Ben Scott stands on his rooftop terrace, wearing only his shorts and flip flops. At only 10.30am it’s already a scorcher of a day, but he’s anxious, swigging huge mouthfuls from the litre bottle of water that he rests down beside his sun lounger. He holds his mobile in his other hand, his fingers hovering over Sophie’s number, hesitating. He couldn’t figure it. Was it sheer coincidence that she’d text him only last week - one of her cheeky, suggestive texts that had been so plentiful during their short relationship? He doubted that she had any malice in her, she’d been ‘nice’ during their time together, if a little demanding in the conversation stakes – she was a talker – he was more the silent type. She hadn’t understood that he didn’t really like talking. Just because he hosted a chat show didn’t mean he had to do it all the time. He’d argued that Jeremy Clarkson didn’t drive a different car everyday – just because he did it for a living, Robbie Williams didn’t sing every day because it was his career choice, Abi Titmuss didn’t get her bits out… ok, so not all of the examples rang true! Sophie and him weren’t destined to last the duration – but they’d learned a lot about each other during those few months. It had felt natural, revealing his inner self to her, as they’d snuggled and caressed under the covers. She’d been so caring and understanding, kissing his eyelids as forehead gently, noticing his pain as he’d told her. He hadn’t expected her to suddenly appear in the national tabloids as the woman ‘so tired at male clichés that she’s promised to stay single for a year!’ He knew how the media loved a buzz – he only hoped that it didn’t come and sting him on the arse. He hoped he could trust Sophie with his own secret – but he also knew how a little media attention tended to loosen tongues too. He wasn’t sure whether to ask to meet her, or whether that might remind her about his ‘secret’.
“You know what Tam?” I’m being very Italian, and talking with my mouth full, “you’re brother is cool. We had a great afternoon together. He painted my ceiling while I made us some lunch. He’s like a girl isn’t he?”
“Wha’?” Tamsin’s mouth is full too – and I have to say, it actually doesn’t look great, seeing the wormy pasta, half chewed. Maybe I won’t do that again.
“The way he talks. Not the way he talks, but he’s easy to talk to. It was like talking to you. Kind of.”
“He’s lonely I think Soph. Works too hard and too long. Needs a decent woman in his life.”
“Hey, don’t look at me. I’m out of the loop, remember!”
I pull a chunk of garlic bread off with my bare fingers, licking the buttery residue from my newly French manicured nails. “The truth is, it was nice talking to a guy without any undertones of relationships other than friendship.”
“Yeah,” Tamsin is unimpressed. I suppose it is her brother we’re talking about. She’s probably bored of him. Rob was great company though. He hadn’t seen the newspapers and I regaled him with my horrors of being photographed and splashed across the tabloids. He thought it was hilarious, but really understood too. I didn’t go so far as to show him the pile of copies that I have hidden in my wardrobe! I found myself telling him the truth – about how it’s shaken me up a little and how I’m a bit wary about going outside front door without my shades on and bracing myself for a flash. I thought he’d laugh but he didn’t. He even offered to wait for me to get ready to meet Tam tonight, and walk me to the station, just in case there were any out there – in hiding.
It went slightly weird after that though. I disappeared into the bedroom to get ready and decided to curl my hair on those huge rollers, the size of toilet roll cardboard. I wanted to go for the relaxed but feminine look – and when I emerged in my red summer dress and loose curls he looked at me a little strangely.
“What’s wrong?” I’d said, stunned at his strange expression, hoping that my fake tan hadn’t streaked all down my bare arms or that my hair was a little over-curled, “hair not right?”
“No,” he’d shaken his head, but I wasn’t convinced.
“So what is it?” I’d rushed back to the mirror to see myself.
“Nothing,” he’d called out, “you just look, em, great.”
“Cool!” I smiled, grabbing my keys and bag and heading for the front door. He came out behind me.
I have to admit I was a little nervous about stepping out onto the street – especially on a Saturday night. I figured that if the paparazzi were expecting me to go to another dating event, they’d feel that a Saturday night one would be a dead cert. But I was wrong. No photographers, nothing. He cocked his arm for me to link into it, and I did. And it felt good, walking to the station holding on to his arm. I felt safe. And warm. I liked it. I wish he was my brother.
Ade was bored. He’d declined the invitation to the dinner party with another flimsy excuse of having to babysit his sister’s children. He was struggling lately to find believable reasons not to sit around dinner tables with his married friends as they dragged out yet another single woman to ‘make up the numbers’. It had been fun at first – the challenge of the chase, the stimulation of meeting somebody new and flirting and chatting with them. He inevitably hit it off with them and it was only a matter of time before they were in bed together. And so it became boring. He found the older ones more exciting – they had fewer inhibitions and were far more inventive in bed, but he was looking for more than that now. He’d always prided himself on being the only one from his original group of mates who’d remained unmarried, but was now suddenly aware that he was missing something from his life. He wanted someone to share his time with, someone to laugh with and to look forward to giving to.
“Fuckit,” he stared at his coffee table, laden with the brown paper bags and silver cartons that housed another takeaway meal, “maybe I am getting sensible. Maybe I’m going into the next phase.”
And he wasn’t entirely sure whether he was pleased about this, or actually rather disappointed….