Tam is the first to speak, her voice a mere whisper,
“Sophie! Did you forget to put the lid on?”
I grit my teeth and stare at her, not sure which is worse – looking like a pink marshmallow in my underwear with Tam’s brother Rob looking at me, or the vomit-like spray of pink smoothie splashed like modern artwork across my white ceiling and walls. I want to cry, but feel stupid(er)!
“Listen,” Rob has an unexpected calming tone to his voice, “it looks worse than what it is.”
“You reckon?” I screech and spin on the spot, my arms flying angrily, “you mean this; all of this really is OK?”
He’s not shocked by my aggression, instead, smiles and steps towards me, “Yeah!” he shrugs, “I agree, it looks horrific, and of course, you’re traumatised, but, really, it’ll be fine.”
His face is grey and oily, along with his hands and his orange overalls – but there’s something nice behind that dirt and tangy aroma of garage forecourts. His eyes are green and kind as he says, “You go and get cleaned up. Me and Tam’ll sort this lot out.”
“We will?” she asks, wide-eyed.
“Yeah,” he smiles at us both, “we will.”
Adrian Ford got the news late yesterday, but Ade was a man who lived by his own philosophy of ‘bed her late than never’. It was a stinger, the £50 entrance fee, especially when Sophie Regan’s night out was being funded by Woman to Woman, but he was certain it’d be worth it; in the long run. His reputation in the Ade Gets Laid column would rocket after bagging the prudent Sophie-I’m-Staying-Single-for-a-year-Regan. He’d done a little research, a little digging, and he’d discovered that she’d been the anonymous lady that had shaken Ben Scott’s foundations for all of a couple of months. Once he’d spun that into the media notch on his bedpost, he’d get even more publicity out of his story. He’d never been speed dating – didn’t see the point of it, nor the need for it, but wanted to surprise her tonight. She wouldn’t be expecting to see him there – and wouldn’t be prepared for his armoury of chat up lines either….
I am shocked at how Rob has cleaned up the kitchen. It’s virtually spotless, apart from a faded pinkish stain, like a cumulus cloud in a sunset, which remains on the ceiling.
“Oh wow! This is amazing!”
He’s quickly transforming into the Diet Coke guy as he stands at my sink wringing out a sponge. His smile dazzles, his teeth extra white against his dirty face,
“No problem at all. And you look different too.”
I look down at myself, wearing my yellow summer dress and recalling how I must have looked earlier, with the old grey bra and knicker set and covered in slime. I know I’m blushing,
“Oh, yeah. God, sorry about that. How embarrassing.”
He laughs, “Not at all. I thought you looked kinda, fruity.”
He’s making fun of me and I know it. I smile awkwardly and change the subject.
“Thank you so much for doing that. Where’s Tam? Didn’t she help you?”
“Her? Work in the kitchen? You’re not serious, are you?”
“Oh yeah,” I remember how undomesticated she is, “so where’s she gone.”
“Just nipped outside to make a phone call.”
He shrugs and pulls a face to show that he can’t fathom his sister.
“Listen, I’ll come and paint this for you, if you like. I got the worst of it out, but it’ll need a new coat of paint.”
“Would you? That’d be great, thank you. I’m crap at painting. Always get brush strokes, you know?”
“Leave it with me. I’ll get your number from Tam and give you a ring – maybe next weekend? Depends on how I get on with this job near the station, but I’m sure I can fit it in sometime soon.”
“Great. That’d be fine. Thanks Rob.”
“You never told me your brother was so nice!”
“Nice!” Tamsin’s voice is shrill as we cross Leicester Square, our heels clipping on the paving slabs, “who said he was nice? God, the state of him. I don’t remember what he looks like beneath all that oil and muck.”
“I meant a nice person. He’s offered to paint my kitchen.”
“Mmmm!!” she squeals, pulling a face that my great-aunt would be proud of.
“Don’t be daft, Tam,” I scold. “Anyway, I’m being single for the year. That’s what makes it so easy to just be friends with men. There’s no agenda.”
“Yeah,” she mutters, “you keep on saying that.”
The first promising sign to the speed dating event is the long queue which has formed outside. This promise is swiftly kicked to touch by the people in aforementioned queue. It’s not looking great – a plethora of corduroy trousers, black shirts, and I just spotted a piano keyboard tie, isn’t inspiring me to join in. Tamsin finds it hilarious though, and links my arm, dragging me to the end of the snaking line.
“Jesus, Tam. Look at them!” I’m like a child who doesn’t want to go into school.
She laughs at me, “Just try it. Delaney wants you to write about it, so do it. There aren’t many careers where you can drink on the job.”
Hmm, I’m not convinced by her optimism, since my vodka cherry smoothie exploded all over me, I’ve kind of gone off the smell of alcohol. But I think I’m going to need it tonight.
“So, who were you ringing? From my place?”
Tam looks vague, “Ringing?”
“Rob said that you’d gone outside to make a call. So?”
She shakes her head and closes her eyes, “Oh, no-one. Just one of my credit card companies after money. I didn’t want to talk about it in front of Rob.”
But there’s something behind her voice that doesn’t ring true, although I can’t figure it. I’m about to probe a little more when, “Hahahaha,” a deep voice whinnies behind me and I turn to see where the horse escaped from. I’m faced with a portly middle aged man, his eyes like lychees and his lardy chin shaking with mirth. He’s on his mobile phone, so I turn back to face the rather nice door man as we shuffled closer to the entrance. He catches my eye and I smile at him, feeling wretched when he gives me a ‘god-you’re-a-saddo-coming-in-here’ look. I’m desperate to say, “No! I’m being paid for this, just like you. You and me? We’re both working tonight.” However, I appreciate how ridiculous that would sound, so I keep quiet instead. My stomach lurches as we pass through the doorway and follow the line down the stairs and into the darkened nightclub. The first person I see at the bar is Adrian-from-Floor-2, and I notice Tam’s eyes light up when he nods over with a confident ‘hi’…..