Novel: “Snap!”

(Work in progress. 2 chapter sample)

Snap!

Chapter 1

The end

It seemed especially dark when we walked home last night. It was probably because three street lamps were out. I notice little things like that. I have an on-going To Do List in my head that I note things down on. Telephoning the street lighting company was quite far down the list so didn’t stand much of a chance of actually being done any time soon.

I don’t imagine I will forget that walk home for a while. It was one of those rare moments when Cameron was profound and meaningful and amazing, with emphasis on the rare. We had been walking back from a party not too far from my flat. Someone from work’s party, consisting of people we didn’t know. The party had been quite nice, non-eventful which can be good. But, well, you know what it’s like when you don’t know many folk. Even if it is a good party, you feel like a bit of an unpopular arse who probably should not have bothered to come. But I’d optimistically thought perhaps we might meet some new people and talked Cam into it. We didn’t manage to mingle very well. Cam can be very much the life and soul when it’s his crew, but when he doesn’t know anyone very well he is a bit like a kid who is bored and uncomfortable at a wedding or anniversary.

I had briefly spoken to Joanne from the warehouse at work who had invited me and chit chatted a bit with some other girl called Mags for five minutes who then saw someone she knew and buggered off. Can’t blame her, I was a bit bored and uncomfortable too. But it was only a Thursday night so weren’t expecting to have a whale of a time anyway. Tomorrow I was half hoping to go out and have more fun with Cam as it was fireworks night and I had visions of us wrapped up in coats and arm in arm looking up at the bright flashes in the sky. One of my largest problems is that I play things out too much in my head (a female fault one might argue) but basically it means you have high expectations and not good odds on things happening like you thought. But last night, at least we had actually gone out together. So anyway, back to my street when we were walking home, Cameron stopped in the middle of the road when we were crossing over, looked up the stars, looked down at me and said:

“You know? I’ve never felt this content before. I love walking home with you. I could quite easily get used to this.”

Then he kissed me on the forehead. Soppy? I know. The kiss on the forehead I sometimes think quite condescending, but hey, for some reason it works for me. I sometimes wish it didn’t. I go all warm and creamy inside when he does that and I can’t control it at all. I feel simultaneously wonderful and stupid. I couldn’t say anything back and just snuggled into his chest tightly for a moment or two thinking everything was so peachy you could have poured Tip Top all over it. Then we slowly continued back to my flat, where we went in and went straight to bed. Not for any other reason than to sleep.

I was on the bus now, the next morning, on my way to work as usual. It was Friday and although I didn’t particularly do anything exciting on Fridays I still loved them and totally got the Friday feeling. Who am I kidding I just like to lay in bed all Saturday morning. I still set my alarm for 6:30am just so I can turn it off and consciously appreciate the fact that I can go straight back to sleep.

I was in a window seat with my head leaning against the window thinking of that warm, creamy feeling I had from what Cam had said last night.

“Och, this weathers jist terrible” said the old lady next to me.

“Yeah” I said failing to disguise the dreaminess in my voice to suit her mood.

“That’s 3 brollies ah’ve been through this month awlready, they’ve all been pulled through. Bloody windy city this un eh?” She hadn’t even looked at me I noticed as I turned my head. Was that bus politics? The rules of local transport? Like:

    • When boarding the bus you must not sit next to someone unless all double seats are empty.
    • When speaking to another passenger ensure you are either old or strange and avoid eye contact at all times.
    • In the event of an incident take extreme care not to look or get involved.
    • Etc.

I chuckled to myself thinking about what we consider to be socially acceptable behaviour. Even the most benign of things such as travelling on a bus has its own specific set of rules. Then I worried that the old lady might think I was chuckling at her misfortune with her umbrellas.

“Oooh I know that happened to me too, it was so embarrassing!” I replied hastily.

“Ken, aye” She elongated the words in that Scottish colloquial way. She seemed satisfied with our conversation and went quiet. Which is good because I was far too dreamy to hear about her grandchildren, and besides my stop was the one after next.

I hopped off the bus quickly lifting my scarf higher up to my face and holding the ends down under my arms to prevent facial whipping. The old lady was right of course, this was a particularly windy city.

It was only a short walk to work. It was in a very small industrial estate down Eleanor Street just off the main street in the Blairburn area. Along the main street there was a homeless girl who was nearly always sat in front of the cash machine with her dog, wrapped up in soggy blankets. I hardly ever saw her face behind the mop of scraggy hair that once must have been a lovely shade of light blonde and she was always looking down at the floor or her dog. I was feeling quite chirpy and at one with the universe so I dropped a couple of quid in her cup and wondered, as I did every morning, why she didn’t do something about herself. Then felt bad about thinking that and reminded myself that perhaps she had just not had any luck. I made myself stop thinking about it, as I did every morning, and thought about what Cameron had said again. Perhaps things were changing, perhaps he was starting to want to settle down, perhaps, we would be moving in together. Yes I thought maybe things were coming together now.

As I approached Eleanor Street I saw the scaffolding on the corner and remembered that I had to walk past the workies who were doing some work. Now, let me just explain something, I may be twenty something and slim, but hey, I’m no masterpiece. I haven’t worn anything exciting since the pink bridesmaid dress I wore to my cousin’s wedding when I was nine. My hair is long, down to my bum and constantly tied in a boring low pony tail because I don’t know what else to do with it and frankly can’t be bothered to. It brings a whole new meaning to the word “mousy”. Perhaps more “ratty”, and never seen a perm or colour in its life. I have always been too afraid to do anything to it in case it fell out or something. So it just hangs there untouched, no fringe, no nothing. I have a plain face, grey/green/blue eyes, no striking features. Hardly wear any make up, just a bit of mascara if it’s a special occasion. I have also never been brave enough to get my ears pierced. I accidentally stapled my finger once and that was bad enough. So basically you would think they just wouldn’t notice me. But they do, and for all the wrong reasons. I try and shuffle my face further into my scarf as I approach.

“Ah there she is. Ya no smiling today hen? C’moan it cannae be aw that bad eh?” he says sympathetically. Did you get that? Sympathetically.

“Ken, aye, smile luv won’t ya?” says his mate.

I stomp ahead fiercely. Why should I smile at them? And anyway I tried smiling at them weeks ago but they just said the same thing. I’m sure in this day and age a woman has the right to walk down the street without being told she is a sour-faced, miserable-looking cow. So “dreamy feeling” is well and truly, rapidly diminishing now. As I turn the corner where the office is, Charlie, the Warehouse Manager, is there putting the mornings deliveries into the back of the van. Charlie is, in a word, gorgeous. Not just any old gorgeous, like unbelievably gorgeous. My first morning at this office I took my first phone call and someone asked for Charlie, I hadn’t met the warehouse team yet and asked Phil who Charlie was. Phil called him through on the internal phone and Charlie walked through the connecting office/warehouse door. My jaw dropped, I thought “oh my god he’s so gorgeous I should never to speak to him again because I am just not worthy”. So that was intimidating and annoying. More annoyingly, he is probably one of the genuinely nicest men I’ve ever met. Even more annoyingly, he is also happily married with two kids and one on the way.

“Mornin’ Charlie!” I shout with a slight silly girly sound that I cannot seem to get rid of when he is about.

“Morning! You look nice this morning” He smiles his sexy smile. God he is so nice. But what the hell is he talking about? This is what I always wear. It’s my raincoat, daggy baggies, brown sweater and comfy loafers. He probably just can’t help being nice.

“Thank you! Cuppa tea at half ten?” Silly voice now full throttle.

“Yeah! I’ll come help you make it”. He chirps happily.

I skip up the steps and open the office door. I work at a small printing company run by three friends who allegedly started in a garage just over 8 years ago. The three friends were Gavin, Morton and Terry. Terry had left a few months back to move to Australia which left Gavin and Morton as the company directors.

“Morning!” I said to anyone who was listening as I hung up my coat.

“Morning” says Phil and Juliet. Brenda is on the phone and winks at me instead.

I swerve round my desk to my seat, dropping my handbag in its usual place and popping on my computer without looking in that well practised way. I tear off yesterdays calendar entry on my calendar that Juliet bought me for Christmas and chuck it in the bin. Juliet comes over and stands in front of my desk. Juliet is a large and friendly girl two years older than me and with quite the most enormous bosom imaginable. Apparently she got extremely drunk at an office party before I joined the company and did a striptease on Brenda’s coffee table getting down to her bra, frightening all the men in the office into becoming leg or bum men.

“Coming into the tea room?” she says with an “I’ve got gossip” look in her eye.

Having just sat down I reluctantly get up again and follow her to the tea room. The tearoom, which is just a big cupboard with a fridge and small worktop installed. She puts the kettle on and pushes the tea room door until it is just ajar.

“Guess what?” she says knowingly.

“What?” I ask, sure its nothing that I will be interested in.

“Claudia’s starting in two weeks.”

“Starting what?”

“Starting here.” She says with a disapproving look.

“What here?” I ask a bit confused. There weren’t any empty positions as far as I was aware.

“Yes.” She affirms.

“But doing what?” still confused as before. This was starting to sound like a game of 20, or however many, questions.

“Brenda’s job.” She states. And there it was the bombshell.

We had known for months that Brenda was leaving. Brenda was my supervisor and at the annual Christmas salary review Gavin and Morton had told me that since Brenda was going to be moving on this year they were going to train me up to do her job so they would not give me my annual 4% increase, they would simply review my pay when I had finished my training. Erm, what training? I thought I was just really good at my job and hadn’t needed any so far. I instantly felt sick. I didn’t know what to think. It was a crappy little job, but I took pride in it and was a very loyal person.

“Oh, right.” I said weakly.

“I know. I don’t even like Claudia. She doesn’t know anything about sales.” Juliet carried on twittering about Claudia as she made the teas and coffees and I “hmmm’d” along but wasn’t really listening and was really just trying to work out how to pull the metaphorical knife out of my back.

“Here’s your tea, I’ll get the rest. Speak t’ya later!”

I took my tea to my desk and sat down staring at the screen. The cup was hot but I hung on to it for dear life as I thought I might fall off my chair if I didn’t. My heart palpitated; I felt faint and didn’t know what to do. I think I was having some sort of panic attack or something. But I hadn’t had one before, so I couldn’t be sure. Just then, to bring me out of my trance-like state, my phone beeped a message. I bent down to my bag, one hand still clinging on to the hot cup on my desk, got the phone, straightened up and read:

“MORNING LUBLY. PARTY CRAP LAST NIGHT EH? CANT MAKE FIREWORKS 2NITE GOING TO WATCH FOOTY AFTER WORK. X BIG CAM”

Big Cam? That was a joke to start. He had promised me he would come to my Mum’s for dinner and then go out to watch the fireworks in the park, but looked like it was just going to be me, again. Which was probably just as well actually, I would need some Mum time after the day I was about to have. Basically I was going to need a good cry.

I replied:

“OK”

That’s all I could manage. I picked up my tea and took a sip, burning my lip. “Yep.” I thought, “That’s about right.”

Realising that staring at the computer wasn’t getting any work done and making the day drag, I cracked on with the contents of my In-tray on auto-pilot. Not wanting to leave any time for thoughts I worked hard and straight through lunch, appetite non-existent anyway. It was all I could do. No chit-chat with Brenda or Juliet. Just buckled down and stormed through 6 fax quotes, 15 email quotes, 7 letter quotes, 3 presentations and the usual variety of telephone orders and inquiries all at super fast speed. It did not go unnoticed. Morton strolled up to my desk during his daily swagger round the office distributing smirks and unwanted comments.

“Ah Emily, how are you today eh? Off out tonight then? Friday night you know? Never know where you might end up I expect eh? Or with whom.” He boomed for all to hear. He was always like this. Because I was young and female oh and unmarried then I must be out having one night stands every night. Little did he know, and much did I wish otherwise, that I wasn’t that exciting.

“I don’t think so Morton. Here are the letters, they need your signature.” I passed him the letter quotes. He immediately drew out his fountain pen from his pocket like he was about to start fencing with it.

“Come come now, I know what you young things are like these days. When you get ready to go out you don’t put dresses on anymore, you just laminate yourselves. He laughed heartily, obviously tickled pink at his latest insult. There were a few resounding sniggers round the office. They were only sniggers of support for the boss though. Anyone in the office who even slightly knew me knew that the only thing I would be doing on a Friday night was perhaps writing a letter to my Nana or cooking a new recipe by Gary Rhodes. And I certainly would not be wearing anything other than my slobbing joggers and house T-shirt. Of course after the news earlier, I was feeling fragile and felt my eyes fill up a bit. My cheeks went bright red and with a hasty “Excuse me Morton” I scurried off to the toilet. I locked the door and quickly snivelled everything back in to keep for later.

A few minutes later I came out and instantly bumped into Charlie tucking into a pot of something cheap and nasty.

“Hey you awright Em?” He said soothingly.

“Yeah, I’m fine just had some bad news this morning, family stuff.” I lied, rather convincingly for me.

“Well, cheer up eh? Cannae be aw that bad eh no?”

Not those words again. What is this a conspiracy? Do I really look miserable all the time?

“I’m ok, really, I’m fine, thanks Chuck.” I said removing myself from his presence to go and sit at my desk where my computer screen couldn’t tell me I was a sour-faced cow.

But of course it did, because the monitor was on stand-by and I just saw my reflection. My phone beeped a message again:

“WADDYA MEAN OK? U TRYING 2 B FUNNY? I GOT MY OWN LIFE 2 YA KNOW”

This was all I needed. I always thought Cameron’s biggest problem was that he thought too much. He had obviously read the message earlier, thought about it all day and read something into it or heard some sort of tone in “OK” that he decided he didn’t like. I replied:

“DON’T GET UPSET WITH ME. I SAID IT WAS ALRIGHT. HAVE FUN X EM.”

Within seconds I got:

“STUFFU. U R ALWAYS MAKIN ME FEEL BAD. & STUFF URE MUM 2, HER COOKINS CRAP ANYWAY”

For gods sake, I didn’t need this right now:

“SWEETY DON’T BE LIKE THAT. JUST GO OUT AND HAVE FUN. I WILL PHONE YOU LATER. I LOVE YOU, X EM”

Twenty minutes later and no reply. I looked at the clock it was five to five. Day almost over. I would go straight round to Mum’s after work and get some sympathy there. Juliet was always first out the door and I quickly tried to close down my computer. Morton, appeared at my desk.

“Emily, there is a mistake on this letter I need you to do it again.” He scolded like I was a kid.

“Really Morton? I was sure it was correct.” I desperately needed to leave before I burst.

“No” he said firmly “these figures are wrong, and I need it now.”

I took the letter and looked at the figures. Fished the draft out of the waste bin and checked them. They were right.

“Morton, they are exactly what is on the draft.” I pointed to the draft. He looked, didn’t like what he saw and barked:

“Look I haven’t got time for this tit for tat! Just redo the letter with a 40% mark up okay? And do it quickly I would like to go home sometime tonight!”

“Fine, sorry, will only take a few minutes.” I said turning my computer back on. This wasn’t my day at all.

I amended the letter, printed it, prepared the envelope and carried it through to Morton’s office at the top of the room. He didn’t look up at me. He grabbed the letter and signed it.

“Make sure you catch the post won’t you? And do me a favour, he now looked up, vicious power gone mad in his eyes, “don’t contradict me again.”

“Yes, Morton.” I replied obediently. God I hated that man. What was I doing? What a bloody limp biscuit, wet blanket, door mat, and any other number and spineless inanimate objects.

I gathered up my things, put on my coat and walked out into the dull dark, early evening. It was raining again, hard and it could not have reflected my mood better if it had been ordered especially. Charlie was outside the warehouse, smoking a cigarette sheltered by the warehouse entrance doors.

“See you Monday Em!”

I looked round. “Yeah, see you Monday Chuck.” I replied drearily.

I got to Mum’s front door and pressed the bell. I could see through the bubbled glass of the door she was on the phone in the hallway. She wasn’t very good at multi-tasking and I could hear her dithering not knowing whether to finish the phone call or answer the door.

“Oh there’s the door! Listen I’ll just, no wait, um, can you hang on? Whats that? No don’t go I’ll just be a minute, it’s just the doorbell, be there in a second! What was that? No wait, I tell you what I’ll ring you back, no hang on I’ve got something on the stove I should get on with, oh dear, I’m just on the phone! Be there in a minute! look I’m going to have to go now, what’s that? Yes I’ll see you later then, eight o’clock yes? Just coming! Okay dear gotta go now, love to little Daniel, bye dear, bye bye.”

I heard her tripping to the door.

“Just coming!” her pink face lights up as the door opens “Emily dear! Oh you’re right on time as usual, come in, come in, oh you’re soaked to the bone, come in, the heating’s on, we’ll hang your coat up there, how was your day?” She had shuffled me in and was relieving me of my coat rather roughly.

“Oh Mum I’ve had…”

“Now, now you come in and tell me all about it now, Mrs Maddock was just on the phone just then, she’s been having a terrible time with her feet you know, always at the chiropodists that poor woman, never had any luck at all, I’m going to see her later so dinners almost ready and oh Tabby’s on her way now, so we can get started then, what did you say my dear?”

The doorbell went again.

‘Oh that’ll be Tabby now, just go through I’ll get the door, the tables laid, take a seat’ she opens the door ‘Tabby dear! You’re right on time, that’s not like you dear, I was keeping things warm, come in, come in, you look soaked, and hows my little Jeremykins eh?’

My younger sister Tabby. 19 years old, extremely talented and clever young woman with nothing but a two year old son, a council flat and a bad attitude to show for it. She shoved the buggy through the door with expert handling ripped back the drenched rain cover to reveal my Adidas covered nephew Jeremy.

‘Mum for Gods sake stop calling him that! He’s called Jez for short, it’s what he knows, Hi Sis! You look shit!’

‘Hi’ I mumbled and went through to the kitchen and sat at the table.

‘Thanks for doing this Mum’ Tabby explains taking off her duffle coat and sporting what can only be described as tissue paper covered in sequins and tassels which I presumed was some sort of garment. ‘I so need a night out, I haven’t been out this whole week. Stacey’s been away in Malagar and everyone else wants paying for babysitting! Cheek eh?’

She strides into the kitchen in impossible heels and slumps down at the head of the table whilst Mum unclips Jeremy from his vehicle.

Tabby looks at me briefly then jumps up again and starts taking note of the contents of Mum’s kitchen cupboards, probably so she can fill hers.

‘Dear what do you mean?’ Mum enters the kitchen chasing the now free Jeremy who gallops to me and slaps me on the thighs hard and repeatedly. ‘Are you going somewhere? I thought you were here for dinner dear?’

‘Naw Mum, remember I said I was going out tonight, you said you could watch Jeremy’ She turns around dramatically. I pick up Jeremy and plop him on my lap as he starts slapping the table top hard and repeatedly, squealing with delight.

‘No dear I’m sure you didn’t ask, I’m going out to Mrs Maddocks tonight she’s having trouble with her feet again you know, we’re having a poker night, and I can’t take Jeremy there now can I?’ Mum says as she fusses over the pot of what smells like some sort of stew. Tabby slumps back down at her seat.

‘Well Em here can watch him til you get back can’t she, bet she’s not doing anything else tonight are ya babe?’ She says with a cheeky grin.

‘Well actually I was going to …’

‘Going to what, wash your hair?’ she guesses, correctly.

‘Um yeah, but well I guess I can…’

‘Well there ya go then see? Its sorted, I’m happy, Mums happy, everybody’s happy. Hows that man of yours anyway, what’s he up to tonight?’

I was clearly not going to get any comfort, interest or sympathy about my day around here and decided just to go with the flow.

‘He’s watching football at the pub’ I replied nonchalantly.

‘Hmmm…that sounds riveting’ Tabby said sarcastically as she prefers young men who play rather than watch. Not professional but the dodgy weekend five-a-side. Who was she to talk? I can only assume her night would consist of hanging around in some dive with her skanky mates being chatted up by skanky blokes. That sure as hell wasn’t riveting.

We ate our stew which Mum had kept warm for so long it was more like mush. Tabby scampered off into a taxi without her coat I noticed. There seem to be some women out there who simply don’t feel the cold. Mum on the other hand wrapped up in so much tweed and wool I wondered if she were perhaps going on an arctic expedition. She said she would be back before eleven and trilled her way out the door still chattering to me as she went. I settled down on the settee next to Jeremy watched him munch on a whole satsuma turning it into soggy pulp.

I switched the TV on, a documentary on tearaway teenagers; switch – a weddings from hell episode; switch – the news, detailing the current scandal in our government; switch – a soap opera with new faces that I didn’t recognise having a barny about being skint; switch – a chat show. This would have to do for background noise for now. My phone beeped:

‘HOW WAS DINNER? CAMERON X’

‘What the hell? Doesn’t he realise he has been a twat?’ I said to Jeremy who looked at me with a blank expression and then carried on sucking his pulp.

‘FINE’ Send.

Beep. ‘WHATS THE MATTER WITH U, U GOT THE ARSE WITH ME?’

‘WHATEVER YOU SAY’ Send.

Beep. ‘IS URE SISTER THERE?’

‘SHE WAS, SHE’S GONE OUT CLUBBING NOW, I’M WATCHING JEREMY’ Send.

Beep. ‘DAMN, WISH I’D COME NOW, WHAT WAS SHE WEARING?

‘What the hell?’ I said louder. Jeremy looked up again and contributed to my thoughts.

‘Dwat!’ Jeremy said with a sticky grin.

‘Oh no Jeremy don’t say that, bad word, bad word’

‘Dwat!, Dwat!, Dwwwwat!’ laughing with delight at the new word of the day. My heart was aching into tiny painful pieces. What on earth had I done that deserved all this crap all on one day? I decided I could not handle any more messages like that and turned off my phone. I pulled Jeremy closer and tried to play ‘Round and round the garden’ on his hand. But before I could get to the ‘two step’ he slapped me in the face. I put him back where he was, popped to the toilet, came back to the settee with a nice new quilted, scented toilet roll, made myself comfortable, and let rip. The tears came like someone had opened a dam. Jeremy just sat and watched. I guess he didn’t know what to make of it. I was howling, howling so hard I had to put a cushion over my mouth for worry the neighbours might call the police. Time seemed to stop moving at a normal pace. I looked around the room as the tears bucketed from my eyes. The room was all warped and blurry, the patterns on the carpet and curtains were swirling. I felt like I was crossing dimensions or something. I heard some music from the TV – something I recognised. The chat show had ended and some reminiscing program about the eighties was on. The music was from the show bagpuss. I remembered that show from when I was a very little girl. I bawled harder. What happened to that little girl playing and skipping? Everything was so simple then. I remembered my thoughts at that age. They were all about nice things like kittens and dolls and pretty things. I felt a raw feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Something that had existed in me before I had been panel-beaten into a conventional adult member of society. Simple. I was now only kind of whimpering sporadically. I had come back to the normal room. Jeremy was having a little nap. Nearly an hour had passed since I started crying. I felt quite different. Still upset, but recovering fiercely. But more importantly I had some things to do. Some simple things.

Chapter 2

The beginning

The taxi arrived and I put Jeremy gently on the seat and pulled the door closed.

‘Where to love?’ said the driver.

‘The Quest please’ I said cuddling up to the rather confused Jeremy who now seemed quite spellbound by the unusual events.

‘Righto’

And we pulled away. I giggled and clapped with Jeremy as we reached the town centre and pointed at the lights and squealed when he squealed. This was fun, kids aren’t hard work, they just want to play. That’s not so hard to understand is it? Suddenly it wasn’t. And I wanted to play too. The driver swung round and pulled up just outside the club. I paid him and gathered up Jeremy. I marched right up to the door and waltzed through the door whilst the doorman was talking to two clearly underage girlies arguing about tattoos not being proof of age. He caught me out the corner of his eye.

‘Oi! You can’t bring your kid in here!’ he shouted trying to decide whether he should leave his post.

‘Oh it’s alright’ I assured him ‘he’s not mine’ I chirruped before disappearing through the double doors. The loud music made little Jeremy jump a bit. Then I felt him go tense taking in his new surroundings. The place was packed so I quickly walked into the crowd as I thought the security might soon be after me. I scanned the shapes and movements for a familiar bit of sequin and/or tassel and didn’t take long to spot Tabby. She loved clubbing and was always bragging about her podium dancing talents. She was on the far wall on a ledge with mirrors behind her. She was right too, she could wiggle and grind Beyoncé off the stage. I pushed through the crowd towards her, Jeremy now jiggling to the beat himself. Dancing with her eyes half closed she caught a glimpse of me and stood stock still. I just stood there looking straight at her with a calm smile on my face. She jumped down, pushed her sweaty hair behind her ears and opened her hands as if to say ‘eh?’

‘Tabby…’ she stood astonished ‘…you’re a twat’ I said firmly.

‘Dwat! dwat!’ agreed Jeremy absently, still jiggling to the music.

Tabby didn’t move, her jaw hung open.

I passed Jeremy over to her, smiled sweetly, turned on my heels and walked back into the crowd. I turned around to wave, she hadn’t moved, and either had her jaw. The only movement was Jeremy bopping in her arms. I waved goodbye and Jeremy waved back.

‘Dwat!, dwat!, dwat!’ I could hear him shout in time to the music as they disappeared from view. I manoeuvred through the throngs of happy sweaty Friday night clubbers and walked out the door. Looked out into the busy street and took a satisfying breath. The doorman appeared in front of me wearing an attempt at a stern look.

‘Excuse me, did you bring a child into this club?’ he demanded, almost assertively.

‘Yes I did’ I assured him soothingly ‘but don’t worry he’s with his mother now’.

His attempted stern look, now only a look of puzzlement ‘Oh, right’ He paused, trying to work out whether that was a good thing that the child was with its mother, in the club.

‘You have a nice evening now, babe’ I smiled sweetly, patted him on the shoulder and walked off up the street.

I waved down another taxi not far away and tumbled in.

‘Rudolph Terrace please pal’ I said cheerfully to the driver ‘and could you stop at a shop on the way?’

‘Sure thing hen’

And off we went. I suddenly remembered I had turned my phone off. I fished in my bag and turned it on. Beep. Beep. Beep. There were three messages:

‘WHY IS URE PHONE OFF?’

‘I’M AT HOME NOW, YOU NOT TALKING TO ME?’

And

‘COW’

‘Aww isn’t that sweet’ I said looking lovingly at the phone screen.

The taxi pulled up at a garage.

‘I’ll just be a mo’ I said getting out the door. I strode across the forecourt and tossed the phone in a nearby bin. The doors were closed so I went up to the outside serving point.

‘Hiya!’ I said to the obviously miserable attendant. He shuffled over from his magazine.

‘Huh?’ he enquired.

‘Can I have…umm…twenty Marlboro Lights, that bottle of vodka there, that box of Dairy Milk there and oooooh a packet of Doritos?’

‘Uh-huh’ He said vaguely.

He shuffled off and returned with the goodies.

‘That’ll be £26.45’

‘There ya go!’ I gave him £30 and waited for my change.

‘Three, fifty-five change cheers’ He said monotonously.

‘Cheers pal!’ and I trotted off back to the taxi and climbed in.

‘And now driver, take me home! For I have a lot to do tonight and all of it is going to be fun’.

The driver looked at me peculiarly, shrugged and drove off.

When I got in it was getting near midnight and I did have a lot to do. First I lit a cigarette and almost coughed up a lung. This would take a bit of practise. I poured myself a mug of vodka and took it through to the bedroom. Standing on the bed, fag in mouth, I brought down my junk box from the top of my wardrobe and pulled out bits of bric-a-brac until I found what I was looking for. It was a hair dye I had bought for Joanne at work for Halloween last year. It was blood red, but she had decided she wanted black instead. I took a large swig of the vodka, sat down at my dressing table, opened the box, threw the instructions aside, shook the bottle, opened it pulled out my ponytail and squeezed it all on my hair. My untouched hair. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. Satisfied that my hair was all covered I set about my next task. I slinked out of my clothes and dug around in my wardrobe. ‘

‘Snow boots! Yeah!’

‘Black leggings, yeah why not?’

‘Hmmmm top…top, top, top?…no tops. Well it will have to be this bikini top then? Yeah!’

‘Now it is cold outside…what shall I? A-ha!’ I found an old blue Indian throw. ‘That’ll do!’

I tossed them all on the bed. Retrieved the scissors from the dressing table and cut a hole in the middle of the throw. That done, I had another cigarette, drained and refilled my cup with vodka, munched on some Doritos and chocolates and then went to the bathroom to rinse out my hair.

I sat at my dressing table looking in the mirror. Wow, I had red hair. Really, really, really red hair. Scissors in hand, I grabbed a bit here and there and hacked a bit of shape into it.

‘Hmmm, not bad’ I said approvingly.

Pulled on my new outfit, put my hair in hasty pigtail pleats, slapped on some dark eyeshadow, some mascara – well lots – some lippy and I was ready. Picking up my handbag, fags and mug of vodka and skipped out the door. Cameron’s flat was about a mile and a half away and I was happy to walk. The streets were dark and quiet but that was okay. When I got there I knew that he would buzz me in, he always did. I pressed his buzzer.

‘Yeah?’ He said a bit sleepily. Awww I had woken him up. What a shame.

‘Hi hunny, it’s me. Can I come up?’

‘Yeah’ He said sounding annoyed. Awww I had annoyed him. What a shame.

I bounded up the stairs. I knew he always left his door open and went back to what he was doing when anyone arrived so I went in and went straight to … the bathroom.

‘Hi sweety! I’m just nipping in the shower!’ I said closing the bathroom door behind me.

I heard a muffled and confused ‘eh?’ as I put my empty mug down on the shelf. I turned the shower on and jumped in fully clothed. It took a couple of minutes, but sure enough, he opened the door and looked in.

‘Em, what are you doing?’ he looked at me in the light from the hall.

‘I’m having a shower baby. Come here’ He rubbed his eyes, and came over to the shower.

‘Em, why the hell are you in the shower with your clothes on and in the dark?’

‘Come a bit closer and I’ll explain’ I said not taking my eyes off his. He came closer, I grabbed him and pulled him in under the warm water with me. He protested for a moment but I shut him up with a big wet kiss and didn’t stop until he had excitedly started to take off my drenched clothes. Once I was naked with nothing but my snow boots on I got on my knees and peeled off his boxers, his erection getting harder, I put it in my mouth and listened as he groaned his enjoyment. He pulled me up after a few moments, gathered up my legs and slammed me against the wall, pushing inside me hard. I held onto his shoulders as he steadied himself against the tiles with his hands. I squealed and moaned with the thrusts, I didn’t care how loud. And as soon as it had begun it was over. He held me there for a minute or two whilst he scrambled together his wits, and then slowly let my legs down so I could stand. He stepped out the shower and held out a towel for me. I didn’t take it. I turned off the shower and stepped out naked and dripping.

‘Can I have your dressing gown’ I asked sweetly

He was staring at me quite strangely.

‘Sure here ya go’ he handed it to me ‘Em, that was amazing. Have you changed your hair?’

‘Yeah I have’ I pulled on his dressing gown. ‘And actually…I thought that was crap, you’re dumped…see ya’.

I picked up my bag and walked out the shower room, into the hallway.

‘Wh…what?’ he followed bewildered.

‘I said you’re dumped…see ya’. I opened the door and waltzed out. Rushed down the stairs, and out into the street. I heard a window creak open.

‘What?’ he demanded loudly into the quiet street.

I stopped, turned round, looked up at him.

‘Cameron…you’re a twat’ I explained. He said nothing.

Satisfied with that, I turned away and scuttled off down the street and round the corner.

The next morning I awoke with the radio and an enormous feeling of relief and wellbeing. I also awoke with a mouth that tasted like a pub floor and was still wearing Cameron’s dressing gown and my soaking snow boots. Bleuch. I rolled off the bed and managed to find the bathroom where I had left it. Looked in the mirror, blinking in the bright light, I stuck out my tongue at the woman who looked back at me, she did it too so I laughed. I brushed my teeth with vigour and went back into the bedroom. I had plenty to do today. Things seemed so much simpler now.

‘Well, better get on then’ I said to myself.

I re-pleated my pigtails, wiped of last night’s make up which was all over the place from the shower. Slapped it all back on and put on a nice, woollen black dress with black tights and my loafers. I wanted to get an early start as I had a couple of things to do on the way to work so I took my toast with me and ate it on the way to the bus stop.

© Belinda Love | 2006

Blether: The online dating game

5th August 2006

Three months ago, a lonely me decided to try the online dating thing since my GBF (Gay Best Friend) meets all his admirers online. He is never short of a date or three, his mobile is always going “beep, beep someone loves you!” and his buddy list on MSN is longer than his arm. My mobile phone is decidedly quiet these days and I wanted to post myself back on the market, as it were.

So I Google “dating UK” and the first site that pops up is ‘DATING DIRECT – Join free’. Fair enough, I thought. Click. The first thing that bothered me was the immediate choice you have to make, “I am a [choose] man/woman, seeking a [choose] man/woman”. Now forgive me for being picky but …erm… what if I don’t know? I know I’m a woman! But erm… what if I don’t know if I’m looking for a man or a woman? Now we’re getting into the realms of defining sexual orientation. Personally I’m not fond of labelling people (I know I already have with my GBF) but that is how he introduces himself and he enjoys the ‘out and proud gay man’ culture and so be it. But for myself? Am I a lesbian? I had a relationship with a woman once but I don’t think I’m a lesbian. Am I heterosexual? I think so but could fall in love with anyone really. Am I bisexual? Um…I suppose, but aren’t they called greedy for wanting the best of both worlds and have a bad reputation? Am I a metrosexual? I’m not even sure what the definition is exactly but my guess is that they have unjustly earned a reputation of being a greedy person who can’t decide from one day to the next what they want and change to fit the environment and use situations to their own advantage. I’m just me I’m afraid. My defining characteristic with regards to the world of love is that I’m pretty adamant that I’m no longer partial to brief encounters and affairs of the heart have to hold more meaning at this stage in my life than “thanks for the shag, I’ll maybe call you sometime eh”.

So I’m stalling at the first hurdle. Oh just pick the obvious. So I’m a woman seeking a man am I? Great, bring it on. I take at least two hours filling out my profile which I think does nothing for me and doesn’t actual sound like me much. Facts are so cold. I choose a picture of myself where I look quite nice and smiley, then get a pang of guilt thinking I’m being misleading and I don’t look like that most of the time. So what? You’re selling yourself here girl! I input basic information about type of man I’m looking for (careful now, don’t be overly fussy, but definitely mention no footy fans or OCD sufferers) and go! Profile visible!

Now I’m rather picky who has my very own personal email address and so cleverly, even if I say so myself, I created a new email alias in my mailbox in case I gave out an email address to anyone I might end up regretting. So I’m set. After just a few hours I get a message from someone, yippee! Can’t view message until I subscribe, boo! About £5 for 3 days; £25 for 1 month; £45 for 3 months etc. I’m feeling decadent so I go for three months.

A message from a bloke in Surrey who’s in his forties. Hmmmm…I write back saying thanks but you live too far away. He writes back saying I could have made an effort. Cheeky.

Another message from a bloke in Glasgow who has ticked no to children. I write back saying thanks but you said no to children and I’m a proud single mum. He replies saying he didn’t mean it. I respond saying well thanks but the fact you saw the choice, thought about for a second and put ‘no’, and the fact that my wee man is the best thing I ever did, means you’re a ‘no’ for me – thanks anyway for your message, but no thanks. He writes back saying I could have made more of an effort. Hmmm male pride is obviously alive and well in cyber space.

This carries on for a week or two. Then I get a nonchalant easy-going message with an element of quirky fun about it from a nice-looking feller who lives not too far away. I start to email him. He sounds great fun, not too serious, successful, drives a nice car, tee-total, a definite potential after some of the alcoholic sociopathic tortured artist losers I’ve had the misfortune of falling in love with. After a while, I allow him to call me on the phone. He’s even better than I thought! Got a decent amount in common, like to hang out at the same sort of places, makes me laugh and he seems to like me too. We arrange a sensible lunchtime date.

We meet up somewhere for lunch, he’s charming, confident, respectful, gentlemanly, dressed well, handsome etc. It goes well for about ten minutes. We’ve just sat down at our table and reached for the menu. My mobile rings. Ah good, a chance to look popular. Oh dear it’s the wee man’s school. He’s sick I gotta go pick him up. Noooooooooooo!!!!!! Of all the worst times in the world! I try to be cool and look like I can handle the situation. I turn into Panakin Skywalker and try and convince him to wait 20mins for me. He agrees, I wiggle unconvincingly calmly out the door. As soon as I’m out of sight, I rip off my wedges and leg it down the road in the direction of his school. Halfway there and my sister spies me and shouts “Hiya! How’s the date going?” Thank God! Help me! She saves me and picks up the wee man for me. I leg it back, arrive out of breath, windswept and not interesting and look a complete fool while trying to explain that everything has been taken care of. Bizarrely, he doesn’t mind, thinks I’d pulled a swift tactic with a friend to get me out of the date, says he’s relieved I came back at all and is perfectly charming again.

We get on tremendously well and see each other six more times. There are other disasters throughout such as: date postponed due to child throwing up, dog has cold and sneezes on his freshly ironed jeans, I choose a restaurant which we have to send back most of the food because it sucked balls – the staff are awful and the draft Coke was flat, not to mention the two occasions I decide to order rounds of Tequila after a few pints and subsequently can’t remember the rest of the night (bearing in mind he’s tee-total). But despite all of these things he thinks I’m lovely and phones me all the time. He seems so wonderfully perfect that I start having funny feelings in my tummy. I do the classic female mistake of telling him this…and predictably…he freaks out. So much so that he goes as cold as a freshly caught fish within seconds. It peters out within days. Now, I hear from him occasionally by email, but only in a friendly capacity.

So what was all that about then? Now as far as I can see, internet dating is a perfectly logical way of efficiently finding potential love interests using the resources of the World Wide Web. After this experience though, which seemed in all respects to go very well despite even, the intervention of horrific reality, I feel in a position to be terrified of going on a date with someone and realising I don’t like them, AND terrified of going on a date and realising I DO like them. Which is worse? Must there always be a role-play of ‘the lover’ and ‘the loved’ in most, if not all relationships? Must one person always have the upper hand over the other? I’m not saying I’m not guilty of it myself. In the past I have been admired by someone so much it annoyed me. It’s a common conundrum. Peeps you’re crazy for – are bugged out by you, and peeps who are crazy for you – bug the hell outta you. Don’t expect anything different from the internet. It’s the same game as real life finding someone whilst trudging around bars, or going out with a friend of a friends, meeting someone at college/ a party/ a wedding or whatever. The perks? Well it saves time, energy and possibly money and you can immediately filter out footy fans and people with excessive OCD. So, I’ll keep tentatively trying.

© Belinda Love | 2006