My friend rang me on Thursday, Brian, are you free tomorrow? I can be I said, why what’s happening? I need you to take me out, It’s a charity lunch, well buffet really all for a good local cause. What’s up with Robert? (Her husband) she told me he was away playing golf with his mates and wouldn’t be back until late Sunday. Adding he wouldn’t have gone anyway.
I hate going anywhere on my own she said, I’m shy. You! shy, come off it. I am she said, I’m fine with work but I dread walking into a party, worse still walking in on my own, please come.
The prospect of spending a few hours with this lovely lady was a no-brainer. She may have been around ten years younger than me but we got on like a house on fire. She was attractive, funny, kind hearted, sexy and very intelligent what a combination. Is Robert OK about me taking you? He suggested it she said. OK, then I’ll pick you up before twelve if that’s alright.
Perfect she replied, it’s smart casual so no need to dress up.
I got to her house at 11.50am and sat around the corner until 12.00 o, clock. If I’m not ten minutes early, in my mind, I’m late. She answered the front door before I’d rang the bell. She looked fantastic in black patent leather shoes, black trousers, a white blouse and a pashmina around her shoulders which perfectly matched her eyes. I opened the car door she slipped inside.
Right, where we going? She told me and on the way there we chatted about this and that, what was happening at home, the charity, the person who had organized it, who would be there that I might know and all the while she thanked me for going with her. Why wouldn’t Robert have taken you? I asked. Oh, she said, Roberts always busy, busy with his daughter, busy with work, busy with his friends you know how it is.
We pulled up outside a small restaurant in a trendy part of town and went inside I knew it because I knew her, she is so full of life, interested in everything and everyone as soon as we walked in people came over to greet her. All women I may add in fact there were only two other blokes in the place and they were there with their wives.
Wheres Robert? and a glance at me meant whose this? She told them I was a friend and that Robert was away. Basically, I stood there like a lemon making small talk while the girls chatted. The only interruption to the animated discourse were people selling raffle tickets and asking for donations. Leaning towards me indicating a table laden with prizes my friend said, out the side of her mouth we should have brought a bottle of something for the raffle. Too late now, I said, let’s just buy loads of tickets instead. We shuffled from group to group sipping sparkling wine mostly saying the same things and buying more tickets.
One or two had begun to fill plates from the banquet tiered on tables along one wall. I couldn’t help thinking, if the person who had organized this had just donated the money it’s cost to hold it, the charity would be in easy street.
Would you like something to eat? I asked that would be nice she said, just then another gaggle of wives surrounded her and she was lost. I mimed I’ll get something for you. A cluster of us slowly moved along the tables laden with food carrying napkins and balancing plates until they were full. I found a table just as a waitress was passing with a tray filled with brimming champagne flutes. I took one for my friend and asked the waitress where the soft drinks were.
My friend saw me, excused herself came over and plonked down on a chair. I’m starving, she said and began to tuck into the food. The hubbub went on around us I began to talk earnestly about why the need to seek charity for such a worthwhile cause was fundamentally wrong, about how if we all paid an extra threepence in tax and there would be no need to rely on peoples goodwill. She started to laugh, Oh Brian your so funny.
I’d like to make it perfectly clear here that I’m not funny. I do however possess the unfortunate knack of making people laugh especially when I‘m talking about serious subjects.
I continued my diatribe she laughed louder. My hand was resting on the table she squeezed it pressing the nail of her thumb into the V between my thumb and forefinger, please stop she said, you’re killing me. Now in full flow and enjoying the moment I moved up a gear, she playfully punched me on the arm half turning she pressed her head into my shoulder laughing like a drain only just managing to say, Brian, you will have to stop before laughing even harder. I was laughing too and to be honest enjoying the moment a bit more than I should.
People were looking, a woman came over, wow she said, leaning in as if looking for something you two certainly appear to be having a good time. My friend lifted her head and said while dabbing her eyes, it’s him, then she burst out laughing again. Wheres the loo? Look at the state of me.
They started the raffle. Buying tickets had paid off we won loads of stuff. Not all of it much good and some of it had clearly done the rounds of a few prize winning raffle tables in the past nonetheless it was fun. We took turns going up to collect the prizes competing to see who could get the most useless item.
We put our winnings in the boot and got in the car. Well that’s the most fun I’ve had in ages she said, then we settled into a comfortable silence for the short drive to her house. I pulled on the drive, Thank you, she said I’ve had a lovely afternoon. It was my pleasure thank you for inviting me. She didn’t make a move she just sat there with her thumb under the seat belt holding it away from her clothes looking at me. Really Brian she said, it has been lovely.
That moment happened, you know what I’m talking about that thing, that quietness that descends just before you, shall we say reach out. I must say I was tempted she looked so, well, so perfect.
A few years ago I would have reached out. Not now though instead of seeing whirls of flesh on linen sheets I see all the heartache, the lies, the deceit, the sadness, the bitterness. I see Robert angry, sad, desperate. If they had, had children that would only make it ten times worse.
So rather than kissing her and telling her how much I adored her and had done from the second, she had come into my life. How I lay awake at night thinking about her, how I imagined our future together. how I hung on her every word.
So Instead of that, so instead of reaching out I reached down with my left hand and pressed the release on her seatbelt while at the same time opened the car door with my right. I nipped around the front of the car and opened the passenger door. She looked a little lost as if shaken from a dream. Look I said I’ve got to go. I promised to pop into the office to check over some figures before they went to the client. Oh, that’s fine she said, see you next time. Look forward to it! We hugged air kissed then I drove off with all the prizes in the boot leaving the one prize I wanted more than anything else in the world in her contented marriage.