Sister Act

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CC Image courtesy of Indigo Skies Photography on FlickrI look up to see Tristan approaching.

‘Are you busy?’ he says.

I think of my post-holiday to-do list: twelve tasks and counting.

‘Err why?’

‘Could you witness the signing of a contract – if you’re not too busy?’

I glance in the direction of my boss.

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘that’s fine.’

I start to rise.

‘I’ll come and get you when my sister’s here,’ he says, ‘in about five minutes.’

‘Your sister? OK.’

 

I turn back to my computer screen. He could have asked any number of people: Tobias, Ryan, Harriet who sits opposite him…. I glance again at my boss, before bending to root around in my bag for a tube of lip gloss. Lucky I put on make-up this morning. It wouldn’t do to look sleep-deprived when meeting my future sis– oh for fuck’s sake. Frowning, I focus on the screen.

The minutes slip by.

I’ll say something really daft probably, offend her. ‘Hi!’ and a smile. That’s safe. I can’t say ‘I’ve heard so much about you’, because I haven’t really. I must remember not to say her name.

It’s definitely been more than five minutes.

I mutter words under my breath, looking for the best phrase for an email. This is good. I should be working when she sees me for the first time.

More like ten.

He rounds the corner. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘it’s fine. Harriet witnessed it.’

‘Oh, OK.’

He walks away.

I really need to get over this.

CC Image courtesy of HooverStreetStudios on Flickr

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In Search of Perfection

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CC Image courtesy of Rev Stan on Flickr

‘I’m giving you a cheque,’ my grandmother says, folding the slip of paper, ‘but if there’s anything else you want…’

‘Like a wedding dress,’ my aunt puts in.

I laugh. I don’t know how long my relations have been suppressing the urge to quiz me about my love life but today, finally, they’d cracked.

‘Has your brother got a girlfriend?’ is how it starts – a complete non sequitur to what we’d previously been talking about.

‘No,’ I say, ‘not as far as I know.’

‘He needs a strong woman,’ my aunt says.

I laugh. ‘I doubt he thinks that!’ I take a sip of my drink. ‘What do you think I need?’

‘I don’t know,’ she says slowly, ‘but I suspect you’re looking for perfection.’

‘Why do you think that?!’

‘Well, you can’t even choose a draining rack!’

The draining rack had gone back, hence the cheque.

I laugh. ‘Mmm yeah. But it was too small! There were things wrong with it!’

My aunt doesn’t say anything. I take another sip.

‘So there’s no one…?’

This from my grandmother.

I think of my Saturday dateTall, charming, successful… looks a bit like Tom Hiddleston: I know better than to mention him after just one drink.

‘Hmm no,’ I say, ‘but I’m trying!’

‘Is there anyone at work?’

‘I have some wonderful colleagues, but they all have spouses or long-term girlfriends.’

My relations look almost as disappointed by this as I am, which is saying something.

CC Image courtesy of m-louis on Flickr

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What Do I Know?

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CC Image courtesy of Diamond Hoo Ha Man on FlickrIf an alien landed in London and stole my phone (it’s a big ‘if’ – I’ve got a budget Motorola) it would probably think my surname was Tinder and that I was really good at keeping in touch with my immediate family. It might also wonder why all these conversations reached fever pitch before coming to an abrupt end. It might not know how to operate a mobile phone.

After five Tinder dates in as many weeks I’ve learnt a few things:

  1. Meet. Your chemistry might be electric over text/Whatsapp but if you – or they – fail the acid test in person, that’s that.
  1. Meet on a week night. It’s much easier to curtail a mid-week date if you’re not feeling it…
  1. … which you probably won’t be. Keep your expectations low.
  1. Don’t contact your ex – especially not the one you met on Tinder – immediately after an underwhelming date. Actually don’t contact your ex, period.
  1. Split the tab, unless he absolutely insists. But otherwise, go Dutch. He’ll respect you for it and you won’t feel any guilt when there’s no follow-up. Plus, well, it’s the 21st century – why should the guy pay?
  1. You’ll decide pretty early on if the stranger who just said hello to you outside the tube station is someone you could kiss or get naked with. Whatever the verdict there is no polite way to get out of the ensuing date (see #2).
  1. After a run of average dates you might start to question your ability to know when you really like someone.

The day after date #5 I go dancing and run into an old, newly single acquaintance. He’s wearing turquoise and a broad grin and greets me like an old friend. I spend all of the next day hungover with this big dopey smile on my face.

Trust me, you’ll know.

CC Image courtesy of Pulpolux !!! on Flickr

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Faking It

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CC Image courtesy of Chesi - Fotos CC on FlickrTuesday, there’s a departmental meeting, most of which I spend thinking, ‘I don’t even care, I should be working in the FILM INDUSTRY.’

Leaving the room I draw level with The Man for Whom I Baked. He’s tall, slender, beautifully turned out and – and this is the real reason I love him – he always looks happy to see me. I worry that one day his illusions will be shattered and he’ll see me for who I really am, someone who spent a week in Berlin and didn’t visit a single museum or art gallery OUT OF CHOICE. Conversations with him are like an Oxford interview, or an episode of Faking It.

‘How are you?’ he says, looking into the distance before snapping his head round to meet my eye. It’s sexier than it sounds.

‘Yeah, fine thanks. What did you think?’

It’s too soon, like a diner asking his companion for thoughts on the restaurant before they’re out the door. And this man’s an aesthete; my clumsiness must grate. He looks round at the sea of colleagues, perhaps scouting for eavesdroppers or passing time until it’s safe to speak. He answers in a low voice then says again:

‘No but really, how are you?’

Six months I’ve been in my role and this is a first. Family and friends have shown an interest of course and when things got really bad threatened to airlift me out of the office, but this is the first time I’ve been asked by someone on the inside. Someone who knows what I’m up against, who knows the system. Someone who looks a bit like Tobias Menzies.

‘Yeah… OK.’

‘We should have coffee sometime and you can tell me how it’s going.’ He’s back to staring into the distance.

*

I’m plating up flapjacks for Tristan and Co. in the kitchen when Tobias walks in.

‘Would you like one?’ 

‘Thanks,’ he says. ‘How are you?’

‘Stressed.’

‘Stressed? What about?’

I tell him.

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

That helps – just asking. Where’s that line from? Almost certainly Sex and the City given the breadth of my cultural references. Something else this man doesn’t need to know.

CC Image courtesy of El-AMD Photos on Flickr

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Mr. Chips: Part I

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‘You’ll meet someone when you least expect it.’CC Image courtesy of electricnerve on Flickr

I laugh. ‘I’m always expecting it though!’

I’m half-joking. I might not always be expecting it, but I am always looking for it. Tonight, for instance, it’s Perky’s Christmas party: 50% guys I know and don’t fancy, 25% guys who don’t fancy me back, 20% unknown entities and 5% blood relatives (off-limits, whatever you might have read on here recently). By 2am a really nice couple is trying to help me get with ‘Cream Jumper’ (yes, I’m aware of how desperate that sounds), one of the 25%. Fortunately the cab, taking the three of us south, arrives before I do anything stupid/embarrassing. We chatter all the way, about the psychology of the likes of Cream Jumper (a famous flirt)… to be honest, that’s the only part of the conversation I can remember, but it’s really fun, and when the cab pulls up yards from my flat, I’m feeling happy and relaxed.

‘Thank you,’ I say, hopping out. ‘Good night!’ I close the door and the cab pulls away.

‘Anna!’

I look round to see my next-door neighbour, standing on the pavement, holding one of those horrible yellow takeaway boxes. Here is what I know about him:

1. He works in finance.

2. He’s charming.

3. I fancy him.

(TO BE CONTINUED) 

CC Image courtesy of Jonno Witts on Flickr

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