do you want for lunch?" Clive asked casually, going out.
"What have we got?"
"Pasta? Green pesto?"