I’m going to the theatre and I’m running late, thanks to my mother. I was ready and about to leave when she said, “Where are you going dressed like that?”
“I told you, I’m going to the theatre.”
“Dressed like that?”
“Yes” I said, defensively. I’m wearing a new T-shirt under my brown leather jacket, my best Diesel jeans and brand new suede Converse trainers. “This is my smart casual look” I informed her.
“Paul, what you’re wearing is not appropriate.”
“It’s fine. No one dresses up for the theatre these days” I said, as if I knew what I was talking about.
“Can’t you wear a proper shirt?”
I shook my head defiantly. It’s not enough that I agreed to get my hair cut at her salon on her recommendation and now have a James Dean-type quiff that I’m still unsure about.
“At least change into your brown leather shoes.”
I headed back to my room. It was less time-consuming to comply than to argue, and I was willing to compromise and wear the shoes if it meant getting past the fashion police.
Going to the theatre to watch modern dance is not exactly my idea of a fun night out, so I was reluctant to go when Kai phoned to invite me, but I’d agreed to go for one reason and one reason only - a girl.
“Come on. It’ll be a good night out. You’ll enjoy it.”
“It’s not really my thing.”
“It’s not exactly mine either, but it’s for Kris’ 18th. Tasha’s coming.”
“Great - all the more reason for me to tag along.” It’s not that I dislike Tasha - she’s nice enough - if a little moody and self-absorbed.
“Will’s coming too.”
“You’re still not selling it.”
“... and Serena” he said.
“Really?” I asked, feigning mild curiosity.
“Yeah, we all have dates apart from her so if you come, it would even up the numbers.” I noticed he was careful not to suggest I be her date - which suggested she didn’t know about it.
“She probably wouldn’t want that” I said, fishing for clues.
“Sure she would.”
“Does she even know I’m invited?”
“No - better keep it that way for now.”
“I haven’t said yes yet.”
“Great. See you later” he said and then hung up. I realised the ‘yet’ was probably an indication that I’d already made up my mind. He knew exactly what carrot to dangle - and it had worked.
I grab my car keys and hurry out of my room for the second time, now wearing my brown leather shoes. My plan is to hurry before she catches me again, but it doesn’t work. She is hovering by the front door, blocking my exit, determined to scrutinise me one last time before she lets me leave. She gives me the once-over and, while brushing non-existent dust off the shoulders of my jacket says, “That’s much better.” I know she hates the T-shirt and the jeans - she doesn’t get the distressed look - but she is trying to meet me half way.
“Have a wonderful time” she says, kissing me on the cheek - lately, she has become increasingly emotionally demonstrative - then, finally, stepping aside, she lets me pass.
“Thanks, see you later” I say, feeling embarrassed by her display of affection, and leave.
I get into my car and head west to Ealing.
I turn off the main road at my destination. The large double iron gates slow me down as I enter the code to open them. I look at the clock on the dial as they slowly open. I’m 15 minutes late.
An excerpt from Two versions of the same song, Tales from Aintree Court, Book 2
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