It is often said that witnesses to an event will give you as many different versions as there were people observing it. This is a story told by three people, each of whom saw events from their own point of view.
Paul: Sunday 20th January 9am
Is that the time? I never sleep past 7am. Oh yes, I remember now. I hardly ever go to bed so late either, and I certainly haven't met a girl like Tina in a very long time, not since.......
Why am I dragging up the past again? It's been two years since I was divorced and the memory is still raw. I can still recall driving home from work in the early afternoon because the last two clients I was to see had rung to say they couldn't make it. Normally I ring Gloria to say I'm coming home early and did she want anything from the shops, but that day for some reason I didn't. Seeing the plumber's van in the driveway puzzled me. Surely it didn't take all day to install two new tap-sets, and I had passed his van as I drove to work at 8am. I opened the front door and called out “Darling I'm home.” and there was a sort of muffled squeak from upstairs and then silence. I was just about to climb the stairs when Gloria appeared at the head of them. She was wearing a dressing gown and her hair was tousled and her face red.
“Darling, I didn't expect you so early.” she said and she seemed breathless as she started to descend the staircase. I was just about to ask where the plumber was when he appeared at the head of the stairs. At least he was fully dressed — in shorts, a tee shirt and boots, which I noticed had untied laces. He was young but very tall and his clothing didn't conceal how athletic-looking he was. He swung his tool-bag in one hand like it weighed nothing, and he bounded down the stairs.
“All fixed now Mrs Clement.” He smiled at Gloria, or was it a leer? “I won't charge for the extras.”
I stood frozen to the spot as ignoring me, he jauntily strode to the door and a moment later I heard his van start up and the crunch of the tires on the driveway. Perhaps I should have hit him, but then again he might have hit me back and he was definitely fitter than I was. Gloria hurried towards me and tried to put her arms around me but I pushed her away. No amount of perfume could hide what she had been doing.
“How long has this been going on?” my voice sounded strained and I hardly recognised it myself.
“Has what been going on?” she replied, trying to look the picture of innocence.
I remembered the times I'd wanted to make love to her and been pushed away, and now some young stud with a bag of plumbing tools had waltzed into my house and taken her, just like that. I wondered about the electrician who had come the previous week. Had he had 'extras' too?
“No matter.” I replied, surprising myself with how coolly I was reacting. “I'll just take a suitcase of clothes for now and be back for the rest of my things tomorrow. Meanwhile you might like to consult a solicitor.”
“Darling, please don't go,” she started to cry. That had always worked in the past, but I could not stomach it any longer and left her sobbing in the hallway while I went upstairs and took out a suitcase to fill with clothes. I tried to avoid looking at our bed with its too obvious signs of what had been happening there. I stayed in a hotel that night, and the next day set about finding myself a small furnished apartment.
In due course our divorce was finalised, and after the division of assets I bought myself a two bedroom apartment. Later I heard that Gloria had married again — to a plumber no less, but apparently not the one I had caught her with. The devil on my shoulder whispered “I wonder if he'll betray her the way she betrayed you?”, and the devil in me replied “I hope so.”
Two years have passed, lonely years for me, but I couldn't drum up the interest to look for another woman and go on a date again. Then last Wednesday John, an old school friend rang me.
“Get out your glad rags, we're going to the new jazz club that's opened in town, and this time I won't take 'no' for an answer.”
I felt guilty. John was good friend and he'd tried to interest me in going out on the town several times before, all to no avail. 'What the heck.' I thought, feeling that to refuse again would be just plain rude.
“OK John, I'll go this once, if only to get you off my back.”
He laughed. “OK then, I'll pick you up at 7 o'clock. 'Smart casual' alright?”
Saturday afternoon came and I'd felt ridiculously nervous. I love jazz but it had been years since I'd been to a club, not since........but no I wasn't going there.
John duly turned up and drove me to the club. It had only been open a couple of weeks and the owners had obviously gone to some pains to make it look chic and sophisticated. There was a small stage at one end where a quartet of piano, bass, drums and saxophone were already playing, and a number of tables set around a small dance floor. The bar was at the other end of the room from the stage. I ordered us two beers and we sat at one of the tables .
The place was half-full already even though it was early by club standards. I glanced around and it was then that I saw Tina. She was sitting with two other young women a few tables away. They were good-looking too, but it was Tina who captivated me. I was tempted to stare but instead I turned back to talk to John, and it was then I became aware that someone was looking at me. How do we know that? It makes no sense at all, but somehow we do know. I turned and sure enough it was the young woman I'd noticed before. She had long black hair and she was stunningly beautiful. She was wearing a lime green dress of some material that shimmered in the lights. Call me old-fashioned but I'm no fan of women in pants, which is what most of them wear nowadays. I suddenly realised that now I was staring at her when she half-smiled and turned away. I hoped I wasn't blushing, but it became apparent I was when John laughed and said “Isn't she something?”
“She certainly is,” I replied. Some people were already on the dance floor and John said “Why don't you ask her to dance?”
“She's probably married and just out with her friends,” I replied.
“It's just a dance, she can't shoot you for asking,” he said.
'Dammit', I thought 'what sort of a man are you anyway? Maybe that's why Gloria....'
I stopped myself following that line of thought by saying “Alright, I will.”
With that I got up and walked towards her table. I nearly chickened out at the last second and was on the point of walking past the table when she looked up at me. Close-up she looked even more beautiful.
“Excuse me, I was wondering if you'd like to dance?” I said. My mouth was suddenly dry and my voice sounded strained. She glanced at her friends who gave almost imperceptible nods and said in a soft low voice “Thank you, I'd like that very much.”
She offered me her left hand. It was slender with long fingers, and no rings I noticed as I took it and led her to the dance floor. We began to move around slowly as it became more crowded.
“I'm Paul,” I said. “It's the first time I've been here.” ('or anywhere recently' I said to myself.)
“I'm Tina, Paul,” she replied. “I think it's only been open a few weeks. I'm here with my two friends. One's getting married next Saturday so it's a sort of small 'hen party'.”
The crush of bodies was pushing us closer together. I felt her hair against my cheek and inhaled a subtle hint of perfume, and then of course it happened. Male bodies react to a stimulus like that and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I tried to ease away from her and muttered “Sorry”. 'What a lecher she must think I am.' I thought to myself. To my amazement, instead of pulling away and marching back to her table, she smiled and said “It's alright. Women react too, but it's not so obvious.”
I smiled with relief and said “Not everyone would be so understanding.”
Searching for another topic of conversation I told her that I was an electrical engineer and she sounded genuinely interested when she asked me what sort of things I did, so I tried to explain as briefly as possible not to bore her. In turn she told me that she was a nurse, currently working in the local hospital's Emergency Department. 'Ah,' I thought to myself 'Maybe that's why she was not affronted by my 'little problem'. There can't be much she hasn't seen as a nurse.'
Conversation seem to dry up then and we danced on in silence for a while, and then sadly the number came to an end, so I had to escort her back to her table. When I sat down again opposite John, he said “Well, how did it go?'” I told him it went very well, and then for some reason that escapes me, I told him what had happened. John sat back in his chair and roared with laughter. “Welcome back to the real world,” he said. “At least it shows everything is still working.” I felt so mad with myself and with him. What on earth had prompted me to tell him that? When he finally regained his composure he said “Well? Did you get her number?”
“Hardly,” I replied “I've only had one dance with her.”
“But you'd like to see her again, that's obvious, and what are the odds that she and you will be in the same place at the same time again?” He had a point there, but it seemed a step too far.
“I need to go to the 'Gents',” I said and got up. I didn't really, but it seemed the best way to finish this line of conversation, and anyway I was starting to think again that I am a wimp and I didn't want to keep thinking about it. When I came back, I had just about screwed up the courage to ask Tina to dance again when to my disappointment I saw that she and her friends were getting up and obviously leaving. I felt a sudden shock of disappointment. My 'wimpishness' had cost me the chance of seeing Tina again, and she was special, there was no doubt about that.
Tina: Sunday 20th January 8am
What a night I had last night. I'm glad Pam didn't go in for one of those dreadful 'hens parties' where you cram into a limo and drive around a number of pubs until everyone gets roaring drunk. Instead it was just her, Jenny, the Matron of Honour, and me, the bridesmaid. Pam had heard about a new jazz club that had opened in town and thought it would be a nice place to go. Apparently it was very 'up-market' and sophisticated. It was an opportunity for me to wear my new lime-green satin dress which they assured me would be appropriate. I saw it in a shop window last week and fell in love with it, even though it cost the earth.
I was staying at Jenny's place for the weekend, and was just getting ready when she burst in on me while I was fastening my stockings to the suspenders.
“Well, look at you Miss Sexy,” she laughed and I flushed.
“Alright, I know that pantyhose are more practical but I like to dress up when I'm going out and I think stockings are so much nicer to wear.” I finished attaching them and stood up, smoothing out my dress.
“Wow girl, you're going to knock them dead tonight. I look positive frumpy next to you.” It wasn't true of course. Jenny was wearing a pale grey pleated linen dress which looked very elegant and she knew it. She's been buying some new dresses recently and looks great. Her husband Eddie was baby-sitting their two children and she went to kiss him goodbye as we headed out of the door. They have such a good marriage. I can't help hoping that there will be someone out there for me one day, but that will be well into the future.
We drove down to town in Jenny's car, picking up Pam the bride on the way. I was the 'designated driver' and wouldn't be drinking so I could drive us back. It wasn't a problem for me, I was quite happy with soft drink.
The new club was nice and was already filling up quickly, so we were lucky to get a table for the three of us. I glanced around the room and it was then that I saw Paul. He was sitting a few tables away with another man who I later found out was John. I don't know what it was that interested me so much in him. His face was half turned away from me but from his slightly greying hair I decided he was perhaps in his middle forties. He was neatly dressed in a jacket and pants and perhaps it was the way he was sitting but he had an air of sadness about him, and I even wondered what he was doing there. Somehow he became aware of my gaze because he turned and looked at me. He had a kindly if slightly care-worn face, a gentle face. I felt embarrassed, so I smiled as if to say 'I'm sorry', and turned back to the other girls. Pam said, “I think you've made a conquest there.”
“Nonsense!” I retorted, blushing.
“He'll come and ask you to dance, nothing surer,” said Jenny, and a few seconds later “What did I tell you?”
“Excuse me.” His voice was pleasant enough, “Would you like to dance?”
I glanced at the others. Well we were in a public place and I was with friends, so why not?
“Yes, thank you,” I replied and took his proffered hand. It was big and warm and almost engulfed mine. He led me to the dance floor and we started to shuffle round together. I introduced myself and he told me his name and that he was an engineer. I told him that I'm a nurse and then we circulated in silence for a minute, both wondering what else to say. I think we were both a little nervous.
The floor was getting crowded and as a result our bodies were close together. I felt pleasantly secure in his arms and was enjoying myself when I felt it. The poor man, he looked so embarrassed and tried to move away which was well-nigh impossible. Perhaps it's because I'm a nurse that very little embarrasses me, so I told him it was alright and that women are fortunate because they don't react in an obvious way. In fact I was rather flattered that a man should find me so attractive, and although Paul didn't know it, my body was reacting too. My nipples were quite hard, but fortunately my bra and dress concealed the fact.
All too soon the band stopped playing and Paul led me back to my seat and thanked me for the dance. I thanked him too and told him I had enjoyed it very much — my way of telling him that his 'little problem' had not upset me. I watched him go back to his table, and then of course the girls wanted to know what he was like and was I going to see him again.
“I don't know,” I replied a bit tartly “It was just a dance, we didn't exchange phone numbers or anything like that.”
Just then a roar of laughter attracted my attention. It was Paul's friend who had obviously found something very amusing in what Paul had said. Surely he hadn't told him about 'the incident'? I was shocked and felt disappointed. He didn't seem the sort of man to do something like that. However I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Indeed I half-hoped he would come over again and ask me to dance, but he didn't. 'Oh well', I thought, 'that's how it goes.' and I went back to chatting with Pam and Jenny.
It was then that another male voice interrupted my thoughts “Excuse me.” It was the man who was sitting with Paul. I glanced over to the table, but Paul had disappeared.
“I'm John”, said the man, following the direction of my glance, “Paul's friend. He's just gone to the bathroom and I'm taking the opportunity to come over and put you in the picture about him. He was divorced two years ago, not his fault, he's a really nice bloke. This is the first time I've managed to get him to go out in all that time. It took him a great deal to summon the courage to come and ask you to dance, and when he came back to the table and told me he had forgotten what it was like to hold a woman in his arms I laughed at him, and I shouldn't have done that. I told him to come over and ask to dance with you again, but he's clammed up now. What I'm wondering is would you be prepared to give me your mobile number so that I can pass it on to him in case you leave and he doesn't summon up the courage to ask you to dance again? I know he'll kick himself for not asking you himself and in a way it's my fault.”
I looked at Jenny and Pam to see what they thought. Was this getting out of hand?
“It's up to you of course,” said Jenny “but Paul seems a nice enough man and John here is vouching for him. If you change your mind about him you just don't take his calls.”
“I agree,'” said Pam “you really have nothing to lose.”
I guess that's what friends are for. They had been encouraging me for months to try dating, and I could hardly reject their 'female antennae' when it comes to men.
“Alright,” I said, and reached into my bag for a pen and piece of paper to write down my mobile number.
“Thank you so much,” said John. “ I'm sure you won't regret it. Now I'd better get back to our table before he returns.” With that he hurried away.
“Well, I don't know about you girls, but rather than go to another club I'm feeling I need my beauty sleep,” said Pam.
“Yes, we've got a big day coming up,” said Jenny and they both picked up their bags. I was a little disappointed, hoping that when Paul came back he would ask me to dance again, but I could hardly stay there on my own, especially since I was driving them both home.
In fact as we all got up, Paul reappeared. He glanced our way and the look of disappointment on his face was clear even at that distance. I flashed him a smile of encouragement, at least he'd have my number when John passed it on. With that we left the club and drove home.
Next time: A special invitation
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