Friday, April 24, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 10
Emma paced around her flat wondering how on earth to start the conversation with Jack.
‘He’s just a normal bloke; just go upstairs and ask how he is.’ She told herself, but the pacing continued unabated.
‘Yeah, he’s normal - it’s me that’s the problem. I need to go up there and sort of casually tell him my boss fancies him and would he like to go out with her. That’s not easy. What if he thinks I’m saying he has to in case I’m fired?’
‘Just tell him that isn’t the case.’
‘But then he’ll know I’ve been thinking he might think that and he’ll think I’m nuts.’
‘You have been thinking that and you are nuts, so what’s the problem?’
She stopped talking to herself at that point and decided to run herself a bath. The tap glowered at her, daring her to just try and put another innocent little toe in. She lay back in the bubbles and listened for the sounds of movement upstairs that would tell her when Jack was home and she could pop up. However the bath water had gone cold without her hearing the padding of dog paws and she pulled the plug out and climbed out, giving the tap a patronising pat before wrapping herself in a towel.
‘Didn’t get me this time.’ She gloated, and then quailed at how unreasonably proud of herself she was for not getting anything stuck in a tap during her bath. Was life really supposed to be like this?
Emma dried her hair and made a cup of tea.
‘Maybe Jack not being home is a sign? Maybe he doesn’t want to go out with Fiona?’
‘He doesn’t know you’re going to ask him.’
‘So how can he can have gone out to avoid you asking him a question that he doesn’t know you’re going to ask him?’
‘Well, he doesn’t know but the universe does.’
She saw that she was getting nowhere and stopped arguing with herself at that point. Sometimes it wasn’t worth the effort of arguing with the more ridiculous elements of her personality. The tea was finished and there was no sign of Jack so she poured herself a glass of wine. No sooner had she settled on the sofa but she heard the sound of 6 feet padding past her door and on up the stairs. A door slammed and then the sound of excited dog feet on the floor began what sounded like circles around the room. The footsteps were accompanied by manic barking. Emma wondered what was going on, and then it occurred to her that perhaps the barking might be a good excuse to go up and knock for Jack?
She stood up and headed for the door before she had time to talk herself out of it. It wasn’t until she was at the top of the stairs that she realised she was still carrying her glass of wine.
Emma knocked at Jack’s door and tried to listen over the sound of Elliott’s barking. The door swung open and Jack’s face appeared, bent over holding Elliott’s collar and trying to stop him barking.
“I’m so sorry!” Said Jack, but as soon as the door was open Elliott’s barking ceased immediately and he sat on the floor; tail windscreen wiping across the floor as he happily panted up at Emma.
“Oh no need to apologise. I just wanted to check everything was ok?”
Jack grinned, “Fine as far as I know… we only just got back in and he decided to have a funny five minutes. I don’t know what’s going on in his brain this week.”
“Must be the excitement of me moving in!” Said Emma cheerily, and then wondered where she got the confidence to joke like that. It was either the wine, or Jack’s company. Jack glanced at the wine she was holding.
“Want to come in and finish that? As my dog seems so desperate for your company?”
Emma was pleasantly surprised. She’d spent the last few hours going over and over in her head reasons she could come up here and start a conversation with Jack without him minding. She’d never thought about the fact he might be happy to see her. She followed Jack into his flat and sat on his sofa while he disappeared into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of wine. Elliott sat delightedly at Emma’s feet; tail swishing across the floor boards and chin rested on her knee. She stroked him carefully - not wanting to be too forward.
Jack reappeared with his wine and joined Emma on the sofa. “Sorry about this one turning up yesterday. I didn’t know he knew where you worked.” Jack joked and Emma laughed.
“I didn’t realise I was smellable through a plate glass window.”
“You’d be hard pushed to smell stronger than all the pine incense coming out of that place.”
“True!” She laughed again, “I have to wash my hair for ages to get the smell out after a shift.”
Jack took a sip of wine and she looked at him over the top of her own glass. Fiona was right; he was handsome. She took a sip of her own wine for confidence and managed to breathe in at the same time so that the wine created a dreadful burning sensation in her throat and nose. Her eyes watered as she tried desperately to subdue the spluttering. Jack noticed, he really couldn’t fail to notice.
“Down the wrong way?” He said, and her habitual deep flush spread up from her stinging throat across her face. Elliott raised his head and put a paw up onto her lap. She tried to get her spluttering under control and speak but the wet feeling in her lungs was not shifting. Jack laughed kindly, “I’ll get you some water” He said, and headed for the kitchen. Emma cursed herself.
She sipped the water gratefully on Jack’s return and he refilled both their glasses from the bottle he had brought back with him.
“That’s better.” She said, her throat still burning. “Sorry. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a conversation without anything ridiculous happening?”
“That would be nice.” Said Jack. “I don’t do much socialising.” Emma saw her opportunity.
“Well,” she raced another sip of wine into her and it mercifully found the right pipe, “I was wondering actually… you see, well, when you popped into the shop with this one,” she scratched Elliott cosily under the chin, “It just seemed really nice to see you, Fiona thought so too, and, we wondered…” god this was excruciating, she felt about 9 years old, “I wondered if you might fancy a day out?” He didn’t respond, “With Fiona?” She added. Jack swirled his wine round in the glass.
“What a lovely offer,” he said finally, taking a sip of wine. Emma noted with jealousy how all of his wine went straight into his stomach with next to no fuss. “What did you have in mind?”
Emma was delighted! “Bristol zoo is meant to be great. Fiona has never been and it’s easy to get there on the train.”
“Oh I could drive us.” Jack said amiably, “When did you have in mind?”
Emma couldn’t believe how well this was going! “The shop is shut on Sunday…?”
“Great!” Said Jack and drained his wine. “I’ll knock for you at 10 and then we’ll go and get Fiona?” Emma sat dumbstruck.
‘Noooooooooo!’ She screamed internally… ‘I’m not supposed to be coming! Just you and Fiona!’ But she had no idea how to get those words out of her mouth without seeming like she hated Jack or was completely duplicitous. She just nodded silently on the sofa.
“Great.” She managed, her throat feeling worse than it had when she’d regurgitated white wine into it minutes before, “Well, I should head back down… Saturday tomorrow. Obviously. You knew that. I just mean it’s busy in the shop on Saturdays. That’s all.” Why couldn’t she just talk like a normal person. Thank goodness Jack didn’t seem to have a problem with her unique approach to conversations, he was just smiling pleasantly at her.
She set her glass down on the coffee table and said her goodbyes and it wasn’t until she was downstairs with the door closed on her own flat that she remembered it was her own wine glass she’d left up there. She headed straight for bed, but as she passed the bathroom she couldn’t help glancing in and looking at the tap wondering if it might have been doing her a favour holding her hostage where she couldn’t mess things up.
“You’ve been really quiet all morning.” Snapped Fiona, returning from her lunch break with coffee breath and an air of productivity about her. For the first time that day there were no customers in the shop and Emma had no way to avoid the looming conversation with Fiona. She put down the candelabra she was polishing and moved across to lean on the counter.
“Yeah… sorry. So, I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I popped up to see Jack yesterday and ask him about maybe a zoo trip.” Fiona’s eyes lit up.
“What did he say?” She asked.
“Well, he said yes.” Said Emma, swallowing, “But, I sort of messed up the invite and he got the wrong end of the stick.
Fiona’s eyes widened in alarm. “You told him I’d sleep with him?!”
Emma recoiled in horror. “No! Why would I do that?”
“You said you’d given him the wrong end of the stick?!”
“I did! But not that stick! There’s more than one stick Fiona! Of course I didn’t say you’d… I just sort of wasn’t completely clear about it being a date and he assumed I’d be coming too… so, he said absolutely yes - he’s up for going tomorrow, but also… I suppose I’m coming?” Emma studied Fiona’s face. “Unless… well, I could pretend to be sick or something?” Emma added, trying to be helpful.
Fiona thought for a second, “No, don’t be silly. I think it’s lovely that you’ll be there. I don’t even know the guy - just thought he was a bit handsome. So, maybe it’ll be nice to get to know him more relaxed and that. Besides…” she trailed off and avoided eye contact with Emma and Emma stiffened.
“Oh, nothing.” Fiona busied herself with order forms from the drawer.
“It’s not nothing. Besides what?”
Fiona looked up, guiltily. “I… I spoke to Norman last night.”
“I know, I know.”
“You were supposed to be going cold turkey, remember?”
“I know! I was! But then… he messaged me last night to say he missed me and could he please just see me once to say goodbye.”
“Right…” Emma let her suspicions show in the extra syllable she added to the word.
Emma could see Fiona was going to need further prompting to get the truth out of her. “So, what?” She was sorely tempted to add a young lady to it but then felt like that be going too far given that Fiona was a decade older than her and, more importantly, her manager.
“So I called him.” Emma let out a sigh of relief, just a call - phew, but Fiona hadn’t finished, “And he managed to persuade me to come out and meet him… he was parked around the corner in his car - the lovely blue one I told you about - and I got in and he drove me up to this gorgeous spot and -“
“Fiona! What are you, sixteen?”
“I didn’t have sex with him!” Fiona objected.
“Good - he’s married.”
“But, I mentioned going to the zoo, with Jack… I wanted to make him jealous see. Only it worked, it worked too well and he said he wanted to go. He said he couldn’t bear the idea of me going on a date with another man and I don’t know how it happened but I sort of said he could come.”
Emma stared at her in shock. How on earth was she going to explain to Jack that not only was Fiona sizing him up for potential date material but also, here was her part time married boyfriend along for the ride too? At least this mess was not entirely of her own doing… Fiona was going to have to play her part in straightening this mess out.
The bell over the door jingled and four American tourists came bustling in chattering about how quaint the shop was and how beautiful the window displays were. Fiona painted a huge smile on her face and went over to wow them with her regional accent and olde worlde charm.
The pair of them didn’t have a chance to speak again until the shop closed with a full till at 6pm, and Emma rounded on Fiona.
“Right then, missy,” she tried out - she might have denied herself a young lady earlier but she was mad and had every right to say missy now. “I suppose I will see you at 10:15 tomorrow morning at your flat? Unless you’ve decided to catch a lift with Norman?”
Fiona had the decency to look shame-facedly at her shoes. “No,” she mumbled, “I’ll see you at my place.”
Emma stalked home, feeling hot under the collar but also… oddly excited for what the next day would bring. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had social plans or drama or… anything really.