I have to make myself look as (naturally) attractive as possible. It takes me almost two hours to get ready; sadly that is how long it takes to work the ‘natural’ look now that I am in my thirties. Then the doorbell rings.
I grab my bag and open the door. My mother pushes past me “Why is there a ‘for sale’ sign outside the house?” I tell her I’m on my way out. And remind her (again) that she really should call before coming over. She shakes her head at me “You are so English”.
I don’t want to miss my train. So I usher her out and close the door behind us. She is indignant “I can’t believe you’re throwing me out”. Then she turns to my father “Say something to your daughter”. He infuriates her further by giving me a kiss and saying “Come over tomorrow sweetheart, we need to talk to you”.
I don’t like the sound of that. But I don’t have time to ask him to elaborate.
I start walking to the station as quickly as my heels will allow. Then a middle aged woman taps me on the shoulder and points to a car “I think he’s trying to get your attention”. It’s one of the guys from the gym. I wave back at him as the traffic starts moving.
I turn and say thanks to the woman. I explain that I never look around when I hear car horns. She nods sympathetically. Then says “I know what you mean, it would be really embarrassing to turn around and find that they are beeping at a young girl behind you wouldn’t it?”
My cheeks burn with humiliation. Do I look middle aged? That’s not what I meant at all. I just meant that it happens fairly regularly. And that I don’t want to encourage the horn beepers by acknowledging them. But now that I think about it; it doesn’t actually happen that regularly anymore.
Shit. Am I losing my mojo?
I get to the restaurant to find that Jake is already there. He stands up to greet me with a kiss on the cheek. And a brief hug that makes my legs a little weak. He smells lovely.
I must not babble incessantly at him again. So I decide to pause for thought before I speak. But this just makes my reactions seem strangely delayed.
I have gone from one extreme to another. Why is it so bloody difficult to find any sort of equilibrium? Isn’t it bad enough that random middle aged women are prematurely claiming me as one of their own? And this light is too bright. What if Jake notices that I am losing my mojo?
I’m starting to (quietly) freak out. I must say very little until I calm down. I ask Jake about himself. And just listen. Something about him feels very familiar. But I don’t know why.
I can’t take my eyes off him. He is devastatingly handsome. I gaze at him as I raise the fork to my mouth. And crunch on a large prawn that is still in its shell. Damn. Jake looks a little surprised. I try to style it out “I like the shell. It’s a good source of fibre” Then I force myself to casually eat the rest of them the same way.
I start to feel relaxed; probably because I drink a little too much wine in an attempt to wash the shells down.
Jake is wonderfully engaging. And he seems oblivious to how utterly delicious he is. I can’t help thinking that there has to be a catch. Nobody is that perfect right? We linger over dessert. I don’t want the evening to end. And neither does Jake.
He asks me if I play pool. I laugh. And explain that my pool playing skills are a legacy of my misspent youth. I was seventeen when I left home and moved into a squat in Lambeth with my best friend.
We spent our days smoking pot. And our evenings playing pool in the local bar; hustling free drinks. He smiles as he says “You are a very interesting lady, Kitty Moore”. Then he challenges me to a game at a nearby pool hall.
He holds the door open for me. Then he takes my hand in his. And it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
We sit at the bar facing each other. Then I become aware that our knees are touching. And I feel giddy. I can only remember one other time when I felt like this;
I was fifteen and had a crush on my English teacher. I was reading a lot of Jackie Collins at the time so my attempts at seduction were hardly subtle. I found out when his (27th) birthday was.
Then I checked his timetable. And excused myself from my Geography lesson. I went into the toilets, took off my bra and wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ across my chest in red lipstick. Then I headed up to the music rooms (I knew he played the piano during free periods).
I knocked on the door, walked right up to him and lifted up my sweater. The poor man had no idea where to look. He told me to put them away, bundled me out of the room and locked the door behind me.
He was the consummate professional. Although that didn’t stop me trying (unsuccessfully) to seduce him until I left. I was totally smitten with him. My heart would literally miss a beat whenever he stood near me. He was so handsome and accomplished. And he was the first real gentleman I had ever met.
He gave me a copy of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Ariel’ as a parting gift. He put a card in it that said "You may find strains that ring true in this poetry. Keep writing and don’t commit suicide (actual or metaphorical) as Sylvia Plath did”. I’ve never forgotten him.
Then I realise why Jake seems so familiar. He reminds me of my teacher. A lot. I watch him set the balls up. And I feel like a teenager again.
He lets me break. I seven ball him. We play again. I get a little cocky and attempt a trick shot. I miscalculate. The ball flies off the table. And straight into the man bits of an unfortunate gentleman at the next table. I stifle a giggle and offer him a drink by way of apology. Jake comes to the bar with me.
I am still trying not to laugh. Then Jake says “When Joanna said you were a ball breaker, I didn’t think she meant it literally!” I burst out laughing. Then I suddenly stop “She really said that?” I’m starting to dislike her “Yes, but I don’t think she meant it. She was just trying to put me off you”.
I have had too much wine to censor myself “Ha! I knew it. She fancies you doesn’t she?” He laughs and shakes his head. But I warm to my theme. “That’s why it took two weeks for her to call me. Oh my god – is she your ex? Did you actually go out with her? I hope you used protection, she really puts it about...” Jake interrupts me with “She’s my sister”. Oh dear.
I feel bad (for a nanosecond). Then I remember what she said “So why was she trying to put you off me?” Apparently she thinks he is too young for me. I laugh “That’s silly. You’re only a couple of years younger than me...... aren’t you?” He isn’t. He is twenty three. I am twelve years older than him. I am completely floored. He has the manner and maturity of somebody much older.
I decide it’s time to leave. He hails a taxi for me and asks me to let him know that I got home safely. Then he kisses me. And I melt into his arms.
But how the hell can I have a relationship with a twenty three year old?