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?"
    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!
    "Ella?"
    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?"
    "What?"
    "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.
    "Ella?"
    "Yes?"
    "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.
    "Number,"
    "Huh?"
    "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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