Tuesday, May 12, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 22
Emma seethed through Monday and Tuesday. She and Fiona spent both days at the shop alternating between enthusing about Theo and Simon. For reasons Emma couldn’t quite put her finger on she hadn’t told Fiona about Jack’s reaction after the boat trip. She wasn’t sure if she was protecting Fiona, herself or Jack by omitting the information.
‘You don’t want her to think badly of Jack.’ A voice in her head was insisting, and prodding her in the back of they eye causing a dull ache as it did so.
‘That’s not true - I don’t want her to feel worse than she already did about being The Other Woman™ so I don’t want to tell her he was being all judgey.’ An equally vocal streak of her mind argued back. Emma stood looking at Fiona wondering whether this was true. She did feel oddly protective over Fiona given how little time they’d known each other.
‘If she thinks badly of Jack then she might not be so understanding when you tell her you like him.’ The persistent prodding thought continued but she raced to think over it as loudly as she could with a better thought.
‘No, because I don’t like him. I like Theo.’
And she couldn’t argue with herself on that thought because the evidence definitely seemed to indicate she was heavily into Theo. Her knees felt a bit vacant at the thought of actually going for a drink with him Thursday. This object of wonder that she had adored from across an open plan office for years. He was going to be sat on a stool in front of her, looking at her and having a conversation.
She thought about the montage of Bridget Jones trying to learn interesting things to talk to Daniel Cleaver about. It had always seemed ridiculous before but now she felt an overwhelming urge to check she had interesting things to talk about. She knew it wasn’t likely that she’d be able to bring up interesting things, but she wanted to at least be able to join in the conversation once he did.
Her anger at Jack was always there below the surface as she chatted and planned with Fiona. She replayed their conversation from the hall over and over in her head and in each replaying she got less and less effective with her responses.
Walking home from the shop Wednesday night in the light drizzle she finally snapped and stopped walking, causing the man behind her to pummel into the back of her and throw her a dirty look.
‘Shouldn’t have been so close in the first place.’ Her angriest head voice mumbled, and she checked her handbag reflexively to check he hadn’t been stealing anything. She stood in the drizzle and was immensely tired of being angry with Jack.
“Enough.” She said to herself, “You thought he was nice and going to be a friend because he has a nice face and a dog and he lives upstairs but let’s face it, you barely knew him and he was rude and mean the first chance he got.”
A woman scurried past her, avoiding getting too close as Emma was quite clearly mad.
“So you’ve done enough thinking about him. You have a date tomorrow with the man of your dreams and we are going to focus on that.”
Emma nodded to herself - feeling much better after having given herself such a stern pep talk. She resumed walking and even managed a small determined smile into the rain. The thought stream that was preoccupied with being angry with Jack raised a small hand to indicate it still had unfinished business, but Emma ignored it and altered her mental focus onto the drinks with Theo the next day.
It suddenly occurred to her that between Fiona’s drama and her anger with her neighbour she hadn’t really thought about what she would wear or look like.
‘That’s a good thing.’ Said a voice in her head, ‘That shows you’re not shallow - you’re more fussed about who you are than what you look like.’
This all felt very feminist and logical and brilliant until it was Thursday morning and she needed to leave for work in 15 minutes and everything in her wardrobe looked like trash. Everything she quite liked definitely needed ironing and a quick text to Fiona informed her that the iron in the shop hadn’t worked for months. That ruled out throwing any of those into her bag for later. Everything else felt very drab, why didn’t she own anything that wasn’t jeans?
‘Because you never go anywhere.’ Said a thought that Emma knew was her own, but that she definitely thought sounded like her sister. It felt like her brand of snark.
In the end, aware that the clock was refusing to stop ticking despite her furious begging, she threw two armfuls of clothes and her make up bag into her back pack and headed out of the door. She collided with a male human in the hallway who upon closer inspection turned out to be Jack.
“Sorry!” She said, before she’d realised who it was. Once she had realised who it was she was completely unable to stop herself adding, “For bumping into you - not for the other day.” Then she stood in silence looking at him wondering why he seemed like a mature grown up and she a child when he was wrong and she definitely felt in the right.
“Not a problem.” He said gruffly, but looked like he wanted to say more. He didn’t though, he just twitched Elliott’s lead and made to go downstairs. Elliott was having none of it. He stood on the landing gazing at Emma. She stroked his head.
“Hello boy,” she said fondly, “I hope you’re not missing me too much.” Elliott lolled a little pink tongue at her and sat down - clearly trying to persuade his master that there was further business to be had with his friend.
Jack hesitated at the top of the stairs and Emma really thought for a second he was going to say something else but then the front door opened and the third floor woman and her son noisily bustled in. It broke the spell on the landing. Elliott stood up sharply and he and Jack disappeared down the stairs to hold the door for Third Floor. Emma didn’t know what to do; really she needed to leave too but if she left now and headed to work she knew she’d be following Jack and Elliott to the park. Assuming they were heading to the park? She felt like she couldn’t take the risk that they were and so hovered on the landing a little while longer to avoid following them. Third Floor and her son gave her an odd look as they passed and she made a vague attempt to inspect the lock on her door to look less creepy. As she finally made her way down stairs, she realised that inspecting the lock had probably made her look more creepy and she made a mental note to make sure that Third Floor Woman knew she lived in the building.
When Emma arrived at the shop and explained her lateness to Fiona, the eye roll Fiona gave was indistinguishable from the ones Emma had imagined for her.
Emma’s lunch break was a small, boring fashion show for Fiona and Anja - who had said there was no way she was missing the big prep. The best outfit was chosen more by a process of elimination than by it being brilliant.
“It’s not horrible.” Fiona said, her head resting on one shoulder as she appraised Emma’s jeans and sleeveless top. Emma smarted.
“Of course it’s not horrible: it’s my clothes. I like this top, what’s wrong with this top?”
“Nothing! I said - it’s not horrible.” Fiona backtracked.
“Yes, but saying something is not horrible rather than saying something is nice is very telling about it. Is it horrible?” Emma felt her stomach turning icy cold. Was she going to turn up to her date with Theo looking awful? She thought about all the excellent outfits she’d ever seen Elaine in and cursed herself for not having had the foresight to buy a wardrobe full of uncomfortable clothes in case she ever got a boyfriend.
“It’s nice Emma! It’s jeans and a top, isn’t it? It’s not a ball gown but it’s not a horrible jeans and a top.” Fiona was doing her best impression of a mum with a teenager and Emma got the distinct feeling she was not enjoying the role. Anja was laughing hard at the pair of them squabbling but rather sensibly decided not to say anything.
Their argument was interrupted though by loud music coming from outside.
“What’s that?” Emma asked, moving towards the window. Fiona followed her and they peered out from behind the display tree at the street.
“There’s no festival on at the moment is there?” Anja asked.
Emma shrugged, “Don’t know - you two’d have a better idea than me.”
“Must be a busker.” Said Fiona, “Come on you - get your work togs on I’m ready for my lunch.”
Emma moved towards the staff door but the music from outside seemed to be getting louder. She turned, just in time to see possibly the strangest sight she had ever seen in her life.
Outside the front door was an enormous crowd of people, with a huge 80s style stereo resting on the floor in front of them. The crowd was young and excitable and as Emma watched a girl in her early twenties, wearing bright tie dye clothes and her hair in two bunches came running towards the shop. She pushed the door open, causing the little gold bell to jangle wildy, and then propped it wide with a little make shift door jamb. Emma watched wide-eyed, taking her eyes off the scene only for a moment to share a glance with Fiona.
The stereo had been playing something jolly that Emma didn’t recognise but suddenly it fell silent and as it did so the crowd all froze in different positions.
“Oh my god it’s a flash mob!” Shouted Fiona excitedly, “Like on YouTube! I’ve never seen one in real life before!”
Emma’s mouth had fallen open like a cartoon but she smiled as the strains of Andy Williams began to pipe out of the stereo.
“Oh it’s that song from Ten Things I Hate About You.” Said Fiona, grinning from ear to ear at the spectacle. “I love that bit.”
“I haven’t seen it.” Said Anja, and Fiona’s head whipped round to chastise her but she didn’t have time. Just as Fiona turned to look at Anja, Emma gave a yelp which made Fiona’s neck swing back round to see what Emma at yelped at. Emma had not yelped without good reason.
Outside the shop, before the parading flash mob all dancing in unison, was Norman. Dressed in a tuxedo, holding a glittery silver microphone and dancing and miming along with the track - Norman. Awful Norman.
Emma blinked several times to check she could she what she knew she could see. Norman was dancing away with the crowd, singing and pointing at Fiona in the shop in the most ridiculous, overblown display of… well, affection was the word Emma’s brain supplied but she wasn’t sure it was right. It was certainly a display and it was certainly affected though. She was far too distracted to come up with the right word. Norman was leg kicking and dancing and the crowd behind were throwing themselves madly into the performance.
Emma noticed Anja wiping tears from her eyes and made a mental note to check in later as to whether they were with or at.
Eventually the song cascaded to a finish and onlookers outside the shop burst into rapturous applause at the display. People were lined up taking pictures and videos of the dancers and Norman. Norman laid his microphone down by the stereo and came striding into the shop to where Fiona stood, shell shocked.
“Fiona,” he said, taking her hands, “I spent far too long taking you for granted and never being able to show you how I felt. I wanted to make that up to you today and prove to you that if you take me back I will never hide from the world how I feel about you ever again. Fiona, I love you and I want to make a proper go of it. What do you say?”
Give me a mode of transport…