Monday, June 8, 2020

The Audience Adventure - The Final Day

Emma stood in the kitchen, her hot chocolate back in the saucepan, warming gently. She thought about that kiss with Jack when they’d been here doing this together. It had been such a surprise - so nice and so very welcome. She thought about whether he might still want to kiss her and then realised she had well and truly put paid to that by cancelling her date with him and opting for a disastrous night with Theo.

‘Screw it. I’m messaging Matt.’ She decided, and her thumbs began flying across the screen putting together a nice casual hello. She sent the message and poured the drink back into her mug and walked back to the living room. By the time she sat down on the sofa he had replied.

He remembered her! He asked how she was and if they’d had a nice time when at the spa. It was quite a quick response and Emma wasn’t sure about dating etiquette as to whether she was supposed to wait before replying or match his response.

‘Stop playing games.’ She told herself, ‘Games and being confusing is what’s got you into this slumpy sad place. Just message him and if someone replying too quickly puts him off then he’s not the man for you.’

That felt like a good decision to make and Emma confidently sent another message back. She asked him some questions, feeling bold, she asked where he was from and what had brought him to Bath. This felt good. It felt healthy and fun and normal. His response pinged up. She flicked across to the inbox on the app and noticed she also had several other messages. She looked at them with surprise.

Two of the messages said hello, one said “u up” and the last was a bit more of a fully fledged message that proved he’d at least looked at her profile. She scanned his profile - he looked nice. By the time she replied she realised several minutes had gone by since Matt’s message and she raced back to it to not seem rude.

This was going to be fun! A fun little correspondence game. She decided to run a bath and give herself an hour of exchanging messages before bed. She filled the bath with hot water and plenty of white, fluffy bubbles and then climbed in.

‘Do not, under any circumstances,’ she thought to herself, ‘drop your phone in this bath.’

Emma lay back into the bubbles and felt utterly serene. If she was honest with herself she was sad at the thought of not being able to see where things went with Jack. But a little part of her felt like she probably deserved that. She’d treated him badly by cancelling on him and by being so distracted by Theo. She had learned a lesson and she didn’t feel like she could come between him and Rebecca. She had no idea if things between she and him would even work, so how could she come between him and his ex-wife where there was so much history.

‘You don’t even know that he’s trying to get back with Rebecca.’ Said a persistent voice in her head, but she shook it away. It didn’t matter. He was clearly trying to salvage something there and she didn’t want to be flighty and difficult and non-commital if his emotional energy was elsewhere. Decision made.

She rested her head against the bath and replied to a few of the more interesting profiles that had messaged her. It was a no to anyone with a photo next to a drugged tiger. It was a no to anyone who had a shirtless photo… oh, it was a no to almost everyone with a shirtless photo.

‘This is fun!’ She thought, thoroughly enjoying her window shopping. She was also continuing to hold a very engaging conversation with Matt. They were swapping horror stories of terrible customers at each of their jobs. He was funny and chatty and she was enjoying talking to him.

Suddenly Emma froze. No. This couldn’t be happening. As she’d been lazing about not focusing on anything except messages and chat and funny things to fling back, she’d been floating her legs around in the water and without thinking she had idly been exploring the taps with her feet and had popped a toe into the open tap. She had then lazily tried to move her leg back down only to find her toe completely stuck. Again.

“This cannot be happening.” She said out loud to the ceramic tiles. She placed her phone carefully on the closed lid of the toilet and focused on her stupid toe. She gently pulled with her leg but it was not coming out and it was really starting to throb already. It must have been further in than last time? She didn’t remember it getting this uncomfortable this quickly?

Emma tugged with urgency but found her toe completely unwilling to budge.

“Oh for fucks sake.” She railed. How was she back at square one? What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she just have a bath and do some messaging like an adult without something this ridiculous happening?

She tried with all her might to pull the offending toe out of the tap but it was not budging and the panic started to rise up her skin.

‘What am I going to do?’

‘Call Fiona.’

‘She can’t get in she doesn’t have keys.’

‘Call Jack. He’s already in the building.’

‘I can’t call Jack to come and rescue me - I’m naked in the bath with my toe stuck in a tap.’

‘OK, well then it’ll have to be the fire department.’

‘I can’t call them either. Then Jack will know some thing is wrong and probably come down.’

‘Well, then cut out the middle man and just call Jack.’

She sat in the cooling water and could have screamed. Instead she splashed loudly into the bubbles in an impotent rage. She eyed her phone where it lay and wondered how it could betray her like this. Then she picked it up and scrolled through her contacts.

‘Please don’t answer. Please don’t answer.’ She chanted internally.
Jack answered the phone on the third ring.

“Emma, hi!” Emma felt her blood run cold at the thought of what she had to now say, out loud to another adult.

“Hey Jack, how are you?” She could at least delay the moment for as long as possible.

“I’m fine. Yeah. Quiet day. How are you? How was your big party?”

“Oh, oh it was terrible - I left after two hours. Listen, you’re not home are you?” She had no idea at all why she was trying to sound casual - any pretence that she was casual was going to go right out the window with her next few sentences.

“Yes, I’m home. Everything alright?”

Emma tried to get comfortable but it was hard to keep her balance with one leg stuck. She braced herself with an arm, took a deep breath and said. “Erm, no, not really, I-“

“Look Emma, if you’re calling to apologise, it’s really ok. There’s no need. I ended up having quite a good chat with Rebecca that night. She stayed until about 2 in the end and had to come back and get her car the next morning because we’d had so much to drink. It was nice to finally, really feel like we put a lot of ghosts to bed. I should be thanking you.”

Emma’s head began to swim. So, they weren’t rekindling a love affair? They were just packing one away a bit tidier?

“That sounds really healthy.” She said, and meant it, despite wishing she didn’t have one toe trapped in some plumbing as she tried to sound mature.

“Hey, do you fancy coming up for a hot chocolate?” Said Jack, and a faint note of flirting seemed to be in his voice. Emma groaned internally.

“I can’t…” she began but he interrupted her again.

“Sure, ok, I understand. Look can I just ask though, did I mess up somewhere? Because, I felt like we were getting on well and then… I don’t know. I’m really sorry if I did something wrong.”

“No, no - it’s not that!” Emma panicked, “It’s just I’ve got my toe stuck in a tap.”

There was a silence at the other end of the line followed by a puffing out of breath and then Jack clearing his throat. “Sorry, you’ve what?”

“Oh my god, this is so embarrassing. I’m in the bath, and I’ve got my toe stuck in the tap. I can’t get it out. I, I need your help.”

She could hear him beginning to laugh and it made her smile too. In a life crowded with ridiculous moments, this might be the most ridiculous.

“I’ll be down in a second.” Jack said, and the line went dead.

Emma tried to arrange the bubbles into a more covering pattern while she waited for him. She heard footsteps moving about urgently upstairs and then after a few more seconds she heard her own flat door opening.

“Emma?” Jack’s voice was in the hall.

“In here.” She said dismally, and waited for him to enter the bathroom and for her death from humiliation.

His face appeared round the bathroom door, an adorable grin spread across it.

“Oh you weren’t joking.” He said, pushing the door open and stepping in. Emma felt a thrill go through her. Of all the ways she’d thought she might be naked around him - this wasn’t it.

“I wish I was joking.” She said.

He knelt down beside the bath and produced a stick of butter from his pocket. She laughed. This was so stupid. Fiona was going to cry laughing.

Jack warmed up a bit of butter and began greasing Emma’s toe. Emma thought it must be the most ridiculous and erotic thing that had ever happened to her. How was she tingling all over at the same time as laughing her head off at how stupid the situation was?

Jack expertly massaged the butter into Emma’s toe and around the tap and then began to work her toe round in small circles. As he placed one hand on her calf to get a better purchase she gasped involuntarily at the shock of desire that went through her.

Her toe came sliding out of the tap without notice. Her foot hit the water and sent a spray of bubbles up. It covered both of them like confetti.

“There.” Said Jack, “You may go free.”

Emma sat in the bath. Not sure what to do. She looked at Jack, feeling exposed and terrified.

“So, so you’re not getting back together with Rebecca?” She said, surprising herself that those were the first words out of her mouth. Jack looked at her in surprise.

“No. No what gave you that idea?” He stuttered, “Emma, I’ve been trying to make it pretty clear - I like you.” Emma nodded, she couldn’t keep the smile off her face. Something about him just felt so right.

‘Be brave.’ She told herself, and the bravest version of everyone she could possibly be nodded its head and took the reins.

Emma stood up in the bath, bubbles and water sliding down over her smooth skin as she stood naked before him. She was going to be seen. He took a breath in, seemingly unable to stop himself from looking her up and down. He took a step towards her and placed one hand lightly on her bare hip. They kissed. One stood dripping in the bath, the other leaning in.
Emma reached out a hand to take the hand of his that wasn’t on her hip and had to pull away from the kiss to laugh hard when she found he was still holding the stick of butter. Jack laughed too. Then kissed her again hard and passionate; the butter falling to the floor. She threw her arms around his neck; spraying water across the bathroom and not caring. She shivered deliciously at the cold air on her wet skin. They stayed that way for a minute; locked together and then he felt the goosebumps on her skin beneath his fingers and stepped back.

He took the towel gently off the rail and wrapped it around her body. He offered her a hand to step gently out of the bath and she took it, still smiling.

“Well.” She said, suddenly shy now that the moment was over. Now was the point where she had to the rest of it. How would she know what to do? What if she messed it up? What if…

“Well indeed.” Said Jack, interrupting the thoughts that were threatening to spill over and talk her out of everything she thought she might be able to do. “We’d better go and tell Elliott the good news.”

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