Saturday 30 April 2011

The Bunny Boiler - Chapter 8

I wipe the thick cream off my nose with my thumb as I put down the cappuccino.  Mikey looks at me across the small, round, mahogany table and asks, "Plan of action?"
    Well, there isn't one.  But I don't want to tell him this.  I have a feeling he'll walk out of the cafe dramatically and get the next train back to Surrey, probably mouthing, "Why do I let her drag me into these situations?"
    "My plan is to buy a boat," I announce.  I hear him huff, settle down his tea and cast his eyes towards me angrily. 
    "You can't buy a boat!"
    "Why not?"
    "You're 17.  You don't know how to operate one.  You have nowhere to keep it..."
    I'm about to bring up the whole 'I live near the Thames.  I can see a bit of the river from my bedroom window' argument again, but I know it'll only fall on deaf ears.
    " can barely look after yourself.  I mean, you thought an umpire was the plural of empire..."
    Anyone would have made that mistake.
    " get bored easily and by next week the boat will be forgotten and you'll want your own theme park or something..."
    I mentally make a note of the theme park idea.  I did always have expansion plans for Thorpe Park.
    " have exams coming up and need to concentrate on those - not learn to drive a bloody boat.  By September you're moving to Guildford..."
    There's a river there too, you know.
    "'re only doing this to prove something to Jamie because the two of you broke up last night.  You're hurt and you're not thinking straight..."
    My heart sinks a little as I think of Jamie.
    "...and most importantly, boats are expensive.  You don't have a job.  You don't have any money.  Your purse contains £3.62 and a chocolate button!"
    I look up at him awkwardly, "Actually, I ate the chocolate button,"
    He shakes his head and I immediately feel like this is a scene from Will and Grace.  "Why am I not surprised!" he drinks his tea.
    "Well, there's no harm in looking at the Marina," I tell him.  "We came all the way to Brighton.  We can't spend the entire day in Starbucks,"
    "Fine," he says drinking the rest of his tea.  "Maybe we'll get lucky and find a boat for under £3.62,"

It's raining.  Heavily.  The large chunks of water droplets are propelling themselves towards us with maximum force, and as we make the short walk from the cafe to the boats, we are completely soaked.  We might as well have jumped in the sea and hijacked a boat from there.  That way, at least I saved my £3.62.

    "I'm concerned," Mikey says as he uses his jacket as an umbrella to protect his perfectly styled, blond hair.
    "What concerns you, my lovely?"
    "Number one, your mental health, obviously,"
    "But number two, isn't that Giles over there?"
    My head darts in the direction that Mikey's finger is pointing to.  There, on the other end of the marina stands Giles.
    "What's he doing here?" I whisper, despite the fact that he's completely out of earshot.
    "I have no idea, but he can't see me here.  He'll only tell my mum that I'm in Brighton.  And let's face it, she'll take one look at my CD collection, put 2 and 2 together and be upset that I haven't come out to her yet,"
    "You're over-reacting.  He's only a distant cousin anyway,"
    "His mother and my mother are sisters!"
    "My mum's going to think I'm gay!"  He starts rubbing his temples as the rain ruins his hair.
    "I'm sure she's guessed by now.  I mean, she has met you,"
    "Do you think you're helping?"
    "No.  No, you're not!" and the jacket is thrown back over his head.

Giles on his own would have been fine, but it was the appearance of Kate a few minutes later that really jolted us.  She was wearing a white summer dress, despite the awful weather, and was making her way to the little boat shop that Giles had now entered. 
    "Let's go in," I tell Mikey making a move for the entrance.  But he grabs my jacket and pulls me back.
    "To find out what they're doing here,"
    He starts shaking his head as if unable to comprehend," Why??" he says again.
    "Aren't you at all curious why they're in Brighton? Mikey, this is Kate, Jamie's psycho ex.  We have to know what her and Giles are up to,"
    Mikey appears to be understanding me a little more now. 
    "It's very strange," I continue, "who comes to Brighton unexpectedly?"
    He eyes me up and down and I can tell he's seconds away from going on another rant of how I've gone insane, how I'm such a child, blah blah blah. 
    "Our situation is different," I tell him before he gets the chance to start shouting, "We are here to buy a boat,"
    "They'll see us if we go in there.  That place looks tiny,"
    "Not if we're very careful,"
    "But -,"  I sometimes have no idea why Mikey argues back so much.  He knows this is happening whether he likes it or not.  You'd have thought he's learnt his lesson by now.
    He huffs and stomps his feet as he follows me towards the shop.

Kate and Giles are at the till talking to an old, weather-beaten man who looks ridiculously like Captain Birdseye.  So Mikey and I head to the other end just behind a pillar, where posters of cruise ship holidays have been scattered messily all over the wall.  Luckily, we can hear every word.
    "I've been thinking of taking my girlfriend on a long holiday this summer," I hear Giles explain. 
    Yes, please take her.  Take her far, far away.  And lose her.  Please, try your best to get her kidnapped by pirates.  She's nothing special so the ransom request won't be very much.
    "Maybe Antigua.  A lovely sailing holiday around there would be splendid," Captain Birdseye suggests.  I hear Kate giggle at the thought like a child.  "When are you two lovebirds thinking of leaving?"
    "Beginning of July," Giles responds.
    "But we'll definitely have to come back late September for university," Kate puts in. 
    I'm reminded of Jamie again and how he'll be at Edinburgh with Kate in Autumn.  My heart sinks a little more. 
    "I'm really looking forward to uni, you know," she tells Giles excitedly, and I don't know how - perhaps because I've learnt Kate's mental thought process so well these last few months - but I know she's only suddenly excited because Jamie will now be there too. 
    "I'll come and visit you all the time," Giles says.
    "Yes," she says straight away, lacking enthusiasm. 
    There's deep silence for a few minutes as Captain Birdseye hands out a few leaflets and brochures about upcoming sailing holidays.  We hear a few "Ooo, that looks lovely" and "How about this one, babe?" but nothing interesting is really happening.  I'm beginning to regret following them in here.  I could have bought my boat by now.  And this wall is getting dull.  I've read "Cruise through four seasons in four weeks for just £99" thirteen times now. 
    "I'll leave you to read those through.  I'll just be in there if you need me," Captain Birdseye tells them before entering a hidden away room at the back.
    "I love the look of this one.  We should go for it," Giles confirms to Kate.  We hear him waving a brochure about.
    "Oh, but that's until mid October,"
    "I know, but term doesn't start properly until then, so you'll only miss Fresher's Week,"
    "No, no!  I don't want to miss anything.  I want to get to Edinburgh as soon as I can!" she snaps.  Uh oh, I can feel the Bunny Boiler Richter Scale starting to increase a little.
    "I know, babe, but this is a great deal and it would be a shame to miss it,"
    "I'm going to Edinburgh when I'm supposed to, not when it suits you!!  Do you understand?" she shouts at him.  Loudly.  Captain Birdseye emerges from his retreat. 
    "A problem?" he asks.
    "Oh, nothing.  Sorry about that," Giles smiles and apologises, so he hides back in his room.  He turns to Kate in a soothing tone, "At least think about it, babe,"
    "I don't need to think about it!! This relationship won't last until then anyway!!!" she screams.  "Erggh! I can't even believe it's lasted this long!"
    "Umm...what?" Giles sounds hurt.
    "I only got with you to make Jamie jealous.  I expected him to come crawling back to me weeks ago, but he's still with that bitch!"
    I'm about to go and strangle her, but Mikey holds on to me.  "Stay calm," he whispers.
    "But now that Jamie's going to Edinburgh as well, Ella won't be around and it will be so much easier to make him mine again," she says this like she's so proud with herself. 
    "Oh," he's practically whispering. 
    "So I probably won't go on this holiday anyway.  Now that I think about it, it's just time wasted in not trying to win Jamie back,"
    Die Die Die!
    Seconds later we hear the bell above the front door jingle.  Giles has stormed out.  Kate sets down the brochures and walks out calmly into the heavy rain.
    "Bloody hell," I say to Mikey.
    "I can't believe that," he responds, his mouth wide open from the shock.  "I honestly thought she'd caught the bait properly when we set her up with Giles,"
    I look around the shop again wondering what my next step should be.  Do I tell Jamie about this?  Will he even believe me?  He'll just think it's some sort of way of getting him to stay in Surrey rather than move to Scotland. 
    "What are you going to do now?" Mikey asks me, but there's no time to reply because Captain Birdseye has emerged again and is smiling at us.
    "Can I help you with anything?" he asks.
    "Do you sell boats?" I reply without even thinking.
    "We do,"
    "Roughly how much is your average one?"
    "Well, they range from a few thousands to a few hundred.  Our cheapest rowing boat is £150,"
    "I'll take it,"
    Queue gasp from Mikey.
    "It's a little more costly if we have to deliver it,"
    "That's not a problem.  I still want it,"
    I can sense Mikey wants to shout at me so I walk a little bit away from him and get out my phone.  Before I have a chance to change my mind, I start typing: 'I told you I was going to buy a boat!' and off the message flies to Jamie.

Monday 25 April 2011

A Lecture on Love from a Stranger in Love

I'm sitting in the park on an absolutely splendid Summer's day.  I managed to pack myself a little picnic, have laid out a red blanket on the dry glass, and have fashionably furnitured my face with Chanel sunglasses. 
    I'm reading Minx by Julia Quinn - it's a memorable section- Henry (a girl who parades in men's clothing) and Dunford (a boy who is prettier than a girl) have just met, and I'm dreamily thinking how much I'd want an unexpected romance; a lovely fairy-tale where boy meets girl and girl actually likes boy.
    I can feel the sun blazing against my pale skin, so I pause my reading and fidget around to find a more comfortable spot.  I scan my surrounding, but there isn't a patch in this Surrey park that hasn't been taken by someone. 
    So I stay where I am and resume reading my book.

    "Heads up!" I hear, seconds before some bouncy object has collided with my head.
    "Ouch," is all I manage as I spot the orange basketball roll off next to me.
    "Sorry.  You alright?" a male voice speaks, but my brain can't register anything.  So I sit there rubbing my head. 
    "Are you OK?" he asks again, now coming into view.
    "Umm...I think so," I mouth, squinting as I look up at him - my sunglasses lying next to me on the red blanket. 
    "Sorry.  I think I over-analysed where the hoop was," the dark-haired stranger informs.
    I look behind me at the lonely basketball court.  "By a mile?" I snap back.
    He's about to apologise yet again, but doesn't.  "I'm not very good.  I haven't been playing for long." he says instead.
    He purses his lips at me and moves to the other side of the blanket.  I can now see him so much better without the July sun limiting my view.  His skin is tanned, his hair a chestnut brown which every couple of seconds he runs his fingers through.  He's wearing a white t-shirt absolutely soaked in sweat, and I've noticed that his trainers are brand new - so white they'd glow in the dark.  He wasn't lying when he said he hasn't played for long. 
    "I'll go and get you water," he announces and immediately walks towards the ice-cream van at the other end of the vivid, green stretch.  I have no strength to argue, so I sit there, still rubbing my throbbing head as I watch him stride through the park.
    He's incredibly good looking, I think to myself.  Perhaps I should re-apply my lipstick before he comes back. 
    So I dig into my handbag and pull out a lipstick called 'Heroine'.  A dark, golden colour which stands out beautifully in this heat, and as I finish pouting in the mirror, I glance quickly at the stranger who is now making his way towards me. 
    "Consider yourself lucky," he tells me.  "This was their last bottle,"
    "Yes, Luck really is the word to describe me today, isn't it," I say in a sarcastic tone.  I can tell he doesn't appreciate this because, let's face it, he's really trying to be nice.  "Thanks," I say, noticing how I must be coming across.  A bitter, twenty-something girl, spending a beautiful day off work on her own. 
    I expect him to say, "Well, I hope you feel better.  Sorry again," and leave.  But to my surprise, he sits down with his legs crossed on my blanket, helps himself to a strawberry and looks at me intently. 
    His eyes are hazel.  That's all the new information I have for now.
    "Please, help yourself" I tell him, feeling a little angry that not only has he practically assaulted me, but is now stealing my food.
    "You've been here for an hour and haven't touched them yet," he answers back.  "I bet you anything you were going to throw them away on your way home,"
    I open my mouth to argue back, but notice that he's absolutely right.  I'm not the biggest fan of strawberries.  It's just something that people take to picnics, isn't it. 
    "See," he's practically gloating.
    "They were half price at Waitrose," I defend myself, instantly flicking my head away towards the tennis courts. 
    "What are you reading?" he asks, his fingers gracing the cover of Minx
    "A book," I say, snatching it away from his touch.
    "A good read?"
    "Yes, thanks,"
    "What's it about?"
    "What's happening to these people?"
    "How exciting,"
    I look down at my book as if it's a child I'm defending from harm.  "You wouldn't understand anyway," I say to him. 
    "Because it's about love?" he smirks at me, and I notice that his teeth are perfect.  Many men don't appear to have perfect teeth. 
    "Yes," I respond quietly.
    "Love's overrated," he says as he reaches for another strawberry.
     My mouth forms a perfect oval at the shock of what he's said, "What?  How can you even say that?  Love's wonderful,"
    "Love's painful," he says incredibly quickly.  He's obviously been hurt by someone.
    I pause for a bit and we both just sit there staring at each other.  "I suppose it is sometimes," I tell him.  "But the painful part is temporary.  The wonderful part in permanent,"
    He laughs at that.  A whole-hearted, manly laugh that I instantly think is attractive.  "How old are you?" he asks me with a smile.
    "22," I respond, not seeing what that has to do with anything.
    "You're still young.  You're still learning," the third strawberry goes in his mouth.
    "I know lots about love.  And anyway, what makes you such an expert?" I angrily ask.
    But he doesn't answer my question.  He just smiles at me from across the failed picnic, eating my strawberries. 
    "How's your head?" he asks after a few seconds escape us.
    I'd completely forgotten about that.  "It's fine.  You can leave now," I pull my possessions towards me to indicate that I no longer want him intruding in my life. 
    "You might have concussion,"
    Annoyed, I look at him, "I don't have concussion,"
    "Well, anyhow, I'd still like to stay a bit longer to make sure," he seems genuinely concerned.  His eyes shine brightly, almost glimmering in the happy sunshine.  "I could never play basketball again if I knew a fatality came of it,"
    "Maybe you just shouldn't play basketball again full stop!" I snap.
    He leans in closer.  I can see a faint laughter line forming at the corner of his mouth.  "You know, I was wondering why a pretty girl was spending today all alone.  But now I think I know,"
    I don't react to it.  Whatever he's thinking about me, it isn't true.  I mean, this guy launched a heavy basketball at my head, invited himself to my picnic and ate my Waitrose strawberries.  How nice does he expect me to be?
    "You're a Jane Austen fan," he tells me.
    I look up at him with quizzical eyebrows. 
    "Your favourite book is Pride and Prejudice,"
    I still say nothing.  Just stare at him, wondering where he's going with this.
    "You're still waiting for your Mr. Darcy, which is why no man has ever met your expectations,"
    "Actually, I'm waiting for my Captain Wentworth," I tell him, somehow thinking I've won this little argument.
    "And you're stubborn.  What a wonderful mix!" he mocks - that irritating smile still on his face.  "You want a love story, not a boyfriend," he tells me, and I sit there stunned.  "You can't settle for just anyone, so you make up your mind about someone immediately.  You jump into relationships without liking someone, but you're too stubborn to give up on it,"
    My mind darts back to my last relationship...and he's right. 
    He leans in a little closer again, his eyes portraying sympathy.  "My last girlfriend was exactly like you, and the problem is that no matter how much a guy tries, he will never be good enough in your eyes,"
    Aha!  We've solved the mystery of why he's so against love. 
    "You have me wrong," I say.
    "Well, you have me 30% wrong," I begin to explain.  "I'm a hopeless romantic.  I long to meet the perfect guy - the perfect romance.  But I'm also a realist.  I've had long-term relationships," I smile at him, "so don't think you have me so sussed, Mister,"
    He helps himself to the final strawberry that's sitting on it's own on the paper plate. 
    "I'm sorry it didn't work out with your last girlfriend," I throw a smile his way. 
    He looks around uncomfortably.  "It's still a sore subject," so I don't probe it anymore. 
    "But love really is...lovely," I tell him and he smiles.  A proper smile.  Teeth and everything. 
    "Your head's better, yeah?" he asks, standing up.  Immediately I want to order him to sit back down.
    I nod my head.
    "I better get going," he grabs the basketball and turns to leave.  "Thanks for the strawberries," he shouts when he's a few metres away.
    "It's fine," I call out as I pick up Minx and continue reading.  Now, where was I?  Ah, yes! 'He was beautiful...'

Thursday 21 April 2011

What's Your Age Again?

It was just a smile.  One innocent smile to the blond-haired Greek God standing on the other side of the shop.  He had a name badge - now, I'm no intelligence expert, but my powers of deduction came to the conclusion that he must work here. 
    But, I must stop this 'across the shop' smile flirting because this guy looks eighteen; twenty if I'm having a super lucky day today, and considering I shall be 23 in a couple of months, add the fact that I'm snobbishly old-fashioned about this sort of thing, it is definitely a no-go zone. 
    He's amazingly attractive though - and the smiles escape me without me being able to do anything about them.  He's tall, with energetic blue eyes, and a body which right that moment I was imagining completely naked.
    Uh oh!  What if he's sixteen? ...If he is, ignore that last bit.

    "I'm definitely buying this," Little Brother says coming out of the fitting rooms.  He smiles at me - that same smile I often have plastered on my face whenever I want a favour from someone.
    "You want me to buy this for you, don't you," I say as unenthusiastically as I can possibly muster. 
    He nods his head.
    "Fine!"  I say, taking the rugby shirt from his hand and walking up to the till.  Little Brother has now moved to the next shop.  The selfish idiot.
    "Hi," the Greek God sings.
    He runs the item through the till, occasionally flicking his eyes my way with a smile.  But he stops before he hands me my purchase, rips the edge of some green tissue paper and scribbles something down.  He pushes it across the table right in front of me.  Without saying a word, he hands me the carrier bag, followed by the receipt and nonchalantly walks away.  There, on the emerald scrunched up paper is his name and his number.
    I feel like a teenager, which makes me wonder whether he is one.

I have no intention of calling him - I rarely go on dates with absolute strangers (that may be a lie...), and all I know about this guy is that his name is Dean, occupation: Sales Assistant, age: Unknown.  Hardly the start of a fairy-tale romance. 
    And, I've only just come out of an incredibly short, but awful relationship (read all about it at No Knight In Shining Armour).  Getting involved with someone else isn't the best idea, despite my friend's attempts at "getting me back on the horse". 

The next day, however,  I'm finding myself typing him a text and before I know it, a date has been arranged and I'm on my way to Kingston (upon Thames) to see him. 
    "You should have asked to meet at a pub," my friend had said to me earlier that day.
    "Because then you'd know if he's over eighteen or not,"  Oh!  That would have been a clever idea.  I'll keep it in mind for the next teenage looking boy I date.

I walk in the restaurant and immediately spot him sitting down on a table by the window.  He's wearing a white shirt and smart trousers, but he looks a bit like a young estate agent who hasn't managed to see a tailor yet.  And his hair is so...blond.  Imagine a fair-haired cherub that has grown into a dashing Cupid.  That's Dean.
    He's 17.
    "You look amazing," he tells me kissing my cheek.
    He's 25.
    "Thank you," I reply.  "I hope you haven't been waiting long,"
    "Barely five minutes," he smiles broadly at me like a perfect gentleman. 
    He's 27.
    "Let's get some drinks in.  Red or white?"
    He's definitely over 18...unless he means fruit squash!
    "Red," I reply cautiously, so he calls over the waiter and tells him the order.  Thankfully he really did mean wine. 
    He's definitely over 18. Phew!

Half an hour into the date and I'm laughing hysterically.  This guy is hilarious.  His sense of humour isn't like any I have ever encountered before.  He's confident, energetic, mature...
    He's 24.
    "And after that he couldn't exactly show his face here again.  Decided to go to university last October," he finishes off talking about his best friend from the school days.
    He's 18.
    "So are you at university?" he asks me, eyes engaged on my lips as I stumble with an answer.
    "Umm...actually I graduated last year," I inform him.  But oddly his smile doesn't fade.  His reaction seems...normal.
    He's 22.
    "University was never for me.  I wanted to get a job, find a nice girl and get on with my life," he drawls.
    He's 30?
    "Are you enjoying work?" I ask him thinking back to the day we met.
    He shrugs his shoulders and scrunches his nose, "S'alright," he says, "It's my first job, so it can only get better from here,"
    OMG, he's 16!!!
    "Oh," is all I manage, hiding the disappointed look on my face by drinking more wine.
    "Maybe another year there, and then I'll look for something more serious.  An office job like all other grown-ups," he smiles.
    ...Are you a grown-up?
    "It's just a difficult time at the moment.  I have so many unemployed friends that have finished uni,"
    He's 21.
    He smiles again, "There's still time.  I'm young,"
    How young???
    "So did you do A-levels?" I carefully ask, hoping this will give me a better indication.
    "Last year," he replies.
    He's 19.
    "My last exam was on my nineteenth birthday, so I'll never forget that bloody paper," he jokes.
    I quickly do some adding up.
    He's 19.
    He's definitely 19.
    I'm not too sure how I feel about this...

We're now by the Thames riverbank just outside the Italian restaurant.  He asks me if I'm cold and immediately takes his coat off.
    "It's honestly OK," I refuse and we both stare out at the boats, which are bobbing up and down on the rumbled river. 
    I can feel him move closer.  This surrounding is perfect for a first kiss; the night air is crisp, the crescent moon keeps peeking out of clouds, and the river sparkles like gold next to the street lamps. 
    But I don't want a kiss.
    Not from a nineteen year old, anyway. 
    "Best get going," I tell him, immediately edging my head back when he leans in.  I have probably crushed him - from this moment on he'll have relationship issues. 
    "OK," he says, almost as if he thinks he's done something wrong.  But all I do is smile at him, get in a cab and run away. 

    "If you're going to arrange a second date, better do it before half term ends," Mikey (from Bunny Boiler fame) tells me when I call him on the way back. 
    "Stop it with the jokes," I scold.  "He's already sent me a text telling me he's had a lovely time,"
    "I'm surprised his mother lets him have a mobile at his age," I hear him giggle at the other end of the line.
    "Don't joke, Mikey.  The guy looked really broken when I avoided the kiss," I shudder at the recollection.
    "If you like, you can pass on some of my nephew's toys.  Maybe that will cheer him up?"
    Har!  Har!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Anthony and Chloe-patra

(Continuation of Much To Do About Nothing)

I keep getting phone calls.  Odd ones, where no one says anything.  A bit like in a scary movie, right before the pretty girl is killed.  And unfortunately, in this little story, the pretty girl must be me. 
    Oh, hang on.  I've just risen from bed and looked at myself in the mirror... I should be safe for a few more scenes.

This is the last week of the Easter holidays before exams start, and instead of being halfway through Chapter 16 and knowing all there is to know about oligopolies, I'm about to head out to work; to the Witch's Corner to most likely stir a cauldron...or hassle people to sign up to a store card - pretty much the same thing. 
    It's the perfect time to revise.  Jo and the rest of the housemates have gone home for the holidays so the entire place is all mine. 
    But no.
    Here I am, putting on the same dress I've been wearing to work for the last month, because Mel won't allow me to use my 75% off on uniform anymore.  And yet, she's always wearing something new.  The bitch!

    "Late again!" Mel hisses as I push open the glass double doors.
    It's 9:15 - I shouldn't even be here until 9:30.
    "Actually, I'm early," I retort.
    "I asked you to come in at nine because we're short-staffed today.  Ergh!  Does no one listen to me anymore?"
    I don't think anyone did in the first place.
    "You might as well go and get Henry," she places both hands on her hips and starts tapping her right foot at me. 
    Henry?  Who's Henry?  Does she have a child I don't know about?  Have her and the Merchandiser Dude spawned?
    So I stand there looking dumb, waiting for her to explain. 
    "The hoover?"  she impatiently clarifies.
    You could have just said that, you lunatic!

Hoovering is a nightmare.  There's only one plug socket tucked away behind a rail of heavy dresses and each morning I stand there wrestling with the clothes, trying to get my job done.  What's more is that Henry has pretty much had it.  Its long lead is covered with brown sellotape trying to keep us from getting electrocuted, and as you try to hoover up even the lightest of dust, it spits at you.  You have no idea the amount of times I've ruined clothes with that temperamental thing.  It's because of this, that 'Henry' is the least envied morning task.  One of the reasons why the other girls are always so late - in this instance, the early bird does not catch the worm. 
    "Hoover the changing rooms," Mel shouts above the noise. 
    So I drag poor, warn-out Henry up the couple of steps, cursing in my head at how cumbersome this whole task is.  The changing rooms don't need to be hoovered - there's barely a square inch in them. 
    "Come on, you piece of crap," I tell it, as I lift it up the steps.
    But Henry is clearly seeking revenge, because the sellotaped lead has wrapped itself around my foot, and as I attempt to climb up a step, I trip and fall on the floor. 
    Mel doesn't even look up from whatever email she's reading at the till.  So, I just sit there, inelegantly for a bit.  I'll just treat this as my break.
    I unwrap the lead from my foot and try to get up, but the floor length mirror opposite the shop doors catches my eye.  My head and body (still on the floor) spin round to see if I'm actually right.
    And there, out in the street looking into the shop is Anthony.
    Handsome, smart, funny Anthony.
    He's smiling at me and with a look of concern, mouths, "Are you alright?"
    I only nod my head.  I suppose I feel a bit embarrassed, but at the same time I want him to know just how horrid it is working here.  I almost feel like yelling, "She beats me, Anthony! She beats me!"
    He smiles again at me and walks away, and I instantly feel like running after him and saying, "I'm so sorry I said no when you asked me out.  I didn't mean it.  I have no idea what I was thinking,"
    But I just sit there on the floor, with my legs crossed, collecting more dust than Henry could.  My black and white dress is probably black and grey by now. 
    "Oh, do get up!" Mel shouts.  "Get on with the changing rooms!"

For the rest of the day I've been instructed to stand on the shop floor by the doors, asking customers if they need any help.  It's 3:22 - I've asked 49 people so far, and each and every one of them has responded with, "No, thank you.  I'm just browsing," - because, let's face it, it's not that difficult to look at a few dresses and decide whether or not you like them. 
    But Mel still keeps creeping up on me, pointing to a customer and roaring, "Go and ask her if she needs any help.  Go on,"
    "But I already asked her two minutes ago,"
    "Go and ask her again!"
    So off I'd trot like an idiot and pester the lovely, old woman again.  "No thanks, dear," she'd respond, throwing me a look of concern for my mental health. 

From that moment, I swore to myself that I will not talk to another customer again unless they spoke to me first.  From now until 6 o' clock I'd remain silent, standing there looking pretty in my red shoes and my dirty dress. 
    "Ant, I want to go in here.  You know it's my favourite shop," I hear a girl's voice say at the entrance.          
    "But, do we have to go in here right now?" the guy speaks. 
    And, of course, it's obviously Anthony.
    Because that's just my luck, isn't it, for the guy I like (whom I stupidly rejected) to swan back into my life with a drop-dead gorgeous girl.  But, let's look on the bright side; she's now the pretty one in this story, so at least she'll die before I do. 
    I instinctively go to hide, but soon turn around again when I see Mel glaring at me from the till.  Looks like I can't really avoid this one.  Perhaps I'll go hassle that lady again. 
    "Are you sure you don't require my help?" I tell her, as she stands there holding one of our new coats.
    "Err...I'm OK for now," she smiles.
    My head moves briefly towards the door.  Anthony catches my eye but doesn't acknowledge me.  Which is fine.  I've pretty much ignored him too. 
    "We have some other new coats as well," I tell the lady, moving her towards the other end of the shop.
    "I've decided on this one," she tells me, standing her ground (and good on her). 
    "OK, I'll take this to the till for you,"
    "That's very kind of you, but I'd like to have another look around,"
    "Oh, well, let me help you with that.  Were you looking for anything in particular?"
    Anthony and female friend are rummaging through a few dresses.  I scan my surrounding and wonder whether anyone will notice if I run home. 
    "I'm fine, dear," the lady says curtly.  There's not much point trying again unless I want to be arrested. 
    I move back to my little spot and stand there with my back to them.  A part of me longs for them to come and speak to me, but the other part is saying, "Don't talk to me, don't even look at me!"
    "I'll ask this girl for help," Anthony's friend says.  "Excuse me," the girl leans in.  "I need a dress for a party tonight.  Which is your most popular one?"
    I smile at her and walk her over to the newest addition of clothes.  "Everyone seems to adore this one," I say, pointing to a light pink, strapless mini dress.  Anthony joins us a few seconds later.
    "What do you think, Ant?  Wouldn't I look absolutely gorgeous next to you in this little number?" she says, flicking her long, blonde hair.
    "Yes.  Hi," he finally says to me.
    "Hi," I respond quietly. 
    "Oh.  Do you two know each other?"
    "Yes.  This is Ella," Anthony replies, in a way which indicates he has spoken about me to this girl before. 
    "Oh," is her response, which definitely confirms that he has spoken about me to this girl before. 
    "Ella, this is Chloe.  We've been seeing each other these last couple of weeks," he says, almost shyly. 
    "Lovely to meet you," I say, and she smiles back, despite the horrific awkwardness of this entire situation. 
    "Actually, I'm not sure I want this dress," Chloe says, scrunching her face at Anthony.  "Maybe we should go somewhere else first.  It's better to have a look around,"
    Awkward!  Awkward!  Awkward!
    I nod my head and keep my eyes fixed on her, but all I want to do is look at Anthony.  I want to ask him how his mind could be changed so quickly, when only a month ago he really liked me.  Fickle!  I don't have time for fickle men. 
    "Why don't you have a look around on your own?" Anthony asks her.  "I need to pop to the bank quickly anyway," and with that, he's left the shop.
    I don't know whether to leave her browse or to stand there watching her look at dresses.  I stupidly choose the latter. 
    "I've heard a lot about you," she tells me.
    My attention perks up.  "Have you?  All good, I hope,"
    "All I know is that you're the girl Ant liked before me.  I just don't get it?"
    " don't get why he liked me?"  Err...isn't that a bit of a nasty thing to say???
    "No," she quickly responds, not lifting her eyes from the clothes once, "I just don't understand why he still has your number.  Why he still talks about you,"
    "Oh...well....I...umm..." I'm tongue-tied.  What on earth do you say to that?
    "It's just weird, that's all.  The two of you didn't even kiss,"  and she finally looks up at me, her blue eyes glazed over like ice, expecting me to confirm.
    "We never kissed," I tell her. 
    "It's difficult to date someone who had strong feelings for someone else only weeks before," she looks back at the clothes, and I instantly feel for her.  This is horribly awkward for me, but it must be dreadful for her.  She looks like she's holding in a lot of feelings that she hasn't shared with Anthony yet.  I've decided I like this girl. 
    "I phoned you a couple of times," she blurts out. 
    And now I hate her.
    "I wanted to see what you sounded like.  Just how different you were to me," she says, still in a somber tone. 
    "So, that's why I've been getting phone calls where they hang up instantly?" I'm shocked.  We all get jealous, but you deal with it.  You don't phone strangers and then hang up!
    "Sorry," she says, and I honestly think she means it.  "I'm finding it hard," she smiles, says goodbye and leaves.
    Today is a strange day.  I've decided.

    A minute later, Anthony walks back in.
    "Oh, you've just missed her," I tell him.
    "I know.  Look, I just wanted to..." he attempts to speak, but stops himself half way.
    "Are you OK?" I ask.
    "Ella, look, you..." and once more, he stops.  I look up at him, unsure of what to do.  But all he does is smile at me and walk out of the shop. 
    Like he always does.
    He needs to stop doing that!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

The Liar, the Bitch and the Wardrobe

I'm sitting in a taxi on the way to the Palace Theatre and I wonder just how fast things are moving with Malcolm.  Today we'd have been seeing each other for exactly three weeks, and here I am in a black cab with him holding my hand as we head to the theatre to meet his group of best friends. 
    "It's too soon," I whisper to myself as I stare out at cloudy London as it gets ready for dusk. 
    "Did you say something?" he responds, stroking my hand and staring at me intently with his blue eyes.
    "Nope," I lie. 
    He averts his gaze back to his side of the window and I continue my thought process.
    Right, where was I?  Ah yes, it's all too soon.  This is technically our 6th date and already I'm being introduced to his friends as his girlfriend.  Am I over-reacting here or is this all a bit too much?  We haven't even discussed the 'labels' ourselves yet.  I mean, I don't even know which side of the bed he prefers to sleep on.
    "Oh well," I tell my brain.  Just enjoy it.  You never know - these people could become lifelong friends.

The cab drops us off at the side of the theatre, and I click clack my heels to the entrance. 
    I'm nervous.
    I'm really nervous.
    "Mal!" a female voice yells, and Malcolm straight away dashes towards the trio, still holding on to my hand.  All I remember from that moment is my heavy and glittery French Connection dress swishing to and fro as I'm being dragged to meet his friends.
    He drops my hand in an instant as he greets them, and I'm left there behind him like a shy child wondering whether or not to introduce myself.
    So I cough.
    "Oh, this is Ella.  My girlfriend." he finally says.  Well, at least I know where I stand with him.  It's more than most girls get.  "This is Dan, Melissa and Liz," he states, pointing to them one by one.  "Dan and Melissa are engaged.  To each other, of course.  And, well, Liz is still single,"
    "Oi!" Liz reacts and playfully punches him on the arm. 
    "Lovely to meet you all," I say.  The couple smile back, but Liz has completely ignored my comment.  She's cut me off and has gone straight back to talking to Malcolm.  I'm not stupid; this girl clearly fancies him. 
    "I love your dress," Melissa says, eyeing up the sewn-on jewels scattered all over the mini dress.
    "Thanks.  I wasn't sure on the choice for tonight,"
    "So she brought two extra dresses with her," Malcolm unhelpfully inputs. 
    Melissa laughs, "I did wonder why your bag was so big,"
    "You just never know with these events," I tell her.  "You can never be too prepared when it comes to dressing up,"  the couple smile at me, but it's as if I can hear Malcolm roll his eyes as he stands to the side of me.  And Liz?  Well, she's playing about with her phone - probably eBaying a voodoo doll of me. 

We head for our seats and I break Malcolm away from the group. 
    "You and Liz," I coyly begin.  "Is there history between the two of you?"
    But he just laughs, and I immediately feel like a paranoid idiot.
    "Don't be silly.  We're just really good friends.  Nothing has ever happened between us," and he pulls me closer to kiss me on the cheek.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. 
I'm staring at the stage in awe as the vibrant colours glimmer.  I'm taken aback by the outfits and I cannot believe that I have never seen this musical before.  Where on earth have I been these last twenty-two years?  Clearly, I've been wasting my time watching Blood Brothers.
    The only thing that's ruining it is Liz. Every now and again she leans over me to talk to Malcolm.  I'm seconds away from tapping the shoulder of the bald man in front of me and asking if we can swap seats.  But he seems quite large - I don't think he'll manage the leap. 
    "Shh," I say, trying to make it come across jokingly.  "He's singing a Kylie song.  Have some respect for one of our pop princesses," but whilst Malcolm has shifted his eyes to the stage, Liz is still carrying on.
    "Want to come to Australia with me and Tess?" she asks.
    Tess?  Who's Tess?  And did this lunatic just invite my boyfriend on holiday with her when I'm right there???
    "I'll think about it," Malcolm responds.
    No, you bloody won't think about it!
    "You'll only regret it if you say no..." she reaches out and tries to tickle him.  He's not a five year old girl, nor a dog, Elizabeth!
    "Maybe," Malcolm tells her. 
    "That'll be a yes then," she smiles so broadly, I'm pretty sure I can fit three whole apples in her mouth. 
    Actually, if he knows what's good for him, that was a definite no.
    I try to ignore her, but I find I can't.  I'm not too sure how comfortable I feel with my new boyfriend being such good friends with a girl who's deeply in love with him.  It's unsettling - I'm sure you'd all agree.  It's as if I'm reading into every little word she mouths, every action she takes, and all I want to say to her is, "Liz, darling, give up now.  Just go outside and walk out into oncoming traffic, OK?"

    "We'll go and get the drinks," Liz says standing up from her seat at intermission with Dan.
    Finally!  I get five whole minutes without her flirting with my boyfriend.
    "I'll help you carry them," Malcolm says.
    "Your shoes are really lovely as well," Melissa tells me as she leans over her seat. 
    But my eyes are still glued to Malcolm who is now holding on to Liz's elbow and heading out of the doors.  "Huh?  Oh, yeah, they're new," I tell her.  "Slightly painful though.  Probably won't wear them again after tonight,"
    She lets out a gasp, " You must have a killer wardrobe,"
    I beam with pride as I think of all my clothes.  Most of them unworn with the price tag still on them, but still, Gok Wan would approve of it, and that's the main thing. 
    "I'd love to buy stuff like that," Melissa continues, staring at my shoes like an orphan longing after their parents.  "Dan and I are on a tight budget now that we've decided to get married,"
    "When's the big day?"
    "August," she sighs.  And not in a 'I'm so in love with my fiance' way.
    "Getting close,"
    "I've got everyone wine," Liz's voice thankfully interrupts. 
    "Have you misplaced my boyfriend?" I ask her when I notice that Malcolm is not with her.  She throws me a sickly smile and says,
    "He's just gone to the little boy's room.  Will be back by your side shortly.  Here's your drink," I reach out to grab the little, plastic cup, but Liz has already dropped it.
    All over my lap. 
    "Oops," she says, covering her mouth with faux-shock.
    Oops indeed!  She did that on purpose.  I've seen Benny Hill sketches that are more subtle.
    "I'm so sorry!" she says out loud when Malcolm is back in view. 
    Wait, did she just smirk???
    "And that's why I carry around two other dresses," I tell them and make my way to the bathroom. 
    "I'll come with you," Melissa tells me sympathetically. 
    I know I sound pathetic, but it's one of those moments where I just want to cry.  I want to make my excuses and head home, eat a bar of Galaxy and watch Eastenders. 
    How can Malcolm be so stupid and not notice what Liz is doing?  Ergh!  I honestly hate how dumb guys are sometimes when it comes to other girls.  It's as if they only respond to flirtation and nothing else. 
    "She did that on purpose," I tell Melissa, knowing full well how awful it sounds.
    But shockingly she replies with, "I know!"  I look over at her wanting more information, but she seems reluctant to give anything else. 
    "She clearly likes him, doesn't she?"  I say as we reach the toilets. 
    Melissa only has to look at me for me to know that I'm completely right. 
    "Don't be too hard on her.  She's been finding it extremely hard to get over him since New Year's.  She's always had a crush on him, but it got much much worse after they slept together.  As you can probably imagine,"
    I'm standing there by the cubicles in shock, a Reiss dress in one hand and a River Island one in the other.  My heart has stopped beating - of this I am sure, and the red wine has seeped through to my nude tights.  I look like I've been shot. 
    I feel like I've been shot. 
    "Are you OK?"  Melissa asks.
    "Aha," I manage to mouth.
    "Oh," she says, edging back a little, "He hasn't told you?"
    Oh, indeed!

I walk out of the toilets in the Reiss dress and sit back down as if nothing has happened.
    "Ooo, this dress is lovely," Liz says.
    "Well, refrain from spilling wine onto it," I retort.  She sneers and throws a look towards Malcolm. 
    "What's the matter?" he whispers in my ear.  "Liz is only trying to be nice,"
    "She doesn't want to be nice to me," I whisper back.
    "She wants to be nice to you,"
    "Have you somehow absorbed that wine?"
    "I asked you if you two had history.  You said no.  You lied,"
    He says nothing.  Just stares at me for a while, before turning his attention to the stage just as the cast are about to sing 'A Fine Romance'.
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