Ben and I had a short but intense relationship. The irony is that he is a chat show host for one of the Sky channels, but had severe communication problems in his personal life. It was difficult, dating someone known for their wit and charm on screen, only to find them clammed up and monosyllabic at home. He wasn’t like that at first, obviously. The first few weeks I dated the ‘Beeennnnn Sccoootttt’ that the television voiceover guys introduced – the one who looked a little like Sam Mendes and who had an audience riveted within seconds with his probing questions and balanced point of view. But, on getting to know the ‘real’ Ben, I realised what an act it all was. He blamed his job for his lack of conversation, suggesting that the extremes of being fabulous on screen reduced him to hermit status at home. I didn’t want the ‘television’ Ben nor the withdrawn one – just to have knocked off the edges and had something in between the two would have been ideal. His depression worsened and I struggled to keep the relationship alive, dipping into overdraft with gestures of weekends away in country cottages and trendy ‘home’ cooking in quaint but trendy pubs. I literally bit my own tongue many times, desperate not to blurt those fatal words about ending the relationship – forever hopeful that I could help ‘fix’ Ben. And then I discovered his secret.
And he dumped me…..
I’m worried about talking to Sky about staying single and I travel home on the bus rather than the Tube tonight. I can’t bear the feelings of claustrophobia, the thoughts of walking down those tiled pipes into the pits of the earth to climb aboard a dirty train and whizz through the darkness. I need light. I need to see the world going by on this Friday evening. I get home and strip at the doorway, leaving my clothes on the doormat as I walk to the kitchen, naked. I feel strangely burdened and the need to be free. It’s muggy and I hide behind the curtains to release the sash window, letting the room gasp for fresh air. I can’t talk to Sky. There’s too much at stake if they want me to talk about Ben. It wouldn’t be fair. Are they looking for a kiss-and-tell, or my reasons for staying single? There’s a bottle of white in the fridge and the thoughts of its crisp, cold taste taunts me. Thankfully it’s a screw-top which means I get to it quicker and, I know it’s slovenly, but I take a long gulp from the bottle before pouring a large, cool glass of the wine. I flick the stereo to play ‘Dead In The Water’ by David Gray and pad through to the bathroom. I need to wash away the day and my thoughts and fears.
“So she dated Ben Scott? Interesting..”
“Yeah, thanks for telling me. That gives things a different slant. Wicked! Cheers.”
“Not a problem. I’ll keep digging and see what else comes to the surface.”
“Ace, you’re a star. Cheers babe.”
AJ smirked as she put the phone down. She knew she shouldn’t be staying late on a Friday night – the worst night of the week to stay for overtime, but there were things she had to do…..
I feel better now. I’d stood beneath the stinging jets of warm water, my face to the showerhead as they’d pummelled my closed eyes, cheeks and forehead, washing back over my hair and down my neck and body. Sliding into my cheap, brushed cotton pyjamas I grab the half empty bottle, setting it down on the coffee table as I head for the kitchen, on the hunt for Doritos and chocolate. I’m going to shut out the world tonight and indulge in a girlie evening – the entire Friends series on DVD, wine and bad food. What better.
Half an hour later and I know I have chocolate around my mouth and my fingers are tinged glow-in-the-dark orange from the Doritos dust. I’ve let my hair dry ‘naturally’ – which actually means it’s flat and slightly frizzy on the ends - but it feels great to be so relaxed. And then there’s a knock at the door. Damn it, probably that Fabu-ware consultant wanting to know whether I’m ordering the huge slipper, the glasses with flip-down lenses to help apply my mascara or the bunion support bandage. I’m going to ignore it – they’ll come back another time. It knocks again, louder.
“Damn!” I hiss, heaving myself from the sofa and striding to the front door. I step over my discarded clothes, kicking them to the side as I open the door.
Jesus – it’s Rob. I am, immediately, beetroot.
“Oh, am, eh,” I giggle nervously, suddenly acutely aware of my frizzed hair, chocolately gob, orange fingertips and granny pyjamas.
How bloody embarrassing. Last time he saw me I was soaked in smoothie juice and now I look like a toddler that’s been let loose in the cookie jar. God only knows what he thinks of me. Not that I’m particularly worried – he’s still dressed in his greasy overalls and his face is, once again, dusty and dirty. But still. I look shit and I know it!
“Did Tamsin not ring you? I told her I’d try and call over tonight to start painting your kitchen for you?”
He reads my blank expression and tails off, “Obviously. She. Didn’t.”
“No,” I force a smile, hoping that the dazzle of my teeth will distract him from looking at the rest of me, “but it’s not a problem. Come on in.”
“No, it’s OK. You’re chilling tonight, I can see that. Maybe I’ll come back one night in the week? How does Wednesday sound?”
“Yeah, OK then. I’ll, er, buy the paint. What do I need? Just get a tub of white paint?”
“No, don’t. I’ve got some left from when I painted my flat. I’ll bring it with me.”
“Oh. OK. Thanks then.”
This is ridiculous – I don’t know which of us is more horrified.
“See you then, then.”
My face is still stinging red as I rush back to the sofa, determined to dig out my mobile and ring Tam immediately! She could have warned me. Not that I need to look particularly nice for him – it’s only Rob, but I would have preferred not to be so unprepared! As I pick up my phone I see that there’s a text message waiting.
I click it.
It’s from Ben.
Replying to my suggestive sexy text from a few nights ago.