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 irucko on Flickr

I see it as a sign of maturity that this year I haven’t invited any romantic prospects to my birthday.

And I see it as a sign of immaturity that I felt the need to share this information with all my close friends.

‘There’s still time,’ Lucy says, in response to my triumphant text.

Perky is more specific. ‘Why don’t you invite that guy?’

I’ve just finished telling her about The Man In Turquoise.

Only Beatrice affirms my decision.

‘Good,’ she says.

‘Yes,’ I say, while wondering how on earth I’m going to find the motivation to make canapés for twenty strictly platonic friends.

Homemade Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion Canapé

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Sumac (who knew?)

Sumac (who knew?)

You will nearly always fall for the person you didn’t think was your type.

— Dolly Alderton

At dancing the other night I met two guys. One of them you know about; the other was a blast from the past.

The one you know about, The Man In Turquoise, is exactly the kind of guy I can see myself with. A lot of that is probably to do with the fact he likes cooking, cue imagining long evenings spent together getting excited about things like sumac.

The Blast From The Past is a more puzzling kind of crush: the kind of guy you look at and can’t quite explain your interest in. He’s shorter than you and thinner and he has this goofy, toothy smile which is cute, sure, but not really sexy. And he can’t dress and you don’t have the same sense of humour. And when you text to check everything is OK after getting a missed call from him at 1am his reply is barely punctuated. He’s probably not interested and, four cheery chirpy messages later, you still don’t know exactly why you are. And when you tell Beatrice, she says it all sounds just like him because he’s really friendly. And that’s really annoying.

CC Image courtesy of Ed Yourdon 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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‘You’re welcome to get changed at mine beforehand if you’d rather not travel in white tie.’

CC Image courtesy of The Bees Knees Daily on Flickr

It was too long, Anna felt, but the redrafting had become ridiculous.

He sent back, ‘I’m just figuring out how to get to London, and will let you know once I’ve decided.’

Then that last, adorable sentence.  She smiles on reading it, the tell-tale grin of someone who should be working, but whose attention has strayed.

She sits a moment, chin resting on her hand, looking out of the window.  It’s funny that he wants to know.  Black tie, and it might be the bow tie, or a cummerbund.  Can you wear a cummerbund with white tie?  She thinks not.  A handkerchief then, or a button hole?  The idea of it makes her laugh.

The sound of a step brings her back to the present.  It’s Gus, at the photocopier.  He smiles.  ‘Hey.’

 

It’s bright sun outside, almost a summer’s day.  She walks in the direction of the gardens, where the beds are a riot of colour.

Flowers perhaps.  He might present her with a bouquet.  For all she knows that’s what they do on the continent.

Sophie thought that made a difference.  ‘I think it’s even harder to know, if he’s German.’

Anna laughed.  ‘Are you just saying what I want to hear?’

‘Yes.’

There was only one thing she couldn’t explain away and so it gave her hope.  Three times Johann had issued an invitation, to a dinner in London.  Twice in person and a third time when she had written to thank him for a ball.  The cynic in her said it was probably because they were low on numbers, but still, she would only push it with someone she… but perhaps that was just her.

Then there was Freddie.

‘Someone left a red towel here – would that be yours?’

The quaint turn of phrase had made her smile.

‘It’s not mine I’m afraid.  I’m sure someone will contact Freddie if it’s precious – I’ve let him know you’ve got it.’

Why had she said that?  It would surely have made him think… but not to worry.  Tonight it would be clear.  She would be friendly and open.  And Freddie almost certainly wouldn’t be there.

 

He’s one of the last to arrive.  The sight of him makes her nervous and she doesn’t see – or if she does, she doesn’t register it – but kisses him, on the cheeks, her arm at an awkward angle.

‘These are for you,’ he says, stepping back.  ‘Navy is a difficult colour to match!’

She can feel her face growing hot.  ‘Thank you – they’re beautiful.’

Deep blue anenomes with velvety black centres, bluebells, and white tulips.

‘It’s a tradition back home.  You always bring flowers that match your partner’s dress.’

‘Aaw.’  Their scent is light and sweet.  ‘Thank you.’

She hugs him, kisses him again on the cheek.

 

‘All girls like flowers.’

Anna half-turns in her seat, smiling.

‘We saw your flowers, and were just saying, all girls like to be given flowers.’

It’s a passenger across the aisle.  Anna looks down at the bouquet.  ‘I thought so, when I heard you mention flowers.’

‘Are they from your boyfriend?’ says the girl beside him.

‘No.’  She explains, about it being a tradition.

‘Your future boyfriend.’

‘No,’ she says again, smiling.

 

The sky is brightening as she walks home from the bus stop.  The streets are deserted and she starts to dance, flowers in hand.  At her gate, she looks up and notices the wave-like structure of the roof, silhouetted black against the sky: a deep, beautiful blue.

IMG_20140503_163106501_HDR

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