Monday, May 18, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 26
Emma fretted all evening - unable to settle to anything as she kept listening out for either a knock at the door or a buzz from her phone. At exactly 7:33pm - unable to wait any longer, she had sent a casual text message to Theo thanking him for a lovely night and telling him how much she had enjoyed meeting Jade, Mikey and Luke. He so far had not replied, but, when you factored in the time difference between their phones that was not surprising. At least, that’s what Emma was telling herself.
Eventually she decided to have a bath. She did good thinking in the bath and as long as she kept all appendages out of the plumbing then what could go wrong with a bath? A brief image floated through her mind of wearing socks to bathe so that she couldn’t be tempted.
‘Absolutely not.’ She said to herself, shaking the idea clear out of her mind before it could take root. She sat beside the tub and began the taps to fill it, but before they’d even been on for 30 seconds she shut them off suddenly. The thought of sitting in a tub of water as the alcohol from last night seeped out of her felt suddenly very… icky. She pulled the plug and listened to the rumble of the water disappearing away.
A shower. That would be refreshing. She showered - shampooing, conditioning and scrubbing her body and felt a wave of melancholy wash over her yet again.
‘God what is this? Did you not get what you want girl? Why are you feeling so miserable about it?’ She said to herself, using her toughest thought voice.
‘I don’t know… I feel a bit… a bit grubby. Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. I feel dirty.’
‘Ok, good start, let’s examine that - why?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Did you want to sleep with Theo?’
‘Yes, and I wouldn’t change it - I just, I suppose it was all a bit rushed, wasn’t it? It’s not like we had any deep conversations or big moments - it was just work drinks that got a bit messy and then we went home together.’
The image of the actual problem was suddenly clear in Emma’s mind. Usually she thought very much in sentences as though several people were having a board meeting in her mind to sort out her issues. Occasionally though, the answer to a conundrum would appear like an image and she would know something without anyone internally giving voice to it. Deep down, somewhere she didn’t want to look at, she knew what she was afraid of.
‘You feel like Theo would have gone home with anyone, if they’d been the last person in the bar with him? Where as for you, it was always about Theo.’
Emma’s legs felt suddenly hollow in the hot shower. She felt stupid, and exposed and used.
‘Hang on, hang on - this isn’t fair. This is all an assumption. He asked you out, you went out, he was nice, you were nice, you both treated each other exactly the same. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just because you’re hung over.’
She rinsed out the conditioner and stood for a few more moments in the water. It was lovely feeling all the oils from her face rinsing away. She’d have a hot chocolate and watch something mindless, go to bed and wake up tomorrow with a phone full of text messages and a better mindset.
In the bedroom, her hair dryer blasted into her face and scalp - hot and forceful and making her feel cosy and warm. She chose big, flannel pyjamas that she’d probably regret in the middle of the night but that felt good for right now. She was just heading to the kitchen to put together a hot chocolate when there was a knock at the door. Her pulse shot up - Jack. She’d completely forgotten she’d told him to pop in. She checked the time on her phone - could she pretend to be asleep?
‘No, that’s rude. You invited him.’
Emma pulled open her front door and there was Jack on the doorstep. He looked tired.
“Hi,” said Emma, looking instinctively round him for Elliott.
“Hey, you said it was ok to knock… but, am I disturbing you?” Emma tried to imagine the man in front of her being the sort to sneak around cheating on his wife but found it hard.
“No, not at all. Come on in - would you like a hot chocolate?” Emma offered, opening the door wider and letting him in. Jack came through but there was no loyal dog at his heel, “Where’s Elliott?” Emma asked.
“I’d love a hot chocolate, thank you. And Elliott… Elliott is - with my ex.” Emma was startled - she shot a furtive glance at Jack’s face to see how he looked. Grim was the truth. She hoped she had enough marshmallows in the cupboard to help. “It’s a good thing though - progress.” Jack was saying, “She loves Elliott but since we split things have been so messy between us that it was too complicated for her to see him. She’s having him for the weekend. Feels weird not to have him with me.”
“I bet.” Emma’s mind was whirring, “So, a hot chocolate?” It came out a bit pushy and she added a big smile to the end to show she was trying to help.
“Sounds lovely.” Said Jack and followed her to the kitchen where he leaned against the counter watching as she warmed some milk.
“I’m glad things went well over lunch.” Emma said, and meant it too. She rifled through the cupboard for the cocoa powder, almost knocking a glass jar of Basil into the sink as she looked.
“Yeah, me too. I wasn’t sure how she’d take hearing from me - and fair enough too. It was nice to be able to apologise and talk about some things with a bit of distance.”
“Yeah?” Emma didn’t really know what to say back… she hoped she was conveying an open sense of interest without prying but this was a conversational level well over and above what she knew how to cope with. Thankfully, it didn’t seem like Jack needed much prompting to open up.
“Yeah,” he said, sighing, “It was amazing today. She… she was amazing. I turned up fully ready to just say sorry - I wanted her to know that mostly, I am the man she was married to for nearly a decade. That the guy who had an affair was the blip - you know? Not the real me showing through.”
Emma nodded, stirring - either she was a terrible judge of character or Jack did seem like a pretty decent guy.
“But, she kind of blew my mind. She said that when she found out about the affair it gave her permission to blame the affair, and me, for everything when actually, if she was honest with herself - we would have been over soon anyway and the affair was convenient to blame. She even asked me if that’s why I done it - to give myself or her an easy out.”
“Did you?” Said Emma, removing the lid from the cocoa powder and moving to the cutlery drawer.
“No. Nothing that noble. And I said that to her today.” Jack was doing the retelling with an air of fever - like he was newly converted to a religion. “I don’t think I knew what was wrong but I wanted to feel sexy and excited and that was what fell into my lap. Or a better phrase.” Emma glanced up at Jack - he was blushing. It looked sweet and her little tally chart of feeling exploration floated back up in her mind. She squashed it firmly back down and began to scoop cocoa powder into the bottom of the first mug.
“The woman I had the affair with - it never went anywhere and I never wanted it to. I think, at the time, I just wanted to push at things that had always been no nos, you know? I’m a rule follower and I felt like that was boring and endless all of a sudden and so I wanted to see what breaking the rules felt like.”
Jack was really opening up, which was unfortunate for Emma because she was having a small dilemma about the hot chocolate. Upon scooping the recommended three teaspoons into Jack’s mug she had come to discover that there was only one more teaspoon full in the pot. This left a few options - she could split what there was between the two and both have awfully weak drinks OR she could give Jack a proper cup and make herself a terribly weak one?
“I wasn’t glad to get caught - because everything came crashing down after that and I suddenly realised the fire I’d been playing with, but, I suppose at least I was feeling something?”
Jack was still talking while Emma tried to work out what she would say when Jack inevitably noticed the ridiculously pale colour of her hot chocolate compared to his.
“Sorry, I’m being horribly self centred.” Jack said, straightening up, “It’s just been a bit of a momentous day. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.”
Emma smiled at him, “That’s amazing. I’m really glad to hear it.” She said, frantically trying to think of a way she could make the hot chocolate and drink it without him ever seeing the mug.
“Did you have a good day?” He asked. She nodded, Pouring the warmed milk into his mug to make the decent cup she felt like he deserved after such an emotionally difficult day.
“Yes, I did. A bit hungover.” It slipped out past her lips before her dental wardens could stop and search the words and send them back to their cells. She froze.
‘What’s the matter?’ She railed at herself, ‘Don’t want him to know that you were out with Theo last night? Because you like him?’
“Oh dear! What did you get up to last night? Hot date?” He asked, smiling. She moved the saucepan across to add milk to her meagre amount of cocoa powder and caught the edge of the mug with the pan. The mug flew off the worktop sending powder across the kitchen floor and in the absence of a mug being there Emma poured the remainder of the hot milk all over the counter. It ran straight off the side and began dripping down the front of the drawers below.
“Bollocks!” Emma shouted, leaping her feet out of the way of the hot dairy. Her fluffy pyjamas were spattered with milk spray. Honestly, could she not go five minutes without some kind of domestic disaster occurring?
“Are you alright?” Jack sprang into action - grabbing the cloth from the sink and stemming the flow of milk off the kitchen counter. Emma put the saucepan down, leaning past him to reach the sink. As she did so he leant in and kissed her. She took the kiss lightly, standing frozen, a saucepan in her hand and milk dripping down her pyjamas. His lips moved against hers and she kissed him back. Letting the pan fall into the sink with a clatter. Their bodies didn’t touch at all except for at the kiss. It was the lightest, most disembodied sensation. The tally chalkboard in Emma’s mind reappared but just with the words “Who Are You Kidding?” In capital letters on the pro side.
Jack broke away. “I’m sorry.” He whispered, “I should have asked you first. I don’t know what came over me.”
“You don’t have to apologise.” Said Emma. The quiet was eerie, broken only by the light splashing of milk onto the lino.
“I’ve wanted to do that for weeks.” Said Jack.
“You’ve only known me for weeks.” Emma shot back, amazed at how somehow with Jack she could occasionally find the right thing to say. If only she was this good with Theo. Her stomach convulsed at the extreme confusion of trying to hold thoughts of both men in her head.
“Exactly.” Jack grinned, “My dog has excellent taste.” He stooped down and continued cleaning the milk diligently off the kitchen. Emma noticed with approval that he pulled each drawer out to wipe the inside before concluding his cleaning mission. She worked on the spray of cocoa powder and the broken mug. Neither of them said anything. Emma’s head was buzzing - she had what felt like several thousand committee members all calling separate meetings and she had no idea how to even begin unravelling the minutes.
When they ran out of things to busy themselves with wiping they both had to stop and just turn and look sheepishly at each other. Emma felt 16. Jack pushed the remainng full cup of cocoa towards Emma across the worktop.
“Here, you have this. I’d feel too guilty to steal a kiss and your hot chocolate in one night.” Emma flushed instantly, feeling his lips on hers in her memory again.
‘Or are they Theo’s?’ Said a snide voice and she blinked, feeling a chip in her glowing, floaty feeling.
‘Can you even remember Theo’s kisses? Wasn’t exactly text book fairy tale, was it?’ The voice continued.
‘Neither was a kiss in my pyjamas, covered in milk holding a saucepan over the sink so shut the fuck up.’ Emma shot back at herself and heard several of her inner voices cheering a win for her against… well herself. But the herself she didn’t like so it definitely counted as a win.
“Thank you.” She managed out loud to Jack, and picked up the mug. “I could make you a tea or a coffee or a warm milk?” Something about the phrase warm milk sounded so stupid Emma felt embarrassed to have offered it. The colour on her cheeks darkened. Jack was shaking his head.
“I’ll leave you to it, actually.” He said, smiling, “I um, I just wanted to ask though if I could take you out for dinner? I’m having a day of being brave and, I like you Emma. I think you’re really great and if you’d like to, I’d love to take you out?”
Emma was frozen with the mug in her hand, staring back at him. Slowly, she nodded her head - not giving way to any of the clamouring voices trying to have rational thoughts on the events in her head. She wanted to go out for dinner so she was going to say yes and everything else be damned.
“I’d love to.” She said, and slurped at her hot chocolate.
“Great,” said Jack, “Maybe next Saturday?”
It seemed a long way away, Emma hoped she wouldn’t have developed a nervous stomach ulcer from all the over thinking by then. Even if she had, they could just go somewhere that had gentle food that would be ok with a stomach ulcer. Ice cream or something like that? Or, was dairy awful if you had stomach problems?
‘No, that’s colds.’
‘Oh right. Well, yes - dairy then would work, or -‘
“But if you’re busy Saturday then another day, or please just say if you don’t want to.”
Emma realised she hadn’t responded and it had caused a worried look to spread across Jack’s handsome, tanned face.
“No, no - Saturday’s fine. 6th June.” She said, hurriedly.
“D-Day.” Said Jack with a smile.
Emma showed him out and wondered if he might kiss her again on the doorstep.
‘Wondered or hoped?’ She mused. He didn’t kiss her, but her heart told her he sort of wanted to. They said their goodnights and Emma closed the door - head and heart swimming.
Choose a body part…