Hot Water

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‘I like leaving it to get to room temperature.’CC Image courtesy of JKleeman on Flickr

‘I like it slightly warm, but not hot, y’know?’

‘Don’t they say chilled water is bad for you?’

I’m a hair’s breadth away from banging my head against the wall, or throwing myself out the window (we’re on the fifth floor).

Gus walks by en route to the kitchen.  He’s the current favourite, having smiled at me for no reason when I passed his desk earlier that morning.  He has a lovely smile.

‘Tea, coffee anyone?’ I say, rising.

My colleagues look surprised.

‘Ooh yes… please could I have some hot water?’

‘Hot water pleeeease!’

‘Water please.’

‘Cold?’

‘Please!’

 

Gus moves aside so I can get to the boiling water tap.  I start filling mugs.

‘Oops.’ I frown at the third cup.  ‘It should’ve been cold.  Do you think she’ll notice?’

He laughs.  ‘You could put it in the fridge to chill.’

‘That would be efficient!’ I say, also laughing.  ‘When I see cups of water in there, I’ll know who it is!’

I find a glass.

‘Nah, I’d better…’

I fill it with chilled water, which may or may not be bad for you.  Grinning, a mug in each hand, I go back to my desk.

CC Image courtesy of Air Force One on Flickr

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Winging It

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‘Come on!’CC Image courtesy of Jamilson Junior on Flickr

Sally steers me in the direction of a guy who looks vaguely like the hot one from One Direction.  His head is a mass of curls – what is it with me and big hair?! – and I like his style on the dance floor.  I resist her pull.

‘Errr… I’m not sure.’

She wants to play wing woman.  I can only see this ending badly.  Sally is blonde, bubbly, incredibly sweet – all the things I’m not, and all the things I imagine the One Direction lookalike, and any straight-thinking male for that matter, would go for.

‘It’ll be fine!’ she says.  ‘I’m good at this!’

*

An hour later, I’m walking to the bus stop flanked by Freddie and Sam.

‘Olly was nice,’ Freddie says.

‘Yes.  I think he liked Sally.’

‘Oh.’

Silence.

‘Yeah,’ I go on, ‘she’s a very charming wing woman – rather too charming I think!’  I laugh, but I don’t feel very happy.  ‘It’s hardly surprising.  She’s very attractive.  If I was a guy, I’d probably fancy her.’

Again, silence.

‘I think,’ Freddie says, looking over at Sam, ‘what she wants us to say is that she’s more attractive than Sally.’

I laugh.  ‘No.’

Well, yes, but only if it’s true.  What I actually want right now is for it to be true, or for the last hour to not have happened.  I’m mature like that.

Sam mumbles for a bit in a Hugh Grant-esque kind of a way, before concluding, ‘What I’m trying to say, is that, where Sally’s concerned, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.’

I frown.  ‘Hmm I think you’re biased.’

Clearly he can’t win.

‘He probably thinks you’re too good for him!’ Freddie says.

Sam looks impressed.  ‘That’s very good.  I wish I’d thought of that!’

We laugh.

‘You’re funny,’ I say, ‘but I don’t think people think like that.  I mean, I don’t believe that would stop a guy from trying it on.  It might stop him from succeeding, but not trying.’

We walk on in silence.  At the fork in the path, we say goodnight.  Sam strides off to the right, whilst Freddie and I cross the park.  In the distance I fancy I can hear Sally’s tinkling laugh.

CC Image courtesy of jikido on Flickr



La Dolce Vita

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CC Image courtesy of drumminhands on FlickrWe were at university together, the three of us. Tom and I were on the same course. I liked him immediately: his deep-seated realism, his love of taking the mickey – he gave my self-esteem more of a battering in three years than all my tutors put together – and his direct manner. And his belief that anything other than pasta and cheese was pretentious fare.

I ran into him once outside the library.

‘Where you headed to?’ he asked.

‘Food shopping.’

He looked at my bike. ‘That’ll be a long ride.’

‘Huh?’

The supermarket was just around the corner.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘there isn’t a Fortnums in Oxford. You’ll have to go to – where is it – Pic–?’

‘Fuck off.’

He gave me a lot of stick, and a lot of laughs.

 

Claire used to drop by my room on the way to see him. She would sing his praises, bemoan the fact that he had a girlfriend back home; or rather we would do these things together, with almost equal enthusiasm. And sometimes Tom would drop by on the way to see Claire and I’d laugh like a schoolgirl at his jokes. But I was never the destination.

In Claire’s eyes, no one came close. But Tom had been with his girlfriend for years. A creature of habit, it seemed unlikely that he would end it. And so, for two years, I listened to Claire wax lyrical about him. She did at one point chat up a refugee on a bus, inspired by one of my bolder romantic gestures, but Tom remained her gold standard.

 

At the end of second year, it happened. I was cycling along with a friend, and she casually mentioned that Tom and his girlfriend had split up. I stopped in my tracks.

‘Who ended it?’

‘Dunno.’

It didn’t make much difference.

I shrugged. ‘Well, it’s only a matter of time now.’

Over the summer, Tom and Claire hooked up. The first term back it was strange. We spoke occasionally in the dinner queue but otherwise I barely saw them. Then, one night, the microwave on my corridor was broken. I went upstairs to the kitchen opposite Claire’s room. She was there preparing pasta and cheese. We started chatting. Tom came in.

‘What you eating?’

‘Errrr… pasta,’ I said.

‘What you having with it?’

He grabbed the jar. ‘Aubergine pesto. Oooh very fancy.’

We laughed.

CC Image courtesy of Patent and the Pantry on Flickr



Sweet Sorrow

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(Continued from Friends Without Benefits)

‘It’s not – it’s not me, is it?’

Over Sam’s shoulder, I can see Toby, standing at the far end of the room, chatting to his partner.  She’s laughing like a school girl.  I feel slightly sick.

‘No, you’re quite safe.’ 

Time to call it a night.  There’s a cookie at home with my name on it.  Not that sick.

I head for the door.  In the foyer, I stop.  I could just say goodbye; that would tell me…something.  I double back.  A guy I know has joined them.  Normally, I’d run a mile; but tonight…

‘Nice to see you!’  He’s similarly effusive.  The four of us start walking towards the exit.  At the door, I turn to Toby.

‘Well, good night.’

‘We didn’t really get a chance to speak!’ 

‘No, I know.  Well – I’ll see you soon.’ 

I rush out, narrowly avoiding a collision with Sam.

‘Pub?’

No.  Cookie.