Sunday 24 July 2011

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

    "I like you,"
    I'm in line at the restaurant queue.  It's lunchtime and I only popped out because today's menu had roast dinner.  And I have a thing for Yorkshire puddings.  But here I am unexpectedly hearing words I never thought I'd hear. 
    "A lot," he continues whilst pouring gravy on his plate.
    I don't know how to respond.
    "Yorkshire pudding, madam?"
    "No," I whisper without thinking.
    I mean yes.  YES!!  I want a Yorkshire pudding!  Oh, too late.  We've already moved on to the sprouts.  And no one wants those.
    Should I play dumb and pretend that I haven't understood what he actually means?
    "One date?" he asks holding his tray like at trophy.  "Just one date, and if you don't like what you see, I'll stop bothering you like I have been,"
    What?  He's been bothering me?  I hadn't even noticed.
    I really should be saying something.   'No' springs to mind.  But 'yes' pops out of my mouth.

We're at The Natural History Museum in London.  Now, normally this is a happy place for me - fond memories of a school trip in Year 5 spring to mind - but today it's as if all possible fun has been sucked out. 
    Because we've been staring at dried out insects for an hour.
    "Am I allowed to tell you that you look as beautiful as this butterfly?" he drawls.
    No, you're not.  Because a) my make-up is completely ruined after that woman got startled by the moving dinosaur and threw her water all over me, and b) because this butterfly is all dried out!  I've seen slugs more appealing to the eye than this!
    I smile and sway my yellow summer dress to imply that I'm flattered. 
    "Butterflies are probably the most interesting insects out there.  Apart from bees, obviously,"
    "They taste with their feet to find out whether the leaf they're on is good enough for laying eggs,"
    "Wow," my enthusiasm lacking slightly.
    "They're strong too.  Like all insects they can carry about 50 times their own body weight.  It would be like me carrying two heavy cars full of people,"  he laughs aloud at his own words.  I don't even bother to pretend to find him funny.
    "And caterpillars are wondrous creatures too.  You know, an old wives tale states that when the black bands of a Woolybear caterpillar are wide, a cold Winter is coming,"
    "Do the black bands tend to be wide around November time, say just when the weather's getting really cold?"
    He's in a fit of laughter again, "You're hilarious!"
    Yes.  And you're not.
    "Butterflies need the warmth of the sun to help them fly.  Oh, and here's another interesting fact,"  he really needs to re-learn the meaning of the word 'interesting', "none have been found in Antarctica,"   
    "Well, I suppose that does make sense if they need the warmth of the sun to fly," I say.  He looks at me full of wonder.  I feel like I've said something horribly wrong, but to my surprise, his face creases into a broad smile.  "You really are a butterfly, aren't you,"
    What does that even mean?
    "You always look so graceful," he continues.
    "Then looks are incredibly deceiving,"
    He laughs again.  It's getting highly annoying. 
    "Do you like butterflies?"
    "I like the Butterfly Ball lipstick collection by Lipstick Queen,"  
    And he's laughing yet again.  What was so funny about that???
    "It comes in five colours," I continue, not understanding why he isn't taking me seriously.  "Today I'm wearing 'Trance',"
    He finally stops and looks at me with intense eyes, "Butterflies are rare," his expression begins to soften as his eyes burn into me.  I half expect him to burst into song declaring his undying love for me.  Or butterflies.  "Habitats are changing, so there are fewer numbers than before,"
    "Really?  I saw about 15 on the way here,"
    But he's stopped listening to me.  "We desperately need them as they're the second largest group of pollinators.  Bees being the first," he sighs as he continues to look at the dried out insects behind the glass.  "And bees are disappearing too,"
    "Like in Doctor Who,"
    "Never mind,"
    "Bees can recognise individual human faces,"
    "I knew it!" I declare, "I told Tia that the same bee was buzzing around me that entire week!"  and I'm really not joking.  It followed me to two bars!
    "They have nasty stings,"
    I nod my head trying to remember a time I've been stung.  It's only happened once when I was very little.  I was out buying a watermelon with my grandad and a bee sat on my thumb. 
    "Bees are just a form of specially adapted wasps.  So they may look beautiful and friendly, but deep down they can really hurt you,"
    I begin to walk ahead, trying to entrance him towards the gemstone section.  Hopefully he'll have less to say over there.  He follows weakly, his hands gracing my waist when he catches up with me.  In an instant, he's pulled me towards him, his arms cocooned around me so there's no escape.
    "Can we do this again?" he asks me with an whisper, his eyes longingly scanning every contour of my face.
    I was really hoping to avoid this situation.  I was hoping he'd realise I'm not the girl for him, we'd go our separate ways and revert to occasionally bumping into each other at the restaurant queue.  Him drowning his plate with gravy, and me stealing all the Yorkshire puds. 
    "Umm, I should really head home now," I tell him, pushing his arms away from me. 
    "Oh," he says deflated and hurt.  And there it was.  I'd stung him, then floated away. 

Saturday 16 July 2011

The Bunny Boiler - Chapter 9

...Just a little bit more and I've got it...and...there!
    I pull the tiny rowing boat back towards the river bank with all my might and breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Apparently, there is a reason why you're supposed to tie them up and not leave them loose on the river.
    "Got it back. It's ready,"  I shout over at Tia who is lazily sitting on the grass, sunbathing.  "Thanks for all your help!" I input.
    She pulls up her sunglasses so they sit above her eyes and looks at me nonplussed.  "You go on it and I'll take pictures," she says, letting the sunglasses fall back on her nose.
    For a second I actually think that her idea is rather a good one.  I always go on about how we should photograph our adventures more, but one look at my tiny red and white boat, a glance at the heavy paddles, and a gaze at the mass of water, and I go back to my original idea.
    "Tia!  I can't do this on my own.  Please, get in the boat and steer!"
    "Steer what?"
    Well, she's got me there.  "The river?"  I attempt defeated.  She looks at me with confusion before getting up from her spot. 
    "Are you going to hold on to that rope all day?"
    "I don't want it drifting off again,"
    In a huff she takes off her shoes and starts to roll up her trousers.  "Why did you buy a boat anyway?  Are you having a Quarter Life Crisis?"
    "No, I don't plan on having one till I'm at least 22,"  I respond.  She looks up at me mid trousers roll-up with yet another confused look.
    Honestly, like buying a boat is so strange!  People do it all the time.  Like in that episode of Friends where Joey buys a boat and Rachel tries to help him learn, but she ends up shouting and realises that she's turned out like her father.  I wonder what my realisation will be on my boat.  I hope it's a good one.  You know, not too life changing like realising I'm a lesbian.  But also not too mediocre like realising I've left the GHD's on.
    Actually, did I leave my GHD's plugged in?
    "How are we getting on it?"
    Oh, I hadn't really thought of that.  I was hoping we'd be able to simply walk on it, but the way the boat is bobbing up and down the river I don't think we can. 
    "I'll hold on to the rope, you get in.  Then I'll let go of the rope and jump in also,"  I say, full of optimism.
    Tia puts both hands on her hips to tell me that there's no way she's doing that.
    "Fine!  I'll go in first," I say, handing over the rope.  "I don't know why you're so frightened.  This'll be easy," and I immediately regret my words. 
    Because in actual fact I have no idea how I'm going to do this.  The boat refuses to stay in one place, and the moment I think I have the perfect distance to get on, it moves.  But I have to do this.  It's vitally important that I get on this boat.  I have to show Jamie that I'm a very serious person, and I have to show Kate that she cannot win no matter how severe her Bunny Boiler tantrums are.  I don't know how this will do that, but I'm positive it's a start. 
    Right.  3... 2... 1...GO!  Nope, still not on the boat.  OK, this time I will definitely jump in.  3... 2.... 1... 1 and a half... 1 and a quarter... 1 and...
    Damn!  I wish I was better at fractions!
    .... 1 and 20%... 1 and 15%... 1 and...
    "Get on the boat!"
    One foot drops in followed by the other one, and with a heavy fall as both feet refuse to balance, and a loud 'Ouch', I'm in the boat.  Yay!  I made it!
    A second later, Tia's in there with me.  I look at her in annoyance.  "Why was that so easy for you?"
    "Oh, we go on boats all the time when we're down in Chichester," she says sitting down opposite me.
    "So, you could have helped?"
    "I could have.  But it does mean I wouldn't have been able to get these amazing photos," she brings out her phone whilst giggling.
    Oh thanks a bloody bunch! 
    I grab the phone off her.  Actually, some of these photos are incredibly flattering.  I think the April sun does wonders for my complexion.  Oh, hang on.  This one's not so great.  It must have been taken when I was trying to do fractions. 
    I hand the phone back.  "Right," I say with a beaming smile, looking ahead at the grand river, "where shall we go?"
    "What?  No!  We're not going to another town!  I was thinking more a choice between The Swan or The Weir,"
    "We can't go to either pub.  We're seventeen,"
    "We're not going to go inside!  I'm using them as locations,"
    "Oh.  Let's go to The Swan then," she jolts her head about in both directions, "there seem to be less swans over there.  Ironically,"
    "To The Swan it is,"  the current has already taken us quite a way from the river bank.  At this rate, perhaps we'll end up in Chertsey after all. 
    I'm about to grab a paddle and start our journey, and then I realise both paddles are still on the grass.
    This is really bad.  And also not the sort of realisation I was hoping for.

    "Move the water away from you a bit faster, Tia.  We're never going to make it back with you using only your fingers!"  I say as I dip my hands in the water again to make the boat move.  This theory worked for a little bit.  But then we got tired, and now we're pretty much just sitting there trying to keep the sun from our faces.  I feel lost at sea. 
    "I knew I should have said no to helping you.  There clearly was a reason Mikey was conveniently busy.  He knows you far too well by now,"
    I roll my eyes.  "Mikey's in Oxford at a uni induction day.  He would have killed for the chance to be here,"
    "You're very testy today," Tia's looking at me like a mother pitying a child who writes S instead of 2.  I almost feel like she'll say, "Don't worry, pet.  You'll get it eventually,"
    But she doesn't.  Instead she says, "If you want Jamie, you have to call him.  You can't carry on being this stubborn,"
    "I'm not stubborn!"  I say, crossing my arms and looking away into the distance.  "And anyway, I texted him a couple of days ago telling him I have a boat.  He didn't reply,"  I look down at my feet, far too scared that if I make eye contact with Tia, I'll cry.  We sit there in silence, but it's as if I can hear her thoughts.  Because I know for a fact we're both thinking the same thing - I've lost him. 
    "Oh well," I say and force a smile.
    "Ella, you don't have to pretend that it's all fine,"
    "But it is fine.  It's not as if I'm married to him and we're about to have a messy divorce, and kids are involved, and we have to decide who gets the good coffee machine.  I'm 17.  I think I'll manage," I laugh a little and hope to God that I'm right.  "Now paddle, please!"
    We're about to start all over again, but I hear something.  "Is someone saying my name?"  I ask, looking around but not spotting anything.  We stop splashing and have a listen.
    "Did you hear that?" I say to Tia, looking around furiously.  And then I spot him. My heart flutters as I see him standing by the river smiling at me.  And then it sinks completely.  Because standing next to him, is Kate.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Part Two: Orange

    "I'm going to get such a bad reputation for myself in this place,"
    "Why?" my friend Charlie asks as he tells the waiter we require a table for two.
    "Because these last couple of months, every time I've been in here it has been with a different guy,"
    He chuckles, "Oh, it doesn't matter.  I'm sure they won't even remember you," he says, dismissing my comment with a wave of his hand.
    "So, how are you?" the waiter turns and asks me as he leads us to the table.  He's greeting me with a wide smile as if I'm a dear friend of his.  I whisper a faint 'OK' and sit down.
    "Who have you been coming here with?" Charlie asks, unable to wipe the grin off his face.
    "Well, I used to come here with my ex about a month ago.  I was here with Mikey this morning, I met up with a friend from school I haven't seen in ages, had brunch with an ex a couple of days ago, and now I'm here with you.  Seriously, my reputation will be in tatters,"
    "I think it's too late to worry about that," he smiles at me as I sharply kick his leg.  "Ouch!  I was only joking!"
    "That waiter especially," I continue, ignoring that Charlie is wincing in pain, "he has been my waiter every time.  And I mean, every single time,"
    Charlie turns to look at the tall waiter who must be about 20 and his eye light up playfully.  "Want to play a game?" he turns his head towards me with a mischievous smile. 
    Oh no!!
    What's happening in his brain?  Am I going to have to pretend I'm a recovering druggie that he's convinced to become clean again so that he can look like an upstanding local politician?
    "I don't think I'm happy with where this is going,"
    "Just follow my lead.  I promise you it'll be fun," he winks at me.  I attempt to wink back but somehow it doesn't have the same effect.  I look like a bug has flown into my eye. 
    The waiter happily walks over at a raise of Charlie's finger.  "Ready to order?" he asks cheerfully. 
    Oh you poor, unsuspecting fool, I think. 
    "Yes, we are...I think," Charlie scans the menu again.  Meanwhile, I'm looking at him agog wondering what's about to happen.  "Have you decided, darling?"
    Oh, that's me!
    "Umm, not yet.  I just can't decide between the burger or the flatbread pizza," I look up and down the menu, deep in pensive, food thought.  Honestly, I should be given a BAFTA or something for this performance.  "I'm really not sure...honey," I say, eyes briefly glancing at Charlie.  I really hope he knows what he's doing because I certainly don't. 
    But his face doesn't seem to give anything away.  Deep in concentration, he's not about to let a single of his facial features break this deal.  Like a true, dishonest politician.  Now I understand why so many of his girlfriends have never worked out that he's insanely undatable.
    "I bet you had no problem choosing a meal when you used to go out with James," he says dryly.
    James?  Who's James?  That guy I went on one date with?  What???
    "I'm sorry?"  I respond, still fully in character of course.
    "Just saying that I bet you weren't this indecisive when you and James were together," the menu is put down angrily on the table and he crosses his arms.  His demeanour perfectly fitting that of a stroppy child.
    I think I've caught on to what's going on here.  I quickly look up at the waiter before I reply.  He looks so awkward attempting his best to hide behind his mini notebook.
    "Oh, don't start this again!"  I reply, my tone raised a little.
    "Don't start this again?  I'll stop when you tell me the truth!"  Charlie is now shouting.  The waiter has taken a massive step back and I immediately feel bad.  He gave me five balloons when I asked for only one once.  And gave me free ice-cream when he accidentally included bacon in my burger.
    But I've started this now.  And a true thespian commits to the stage.  Or restaurant in the middle of Walton on Thames.  "There is nothing going on with James!  I have told you this a million times!"
    "Well, I have it under good authority that there is.  Everyone knows"  I bet even he knows" Charlie is now pointing at the waiter who takes another leap back and starts shaking his head as if defending himself for a crime he did not commit.  "Has she been here with other men?" Charlie asks him.
    The waiter 'umms' and 'arrrrs' a little, but refuses to answer.
    What a good boy!  If I ever do have an affair at least  I know which restaurant will keep it discrete.
    "You are so insecure!!"  I stand up with force and attempt to slap my paper napkin on the table for added effect.  It floats softly before falling on the floor.  "I will not sit here and be accused of cheating by someone who has slept with over 150 women!" and I stomp my feet in anger as I walk through the restaurant to the exit.  A few orange balloons attempt to stand in my way, but they're no match for me.  With 10% grace, I make my way past them. 

I can't believe I've done this.  Sod the BAFTA!  I deserve a bloody Oscar!
    Maybe I should go home and prepare a really heartfelt and tearful speech about my life from rags to riches.  Well, rag-ish to rich-ish.  And buy a dress.  Although really, I should probably star in a film first.  An I've heard it isn't easy to get auditions.  You always hear about struggling actors, don't you. 
    I'm now getting angry that my mother had no childhood, acting aspirations for me.  I mean, didn't she want me to be a successful Hollywood icon?  I could have been in The Bill like Keira Knightley and be world famous by now.  I could have been in Atonement! 
    But no.  I had to be normal and go to university.  And look at me!  A few months out of it and I'm still unemployed.  Well done, mother.  You've surpassed yourself.
    I snap out of my daydream and realise that I've walked all the way to the entrance of Sainsbury's.  And I really have no idea what the rest of my plan is.  I wish I'd thought this through.
    I instantly reach for my bag to grab my Blackberry but realise that I've left everything at the restaurant. 
    Oh bugger!
    I swing round at he direction of the voice to be greeted with a face I recognise but cannot place straight away.  And then it hits me.
    It's Alex.
    American Doctor Alex from the train station a few days ago.
    "Hi," I reply in surprise, "Didn't expect to see you,"
    "Well, I didn't expect to see you either.  I was on my way home," he points to the luxury flats above the shopping centre, then crosses his arms, "are you OK?  I saw you storm out of that restaurant as I walked around the block,"
    "Did I look convincing?"
    "When I stormed out.  Did I look angry but at the same time very hurt?"
    "Umm," he starts to look around.  I bet he's wishing he'd walked straight past me instead of stopping to talk.  "Yes, you did..."
    I smile.
    I'm definitely going to shout at my mum the next time I see her.  I've had this talent all this time and she's been doing nothing about it.
    Alex is looking at me puzzled, so I decide it's best to clarify.  "My friend and I were being incredibly immature and decided to have a fake argument.  I may have taken it a step too far by storming out,"
    "Right," he says, looking amused.
    Maybe I should have lied to him.  Perhaps told him that I moonlight as a restaurant inspector and I was shocked with the tiramisu.
    "I thought that maybe you and your boyfriend had an argument, you know, because of our conversation at the train station," he starts to look around nervously.
    "We broke up," I say quickly.  "Last Thursday actually.  The day we met,"  I briefly smile at him, hoping I don't sound like I want him to ask me out.  
    Because I don't.
    It would be weird if I jump from one relationship straight to the next.  I mean, it's only been 5 days...
    5 days?!?
    Is that it???
    Why does it feel like it's been months and months?  Shouldn't I be locking myself in my room, refusing to get dressed or wear make-up and stuff my face with ice-cream, probably crying whilst listening to Adele?
    My goodness, I've recovered quickly.
    "Are you alright?  You're smiling to yourself,"
    "Oh.  Yes, I'm great.  So yes, I broke up with him,"
    "Good," he responds, but realises how it sounds and attempts to recover his comment, "I don't mean 'good'.  I only said it because you weren't happy.  At least, you didn't seem happy,"
    I laugh, "Relax.  I know what you mean,"
    We stare at each other for a couple of seconds before he breaks the gaze, "How did the job interview go?"
    For a moment I can't think what on earth he's talking about.  I'm too busy admiring him.  Gosh, I'm pathetic!
    "Really well.  They've called me back for a presentation this Friday,"
    "Well done!  I knew you'd do well,"
    "Don't speak too soon.  I haven't got it yet,"
    "No.  But you will," he smiles at me again and I want to hug him and say 'Oh you!  Thanks for believing in me'. 
    But I don't because I see Charlie walking toward us, my bag in his left hand.  He's hanging on to it like a fish he's caught for tonight's supper.
    "My friend's here.  I better go," I tell Alex and start to move away, despite not wanting to.
    "Your phone number," his right hand ruffles his dark hair whilst his left stays firmly in his pocket.
    "Hand over your phone then," I say it as if it's such an inconvenience that he'll now have my number.  Quickly, I type in the information.  "See you soon," I say as I make my way towards Charlie.  Alex leaves us to it.
    "Who's he?" asks Charlie, passing me my bag with a throw.  I follow his gaze and watch Alex disappear around the corner.  A bubble of excitement builds up within me and for an instant I get a flash forward of this next year.  I instantly smile.
    "I think he may be my future husband,"
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