It’s difficult holding this position. My legs are starting to ache. And my bottom is feeling cold.
The supermarket toilet is not the ideal place to do this. But I couldn't bear to wait any longer.
I’ve been hovering over the toilet seat holding the stick in what I hope is the right place for some time now (I find it hard to pee on demand).
Then I’m finally about to go when someone starts banging on the door “This is security. You’re in a disabled toilet.”
Damn. I’ve started now so I have to finish. I shout back in Turkish “Anlamiyorum sizi (I don’t understand you)”
There is a brief pause before another (older) voice pipes up. “Typical. She’s a foreigner. I expect she parks in disabled spaces too”.
He asks her if she’s sure that I’m not disabled. “Of course I am. I told you, I saw her walking in there bold as brass”.
I try to ignore them and focus on trying to pee on the stick. But they keep banging on the door “You shouldn’t be in there”.
I’m not quite sure what they expect me to do. I can hardly walk out mid-pee. And I have to wait for the result.
So I buy myself some time by having a rant at them “Nasil insansiniz yahu? Bakiniz beni rahat iseyim (what kind of people are you? Let me pee in peace)”.
Then I throw in a few “Allah Allah’s” for good measure.
There is silence from the other side of the door. Turkish is not a language that is easily identifiable so it throws people.
And the reference to Allah always works because people are either worried about appearing to be racist or fear that you may have terrorist links.
My heart is thumping as I watch the stick intently. A single pink line appears. I quickly double check the leaflet. Yes! It’s negative.
I step outside to find an elderly lady waiting to (rightly) chastise me. She points at the disabled sign on the door and speaks very slowly and loudly “This means it is for people in a wheelchair or for people with missing limbs”. I try not to laugh as she hops around on one leg to illustrate.
Then I practically skip all the way home. It’s lucky I’m in a good mood because my mother has been ‘taking care’ of me while I’ve been out.
And so far this has consisted of shrinking my favourite cashmere sweater, ironing sharp creases down my linen trousers and throwing away my distressed Seven jeans.
We sit down to eat. My father puts salt on his food before tasting it. Then he asks my mother for a lemon. She gets up, takes a lemon from the fridge, cuts it in half and hands it to him.
Then he asks for a napkin. And she gets up again. This happens several more times. “Dad, can you not just get things for yourself? She’s up and down like a yoyo. Her food’s going cold”.
She has always done everything for my father, right down to peeling his fruit. I’ll have to do something about that while I’m here.
I’m sure my mother is more than capable of rebelling (with a little encouragement).
He fixes me with a stare then continues eating his food. She has a little smile playing on her lips.
We finish our meals in silence. Then I tell them I’m going out this evening. And that I won’t be back until tomorrow. They exchange disapproving glances but say nothing.
I arrive at the bar early and watch Jake as he walks in. I can see girls nudging their friends and nodding towards him. He appears to be totally oblivious to the attention he attracts.
This happens everywhere we go. And it was something I found mildly amusing when I considered him a brief fling.
But now that I have fallen in love with him, it’s not in the least bit funny.
He gives me a long lingering kiss then tells me that he has a surprise for me. Oh dear. I am a control freak therefore I absolutely detest surprises.
I am appalled when he leads me into a karaoke venue. He has booked us a booth for an hour. I am struggling to understand why he thought this would be a good idea.
Then I remember him singing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack in the car and trying to get me to join in. I had point blank refused “I don’t do anything that I know I’m not good at”.
But I did reluctantly admit to singing ‘No Woman No Cry” with a reggae band in Jamaica (having consumed copious amounts of rum). I enjoyed it so much that I refused to leave the stage.
They kindly allowed me to ruin a few more songs before I was carried off by their guitarist and deposited backstage.
There is audio evidence of that night. And I am definitely tone deaf. Jake assures me that the booths are sound proofed. But I am still a little embarrassed.
Then he says “You know if you just let yourself go a little this could be fun”. I hate being told to ‘let myself go’. Go where for fuck’s sake?
But I don’t want to seem ungracious so I reluctantly agree to give it a go. I cringe at my awful voice at first, only singing the odd line here and there.
But gradually I start to sing more and more until I can no longer hear how awful I sound. Then I fulfill a secret lifetime’s ambition by making him Danny to my Sandy and performing “You’re The One That I Want”.
This feels so liberating. My voice is hoarse by the time our hour is up. I thank Jake. Perhaps he knows me better than I think.
Then we do something I have managed to avoid thus far; we go back to his house. He has two tenants who pay his mortgage while he studies for his Masters degree.
I haven’t been out with someone in a house-share since my student days. I just hope his bed doesn’t creak.
The house is empty but I’m still a little uncomfortable. Jake puts me at ease very quickly. And I discover that he is a fantastic cook.
I savour every delicious mouthful of his home cooked lasagne. Then one of his tenants walks in. Agnes is French.
And I am very happy to note that she looks nothing like the playboy model I had envisaged. His other tenant is male so I can relax a little now.
Then Agnes’ gorgeous friend follows her in and my stomach tightens. Her eyes light up when she sees Jake.
Agnes introduces Millie to him but not me. Jake is quick to rectify that “This is my girlfriend, Kitty”.
I grin inanely at her. My fake smiles always make me look a little deranged, which may explain why she disappears upstairs rather quickly.
I spend the next five minutes watching Agnes trying to flirt with Jake.
He is polite but distant in the way he talks to her. She, on the other hand, is clearly smitten with him. I mention this when she leaves the room. He tells me that I’m “being silly”.
I find that incredibly annoying. I point out the constant flicking of her hair as she spoke to him and the puppy dog eyes. Not to mention the barely concealed hostility towards me. He opens his mouth to speak. I tell him I hope he isn’t going to patronise me again.
He admits that she is a little weird which is why he keeps her at arms’ length. Then I think about the way women stare at him everywhere we go. And my stomach tightens again.
I’m feeling incredibly insecure and that is a huge setback for me; one of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older is the confidence that comes with it.
It’s taken a long time for me to become comfortable in my own skin. The realisation that I would never be pretty first hit me when I was nine;
We were in Cyprus and I had a cousin the same age who was not only beautiful but had blue eyes which made her very special. Everywhere we went, people stopped us to tell her how beautiful she was.
My mother tried to comfort me with “Never mind, you’re clever” so I threw myself into learning and being as smart as possible.
But I still couldn’t help wanting to be pretty. I used to look in the mirror and imagine how much better my life would be if only I looked like my cousin.
I didn’t see her again for nine years. And by that point I was utterly consumed with jealousy. I had to drink lots of vodka before I could go home and face that vision of perfection.
I walked in to find an acne ridden overweight teenager whose eyebrows met in the middle of those (admittedly) still beautiful blue eyes.
And I learned a simple lesson. Be happy with who you are. Don’t compare yourself to other people.
Then I read a quote from Anjelica Huston “Someone once said to me, you’ll never be pretty but you’ll always be magnificent”.
I had already accepted that my big nose and uneven features meant that I would never be pretty. So I focused on being magnificent.
But being with Jake could easily undo all my hard work.
I tell him I’m not sure I can do this “I don’t want to be constantly competing with other women”.
He tells me that I’m not competing with anyone. He has no interest in anyone else. He is in love with me. My stomach does a little flip. He is in love with me. We kiss and I start to unbutton his shirt when Agnes walks back in again.
She sits on the end of the sofa “So, how did you two meet?” Her manner is very abrupt. I tell myself that it could simply be because her grasp of English is poor. And that’s why I shouldn’t tell her to fuck off (yet).
Jake buttons his shirt back up “I don't mean to be rude but we’re trying to enjoy a romantic evening alone”. She remains seated.
Jake takes my hand and leads me to his bedroom. I warn him that she is a bunny boiler. And insist that he locks the door. I don't want to wake up with a knife in my chest.
Then I catch sight of myself in the mirror; the soft glow of moonlight falls across my face. And I can see my high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and lovely lips.
I’m not pretty but I am magnificent.
I’m still staring at my reflection when the room suddenly becomes very bright. Jake has turned the light on because he wants to see me ‘properly’. I almost scream in horror. It was just a trick of the light.
I'm not magnificent at all. I'm hideous.
Perhaps it’s time to consider surgery?