Wedding Night

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CC Image courtesy of RMH40 on FlickrI look at the screen and frown. It’s late, I’m still recovering from drinking my body weight in wine and the prospect of reading an industry report on processed cheese isn’t all that appealing.

*

One of the bridesmaids points him out to me as the only straight, single man there. I look him over, the guy from Dubai, and decide I’m not in the mood for rejection.

Then dinner happens. Pierre to my left is a familiar face from university. He’s charming, French and so not interested. At one point I look over at Catherine.

‘Anything?’ I mouth, nodding in Pierre’s direction.

‘No.’

‘No?’

She could at least pretend.

‘No Anna.’

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Catherine and I head in the direction of the bar with a view to asking about taxis.

‘Or,’ I say, putting a hand on her arm, ‘I could try talking to the guy from Dubai?’

‘No Anna.’

‘Why not?!’

‘Because….’ She sighs. ‘Will it make you happy?’

‘Probably not.’

 

‘Oh! Thank you!’ I take one of the G&Ts winging its way to the table via Dubai. ‘You’re Erik, right?’

He confirms his name, asks mine.

‘I’ll rise,’ I say, getting up, ‘in the words of Maya Angelou.’

It’s not my first gin of the night.

‘What?’

‘Oh nothing.’

You’re tall,’ he says.

‘So are you.’

We talk. I discover he loves oysters, Futurist sculpture and Egon Schiele and that he works for his family’s processed cheese business. By the time we’re dancing Viennese waltz in the driveway I’m pretty much a lost woman.

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Catherine comes over. ‘Our taxi’s here.’

I rise from the hay bale, say my goodbyes to Pierre and the other guests. Finally I come to Erik.

‘It was nice to meet you.’

‘You’re leaving?’

We walk a little way from the bonfire.

‘Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye.’

His lips touch mine.

 

‘Why didn’t I stay?!’ I say to the ceiling.

Catherine in the neighbouring bed laughs. This has been my reprise pretty much since we left the bonfire.

 

A week later I’m showing Erik’s LinkedIn photo to close friends with an entirely unfounded sense of pride and ownership. I’ve added him on Facebook, which he doesn’t appear to use, and have heard nothing. I haven’t read the processed cheese report.

 

I decide to shelve all further explorations until the happy couple return from honeymoon and are ready to be reminded that they have friends who are still single and sufficiently unhinged to believe that a distance of 3000 miles is no obstacle to a relationship.

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CC Image courtesy of CarbonNYC [in SF!] on Flickr‘What do you think?’

I hold my phone up to the camera.

Catherine squints. ‘It looks like he’s got something in his mouth.’

‘Teeth. Anything else?’

‘Hmm yeah, he’s got the hair.’

‘What do you mean ‘the hair’?’

‘It’s the kind you like.’

I frown at the picture. I mean, he has hair, but…

‘I wouldn’t say it was big hair.’

Thank God we’re not being superficial.

 

By the end of the weekend it’s been a week of snail-paced messaging and I’m kind of bored. For all that the guy’s got going for him – teeth, hair, height, sense of humour – he’s still just a face on an app.

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The Language Of Love

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CC Image courtesy of chrisinplymouth on FlickrCatherine, about to leave, turns back. ‘Oh and… don’t fall in love with the new flatmate.’

‘Why, is he hot?’ I say. ‘Or is it just that he’s male and has two legs?’

‘Yeah… and he’s tall.’

Sounds hot. ‘I think I might get up.’

 

The bathroom door is open and a guy I don’t recognise is standing at the sink, washing his hands. He looks up, says something to me.

‘I err I’m afraid I don’t speak German.’

‘Oh you don’t live here?’

‘No, I’m a friend of Catherine’s.’

 

She looks up from her computer. ‘What is it?’

‘Yeah we might have a problem.’

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‘I can’t ask him!’CC Image courtesy of Jason Hargrove on Flickr

‘But I can,’ Catherine says.

I laugh.  ‘Yes.’

 

‘Ready.’

I’ve donned a red silk sundress.  It’s a statement piece.  The statement?  I don’t care that you have a girlfriend and flirted with me over dinner, because I am FABULOUS.  Catherine probably realizes this – she knows me better than anyone – but she doesn’t let on and I’m grateful.

‘Let’s go then.’

 

‘He’s got a ponytail,’ I say, as we approach the station.

Catherine laughs.  ‘Really?!’

‘Yeah, but otherwise… he hasn’t really changed.  In fact,’ I frown, ‘he’s exactly the same.’

 

And he’s exactly the same as he was the other night.  At university, I’d been a bit jealous of Catherine’s friendship with him.  I tell her as much on the walk back to the flat.

‘I had no idea!’

‘Yeah….  Thank you for finding out about the girlfriend by the way.  So… that casts Thursday in a slightly different light.’

‘Yes.’

She doesn’t pursue the subject, and again I’m grateful.

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CC Image courtesy of Lena_J on FlickrI remember running together along the cobbled pavement of St. Giles to catch the beginning of the play.  Something French and obscure.  Afterwards we walked back to college, said goodnight beneath the clock, went our separate ways.

 

He left suddenly part way through second year, and we lost touch.

 

‘Anna!  How are you?  If you’re in London – want to meet up?’

I stare a moment, and not because the punctuation is whack.

 

A few weeks back, I’d been invited to a salon in South London, the kind of terrifying Bohemian affair I can never quite muster the courage to attend.  I’d noticed his sister’s name amongst the list of organizers and his own, under ‘Going’.  Idle curiosity took me to a sparse profile, which took me to another, more active, full of smiles and blonde bubbliness.  Not what I’d expected, but they looked sweet together.

 

It feels strange, writing to a man without worrying that I’m coming across too keen or replying too fast.  Good strange.  I say I’d love to meet up, and how about this evening?  I can even fool myself, when he comes back minutes later saying tonight would be good, that I don’t mind so very much about VP‘s sudden silence.

 

The theatre comes into view.  I imagine he’ll be easy to spot, above the crowd.  He’s tall, very tall, I remember that, with messy red hair.  And then I see him.

‘Hello!’  We hug.  ‘I’d forgotten how tall you are!  I must have asked you to ballroom dance at some point!’

‘I think you did,’ he says, smiling.

His hair has lightened and – wait for it – falls down his back in a ponytail which reminds me of Legolas.

‘Shall we find a coffee?’ he says, scanning the street.

‘Mmm.’

It’s a glorious evening, too hot for coffee, and the pavement is crowded with tourists and commuters.

He laughs.  ‘It’s not much better than Piccadilly Circus!’

Where we’d originally planned on meeting.

‘I was just thinking that!’

‘Let’s find some green.’

 

‘Are you hungry?’

I prop myself up on my elbows, look at my watch. ‘I should be.’

‘That’s a no then,’ he says, smiling.  He hasn’t changed.

‘I will be soon.’

‘Shall we walk?’

‘Mmm.’

We rise, brushing leaves and grass from our clothes, and start walking in the direction of life.  He has a habit, initially disconcerting, of stopping every now and again to discuss something, so our progress is slow.  At the playground we pause.  He tells me he used to come here as a child.

The sign on the fence reads, ‘Adults may only enter if accompanied by a child.’

‘Which of us is going to be the child?’ I say, looking him up and down.  He gives me a look; we climb the railings.

 

‘What sort of food do you like?’

I lower myself gently to the ground.  ‘Errr… good food?  What sort of food do you like?’

‘Good food.’

Our eyes meet along the length of the see-saw.

 

‘I’m just going to find the loos…’

I examine my reflection in the mirror.  I look tired.  I should refresh my make-up, comb my hair.  If this was a date I would do those things, but it’s not.  Is it?  I frown.  I’m not sure what’s going on.  It feels like a date, but that might just be him.  He has a way of looking at you, piercing and intense, which makes you think… But he has a girlfriendFacebook says so.  I check my phone.  Nothing from VP.  The girl in the glass looks sad, wants to go home, but she’s agreed to dinner.

 

‘Have you tried this?’

‘Not yet.’

Skilfully he transfers a slither of perfectly rare beef to my dish.  I eat it.

‘Wow,’ I say.  ‘Wow.’

He nods, and again our eyes meet.  They keep doing that.

 

On the walk to the tube, I brush against him.

 

‘Don’t let it be another five years!’ I say with a nervous laugh.  ‘Well, goodbye.’  We hug.  ‘Oops I trod on your foot.’

‘And… I’m around on Saturday, so… let me know.’

‘I will – I’ll talk to Catherine, see what her plans are.’

 

The next day, I find myself once again on his profile, barren save for a relationship status.  He didn’t act like someone in a relationship.  I bring up the girlfriend, browse the pictures.  There’s one of them in the half-darkness, playing on swings, and a location: the same playground.  For the first time I feel anger towards him.  Just a week after Matthew and a virtual repeat.  I close the tab and delete the draft text suggesting Catherine and I meet him for lunch when she’s over on the weekend.

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