Chunky boots, spike-studded and standing before me. She had that waif-like look so popular with girls these days. Spray-on ‘jeggings’ and a glittery top. She wore her hair in meticulously undone curls that were stiff with hairspray, and black spider web eyes.
‘Hi!’ she held out her hand with a little bounce. ‘I’m Ella. Great to meet you! You look so much like your profile picture.’
I grimaced. It was clear to me that ‘Ella’ was not the ‘mature, sophisticated woman with a taste for Avant-garde cinema’ as it said on e-harmony.
‘Err…hi, I’m Peter. Shall we get a seat and some coffees?’
‘Oh, I don’t mind standing at the counter.’
‘Oh…ok then. What can I get for you?’
‘Hmmm… A flat white with a shot of caramel hazelnut? Thanks, you’re a star.’
A star? I was old enough to be her father. But then her profile did say she was looking for a ‘classing older gent to treat me right.’ I brought the coffees and mentally checked the blister on my heel from walking her from the office. It was going to be a long evening.
‘Thanks babe,’ she said.
Dear God. Kill me now.
‘You’re welcome. So…what was it you said you did for a living?’
‘Oh, I haven’t decided yet. I took a gap year a couple of years ago and travelled – I bet you have travelled too, haven’t you?’
‘I have to tell you – Thailand is soooo spiritual, you know? You just have to go there. It makes you just re-evaluate your life choices, you know?’
‘Not really, no.’
‘I mean, it was such a meditative experience. I’d just come out of a long relationship. It was so negative, so I quit. I mean, life is short and I deserve to be happy, right? I mean, my happiness is the most important thing. I needed space to develop into my most authentic self. So I had to go to Thailand to find myself.’
‘Oh, but you came back to England?’
‘Yeah, I’m living in Croydon now. I share a flat. Well, my mum shares with me… And I was working as a receptionist but I just quit that job too. It wasn’t making me happy, after all. And well…wait! Peter! Where are you going?’
‘Bathroom. Back in a moment.’
It wasn’t easy getting out of that bathroom window.
S J Menary