Wednesday, May 13, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 23
Emma stood nervously outside the pub in her jeans and not horrible top. Her hands were shaking beyond her control and she stuffed them into her pockets to hide her nerves. It was a warm evening and the sun felt good on her shoulders. She couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted Theo to be waiting inside or not. If he was in there then she would have to scan the bar and find him - she’d have to look cool looking for him in the bar. She practised a few facial expressions to see which one felt best if she was required to look cute and surprised to see him being there. Not too surprised though - not so surprised that he might think she had thought there was a risk he wouldn’t turn up. She needed to do that brilliant advert face that people did all the time when they met friends in the cafe after finding the right sanitary towel. The face was proving hard to pin down and a woman having a cigarette a few feet away had nudged her friend and subtly pointed to Emma so she stopped practising.
On the other hand, if Theo wasn’t in the pub then there would also be consequences. She’d have to choose a place to sit - that was a pretty big responsibility. She’d also have to decide whether or not to order a drink and risk looking rude, or sit there without a drink and possibly look like she’d been expecting him to arrive and buy her one. Her stomach flipped again at the thought of the object of her many affections sitting opposite her and engaging her with conversation.
She put her hand on the door to the pub and tried to channel the confidence of Anja… she squared her shoulders and held her chin a little higher. That would be her mantra: What Would Anja Do?
The pub was busy and she scanned the room looking for Theo. After a few seconds of looking she realised that he probably wouldn’t be glowing, as he did in her imaginings of him and she adjusted what she was looking for accordingly. He didn’t seem to be sat at any of the small tables and so she switched her attention to the crowd of people stood around the bar and suddenly there he was. In office attire minus the tie and jacket - there he was. Chatting to two men and a woman Emma didn’t recognise - there he was. Emma thought it was just like him to have struck up conversation with other people in the bar - he was so friendly and easy to get along with.
‘Probably,’ she added, mentally reminding herself that she hadn’t actually had any conversations with him that weren’t solely about account finances or payment dates.
‘Well, in all the conversations I’ve imagined he’s been very easy going and that must have come from somewhere.’ She reasoned, and then noticed she was stood stock still in the middle of the bar doing nothing.
‘Do I go over and just join them?’ She agonised.
‘What else are you going to do, beckon him over here?’ Emma was beginning to realise there were large parts of her psyche that were unkind and she could do without.
She channelled Anja’s inner confidence and strode across the pub towards Theo.
“Hi!” She said, extremely proud of herself for the gentle touch she applied to his elbow upon arrival.
‘That was perfect,’ she mentally congratulated, ‘That was really great. I am never skipping an advert again - they are really paying off.’
“Emma!” Said Theo, turning to greet her, “Hey babe! Glad you could make it.”
The ‘babe’ made Emma’s throat feel gurgly but she managed to keep all noises more suited to a baby inside her body.
“Hiya, how are you doing?” She said, and then received his kiss on both cheeks. For once, Emma’s absolute lack of experience with social occasions paid off because she managed to stay very still while he applied both kisses and therefore didn’t get it wrong in any way.
“I’m great thanks, Emma - meet Jade, Luke and Mikey. Guys, this is Emma - she used to work with me at the London office.” Theo was indicating the three people he’d been speaking to when Emma came into the pub. Emma struggled to keep up.
‘So, they’re not strangers? They’re co-workers?’ They all seemed very friendly either way and greeted her with smiles and hellos.
“Would you like a drink?” Theo asked, and Emma couldn’t help but feel a creeping rosation on her cheeks at the thought of Theo buying her a drink.
‘You’ll be telling your Grandkids about this one day - the first date, the first drink, the first -‘
“Emma?” Theo’s questioning cut in on her daydream about curly haired children listening avidly to her tales.
“Sorry,” she said, snapping to, “Yes please - I’ll have a…” She stopped, absolutely unsure what to order. They all had pint glasses in their hands - even Jade, the only other woman in the group. Emma hated pints - she drank them too slowly for the second half to be a pleasant temperature by the time she got to it.
‘You drink them slowly because you don’t actually like them, so just order a wine.’ Her rational brain tried to tell her, but she did her best impression of an idiot and ignored it.
“I’ll have what you’re having.” She said, trying to sound like a cute character in a Rom Com.
“Grand,” said Theo, “Mikey’s buying - it’s his turn.” The theoretical grandkids in Emma’s imagination pulled sincerely unimpressed faces at their grandparents’ first drink together being part of a round.
Drinks arrived and Emma did her best to take a reasonable gulp and sink the bitter liquid. Luke, Mikey and Jade were the rest of the sales team for the Bath office and so chat quickly settled on Futurescope. Emma did her best to join in as much as she could but she had no idea who most of the people being referenced were and she wasn’t a sales person. Still, they seemed nice and there was plenty of smiley eye contact with Theo to keep her going.
“I hear Theo was a bit of a wild child in London, eh?” Jade nudged Emma, smirking across the table at Theo.
“Oh! Oh no - he was the perfect salesman.” Said Emma, wide eyed and the others all laughed as though she had said something funny.
“Enough of that, Jade.” Said Theo, grinning, “I was the model of a modern major London man. A load of gallivanting. But I have now seen the error of my ways and arrived in the picturesque West Country town of Bath to settle down and be a good boy.”
“It’s just like Pride and Prejudice.” Said Luke, surpressing a burp.
“Well, Northanger Abbey.” Said Emma, smiling, but it was met with confused looks. “Oh, it’s just - that one’s set in Bath.”
“That one what?” Said Mikey.
“What?” Emma didn’t follow.
“It’s also by Austen.” Jade supplied helpfully, “You guys are such Philistines.” She tossed a beer mat across the table and it bounced off Theo’s chest. He picked it up and began spinning it in circles, laughing back.
“Must be my round,” Emma said loudly, uncomfortable with the familiarity between the four of them on what she’d hoped would be a very different evening. “Same again everyone?” She smiled breezily at them and headed to the bar.
It took a while to get served but once the barman was free she ordered pints for the others and the glass of wine she had wanted all along for herself. What Would Anja Do. She added a small shot of tequila for herself - just for Dutch courage. She downed the shot at the bar and then began ferrying the drinks back to the group at the tiny table.
“So what brought you to Bath?” Asked Mikey as she settled back into her seat with her wine, “Did you arrive on better terms than the Therminator here?”
Emma blushed, so Theo had told them about his spicy break up with Elaine then. “Er, yeah - there was no drama with me moving here. Just fancied a change, so…” Emma trailed off, suddenly aware she hadn’t really prepared a good enough story for this situation.
“Do you have family round here?” Asked Luke, the kinder seeming of the two men.
“Er, no - they’re in London.” Emma’s skin was feeling tighter and tighter.
“Did you have a job lined up?” Jade asked through a sip of beer.
“No, actually.” Emma squeaked, “No, it was a bit of a whim thing. You know - my lease was up in London and I was bored and been at Futurescope for a while so I thought, why not take an adventure while I could? You know. It was all very normal.”
‘So was that answer until you added ‘It was all very normal’ on the end. They’re going to think you’re covering for being some kind of undercover spy.’ She chastised herself.
‘Better they think you’re a spy than know the truth…’
Her companions had bought her excuses though and conversation moved on. Mikey and Luke had come to Bath for University and never left, while Jade had grown up in the countryside nearby and commuted in from what sounded like a luxurious country pile to work in the city.
Emma relaxed slowly over a couple of hours. To be fair, the obscene amounts of alcohol were certainly helping.
‘These salespeople drink like fish!’ God, even her thoughts were slurring.
‘Do fish actually drink though, or do they just live in water?’
‘I’ve no idea.’
In what felt like no time it was Emma’s round again and the pub swayed dangerously as she left her seat to go to the bar. There was no way Emma could manage another glass of wine - she must have had four now, that was more than a bottle wasn’t it? On top of the original pint she’d had… oof, and the tequila that had seemed like a good idea in the middle. Maybe a water would be a good idea to keep things on the straight and narrow?
She was at the bar about to order when she felt a hand sliding down her side. Her head snapped up and Theo had materialised around her waist.
“How’re you doing gorgeous?” He said, his breath warm and beery in her face.
“I’m good… I might be a little tipsy.” She said, giggling back, fully aware she was far more than tipsy.
“Aye, me too.” Theo smiled, “Thank god it’s Friday tomorrow, eh? One more won’t hurt us!”
Emma felt like she couldn’t order water with him there - he’d think she was childish and remove that lovely warm hand from where it rested on her waist.
“Are you having a nice evening?” She asked him shyly.
“Oh yeah, the guys are great.” Theo said, “And it’s lovely to get to know you too. I never really saw you much at the London place. Mad world isn’t it? That we’re both here.”
Was it Emma’s imagination or was he moving his fingers? It felt like he was beginning to stroke gently on her hip but she couldn’t tell if it was someone else at the bar brushing against her or just her drunken imagination willing it to be Theo.
The barman caught her eye and she ordered four pints and a G&T. Arguing with herself that because gin and tonic was such a different flavour to wine it would go some way to sobering her up.
Theo helped her carry the drinks back over to the table and then he took the seat next to her that Jade had vacated to go to the toilet.
‘I think he likes me!’ Emma’s brain was shrieking wildly. She was trying to follow the chat between Luke, Mikey and Theo but the alcohol haze and the ludicrous excitement about Theo’s proximity were making it hard. Theo’s foot was grazing against her ankle and making her skin tingle right up to… well, quite frankly never you mind where it was tingling up to.
‘Ok, so it might not have been a date perhaps but he’s definitely into you. This body language is undeniable. Maybe these guys tagged along when he said he was going to a pub and he was just too polite to tell them no?’
A bell rang behind the bar and Emma glared at her watch furiously - it couldn’t be closing time could it? No! That wasn’t fair! The evening was supposed to last forever.
“One more for the road?” Theo shouted, gregariously. But the others were shaking their heads and pulling on coats.
“Nah, I’ve got to get back - the kids’ll be up at 5 whether I’m hung over or not.” Said Luke.
“We’ll share a cab?” Mikey stood up, wobbling a little, “You’re a bad example Theo!” He laughed at his own precarious legs.
“Yeah, I’m going to head too.” Said Jade, smiling warmly at Emma, “It was so great to meet you Emma. See you tomorrow T.”
They all hugged goodbyes and before Emma could count her blessings she was alone with Theo at the table.
“You’ll stay for one more with me, won’t you?” He said, tracing a finger up Emma’s thigh.
‘There’s nothing horrible about these jeans at all.’ Emma said inside.
“Of course.” Was all she managed on the outside.
“Or, if you like,” Theo was continuing to speak but Emma’s concentration was fused onto the feeling of his finger tip’s light pressure on her thigh; it was spellbinding, “I have a bottle of port at home that’s just gorgeous? We could have a nightcap.”
Emma didn’t trust herself to speak so she just nodded at Theo and picked up her bag and coat, following him out of the pub. It turned out Theo lived literally metres from the bar and Emma felt like every step between the two doors was on a cloud. She felt immaterial; fluid and weightless and full of joy. Not a single voice in her head wanted to question or argue or look for problems. She was with Theo, going to his house and his hand had been on her thigh.
His flat was minimalist and white - barely any ornaments or photos but lots of sleek looking electronics and nice furniture. She perched on the sofa and awaited the port he was pouring.
“You’re so beautiful Emma.” He said, his back to her as he poured them drinks into cut glass glasses.
‘Gosh he’s not messing about!’ She thought, wondering if she was blushing. Usually she could tell from the heat in her cheeks but her face already felt like a cherry so any extra blushing on top would be hard to discern.
“Nah, don’t be ridiculous.” She mumbled. He carried her over a glass of port. She put it on one of his slate coasters; not trusting herself not to spill it if he said anything else complimentary.
“No, you are. I always thought so. In London. I thought you were so beautiful - in like, a proper unobvious way. You’re beautiful when you really look.”
Emma could barely breathe. She couldn’t believe she was sitting on Theo’s sofa being called beautiful by Theo. He put his port glass down next to hers on the coffee table and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers.
“I don’t know.” She muttered, suddenly feeling acutely aware of the smell of wine on her breath. Her mouth felt stale, her eyes dry. She felt lumpy and self-aware.
“I do.” He said, breathily. “And that’s all that counts. Emma, can I kiss you?”
She nodded and in the same movement felt his lips on hers. She wished she were less drunk so she could take it all in properly. It was sloppy and urgent and she kissed him back forcefully - wanting him more than she felt she’d ever wanted anything. She wanted him to kiss her until she felt beautiful. His hands were pulling at her clothes and she let him tug her not horrible top off over her head, pausing their frantic kisses only to let the top pass between their faces.
It was so long since Emma had anyone touch her skin like this and it felt electric. She felt like she might burst if she didn’t spend some of the crazy energy within her. She pulled off his t-shirt and his body was perfect - smooth skin over tight muscles, she pulled him down onto her, enjoying the crushing weight of him on her tender ribs. She prayed that the last of the bruising had faded.
“Shall we go through to the bedroom?” Theo whispered in her ear and for the first time Emma hesitated.
‘Are you going to sleep with him?’ She asked herself.
‘No, of course not! It’s a first date!’
‘Well, you are following him to his bedroom - so you perhaps need to stop that if you’re not going to have sex with him?’
‘The thing is though, I’d quite like to have sex with him… so, I might do that. Is that ok?’
‘What are you asking me for? I’m you.’
Before she knew it she was in his room - the dim lighting swaying and swirling before her eyes. She pulled him down on the bed with her.
“Oh god. Emma.” He whispered into her hair.
“Theo.” She said out loud, and smiled so widely she thought if he could see her face she’d look completely mad.
His hands were all over her body and she had not a single complaint. Not a single argumentative thought. In fact, no thoughts at all other than “I’m having sex with Theo.”
Emma woke the next morning with a dry mouth and an absolutely splitting head ache. She looked at the clock beside Theo’s bed and yelped at the time. She was going to be late to the shop. She’d have to get the bus. She raced through to the living room, leaving Theo sleeping on the bed, and grabbed her jeans and top from the floor by the sofa. Her bra was hidden beneath the shirt Theo had been wearing. The clothes suddenly looked sordid and on the horrible side of not horrible in the cold light of the morning. Emma brushed the thought aside. No, that was the hangover talking - she hadn’t done anything wrong, she’d had consenting sex with an adult she fancied and that was the end of it. She was absolutely not going to overthink it.
She dashed out of the flat, deciding not to leave a note for Theo - she’d text him at lunchtime when her thoughts were less panicked. She flagged down a bus to the town centre and it was only when she sat down, smiling apologetically at the man next to her who was wrinkling his nose at the wine smell coming off her, that she realised she was still clutching Theo’s shirt.
Where did Fiona and Norman go to talk after the Flash Mob?