Friday, May 1, 2020

The Audience Adventure - Day 13

Emma practically jogged to the shop the next morning such was her desire to tell Fiona all about the impromptu meeting in the petrol station. She reached the shop door and hopped about from foot to foot, impatiently watching Fiona release the bolts.

“You’ve got ants in your pants.” Said Fiona, standing back to let Emma through the shop, “Do you need a wee or something?”

“No!” Emma squealed, “I have news!” She dashed back to the staff room and dropped her coat and bag in an untidy pile on one of the seats. If she hadn’t been so focused on getting the headlines to Fiona she might have been upset at how out of breath these simple actions were making her.

“Oh my goodness,” said Fiona, eyeing a breathless Emma who was standing, shiny eyed in the middle of the shop like a child on Christmas morning. The decorations and wrapped gifts around her certainly helped the illusion. “This must be quite the news… did you kiss? I knew there was something brewing yesterday, I just knew it! You kissed didn’t you?”

Emma frowned, immediately stumbling in her much rehearsed telling of the night’s activities.

‘Kissed? How had Fiona guessed she’d met Theo?’

“No! No we didn’t kiss, how could we have kissed? We only just met!”

“Not really…” said Fiona, bending the word really round a corner to make a point.

Emma considered… Theo had recognised her straight away, so maybe it was like they’d know each other a long time. Maybe it wasn’t so weird that they’d kissed? No wait, they hadn’t kissed.

“… and you had spent the whole day together.” Fiona was carrying on. Emma held up a hand.

“Wait, are you talking about Jack?”

“Of course I’m talking about Jack, what other men did you drive home with last night?”

“Oh!” Exclaimed Emma, excited again to fill Fiona in on the details, “Fiona, you are never going to believe this but, so, right - last night we’re driving home and we’ve been in the car for about twenty minutes and then Jack realises that I’ve put the wrong post code into the sat nav…”

“I believe it so far.” Fiona arched an eyebrow and smiled dryly at Emma.

“Moo.” Said Emma, sticking a tongue out but far too cheerful to take it seriously, “So we pulled into this petrol station and I said I’d get him some sweets to apologise for the detour, and then I’m in the little shop bit choosing something and guess who walks in?”

Fiona stared at Emma blankly. “I don’t know.”

“Guess!” Demanded Emma.

‘Jack?” Said Fiona weakly.

“No! Well, I suppose, yes, technically - but that was after. Guess who walked in first? And knew who I was!”

A light appeared in Fiona’s eyes. “No!” She shot both hands up to her cheeks. For the first time in all her hours in the shop Emma witnessed a customer come in and Fiona completely ignore them. “It wasn’t?”

Emma was nodding like a dashboard dog. “It bloody was! Theo! He came straight over to me and was like ‘Emma?’ And remembered me completely from Futurescope and everything!”

“Well he couldn’t really remember you from anywhere else.”

“Good point,” said Emma, thoughtfully, “Still though… isn’t that amazing?”

“So perfect!” Fiona agreed.

“And, here’s the best part…” Emma continued, eager to place the cherry on top of the cake, “He gave me his phone number.”

“He did not?” Fiona shouted so loudly that the customer that was browsing tinsel quietly put the garland back on the hanger and made their way out.

“He did!” Emma was beaming.

“Why?!” Shrieked Fiona and the good feeling drained out of Emma’s feet into the sparkly carpet.

“What do you mean why?”

“Well, why did he give it to you?” Fiona asked again, apparently oblivious to the puppy dog look on Emma’s face.

“Well… what? Why wouldn’t he?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Gosh, that’s so exciting. So when are you going to text him? You need to leave it at least 3 days - play hard to get.”

Emma thought about responding with a sarcastic comment aimed at Fiona and her absolute inability to play at all hard to get where Norman was involved. Unfortunately, the feeling of superiority was somewhat scuppered by the knowledge that she had already texted Theo that morning within exactly 1 hour of waking up.

She really had tried not to. She’d woken up early with the sound of a door slamming in Jack’s flat and the memories of the previous night’s encounter came flooding back in full technicolour. She relaxed into her mattress, feeling the weight of Theo’s arm on her shoulder once again.

Her phone lay on the bed side and if she squinted it shimmered like the important prop from an Indiana Jones film. That phone was now the single most important item she owned. It contained his phone number. The phone number. The only phone number she would ever need again. It wasn’t just a number - it was the code she needed to unlock the rest of her life. She rolled over and gazed at the phone, unable to stop herself imagining a future where she was rolling over to gaze at more than iPhone 7 with a cracked screen.

A cracked screen. She sat bolt upright in the bed, knocking her head into the reading lamp that stuck out from the wall. Exactly. This proved the point she was formulating nicely.

“Emma, you are quite a clumsy woman.” She said out loud to herself in the silence.

‘You can say that again.’ She thought immediately afterwards.

‘If I’ve already been down on myself then that’ll do,” she reprimanded herself internally, ‘There’s no need to lay it on so thick. Today is a good day.’

And it would be a good day… as long as that phone remained:
  1. full of Theo’s number
  2. In her possession and
  3. Not broken

Not broken was the key one. Emma had long since lost count of the number of phones she had had over the years. They always seemed to find a way to skip out of her grasp, or be under something heavy or inside something wet. She had the worst luck in choosing phones; no matter how many there were in the shop, Emma would come home with the one that was suicidal.

She eyed the phone as it lay there innocently on the side.

‘I bet you just can’t wait to bounce across a tarmac road and wipe the entire SIM card, can you?’  She chastised it. She’d have to beat the phone somehow. She could write Theo’s number down, maybe a couple of times and then hide them around the flat.

‘What if you write it down wrong?’

‘I’ll be extra careful.’

‘What if you don’t clear up all the versions of his number and then he’s round here after a date and finds one of them down the sofa cushions and thinks you’re a weirdo?’

The imagined look of creeped out horror on Theo’s face made Emma disregard that idea almost immediately.

‘I could buy another phone and put the number on that?’ She mused, but that thought didn’t have much sticking power as Emma was fairly sure that two opportunities to break a phone would be asking for trouble.

“I’m just going to have to text him.” She said out loud, quite proud of herself for coming to such a speedy and rational decision. “It’s the only way to get his number to be fully saved in the cloud as well as on my phone.”

‘Surely not even you are believing yourself here?’ She tried to reason with herself but the part of her that just wanted to text him as quickly as possible had hold of the reigns and was steering both hands full steam ahead at the phone.

What to text? That was the next question. Something simple for sure. Something breezy and casual.

‘There’s nothing breezy and casual about texting someone at 6:45am’ piped a desperate voice from the back of her mind but she shut it in a cupboard and opened up her messages.

“Hi,” That was a good start - seemed more casual than hello but not as suggestive as “hey,” ok - off to a good start. And capitalise the H? Yes, she thought so - she didn’t want to seem like she was trying to be too young.

Now, should she include his name? Pros to including his name were:
  • he’d know it wasn’t a blanket text to several men
  • He’d know she knew his name
  • He’d know she knew how to spell his name

38 minutes later Emma looked at her watch and realised she was going to be severely late for work if she didn’t get a move on. She’d got as far as “Hi, (no Theo) lovely to bump into you last night (casual use of bump preferable to more insinuative ‘meet’). Hope work is ok today (keeping text topics to things he had brought up in the garage so as not to seem presumptive)”

And she was now dithering over whether or not to suggest they meet up. “Come on Emma, you have to get to the shop.” There was another crash from upstairs and she glanced up at the ceiling, Jack must be having a clumsy day. That made two of them.

She hastily swiped her thumbs across the screen and added, “Let me know if you fancy grabbing a jar some time.” And then hit send. She immediately cringed at her attempt to use jar conversationally. Now she’d have to have a pint of something when they met up and she hated pints.

“You’ve already texted him haven’t you?” Fiona could read her like a book it seemed and had folded her arms, tapping her foot like a tedious teacher.

“Erm… well, I was worried.” Emma tried.

“Worried about what? Making him think you had a life?” Oof, snappy judgey Fiona was back and Emma wasn’t keen.

“No, I was worried about breaking my phone.” Fiona stared at her silently. “Oh alright then,” gave in Emma, “I just really wanted to text him, ok? So I did.”

Fiona held out a hand, “Hand your phone over then, let’s see this text.” Her teacher impression was coming on leaps and bounds, Emma thought.

“It’s in my bag in the staff room.” Said Emma.

“No it isn’t it’s in your pocket I can see the outline.” Snapped Fiona and shook her outstretched palm at Emma.

‘Damn, she’s good.’ Thought Emma, unlocking the phone, finding the message and passing it to Fiona. Fiona read it in a matter of seconds.

“It’s not bad, except -“ said Fiona.

“Except what?” Said Emma, looking up in alarm.

“Except you haven’t put your name in it. Did you give him your number already?” Fiona asked. Emma was horrified.

“Oh bollocks!” She shouted and then glanced around the shop to check there weren’t any customers. “No, I didn’t give him my number.”

“You’d better text him now and tell him who it’s from.” Said Fiona, handing the phone back over.

“I can’t do that!” Said Emma, plaintively, “Then he’ll know that I’ve been re-reading the message and noticed! He’ll know I’ve been thinking about it.”

“Good point.” Fiona nodded in agreement, “I suppose you can wait then to see if he texts back saying whose number is this? Or, well, I mean he’ll know it’s you, won’t he? How many other women can he possibly have met last night?”

Emma didn’t want to think about the answer to that question because in her mind, women were tripping over themselves to give Theo their numbers. Perhaps he was constantly having to give his number out just to get rid of them? Perhaps he had a whole separate number just to fob them off? Perhaps she’d texted the fob number? God she was an idiot. How could she possibly have thought he’d wanted her to have his number.

But, he had offered it, she hadn’t asked, had she? She thought back over the night before. No, he’d definitely offered it to her, right after Jack had got a bit mardy about Elliott and walked out of the shop. But then again he also hadn’t replied. Oh god this was a nightmare. Like a lightning bolt she realised she was almost definitely hungry and that’s why this all felt so unbearable.

“Do you mind if I take an early lunch?” Asked Emma.

“It’s 9:15?” Said Fiona, checking her watch to make sure it was Emma who was mad and not herself.

“I know, but I missed breakfast. I got… distracted.”

“Yeah go on then, pop and get us both a butty for brunch and you can still have your lunch break later. Doesn’t look like it’s busy today.”

“Thanks,” said Emma, gratefully. “By the way, how was it with Norman on the way home? Did you have a nice day with him?” Fiona looked suddenly melancholy and avoided eye contact with Emma.

“Yeah,” she said, vaguely, “It was… it was different to be with him around other people. It felt much more normal just the two of us in the car. He’s… he’s a bit brash isn’t he? Maybe. I don’t know.” She shivered a little and then tried to busy herself with a delivery list and a pencil before giving up and dropping both onto the till. She looked Emma directly in the face, “Did you like him?” She asked plainly.

Emma froze.

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