Wednesday, 1 September 2010

All's Well That's Not Well

(Continuation of Azure Like It)

    “I’m sure he’ll turn up today. He always has a way of popping up when you’re least expecting him,” Jo tells me as she takes another spoonful of Cheerios.
    I look at her dubiously. Jo always has a way of looking at the bright side of things – she sees the world how she wants to see it, rather as how it actually is. And I have to admit, nine times out of ten she ends up being right. I hate her for that.
    “He didn’t turn up last week, nor the week before, so I highly doubt he’ll spring out of nowhere this time around,” I tell her, grabbing my bag from the sofa and shaking crumbs off it. “Anyway, I’m rather late so I better go.” I hear a muffled ‘bye’ through her full mouth as I leave the flat.

    “You’re late!” Mel hisses as she opens the double doors.
    This is the first time I have been late in the seven months I have been there, but I don’t bother to argue. These last few weeks Mel has been looking for any excuse to fire me and I certainly do not want to offer her a reason.
    “I’m sorry. Traffic,” I lied and made my way upstairs to the staff area to put my bag down. I’m just about to make myself a cup of coffee when I hear her beastly footsteps march up the stairs.
    Please, don’t be mad at me, I think.
    “Did you hear that phone conversation?” she asks me, somehow expecting me to have sonic hearing.
    “Umm, no,” I cautiously say. Is this a trick question? Have I been a bad sales assistant? Should I have been listening out?
    “Sinead can’t make it today. Apparently she’s coughing up phlegm. Urggh, some people are so inconsiderate,” she yelps as she grabs a folder to scan through phone numbers. “Now I have to spend all morning ringing the other girls to see if they can make it in on such short notice,” she slams the folder so hard on the table that I’m almost convinced I heard it scream.
    But this is typical Mel – it’s one rule for her when she’s ill, and a completely different rule for another. Back in November she told me I wasn’t allowed to go to Paris with my family the week before Christmas, despite the fact that I only worked Saturdays and the holiday would be during the weekdays. Naturally, I obeyed and had to spend the week prior to Christmas home alone. AND what’s worse is that I wasn’t even called in for extra time because it was ‘surprisingly quiet’.
    “Typical!” Mel’s voice cascades through my thoughts and abruptly I’m brought back to earth.
    “What’s wrong?”
    “Dani, nor Zoe can come in today,”
    “Oh,”
    “It’s not like it’s Satuday. It’s not like it’s the beginning of the Summer collection coming in. It’s not like people won’t be rushing in to buy all the new crap!”
    “Oh,” I say again, realising full well that I sound like an idiot.
    “But,” she says with a wide smile. “The show must go on,” and marches back downstairs, cursing loudly at a loose poster falling limply from the wall.

    It is now almost lunchtime and the store is barely busy. We had a brief spell of panic when an hour earlier an entire family of American tourists came in, but other than that it has been a rather serene day.
    So serene in fact that Anthony has slipped entirely from my mind. Mel has disappeared at the back to speak to Head Office, and Clara is behind the till doing whatever she does when she’s not ripping wings of butterflies.
    But the peace doesn’t last long.
    “Excuse me, Miss,” a friendly voice echoes from behind me. I turn my head slightly, not quite meeting his gaze. There’s no point pretending. I know exactly who this is.
    “I’m looking for a tangerine dress. It has to be tangerine. Or Satsuma, if you have that. But definitely not orange,”
    I can’t help but giggle. So I turn around to say hi.
    “Hello,” he beams, standing far too close.
    “Hello,” I say right back, a smile still attached to my face, which I desperately want to wipe off. But I’m failing rather badly.
    I see Clara peer at me from the till, so I quickly change my tone of voice. “Can I help you with anything?”
    Anthony just giggles and then in a voice loud enough for Clara to hear says, “Yes, I’m looking for a coat. For my mother,”
    “We’re not currently stocking many coats,” I begin, edging the both of us further away from Clara, “since it’s mid Spring, but…” he cuts me off.
    “I couldn’t care less about coats,” he clarifies when we’re completely out of earshot. “I just wanted to say hello,”
    He smiles.
    I want to kiss him right there and then.
    But I refrain.
    I’m a professional sales assistant, after all.
    “I haven’t seen you for a while,” I say, trying to spin the conversation.
    “Have you missed me?” he jokes, grazing my hand with the back of his fingers.
    I immediately pull my hand away, and scowl at him for even trying.
    “I’ve been back at university,” he informs.
    “You go to university?” I ask, dumbfounded.
    “You see, this is the exact reason you need to go on a date with me. There’s just so much you don’t know,”
    “But you gave me your card?” I ask.
    “Yes,” he says, unsure as to where I’m going with this.
    “Oh, I just assumed you were working,” I go to a rail of clothes that looks a bit messy. One by one, I start sorting the racks out.
    “I had those made for networking events,” he tells me. “I go to a lot of those,”
    My mind tries to focus on the rail I’m sorting out, because I know for a fact that if I turn around and look at him, he will ask me out. And I will say yes.
    Anthony has been coming in to the store every Saturday since we met – much to Mel’s disapproval, and every single week he’s been lingering around, making me laugh, waiting until I have my lunch hour, and then finally escorting me back to the shop. It always starts with a “So will we go out tonight?” and it always ends with me saying, “No”. But my gosh, this boy is persistent. Apart from these last two weeks, he has religiously come to see me. Most guys would have given up after the first couple of rejections, but Anthony has remained loyal.
    And I’m unsure why.
    What’s more is that I’m unsure why I keep saying no.
    I turn around at last to meet his eyes. He grins at me and leans in closer. If it weren’t for Clara who is now glaring at us from the till, and the two customers floating around the shop, I’m pretty sure he would have kissed me.
    “I’m only going to ask this once more,” his voice almost a whisper. I smile sheepishly getting my brain geared up for a ‘yes’. I have to say yes. I just have to.
    “Would you like to go out sometime?” he says casually. He smiles down at me and stands up straight. I can tell he’s absolutely sure that this time around he will get a yes. Even I’m convinced of it.
    But somehow those little letters can’t form on my lips, and as we stay there in silence for what feels like ten years, all I manage is, “No,”
    I can tell he’s shocked. He seemed to think that he had charmed me so much that I would run to his arms like in an Audrey Hepburn film and shout my love for him through happy tears.
    “Fine,” he says with a forced smile. I’ve hurt his ego. “I’ll see you around,”
    Two seconds later he’s out of the door and I’m standing there reciting the conversation again in my head.
    Why did I say no? Why??
    And there it is.
    The end.
    Isn’t it?

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