I’m meeting Arjen at 6pm. It’s 5.55pm now. The bus streaks past me and comes to a standstill as the lights turn red. Now’s my chance, I think, picking up speed, running after it and then…argh. There’s the sound of wrenching and tearing as the front strap of my sandal breaks. Ah, this is why I never wear proper shoes, I think as I sit at the bus stop examining the damage. The bus has gone without me.
These shoes have a double strap at the front and one strap is broken. So I can just about walk in them still. So much for making an effort, wearing silver wedge platform shoes rather than fit-flops.
Another bus arrives, eventually. Sitting on the lower deck so as not to have to deal with the stairs I put some make-up on. I’m wearing the short red, black and cream leopard-print dress that I wore to meet CatBoy and it looks good, if the overall effect is rather ruined by the broken shoe, hobbling and so on.
Arriving at the bar, I spot Arjen sitting at a little table. It’s very noisy in here. Hobbling over to him, I touch his arm.
“Hello,” I say.
“Hello,” he says, standing up, putting his arms round me, kissing me on the cheek. “Let’s get out of here and get some food.” Ah he looks gorgeous, floppy dirty blond hair falling into his big grey eyes. It is so good to see him.
“I know just the place,” I say, leading him out of the bar and down the road.
Ah, this is better, I think, once we are settled at a table in the retaurant. It’s Italian: big Chianti bottles sitting in their wicker baskets up on the walls, that sort of thing. It’s a favourite haunt of mine and is dark, quiet – romantic I guess, although the last time I visited here was with my parentals. Anyway, I’m here with a chap now.
“What colour wine would you like?” he says, perusing the long wine list.
“Red please,” I say.
“Ah. I’d prefer white,” he says.
“I’ll drink white if that’s easier,” I say, even though I’ve been looking forward to some Chianti.
“Let’s get it by the glass then,” he says, which isn’t ideal as the Chianti doesn’t come by the glass.
We order food and wine. As usual, I order the melanzane and a salad. He goes for the orecchiette in a tomato and vegetable sauce.
“So, how’s the new job going?” I say, once our glasses of wine arrive. My one is Merlot and it’s OK.
“Good,” he says smiling at me. “You look gorgeous.”
“Thank you,” I say.
He reaches for my hand across the table, which is nice. His hand is big and tanned and warm.
“Last week I went with a friend to see the famous boat elevators in Belgium,” he says.
“What’s a boat elevator?” I say.
“I’m not sure how you say in English. The boat needs to be lifted twenty, thirty metres. Is it a sluice? The water comes in and it lifts the boat up – it’s very famous.”
“Oh, I see,” I say. “So, um, where are you staying?”
“With you,” he says. “Do you need me to carry you home, since you broke your shoe?”
“It’s OK,” I say, taking a sip of my wine. “We can take the bus.”
“I’ve never been on one of those double-decker London buses,” he says.
“Well, let me take you on one,” I say.
Arriving back at my block, I open the gate.
“This is great,” he says, as we walk across the bridge. “A garden and everything.”
“Told you it was nice,” I say.
“So, show me around then,” he says, as we enter my flat.
I give him a little tour and then we repair to my bedroom.
“I love all your animals,” he says. “Is that a tapir?”
“That’s Tarquin the tapir, yes,” I say.
“And this one’s an okapi?”
“Yes, he’s called Orlando.”
He sinks down into the middle of all the animals. “Ah, it’s so comfortable here, on your bed with your animals. I could fall asleep right now.”
“I can’t find my phone,” I say, emptying out my bag. “It’s just not here.”
“Why don’t you call the restaurant?” he says.
“OK, can you please look up their number?” I say, telling him the name of the restaurant.
For some reason I’m not panicking, which is good. Maybe it’s because Arjen is so calm. It’s only a thing, I tell myself.
The phone rings.
“Hello,” a voice says.
“Excuse me,” I say. “I think I left my phone in your restaurant, it’s in a pink case, I was there earlier, sitting upstairs and…”
“We found it,” she says.
“What time do you open tomorrow?” I ask.
“OK, I’ll be there at 12,” I say.
“What’s your name?” she says.
“Tanya,” I say. “Thank you so much, bye.”
“They’ve got it,” I tell Arjen as I put the phone down – the flat phone this is, obviously. But there’s no answer. He has fallen asleep in the middle of the animals…