Worlds Apart

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CC Image courtesy of liyinglace on Flickr

I roll over, reach for my phone. A missed call and two messages. One of them I’ve already read – a grammatical car crash from the guy who, ten hours’ earlier, I was lip to lip with.

 

‘Culturally it’s very different, right?’

This is me trying to sound intelligent about China.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘And they spit, when they talk.’

‘They spit?!’

‘Yes.’

Which is when he goes in for the kiss. Just the right amount of spit, in case you wanted to know.

 

So there’s him asking, ‘How was [the] rest or your night?’. And then there’s Rachel

‘I’ve got a bit of a disaster…’

It might be the first time L.K.Bennett – queen of sartorial conservatism – and ‘disaster’ have found themselves in the same sentence. Newly engaged Rachel has found a bridesmaid dress she likes and wants to know what I think. Another message, this time a picture of the sender, fresh-faced and perky, modeling an elegant lace number. I lie there, eyeliner streaked across my face, scarf wrapped around my head to muffle the midday sounds of suburban London, feeling our worlds edge that little bit further apart.

CC Image courtesy of Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix) on Flickr

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CC Image courtesy of Not enough megapixels on Flickr(Continued from Something New)

‘How did you leave it?’ Beatrice says, over cornbread and poached eggs the next day. ‘Was it awkward?’

‘Oh,’ I screw up my face, ‘we hugged and he said ‘see you very shortly’ but with an infinitesimal hesitation between ‘you’ and ‘very’ which makes me think I won’t be seeing him again… ever!’

‘How do you feel about it?’

‘Oh… I mean, in my gut I probably know we’re not the best fit, but he’s really hot!’ I laugh. ‘I dunno, I’d like to go on a date with him just to see but it probably won’t happen.’

 

Partly because he’s really hot, and partly because Sarah assures me he’s not a douche, I drop Olly a line. Tennis had come up in conversation so I offer myself up as an opponent.

*

Ryan shakes his head.

‘I know, I know!’ I say. ‘I’m not sure what I was thinking. I guess… I didn’t think I’d be hearing back from him so it didn’t matter!’

I laugh; Ryan groans.

‘I’m going to have to find my tennis racket, and buy some tracksuit bottoms…’

Of the pairs that I own, one has a hole in the crotch and the others stop just north of my ankles – not a good look.

‘Also,’ I scratch my head, ‘my hearing’s not very good at the moment – I think it’s my cold – so I won’t be able to hear anything he’s saying from the other end of the court!’

Which is when Ryan says it’s like something out of Miranda.

I laugh. ‘I know.’

I turn back to my computer, thinking at least my breasts don’t clap.

CC Image courtesy of jovike on Flickr

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This is silly

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CC Image courtesy of Urban Sea Star on FlickrI bought that scarf

The one that cost me ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE POUNDS

Because it reminded me of you.

Yes I did.

And the scent
Orange blossom
When the bottle ran dry
I bought another
Because you said ‘Very much’
To my question
Do you like it?

What else?

I told you that I moved,
But not that it would be easier to love you in a double room.
That that is why I moved.

The job – taking the job was prudence
Mostly
But also I fancy I thought you would like me better in it
Or that I would like me better in it
And so,
So would you

Like the scarf.

CC Image courtesy of Romana Correale on Flickr

 

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Catherine

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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.

CC Image courtesy of marie-II on Flickr

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Egg Flip: Part I

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CC Image courtesy of baking_in_pearls on FlickrThe first thing I do when I get in, after making myself a cup of coffee, defrosting a pain au chocolat, and making some toast – the first thing I do is Google ‘egg box Proust’.

***

‘Hello!’

It’s a girl I know from reeling.  She’s Oxford-based, so I’m a little surprised to see her here.  We kiss on the cheeks, exchange pleasantries.  I look over at her partner, and my stomach flips.

‘Hello.’

Nick smiles back.  ‘Hello.’

I look away and back.  Our eyes meet.  He’s wearing a white shirt, slightly open at the neck, sleeves rolled up to the elbows.  He’s taller than I remember, and looks older, more confident.  The dance begins, which is lucky: you can’t ogle whilst moving at speed.

I’m accosted by one of the organisers.  Will I dance the next with a beginner?  Of course, I say, immediately regretting my words.  What if Nick asks me?  I’m not letting a repeat of last time happen.  Too late, I’m being introduced to my partner.  The next moment, Nick appears.

‘Are you dancing this one?’

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but – I’m afraid I have a partner – but – another one….’

‘Oh!  So do I – sorry, I meant, shall we form a set?  But – yes, another one….’

‘Oh, right, sorry!  Yes!’

The dance begins, and quickly falls apart.  I switch to teaching mode, guiding people around the floor.  Nick learns fast; it’s impressive.

My partner thanks me.  We’re chatting about salsa, his dance of choice, when the next reel is announced.  It’s one of my favorites.

‘Do you mind,’ he says, ‘again?’

What do you say to that?  Well actually there’s a guy here I’ve immortalised in print who I’d quite like to dance with.  He hasn’t asked me yet but, well, he might.

‘No!’ I say. ‘That would be–.’

Nick appears, as if out of nowhere.  ‘Would you like to dance this one?’

Fuck.

‘Errr… err…’

An awkward few seconds later, I’ve conveyed the fact that I’m taken, and Nick goes on his way.

I want to scream and shout, energy which I channel into the dance.  Come the end of it, Beatrice and I hold a summit meeting in the corner.  She tells me I mustn’t let a repeat of the ball happen; I must ask Nick to dance.

The last reel is about to begin.  I hover on the sidelines with a few other girls, avoiding making eye contact with anyone.  Nick comes back in, and I drift in his general direction.  Not particularly subtle, but I’ve decided the time for subtlety is long gone.  I feel a hand on my arm, and turn to see a sweet-looking girl.

‘Would you like a partner?’

The next moment, Nick appears – he’s good at that.

‘Would you like to dance?’ he says, blushing.

Hell yeah.

We take our places in the set.

‘You might have to remind me how this one goes,’ he says.

‘I can do that.’

He gets it in a flash.

‘How’s Oxford?’ I say.

‘Good!’  He smiles.  ‘Is the short answer!’

Silence ensues.  I’m starting to think that the time for subtlety is never gone; that I put Nick in a position where he felt obliged to ask me to dance; that he might not have wanted this.  I decide to back off, easier said than done when you’re dancing with the guy.

I’m about to speak again – the whole backing off thing, not going so well – when he says,

‘How’s London?’

‘Good!  Too!  Actually, it’s OK.  I’ve just started a new role – the people are nice but the work’s not the most interesting.’

A bit like what I’m saying.  I button it; the dance goes on.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried dancing in a flirty yet detached way.  It’s not easy, and in the end I give up on the detached element.

The numbering goes wrong part way through, and I correct it.

‘Perfect!’ he says.

I grin, as much at the compliment as the fact that he knew to give it, knew that what I’d done wasn’t easy – that I’d done it at all!  The guy’s only reeled once before.  I’m slightly awestruck.

‘Thank you, I really enjoyed that!’ he says, with the final chord.  ‘I think that’s one of the best!”

‘Yes, it’s a good one!’ I say.  ‘And, thank you!  You’re obviously… a dancer.  The numbering and stuff…’

‘Well – I don’t know.’  He shrugs.  ‘But – I do love dancing!’

I think of a line I read in a blog post the other day.

He must dance, not necessarily very well, but with joy, and with me, often.

I thought at the time that I didn’t entirely agree with the sentiment, but now I’m not so sure.

The night ends with a polka, which we dance, and a poem, which we mock with almost equal enthusiasm.  Then he leaves my side, and I go through to the bar.  Part of me thinks he’ll come and find me, but whether out of politeness or something more, I can’t be sure.

Salsa accosts me, drink in hand.  Dance chat ensues.  The minutes pass.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see Nick approach, jacket and scarf on over his white shirt.  We’ve been here before, except that this time Salsa leaves us to it.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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