I pressed the base of my clenched fist against the foggy train window and then pressed five fingerprints above it, smiling to myself that I was still amused by making baby footprints on windows. As the train pulled into the second to last station before my stop I pulled out my mobile and dialed.
‘I’ll be there in five minutes…Okay…Love you, too,’ I said, quietly as not to be THAT person speaking loudly in the middle of a packed train at rush hour on a Friday evening. It was the last Friday in November and I was already on my fifth Christmas party of the season. At least this one was outside of London and away from the city centre which was strife with drunk bankers at all hours of the day thanks to the daily onslaught of company parties.
As the train began to slow and the familiar surroundings came into focus I stood up to put on my full-length coat, followed by my scarf, hat and gloves. I grabbed my oversized Longchamp bag and stood at the door, slowly cooking to death under my winter layers in the heated carriage. I immediately wished that I was still on the train as soon as I stepped off of it, though, the cold stinging my face and causing sudden involuntary tears to leak from my eyes.
I spotted the car shortly after exiting the station and jumped into the passenger side, the seat warmer already on in the BMW. ‘Hi,’ I said, smiling.
I kissed my mum hello and she drove away like a bat out of hell, with scant regard for the icy road conditions. ‘We need to go pick up your father and cousin, they’re still at home getting ready.’
‘You want to come to this party tonight, yes?’
‘No, I travelled two hours to sit in our house alone while you guys are at a party.’
I gave her a look that was all teeth and no smile. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing Lily.’ The daughter of one of my mum’s best friend’s was throwing a Christmas party and a tight-knit group of family friends were all planning on being in attendance.
‘It should be fun,’ my mum said, careening into our driveway, stopping a couple of centimetres short of the garage door.
Wide-eyed, I opened the door and exited the car, bringing my belongings with me.
‘Your cousin is staying in your room, you’ll have to sleep on the couch.’
‘Excellent,’ I said, feigning enthusiasm.
‘No, I mean it, that’s fine,’ I said, my voice raising an octave on the word fine. (‘I can always tell when you’re lying…your voice gets higher.’ Lad Boy’s words rang in my head.)
My mum raised an eyebrow. My high octave lying apparently hasn’t fooled anyone since 1988.
Eventually everyone was dressed and back in the car. We arrived at Lily’s only to find that there was no immediate parking anywhere near her house. After ten minutes of circling the surrounding area my mum announced, ‘Forget this, we’re leaving.’
‘What?!’ I asked, shocked.
‘There’s nowhere to park. We’re going to have to leave.’
‘…’ I blinked a bit before repeating, ‘What?!’
‘I don’t feel like circling this neighbourhood all night looking for parking, alright?! We’re going back and finding a nice restaurant to have a quiet dinner in.’
I made some kind of inhuman exasperated noise to show my clear displeasure.
‘I’ll wait outside with the car so that you can go in and say hello,’ my dad offered, “selflessly” as my mum would later call it.
‘Just get out and go in. I’ll go park the car and walk!’ I shrieked.
‘No! This is a brand new car an you aren’t even on the insurance.’ My mum said, sternly.
‘So I’m that terrible of a driver, then?’
‘Don’t start,’ she warned.
I can be a petulant little bitch when I want to be. I revert about a decade in maturity whenever I’m with my family.
We walked into the party, my dad outside in the car with the hazard lights flashing. ‘HI!’ Lily shouted, hugging me tightly. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year.
‘Hel-lo!’ I said, my voice muffled into her shoulder.
‘Ohhh, I’ve missed you!’ She said, kissing my cheek.
‘Me too!’ I said, kissing her back.
‘Come in!’ She said, releasing her grip to wrap herself around my mum.
‘Hi, baby!’ My mum said. Lily was more like a sister than anything.
‘Hi, mummy number two!’ Lily said, squeezing her.
I wandered through the house saying hello to all the familiar faces before a thought occurred to me. I found Lily and pushed my mouth close to her ear. ‘Do you have a spare room for me? They want to leave because they can’t find anywhere to park.’
‘Of course!’ She hissed into my cheek.
I smiled and Lily wrapped her arm around my waist. ‘You, my love, are always welcome.’
‘Love you, too.’
I went to find my mum. ‘I’m going to stay.’
‘Okay,’ she said, unsurprised. ‘We’re still leaving, though.’
I frowned, ‘Let me park the car!’
‘I don’t want to do that, okay?’ My mum said, her temper flaring.
I inhaled deeply, ready to retort something rude before giving up. ‘Okay.’
‘How are you going to get home tomorrow?’
‘Train?’ My mum repeated.
‘I don’t know, I’ll figure it out. I’ll use Uber.’
My mum frowned. ‘Just call me in the morning.’
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too, mum.’
‘Be careful,’ she said, raising her eyebrows.
Lily had a affinity for certain A-class drugs and my mum knew it. ‘I will,’ I said, honestly. Drugs literally hold little to no interest for me.
My mum pulled me into a hug and kissed me goodbye. ‘I love you.’
‘You already said that,’ I smiled.
‘Well I do, you’re my baby.’
‘I know, mum. I love you, too,’ I said, kissing her again.
‘Promise me you’ll spend tomorrow evening with us.’
‘I wanted to spend tonight with you!’ I said, raising my eyebrows, but wanting to avoid a fight added, ‘But I understand why you don’t want to stay. It’s just that I haven’t seen Lily in aaaages.’
‘I know, petal.’
‘I’ll call you tomorrow morning, yeah?’
‘Okay,’ she said, not letting go. ‘Give us one more kiss.’
I rolled my eyes dramatically before kissing her goodbye once more. ‘Bye mum. I love youuuuu.’
‘I love you, too, sweetheart.’
I watched as she left with my cousin (who is about twenty years older than me and not legally the definition of a cousin, but I call her my cousin anyway).
As I wandered around the party I realised that Lily and a handful of people who were preoccupied with the shellfish being offered for dinner that I had no intent on eating were the only people I knew at the party. I made my way outside to where a fire was burning and huddled by the flame. Suddenly a guy next to me decided to introduce himself.
‘Hello, how are you?’ He sounded like he was from Yorkshire.
‘I’m fine, thank you. How are you?’
‘A bit cold, really.’
‘It’s November. I literally saw snow on my way here.’
‘It isn’t really astute so much as it’s just a basic observation about my surroundings.’
He did a half-frown, half-smile. ‘I’m David.’
‘Hello, David. I’m [my name].’
‘Lovely to meet you.’
‘And you,’ I said, nodding and taking a sip of my beer.
‘So, what would you say your top five albums of all time are?’
I made an incredulous look, frowning slightly before saying, ‘Really?’
‘Really. Taste in music says a lot about a person.’
‘Oh-kayyy. Nothing like a bit of pressure five seconds into knowing someone.’
He laughed. ‘It’s just a bit of an ice-breaker.’
‘Do you know how much a polar bear weighs?’ I asked, seriously.
‘Enough to break the ice!’ I said, smiling widely.
David blinked once before bursting into laughter. ‘That…is so dumb.’
‘And yet you’re laughing.’
I sighed heavily. ‘Okay. I suppose, in no particular order, The Beatles anthology from 1961-1969…although that’s not really an album. Just a cd set that I was given when I was ten.’
‘We’ll count it.’
I tilted my head, thinking some more. ‘Arctic Monkeys, AM.’
‘Mmhmm,’ David said, nodding.
‘Uhh, Third Eye Blind, their first self-titled album.’
‘One of the few albums I can listen to all the way through over and over again.’
‘Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy if nothing else than for “Over the Hills and Far Away” which is probably my favourite song of all time.’
‘Annnd…Oh God, your’e going to want to stop talking to me after this,’ I started, already knowing what album I had wanted to say from the beginning.
‘I highly doubt that,’ David insisted.
‘One Direction’s new album, Four, has got to be one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.’
He nodded, only frowning slightly. ‘Okay.’
‘I mean, they go from sounding like The 1975 – ooh! The 1975! Their album, I LOVE. Ahhh. Choosing five is impossible. Anyway, they sound like The 1975 on one track, then like Dire Straits on another, it’s an extremely eclectic album. AND they wrote it themselves! I mean, they had producers, but at least one member of the band was involved in writing 90% of the album. The main writers were Lou-’ I stopped myself before delving any deeper. ‘Actually, it doesn’t matter.’
David laughed. ‘I’ll have to check this album out if it’s as good as you say it is.’
I was suddenly a bit self-conscious. Was it that good? ‘It is.’ I said, denying my inner debate. ‘I’m going to get everyone the album for Christmas.’ Too far.
David smiled, ‘You’re funny.’
David was interesting, but not someone I was attracted to. Definitely someone I wanted to talk to, but as soon as his eyes started fixating on me I knew I had probably inadvertently flirted a bit too much. Luckily his phone distracted him. ‘Excuse me,’ he said, pulling his phone out of his pocket, ‘it’s my mate, Tex.’ I frowned a bit in confusion. ‘Alright?’ David said, answering the phone. ‘Yeah, I’m here. In the back…By the fire…Okay, see you in a minute.’ He hung up and made eye contact immediately. ‘Sorry, that’s just a friend of mine. We call him Tex because he’s from Texas.’
‘Original,’ I said.
David smirked. ‘You’ll like him, he’s a lovely chap.’
‘I’m sure. Does he have an accent?’
‘Oh yes,’ David said, raising his eyebrows.
‘Hey!’ I heard from behind me and immediately knew it was this “Tex” person David spoke of. His voice seemed to boom across the yard, nay, the entire street.
I flinched for a moment before turning around to see a (very) tall, blonde, blue-eyed, yank with glasses and a goofy grin standing at the top of the stairs down to the backyard and fire pit. I blinked for a moment before he met my gaze and stood speechless, five stair steps away from me.
‘Alright?’ David said.
‘Yeah!’ Tex said, snapping out of it and bounding down the stairs like an excited puppy before joining us. ‘Hi!’ he practically shouted into my face, sticking his hand out in front of me.
‘Hello,’ I said, reluctantly shaking his hand. Why couldn’t he just cordially kiss me on the cheek like any other normal person? Instead I had to force my nervous, probably sweaty, palm into his. I let go as quickly as possible.
‘My name is Tex.’ (He said what his actual name is, but for the sake of this story – it’s Tex.)
‘Hi, Tex,’ I said, smiling.
He mirrored my smile with a wide-cartoonish smile and I realised from the ache in my cheeks that I must have been smiling just as hard. ‘Oh no,’ I exhaled silently to myself.
I was not looking for someone to fall for.
To Be Continued…