Sunday 1 September 2013

Midsummer Night's Nightmare

Continuation of The Scary Wives of Windsor

Why did I get so brave? Where on earth did that come from?  I've never had enemies before and now the Queen Bee and her simple minded minions are staring at me like in some sort of Italian Mafia film.  I bet they're planning on how best to get rid of me.  A faint smile forms on my lips as I start to imagine their thought process.  They'll probably strangle me with a neck chain made entirely of Swarovski crystals.  Then dump the evidence because they can easily get ten other ones.
    I take another sip of champagne and try to look for Clara.  She hasn't been seen since the dancing incident and now I'm worried that these Scary Wives of Windsor have got to her.
    And where the hell is Chloe?  Shouldn't she be here by now?  I've heard of fashionably late but it's almost midnight and this is her boyfriends' birthday party, for goodness sake.  Not that I care what he's doing or how he's feeling at the moment. 
    My eyes wander over to his direction.  He's talking to an elderly gentleman who actually looks a lot like him.  Probably his father.  He does look good, doesn't he.  Anthony I mean, not his ageing father.  He looks so smart in black tie - like some sort of leader.  And his hair.  I love his hair.  I want to touch his hair. 
    In that instant he looks in my direction, then averts his eyes quickly.  Fine!  Play games if you want to.  See if I care.  Urgh, this is stupid.  What point am I making by being here?  I'm standing like a lone moron against the wall with no one to talk to.  My champagne is getting ever lower and I'm feeling too scared to even move.  Clearly, I'm not cut out for this.  They can play their Gossip Girl melodramas as much as they want, but I'm outta here! 
    My concentration is broken by a sharp "Woooo!" and the grandest entrance Clara has ever made.  With a can of beer in her hand she breaks through the patio doors with the chubby, short, balding guy holding on to her hips right behind her.
    "Hello, Gorgeous!" she greets before landing a big, fat sloppy kiss on my cheek. 
    "Where did you get that from?"  I point to the Heineken held tightly in her hand.
    "We popped over to the corner shop,"
    "The corner shop?  We're surrounded by fields!"
    "Yeah, but Geoffrey here," she pats the man's tummy, "was very kind and paid for a taxi to town,"
    "I'm well and truly sloshed!"  Geoffrey pipes in.  Tall, willowy Clara is now leaning her arm on his head.  "My wife is going to kill me when she finds out I'm drinking," he puts a finger up to his lips and spits everywhere as he tries to shush.
    "She'll probably kill you for a lot more than that," I say as I catch him grope Clara's bottom, and then her left breast.
    Clara is completely oblivious to it.  Not even a flinch as he moves closer and starts sniffing her.  Without thinking I pull a disgusted look and move away.
    Right, it's definitely time to get out of here. I place the glass down and make a dash for the door before anyone has a chance to spot me.  But just as I reach the wondrous outside, I see Chloe strolling up the stairs with a beaming smile.  Instinctively, I hide behind a flowerpot pulling in as much of my dress as I can. 
    "As the doors open, I want you to introduce me at the top of the stairs, OK Uncle?"
    "Ok, my sweet," the man responds.  I see them walk through the door straight past me.  I breathe out a sigh of relief thinking I'm on the home stretch, but Chloe stops to inspect her dress.  Her peachy skin illuminates in the iridescent light.  She smiles again like in some cheesy toothpaste commercial. Her blonde hair has been twisted and curled into a high chignon, all finished off with luminous diamonds.  Even her dress, which to anyone else who would wear it would be a simple baby pink, somehow has developed a pearlescent sheen.  She's a real life Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz - you know, if the Good Witch was a complete crazy pyscho!  That actually reminds me, I must get Jo to come and watch Wicked with me sometime soon.
    "Do you think tonight's the night?"  She asks her uncle like a small child seeking reassurance.  But reassurance is something Chloe is not short of.  Without even saying a word, her uncles' nod is simply enough for her self confidence to be back in tact.  "Do you really think he's going to propose?"  Her words leave her mouth and hit me like bullets through my skin.  Surely, I didn't hear that right?  Chloe is barely nineteen, and Anthony, well, isn't he in his early twenties? Why would he propose?     
    Completely dumbfounded, I stand behind the flowerpot wondering what her words could really mean.  She obviously means some other kind of proposal, like maybe a business proposal.  Maybe Anthony is going to propose that she works for him.  Or, another clothing.  Maybe she's hoping that he'll propose a whole new wardrobe for himself and would really love Chloe to go fetch.  Or...or...
    "Ladies and gentlemen, Chloe Deloris Oceana Wilson," the announcement chimes followed by the loudest applause I have ever heard.  It sounds like Katy Perry just walked on stage, rather than a nobody teenage girl.   But I still stand there behind this jade plant unable to move. 
    "Ella, what are you doing?" Anthony.  He looks mad, which I don't particularly care for, so I step out from behind the bushy plant and scowl at him. 
    "What does it look like I'm doing?"  But that's probably not the best response as it looks like I'm hiding behind a flowerpot.
    His hands are in his pocket and he steps closer, still mad.  Why is he mad at me?  What have I done now?
    "Don't you have somewhere to be, Anthony?  Like clapping at your girlfriends spectacularly idiotic entrance?"
    "Oh, is she here?"
    I raise an eyebrow.  "What did you think that noise was all about?  The Duchess of Cambridge didn't just turn up to your birthday party!"
    "Stop being an idiot, Ella,"  He moves closer and leans on the window sill next to me.
    I don't even want to respond.  I just want to go home.  I want to get into my Minnie Mouse pyjamas and watch Hollyoaks whilst gorging myself on full fat cheese.  Straight out of the packet.
    "Happy Birthday," I say and go to leave.  I manage to make it to the bottom of the stairs, breathing the midsummer night air before I'm stopped.
    "Seriously, why won't anyone let me leave this place?"  But my words are cut short with Anthony swooping in with one short, perfect kiss.    "Umm, what are you doing?" I whisper trying to break free from his arms. Thoughts whirring inside my head - none of which manage to form a grammatically correct sentence.
    "Home. Must get home, " I say pulling myself away from his magnetising grip.
    "Please don't go. He pulls me into him again and I'm utterly lost for words, because despite everything I cannot seem to break away.  He goes in for another kiss.  Right, this time I'll let him. This time I have to let him. But the moment's stolen with an ear-piercing scream.
     We both look up to find that the thunderous noise came from Chloe.  She screams again, although this time it isn't as ladylike. 
     Oh god, this is bad.  This is very very bad, because right by her side are all the other party guests.
Chloe is stomping down the stairs pushing me away from Anthony and I stumble backwards, almost toppling over. 
    "What are you doing?" She screams at Anthony, but he has nothing to say.
    Her attention then turns to me.  "And you!  What are you doing here!  Who invited you, because I made damn sure I ripped up Anthony's invitation to you!"
    My eyes flick towards Jens, but he just looks away completely innocently.
    "Slut!" the Queen Bee shouts from her throne.  The minions just nod in agreement.
    "She's not a slut!" Anthony steps in.  "I tried to kiss her.  She was pushing me away,"
But silence fills the garden like I've never seen before.  This is deeply embarrassing.  I can just about make the faint murmuring of crickets somewhere in the distance. 
    "I'm so sorry," I manage wanting to run home.  I knew I should have never come. 
    "Maybe it is time everyone goes home.  This misunderstanding can all be sorted tomorrow with a fresh perspective.  We're all too merry and too tired to deal with this right now," The Anthony look-alike steps in.
    "No, dad its fine," Anthony responds.  At least I was right about this being his father. 
    Chloe's earlier radiance has now vanished.  She represents more an infuriated Medusa than a gentle Aphrodite.  Any second now she'll grow serpents out of her scalp and I'll be left as a startled stone statue, forever stuck in the most humiliating experience of my life.
    "Urgh!"  She screams again.  "Fucking hell, Anthony!"
    "Language, poppet," her uncle chimes in.
    "I thought you were going to propose tonight!"
    Anthony takes a massive step back.  "Wait, what?"  He asks confused.  "Why did you think I would propose?"
    "Oh, I don't know!" She screams.  "Perhaps because I was telling you a couple of weeks ago that my father proposed to my mother on his twenty fifth birthday and you said, 'that sounds good.'"
But that explanation seems to have no effect on Anthony.  Still completely perplexed, he edges slightly backward as if he wants to hide in the safe, dark covering of the garden.
     "I'm sorry," his apology a child's whisper in the midnight air and my heart completely goes out to him.  If I had just stayed away, none of this would have happened. 
    "I NEVER want to see your face again!"  the Queen Bee spits from the top of the stairs.  She's pointing at me like a Wicked Witch about to cast a spell.  But her pathetic threat does nothing but irritate me.
    "It's alright, Sierra.  She's nothing but a daughter of the Great Unwashed who works part time at a middle-of-the-range clothing store going nowhere in life," Chloe chimes in.
    To my complete surprise, it is not shouting or swearing that comes out of my mouth, but laughter.  Loud chuckling that at this precise moment even I do not understand.
    "Firstly," I begin, "not a daughter of the Great Unwashed.  My parent's are rich.  Filthy rich in fact.  Simon Cowell kind of rich!" OK, a massive exaggeration, but confidence starts booming through my veins and I'm not about to stop now.  "And they certainly had more sense than to call me after a night club, Oceana!"  she gasps. 
     "Secondly, I don't have to work at Delilah Dales, I choose to.  And if it's so 'middle-of-the-range', why are you and your Scary Wives of Windsor wearing dresses from there?"  Someone repeats 'Scary wives of Windsor' in the crowd and all I hear is Jens' awkward laugh.  I'm guessing he didn't want me to reveal his little pet name for them.
    "Thirdly, going nowhere?  I'm at university studying Economics.  The world's my oyster.  But you." I walk towards her like I've seen in the movies a million time - the beaten down girl now the top of the pack having no mercy, "You, well, there are only so many years before the amount of antidepressants you take outnumber your clothes,"
    Chloe narrows her eyes about to bite back, but I desperately don't want to let her. " And lastly, your boyfriend seems to prefer a daughter of the Great Unwashed than the simple minded idiot of fake aristocracy," and that should just about seal the deal.
    I step back expecting wild applause, but nothing.  There is nothing by eerie silence and the faces of strangers weighing down their disapproval on me.  Even Anthony looks embarrassed.  I'm now starting to regret every single word.
    Breaking the quiet night, the bushes behind Anthony start to rustle and suddenly all attention is torn away from me.  Some grunts and groans emerge from the emerald leaves and two figures step into the light. 
    Acting like her usual self, she straightens her dress and smiles at everyone.  "Have you all met my new boyfriend?" she announces, kissing the short, old, chubby man from before as he starts tucking his shirt in, lipstick marks all around his mouth. 
    "Splendid night, isn't it?" the man bellows and the crowd, completely in unison, look on in amazement, then whisper to one another like gossiping busy bees.
    "Daddy?" and then Chloe faints.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Lexi - The First Day

Eve is awake.   I know this because I don't think I have yet fallen asleep,  and as I hear her shutting her bedroom door and heading for the kitchen, I hate my body for choosing to feel sleepy now that the alarm clock sound is imminent.   Why couldn't it have realised this 6 hours ago? 
    As I rub my sleepy eyes, I grab my phone like an excited child.   I forgot to text John before going to bed so Whatsapp must be manic.   But there's nothing. Nothing checking if I got home OK.  Nothing telling me he'd wish I'd spent the night with him.  No goodnight. No good morning.

    My heart sinks as my head gets into a wild panic; intrusive thoughts and flashbacks from 7 years ago. Oh no, it's happening again. He's probably leaving me to focus on his career. Or leaving me because he hates the blonde hair. I've scared him off with moving to London so suddenly. Oh, what have I done! 
    Just calm, Lexi.  Everything's fine.  He saw you last night at dinner - he doesn't need to text you every two seconds, I scold myself and instantly I relax taking in deep breaths like some sort of meditation therapy.  I make a mental note to see if there are any yoga classes nearby.  I could probably do with learning how to manage stress.
    I put John to the back of my head as I quickly choose clothes for the first day at my new job and head to the living room where Eve is scanning the wall with a black marker in her hand.
    "Morning," she beams when she sees me emerge cautiously. "I'm thinking one big arch from here," she steps back and ponders her handy work. "What do you think?"
    "Umm," I look over the massive, black, uneven line that she has drawn over our living room wall and don't particularly know how to respond.  "I don't know much about interior design but it seems fine. Will definitely make the kitchen bigger," I shrug as if I ooze optimism, which I don't.  I have a horrible feeling some cowboy builder will come in and knock down the wall, charge us an absolute fortune, and we'll sit back, relax and watch the flat - no, the bulding, crumble on top of us.
    "Yup. I'll get someone to come take a look at this sometime today. Pretty soon it'll be like a brand new flat. Oooh, exciting!" she giggles as she grabs her bag to head for the door. "Oh, almost forgot. I'm meeting a few of my friends tonight after work if you want to join us?"

    I'm about to say no as I'm probably doing something with John, but I don't get the chance. "Please don't feel like you have to say yes but I thought since you're new to London it would be good to meet new people. I know you have your boyfriend, and obviously you and I are going to be the best of friends but it's nice to have variety," and with a genuine smile she says goodbye and leaves. She's a whole world away from Mand.  For one, she doesn't demand that I only spend time with her.
The route from the flat to Acton seemed no bother at all.  In fact, I was surprised how quickly I found the building. But the inside of it seemed to be a convoluted maze with doors leading to even more doors.   One minute I'd be on the second floor, the next the ground. In the end I had to pluck up the courage to ask what appeared to be a 14 year old, but actually turned out to be a twenty nine year old IT assistant. 

The morning in the office was great. Only slight hiccup being that my boss cannot seem to   understand that my name is Lexi and not Alexandra. It's like she thinks Lexi is some fake, modern name suitable to a five year old who has a sibling called Saffron, and not for a woman in her mid twenties.  Perhaps I should consider changing it to something people will take seriously.  Maybe I should actually change it to Alexandra.
    "Lexus, we're having a catch up meeting in about 10 minutes if you'd like to join us. It'll be a good introduction into the role," 
    "It's Lexi," I correct shyly for the fifth time that morning.
    "Oh, I'm so sorry," and with a huff she sits down at the desk opposite mine. "Things have been manic here. My Junior Buyer has been signed off sick for six weeks. Some sort of mental disorder. Depression or something, or so she says. I never quite trusted her," she reads an email, curses loudly then carries on. "So as you can imagine, you've joined us at s hectic time," she looks up at me from her screen suddenly worried. "The agency did tell you this would be temporary, right?"
    "Yes, don't worry," I smile.
    "Phew. We've had mistakes like that before," and as she goes back to her work, Melanie fits my exact description of what a successful woman is like. Click clacking heels, yummy mummy routine and a scary look when she doesn't get her way. She's about thirtyfive, slim, with medium brown hair tied up into a smart chignon. She's clearly one of those women who goes to the gym. And I suddenly have a brain wave. I can finally be one of those girls with a gym routine! Eve definitely mentioned about the building having a gym in the basement. When I worked at the restaurant the chef tried to convince me to gain weight to make his food look more appealing. Here, it appears eating is grossly discouraged.
The work day finishes in a flash and I have made no new friends.  In fact, no one has even bothered to say hello to me.  I sat next to this woman called Natasha during the meeting and all she said to me was, "Who are you?".  No hint of a smile.  No acknowlidgement when I told her who I was.  Not a thing.  Perhaps friendship is grossly discouraged here too. 
    I say goodbuy to everyone but get nothing back as attempt to leave the office.  I'm in high spirits until I'm faced with the maze again and my head starts to get into a real panic.  The first few doors lead me nowhere - just to other offices, and as I'm about to walk down another set of stairs, I hear a voice.  It startles me so much that I almost trip and fall down the metal, white stairs, but a set of arms catch me.
    "Are you alright?" the voice speaks again, close to my ear.  As I gain back my equilibrium and stand on my own two feet, I turn around to be faced with a stranger; a tall guy with dark blonde, tidy hair wearing a stripy pink and white shirt and beige chinos.  His arms are still out expecing me to fall again.
    "I'm fine," I smile, feeling utterly stupid and embarrassed.
    He moves back leaning against the wall but doesn't say anything.  Just stands there looking at me with no readible expression on his face.  It's now getting even more embarrassing as we stand there staring each other down on the stair case, blue eyes on blue. 
    "You're new," he states breaking the silent war.  I only nod, feeling a little like I'm seven again and the headmaster has told me off for running in the school corridors. 
    "First day.  Working at Goldpinns," I almost whisper.
    "Obviously," he says in a horribly sarcastic tone, which only makes me scunch up my face in surprise.  But he says nothing more, and as quickly as he appeared, he has disappeared again.
    As I finally make my way of out of the building, I begin to wonder if everyone in London is as sour-faced as in the movies.

I've now entered the bar where Eve and her friends are at, but have still heard nothing from John.  My phone has been buzz-free all day which is very unlike it. 
    That's it.  I've ruined it.  This move to London was far too big for him to handle and now he's gone.  He no longer loves me.
    "Lexi, over here," Eve's bright voice waves me over and as I see her and her glamorous friends, I force a smile.  "Everyone, this is my new, gorgeous flatmate," she announces like I'm a prized piece at a fair.  "Come and sit next to me," she orders and I do as I'm told.
    I'm surrounded by four pairs of eyes looking at me like they expect me to say something amazing and profound.  "Hi," is all I manage.
    "Right," Eve starts before finishing off the last of her drink, "Lexi, this is Nick," her manicured finger points to a dark-haired man opposite me.  He smiles and says that it's very nice to meet me whilst his arm is around another girl, "And the lady sitting next to him is Lullah.  Lules is a teacher at my school.  That's how we met and became the very best of friends," she smiles to which Lullah smiles back.
    "We've heard a lot about you this evening.  Very pleased to finally meet you," she tells me.
    "Nick and Lullah are very much in love, you see," Eve continues.  "They met about four years ago at university and have been together ever since.  Very sweet story but I'll let them bore you with it,"
    I smile at the couple again and move my attention to the next person on the introduction list.
    "This is Finn.  Biggest Man Whore of the whole of West London.  No, whole of London.  No, actually.  Whole of England,"
    Finn rolls his eyes, adjust his jacket and hands out his hand, "Pleasure to meet you, Alexis,"
    "Oh, and he calls everyone by their full name.  Highly annoying trait,"
    "Evangeline, you never seize to entertain me," he replies but Eve says nothing.  I get the feeling the group ignore Finn a lot.
    "And last but not least, this is Davina," Eve says in a defeated tone.  "She's new to our group,"
    As Davina stands up, I notice she has the longest legs in the world.  I mean, I would look tiny compared to her Amazonian, model-esque stature.  And I'm not exactly short. 
    "Anyone want a drink?" she asks as she makes her way to the bar.
    I'm about to shake my head, but Eve answers for me, "Yes, get Lexi a drink, and another glass of wine for me, "
    "What drink would you like?"
    "Umm, a glass of white wine please.  If that's OK?"  I reply like a child.
    Davina throws a sickly, sweet smile and struts over to the bar.
    "Like I said, she's new to our group," Eve says when Davina is out of earshot.
    "She's like a model,"
    "Yes, everyone seems to think that," and I get the feeling that Eve isn't as impressed by Davina as everyone else seems to be.  "I don't know," she continues, "she's," she stops to think of the word, "blah!"  To which we both laugh.

The evening is filled with wine and conversation and I cannot believe how easily I've fitted in with this group.  I always thought it was harder to meet friends in your twenties and out of school or university, but nope.  Here I am being a social butterfly.  The complete opposite to my life in Winchester where the only socialising I did was with Mand. 
    And John.
    Oh gosh, I almost forgot about John.  Now that he's fully back in my mind I can't think of anything else.
    "You alright?" Lullah asks concerned.  You can definitely tell she's a teacher.  I can imagine her peering over a poorly little kid as they complain of a tummy ache and want their mother.
    "Yes, I reply unconvincingly.
    Lullah is about to ask something else but Davina interrupts her, " Eve, I thought Andrew was popping by,"
    "Err," Eve looks at her watch, then her phone.  "No text from him so he's probably  just working late again.  You know what...oh look, here he is now," and as our eyes dash towards the door, a tall man with dark blonde hair enters the bar.
    Oh no.
    Trust this kind of thing to happen to me.
    It's the guy from the staircase. 

Saturday 18 May 2013

A Case of Drunken Identity

Eyes open to reveal a blur of curtains and wallpaper.  All flowers and stripes, I rub my eyes for clarity to make sense of what appears to be a 1970's bedsit.  After a few more blinks, the scenery in front of me starts to reveal itself.  I'm not in a 1970's bedsit at all.  This is my room.  The curtains turn out to be jeans draped over the shutters, and the flowery wallpaper is wine splodges.  Wine splodges?  No, that can't be right.  How did they get there?
Head is pounding so much now that I'm up and I cannot make sense of any of my thoughts.  Water.  Definitely need water to wash away this horrific taste in my mouth.  What is it?  It's like vodka mixed with Listerine.  Did I brush my teeth with vodka last night?  I attempt to walk over to the door but stumble and fall over a pair of grey underpants.  Umm, now I know those definitely aren't mine.  Men's boxers?  Oh no, who stayed here last night?  Alert and awake I start to look under the covers and under the bed for any sign of another life form.  Nothing in the wardrobe.  Nothing in the laundry basket.  Nothing anywhere.  Phew!  No one's here.  That's good news. 
The door screeches and screams as I attempt to open it.  I have no idea what the time is and I'm fully aware I'm in my own house, but this still feels like the walk of shame.  I tiptoe out hoping my flatmate isn't in, but as I approach the kitchen I hear voices.  And not just her voice.  Multiple voices mixed with laughter and 'Oh my gosh!'.  Great.  They're recounting tales of my drunken escapades meanwhile I'm locked away suffering in a room covered in wine.  What has become of friendship!
It takes me 3 paces to the bathroom to realise that I'm actually only in my underwear.  Like a startled deer, I dash back to my room in a desperate search for clothing.  But I can't find anything appropriate.  It's all organza dresses and glittery tops.  What was I doing in here last night?  A fashion show?  Why are my espadrilles out?  And why the bloody hell are those jeans on the shutters?  Jeans will do.  And so will this glittery yellow top I bought at a car boot sale seven years ago.
Right, second time to leave the room.  Head still pounding.  Breath still Listerine Vodka (perhaps a new marketing promotion for them?).  Memories still non-existent. 
    "Good morning, trouble," Josie, the flatmate sings as I enter the room.  She looks at my outfit up and down and smiles, "You didn't sleep in that, did you?  I thought you were allergic?"
    What?  To a yellow top?
    "Umm, no," I reply unsure of what she could mean.  She clearly misunderstood me.  She must have been more drunk than I was.  Silly Josie.  She must feel like a complete idiot.
    "How did you sleep?" she gets up from the table to put the kettle on.
    "No coffee?"
    After three gallons of the stuff, I'm starting to feel slightly better.  Until the third voice rings behind me and I jolt spilling it everywhere.
    "It's like last night all over again," the stranger speaks and I do nothing by stare at him with a blank expression.  At least I hope it's blank.  With my current state it could be anything from mild smile to tears streaming down face.
    Who is this man?  Where did he come from?  Why is he in my kitchen?  Why does his hair smell familiar?
    "Ella, right? Or is it Desdemona?" 
Desdemona?  Oh god.  Now I remember.
Last Night
I'm always partial to a bit of drink.  I'm English.  It's how we've been raised.  But as I sit in the living room sipping on Lemsip, surrounded by dirty tissues as I'm watching Downton Abbey in a onsie, the furthest thing from my mind is going out.  I want to be warm.  Warm, healthy and full of knowledge that Lady Mary and Matthew will definitely get married.
    It is, therefore, completely unbeknownst to me how I ended up at Purple Mustard with Josie shoving another stinky Sambuca underneath my nose.
    "Drink, and you shall be merry," she orders as she downs hers with a smile.
    And she's right, because I do become merry.  It just takes me seven attempts at it.  Next thing I know I'm feeling incredibly brave going up to every guy demanding that they call me Lady Ella, because I'm an heiress who is about to be swindled out of my fortunes by some distant cousin.
    "And he's only a lawyer, you know" I jabber in utter self-confidence.  Faces are looking blank around me - a few pitying smiles as randomers sip their drinks and walk away, but it doesn't dampen my spirits.  In a mix of paracetamol, Strepsils and Sambuca, I truly am an English aristocrat living off my well-earned inheritance.  Now where is my butler with that drink!
    Confused as to why he is nowhere to be seen, I decide to make my own way to the bar, order a dirty martini and casually lean against the cool, metallic table top watching my minions.  I take one sip of my drink and completely miss my mouth.  It all pours across my chest and into my dress.  Quite possibly my bra too. 
    "Should you be doing that in public?" a stranger speaks and I turn but see no one.  Perhaps I'm hearing things.
    "Seriously, should you be doing that in public?" Again?  Where is this voice coming from?  I turn again to be faced with blue eyes and wry smile. 
    "I'm not doing anything," I reply.  It's only when I see his eyes drop down to my chest, that I realise I appear to be fishing out an olive from my bra.  I take my hand out immediately and scorn myself.  This is not how a lady should be behaving. 
    "What's your name?" he asks.
    "Ummm....ummm..." I need a new identity.  After this whole olive-bra incident I can no longer be Lady Ella.  It will bring utter shame to my family.  "Desdemona," I reach out my hand expecting him to kiss it, "Charmed to meet you,"
    "I hear you're a friend of Josie's,"
    "...Yes.  Why?  What has she said?"
    He starts to laugh out loud.  "She hasn't said anything.  She pointed you out earlier and I thought I'd say hello.  I'm Mark."
    "She said, 'Over there is my friend, Desdemona?'"  She knows me far too well if she said that.  We're probably syncing our brains from living together for so long.  It wouldn't surprise me after watching that really cool documentary about mind reading.
    He looks confused.  "No...she just pointed to you and said 'There's my friend!'  Drink?"
    "What would you like?"  
    Ah.  I have to have a think here.  What would 'Desdemona' like?
    "I'll have a glass of Prosecco,"  I'm thinking Desdemona is new money.
Josie, Mark and I are now out of the bar, faced with a trail of cabs and drunk pedestrians.  Gosh, all these women have no idea how to hold their drink.  One of them has puke all down her.  At least I had the decency to wait until I was over a toilet bowl.  And I only got a little on the bottom of my tights.
    "It's too far to walk," 
    "Oh, it's only ten minutes, Ell...I mean, Desdemona," Josie says.  "Mark will give you a piggy back, right Mark?"
    "Hop on," he instructs, to which I do.  And fall asleep nuzzled up against his wavy hair.
I'm outside the flat now, with Josie trying to cram the key into the lock.  "It won't fit!" she shouts but I only look on.  I decide to take a break from helping out and sit against the wall thinking about my new life as Desdemona.  God, it could really be great.  People will call me Dessie for short.  Or Mona.  And maybe I'll get a dog.  Dessie definitely sounds like she'd have a dog.  And maybe-
    "Come on, Missy," Mark helps me up and leads me inside.  Excuse me, but it's actually Dessie.
    The three of us are now sitting on the floor of my room looking at the pale, cream wallpaper.  I can't quite recall how we got onto this conversation.  The last thing I remember is Josie telling Mark that I'm single and that he should take me out.  I may have told him he should.  Actually, I may have demanded it.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall his response, but he can't have said no. 
    "It could do with some colour,"
    "Mmm, and possibly some more paintings,"
    "And curtains,"
    The conversation carries on without me, with Mark occasionally asking if I'm OK. 
    "Not if you keep insulting my room!" I reply in a grump.  And then a wonderful idea comes to me.  I'll decorate it right now.  I mean, it can't be that difficult as all I need to do is get some paint pots and test out colours.  They used to do it all the time on Changing Rooms.  Except, I don't have any paint...
    "Jose, what do you think of wine coloured walls?"  I ask her as I wander around the room inspecting the crisp wallpaper. 
    "It's my favourite colour!" she beams and hands me a glass of the stuff.  And I throw it on the wall.
    "Ella, what the fuck are you doing?"  Josie stands up in shock.  Mark is in a fit of laughter.
    I look down at both of them confused at the outbreak.  "What?  I'm seeing if this is a suitable colour to paint it,"
    Josie walks out angrily, but I take no notice.  She's probably just jealous that Mark finds me funny and not her.  He's still laughing.  He laughs a lot.
    "You should get some curtains too," she inputs after he's done.
    What an excellent idea.  I like this Mark character.  I think him and Desdemona shall be very happy together.
    I open up the wardrobe and take out a pair of jeans, then drape them over the shutters.  Wow.  I am such a genius. 
    "That's pretty good," he rises from his place and looks on at my handy-work.
    Josie walks back in with a bottle of vodka straight out of the freezer and a pair of mens boxers on her head.  "I've decided I'm not drunk enough," and takes a big gulp.  I congratulate her on her new hat and go to shut my wardrobe.
    "Wow, that's a very sparkly top," Mark says looking at a glittery, yellow top in the middle of my wardrobe.
    I pull it out and look at it's gleaming glory in the light.  "Yes, it's real diamonds," I tell him in utter seriousness.  My godfather gave it to me as a present.  He was disappointed he couldn't find a diamond encrusted pony for me,"
    "Those aren't diamonds!" Josie pipes up before another vodka sip.
    "What?" I say in mock shock, "well, no wonder I never wear it.  I'm allergic to fake diamonds," and start inspecting the rest of my clothes to add to the reality.  I don't want Mark to think I'm a fraud.  I need to play my part.  Clothes are now being flung all over the room.
Josie has now fallen asleep hugging the grey underpants, and Mark and I are lying down on my bed talking about the squares on the ceiling.
    "I think they came with the house," I inform.
    He rises slightly from the bed and rests his head on his hand.  With a massive grin he's looking down at me like an impressive knight who has rescued his damsel. 
    "You're crazy," he says getting closer like he's about to kiss me.  "You make me laugh so much," 
    Our lips touch very faintly, and for a second I feel like I've been snapped out of my drunken state, but just before he kisses me I realise I've been sick tonight.  And I haven't brushed my teeth. I cannot let this man kiss my vomit covered mouth.  I rise from the bed and grab the vodka bottle that's now resting next to Josie's feet.  I take a mouthful, gargle and spit it out in the bathroom sink.
    "What the hell are you doing?" I see Mark's reflection in the bathroom mirror.
    "I'm brushing my teeth,"
    "...where's your toothbrush?"
    "Vodka's antibacterial,"
    "I still think you need a toothbrush,"
    God, he's completely right.  I grab the pink, bristly brush from the pot and dip it into the bottle.  With utter care, I start to brush my teeth.
    Ten minutes later, I'm done and walk back to my room with a beaming smile.  "I'm ready," I announce, but Mark is fast asleep on my bed.  A little disappointed, I take off my clothes down to my underwear and get under the covers on the space that's left.  I'll kiss him in the morning.
    Still impressed at my amazing interior designing skills, I take a quick look around my room before I turn off the lamp.
    "Night, Jose," I whisper.
    "Nnnn," is all the reply I get from the corner of the room.

Sunday 10 February 2013

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I run for the taxi I can see in the distance. My legs skim across Leicester Square like never before, and a few steps behind me I can hear him screaming my name."

    "Ella!" He yells for my attention, "Where are you going?"
    Away. I'm going away. Because if I'm right about this (and I probably am), I need to be as far away from this man as I can possibly get.
     I reach the taxi to be greeted by a perplexed driver turning his double chin towards me. I almost expect him to tell me to get out and drive off with wheels spinning, and me left behind splattered with mud.
    "Er...where to?" He asks, before lifting his double chin to the guy running after the taxi. "Should I wait for your friend?”
    "No!" I shout, turning my head to see my dear date catching up. "Go! Please drive!” I yell.
    "WHERE TO?" he says, exhasperated.
    Well, there’s no need for that attitude. Honestly, some people are so impatient.   
    "Waterloo," and off we go.
As we drive away, I look behind me at my abandoned date and breathe a sigh of relief. I see him finally stop to catch his breath, hands above his hips, looking at me like I’ve gone insane.  People need to stop looking at me like that.  It’s doing nothing for my self confidence.

    "I won't be associated with some sort of crime, will I?" The driver speaks through the rear view mirror.  All I see is his double chin, which unfortunately has the same height as the rest of his face. 

    "Umm, no," I responded rapidly reaching for my phone.

    "Because if I am, I'll be very angry," chin wiggles in the mirror.
    Why does he keep talking to me? Can't he see I'm clearly in distress and, oh no, where's my phone? Please tell me I didn't leave it at the restaurant. Please please, oh here it is just past my hair spray and left over pre-date Subway. 

     I fumble around with my phone, forgetting which apps lead to which programme, until I finally click on the right one where a list of names pop up.  Mikey – where on earth is Mikey?  And who are all these strange people on my contacts list?  Who’s Elspeth? 
    As I realise that my phone needs more of a detox than Peaches Geldolf in her good ol’ days, I finally click on Mikey and wait impatiently as the phone rings.
    Meanwhile, taxi driver is muttering something under his breath.  Oh dear!  I hope I haven’t run from one mad man only to be throwing myself into another one. 
    “Seriously, are you in some sort of trouble?” he turns towards me, ignoring the road ahead.
    “Of course not,” 
    “Then what the bleedin’ ‘ell were you doing running like that?  Nineteen years of cab driving and I’ve never seen anything like that before,” I’m about to stop him, but he continues, “and I’ve seen all sorts.  Oh, the stories I could tell…”
    Oh please, don’t tell!  I have much more important things to do right now.
    Mikey doesn’t pick up, so I try again.  I’m about to give up all hope and reach his house without warning, but try one last time.
    Hurrah!  Success at last!  The lazy bugger has picked up the phone.
   “Hello,” he sings in a sleepy voice. “You’ve just woken me up,”
   “Woken you up?  Mikey, it’s nine o’ clock!”
   “Oh, is it?” he says after a pause.  I can hear a yawn before he speaks again.  “I must have napped,”
   “Mikey, I think I’m in trouble,”
   “I knew it!” explodes the driver,to which I quickly roll my eyes.
   “You know the guy I was set up with tonight?”
   “Yeah. Why?  What have you done?” Mikey bursts suddenly with an aggressive tone.  I think he’s fully awake now. 
   “No, it’s nothing like that,” I stare out of the window as I ignore the rants of the driver, and recollect my memories of the evening.  “I’m pretty sure he’s the wanted murderer!”  I whisper down the phone.
   “Er, the what?”
   “You know!  The guy on Crimewatch last night.  The mass serial killer who I said was too attractive to be a madman,”
   He laughs, which makes me want to cry. 
  “I’m not making this up.   I promise you.  It’s him!”
  Mikey huffs down the phone.  “Ok, Ella,” I can hear him sit down with exhaustion.  “Just because he looks like him, doesn’t mean it’s him.  Do you honestly think that killer on Crimewatch, who by the way, looked illiterate, would be moonlighting as an accountant?”
   Oh, he just doesn’t get it.  Mikey is so na├»ve sometimes.  It’s like he doesn’t switch on the news at all and lives in some sort of lala land with pixies and sunshine. 
   “Mikey!  Maybe he is a trained accountant.  And maybe he really does work in London.  And maybe he really did go to Thailand for his gap year.  And maybe he secretly loves musicals.  But none of these mean that he’s not a murderer!”
   The car comes to a sudden stop as we hit a stand still.  The driver has gone awfully quiet and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.
   “Traffic, eh!” I try to joke, but he just nods his head.  No chin wobble or anything. 
   As I put the phone back to my ear, Mikey is saying something.
   “Sorry, didn’t get a word of that,”
   “Tell me more about what happened tonight.  How soon after meeting him did you realise he was an escaped prisoner?”
   “Not escaped, Mikey.  He hasn’t yet been caught,”
   “Yes, whatever,”
   “It’s all a bit strange.  I thought he looked familiar immediately, but it’s the things he started doing that really drove it home.  For one, he kept saying he’s had a lot of business in Wiltshire,”
   What is the point of watching TV if he’s never going to listen to a word of it! Especially something like Crimewatch.  His life could be in danger and he’d be oblivious.  Lucky he has me to warn him of all these dangers.
   “That’s where the crimes took place, Mikey,”
   “Right.  Er, so what else?”
   “When we sat down at the restaurant, he clutched at the knife,” I whisper, still frightened at the thought of it.
   “Was he about to enjoy a nice, juicy steak?” a laugh escapes him.  He needs to be told that laughing at your own jokes negates any funnyness.
  “Mikey, you’re not listening.  It was the way he was holding it – like he wanted to jab it into something,”
  “Well, if you were annoying him half as much as you annoy me, I wouldn’t blame him,” another giggle.
   Oh, charming!  I really want to hang up now. I’ve just experienced a traumatic event, have escaped from a wanted criminal by the skin of my teeth, and all my best friend wants to do is laugh at me?
  “He had madmen eyes!” I almost shout making the driver clear his throat uncomfortably.
  “Traffic still bad?” I ask the chin at the rear view mirror.
  “Been like this all week,”
   I turn back to my conversation, annoyed that Mikey can’t understand the severity of the situation.
  “So you got out alive,” he continues.  “What exactly is the problem?”
   Now, this is when I’m too scared to even admit it to myself.  I play around with the zip of my jacket as I look out at traffic London before responding.  “Mikey, before it hit me that he was this wanted murderer, I told him where I lived.  He’s probably at my house already. Waiting.”
   “Ella, you do understand the likelihood of all this, don’t you?”
   “But – “
   “Just think about all this for a second, just really stop and think.  Would someone who is nationally well known as a murderer, someone who is being hunted by police as we speak, be out in London on a busy evening on a date?”
   “If you think about it, it’s probably the perfect disguise,”  I'm losing faith in my own words.
   “Wouldn’t he be planning his escape out of the country?  Wouldn’t he be hiding in some grotty bunker?"  
   “Even criminals need some time out,”
   “Do you honestly think he has the time to be out dilly dallying with dating?”
   “Well, I am adorable!”
    I can hear the fridge door being opened, bottles clinking and wrappers crinkling on the other end.  I instantly realise I’m hungry, so dig out the remains of the three hour old Subway.
   “So how exactly did you leave it?  I’m guessing you didn’t give him a kiss goodbye,” Mikey speaks before swigging on what can only be chocolate milk.  Other than his cat, this is his one and only weakness.
   “I ran,”
   The sound of chocolate milk being spat out.
   “I’m sorry, what?”
   “…I ran,” I say, less confident.
   “What?  You just legged it out of the restaurant?”
   I tut, “No of course not.  I waited until we were out of the door.  And then I ran,”
   “Where to?  And what did you do?”
   I take a bite out of the Subway.  “Well, luckily he stopped to open the restaurant door for someone as we were leaving, so I seized my opportunity.  If I haven’t, you’d most likely be seeing my face on the news right now!” I chew as quickly as I can.  “I was a bit disorientated and headed the wrong way at first, which didn’t help, but I luckily found a taxi and got on.  I’m still on it now,”
   “What did he do?”
   “He was resistant to drive me at first, but I think he’s warmed up to me now,” I smile cheekily at the driver but am only ignored.
   “I meant your date.  What did he do?”
   “Oh.  He chased after me,”
   “I think I’m going to stop being your friend.  Goodnight,”
   “Mikey, wait!”
   No one of the other end.  Typical!  Traffic is moving now, and within seconds I’m at Waterloo.  I pay the driver very generously and he drives off - this time wheels spinning, me almost splattered in mud.  As it turns out, my date wasn’t the wanted killer.  Oops.  Well, these are mistakes we all make.
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