“Rose, eh?” said the woman in the hat, inspecting Rose’s name badge rather too closely. “I’m not surprised. ‘E always did fancy girls who are nouns.” She giggled. “That’s prob’ly what first drew ‘im to me, you know.”
“I’m sorry, madam,” said Rose tiredly, picking up the orange polka-dot jumper the strange customer had thrown down on the wrong shelf. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Forget me own head next,” said the woman. “I’m Ms. Iris Wildthyme. The Doctor might have mentioned me... I’m an old friend of his,” she said meaningfully. Unfortunately, Rose hadn’t the slightest idea what meaning she intended.
“Can I help you find anything?” said Rose finally, hoping she’d say no and go away.
“Oh dear,” said Iris, “I think I must be early. Right, if Henrik’s is here, you won’t’ve met him yet. Must get a tune up soon. It’s me bus, you see,” she said confidentially. “One of these days I’ve got to get it into one of them other continuities where there’s still people qualified to work on it. It’s been no end of bother ever since somebody killed ‘em all. Twice.”
Rose wasn’t sure what on earth Iris was on about, but she was talking with alarming casualness about people getting killed. Then again, maybe it was just some kind of Northern slang that Rose wasn’t following. “Do you need help?” she offered. “Can I call someone for you—family, a doctor?”
Much to Rose’s surprise, Iris burst into loud hoots of laughter. “Ooh! That’d be rich, that would. Oh, I’d give anything to see his face, poor lamb.” She wiped her streaming eyes. “But no, thank ye, love. I’m all right. I just wanted to see what you were like, you know, and you seem just the ticket. Kind enough to look out for a mad old woman you’ve never met before.” She smiled, a little more subdued than she had been. “I wish I could hang about and see him meself, but he mustn’t know I’m still here yet. You won’t tell him, will you? Keep a secret for yer Auntie Iris?”
“I won’t tell,” promised Rose. Best to humor the woman and her imaginary mutual acquaintance.
“Thanks, dearie. And now I reelly must be getting on,” said Iris, bundling herself towards the door. “I’ve got a cameo to make!”