Chapter 5

(i) Sarah’s chat up advice

Sarah phoned a few days after our nightclub episode. She was not proud of herself. Nick was married and just out for a quick shag which was what he got with Sarah in the back of his car. Sarah threw up half way through but Nick was not put off.  He’d put her in a taxi home afterwards.

“I was gagging for it, I know. But I didn’t enjoy it. When it came to it I just wanted him to do his bit and get off me. Maybe I’d sobered up a bit after I was sick.”

“I think Bob, the guy I was stuck with, was married. After you and your fella left I had a job keeping his hands off me and I just walked out on him and drove home alone.”

We chatted a bit more then I asked her what to do about Tim. He’d been at work that day but our paths didn’t really cross, either he was busy or I was and we had separate breaks.  I was getting impatient.

“What’s the problem, love?” Sarah asked, “Ask him out. It’s a woman’s prerogative these days.”

“Yes I know all that but… I just don’t want to seem too forward. You know I can be a little bit um bossy I suppose and I hate myself for it.  Then I’d have the problem as to where to take him. Would he expect me to pay if I’d done the asking? I can’t get my head round it all.”

“Look Sophie, don’t try to cross too many bridges all at once. Take one step at a time. Play it cool. Not that I’m any expert. I’m back learning after a long break.  Just look at the fool I made of myself last night.”

“Well that wasn’t your finest hour, obviously, but put it behind you. Forget it happened. Just put it down to experience.”  Then I added mischievously: “Just keep checking yourself to make sure haven’t picked anything nasty up from him.”

“Thanks a lot for that. I’m worried enough without you stoking the fires. I’m sure he put a condom on, or at least I think I remember him doing so. But I could be just imagining it.”

“I was only winding you up. If Nick was married he’d be almost certain to take precautions. He wouldn’t want to give his wife anything would he?  Anyway you’re not helping me with my problem. I know I’m probably being stupid but I really did think Tim was well special. I can’t stop thinking about him.  What did you mean, play it cool?”

“Well just say something like “I’m at a loose end tonight and wondered what you were doing.”

“Then he says I’m sorry I’m taking Audrey for a romantic meal tonight. What then?”

“Well at least you know where you are with him but if he’s just going to play tennis with a mate or something like that then you’ll just have to extend the time frame, Sophie.”


“Just say “I’m also at a loose end tomorrow night and the night after.”

“Sarah, you are brilliant. That sounds well cool. And I don’t have to think where to take him if he is free one of those nights. We can discuss it together. I’ll try that tomorrow. Thanks.”

“Yes, well let me know how you get on. And can we make another arrangement to go out somewhere again soon?”

“Of course. So long as it’s not to another meat market like last night. Maybe a quiet meal in a wine bar or something like that. We could just go to the pictures but you’d be unlikely to meet any men that way and I think that’s what you’re after, a bit of exposure.”

“Maybe I’ve learnt my lesson. OK I’ll give you a ring in a couple of days. Bye.”

Then I was on my own again but somehow I was more relaxed than the other night and was happy just slobbing in front of the box.

Next day at work I decided to try to follow Sarah’s advice. I was busy so it wasn’t easy and I didn’t want other members of staff to overhear. I kept peeping into the store and eventually saw Tim stacking shelves in the pet food section.  I wandered over to him.

“Hi, Tim, could I have a quiet word?” was my opening gambit.

Unfortunately Tom, the shop manager, was close by. I hadn’t seen him in my eagerness to make contact with Tim. I guess he’ll have jumped to the obvious conclusion, put two and two together and made five. So it’ll be all over the store today and all over all the other branches by close of business tomorrow – “˜Guess what, Sophie, the bosses daughter is having it off with a long-haired student,” or some such line. Anyway I suppose it was unavoidable. I gestured towards an empty part of the store.

“Nothing serious. Personal, not business,” I began. “Sorry for the cloak and dagger stuff but… Anyway I just wondered if you were doing anything this evening as I’m at a bit of a loose end.”

“Well, Thursday is yoga evening, 7 till 9.30. Shame, because by the time I’m finished it would be after 10 – a bit late. I’m free most nights though, if you are.”

“OK, it’s just we seemed to get on so well at lunchtime the other day and I thought…” I seemed to be doing just what Sarah had advised against.

“I agree. In fact I’ve been wondering whether to ask you out myself. I was a bit worried that you might think I was presumptuous, you being the bosses daughter. Anyway you got there first so obviously all my concerns were unfounded.”

“Ha, that’s great. I thought I felt friendly vibes, but you never know for sure. So what about some time this weekend?”

“Oh, S H ONE T – excuse my French. I’d arranged to see my parents this weekend. They live in rural Wales and it’s my younger brother’s birthday. I’d love you to come but I think that might be a bit much for a first date.”

I suppose I looked crestfallen. My face is like a message board, people know what I’m thinking just by looking at me.

“I could come back early on Sunday if you’re free then.”

Our quiet corner was invaded by several customers and I could see one of the sales staff about to join them and I didn’t want any more of our conversation overheard.

“Over here, Tim,” I said authoritatively in a loud voice, and beckoned to a different area. “Sorry about that, ordering you about.”

“Impressive,” said Tim.

“I’m just trying to keep too many noses out of my business. You’ve no idea what it’s like. It’s like being royalty or a celebrity. Everything I do or say is out there.”

“Yes I’ve seen a bit of what you’re talking about myself. I know, for instance, that you had a boyfriend called Rob and that you finished with him a while ago. Other stuff too. You’d be surprised what I know about you.” He winked at me as he said this.

“Listen, I don’t want to cut you short but just seeing us together talking like this will add fuel to the fire. Sunday would be great. How about you give me a ring sometime over the weekend and we’ll arrange something?” I took one of my business cards out of my bag and passed it to him as surreptitiously as I could. Then I went back to my post with Tom and Geoff in the back of the premises with a spring in my step. I felt like I was floating on air.

I was still euphoric when I got back home. It was an idyllic evening. The trees on the drive had grown soft new green leaves and swans, ducks and geese dotted about on the glistening surface of the lake. The birds were singing and the ducks quacking.  I thought how lucky I was to live where I did.

Surprisingly Dad was in and he offered to make me a cup of tea. He wanted to know how I was getting on at Crewe. I told him I was enjoying working with Tom and Geoff and was learning a lot. He wanted to know what I thought of the rest of the staff and the store layout. I said it was too early for me to have an opinion. I was bursting to change the subject so I could tell him about Tim.

“Yes, you need to get on the shop floor and see how everything works before you join the management team. Next week I want you to work as a salesperson now you’ve a bit of product knowledge. You’ve been at Crewe this week haven’t you? I think a change of scenery wouldn’t hurt so I’ll let the manager at the Festival Park branch know to expect you on Monday morning. When it’s quiet just watch how the sales staff operate and listen and learn from them so that when it gets busy you’re confident on your own. Look at what we sell, go round all the shelves, pick stuff up, make sure you understand what it’s for, how it works. Think of what would sell with each item so that you can increase what each customer spends. Product knowledge, that’s the key!”

“Yes, Dad. Thanks for the lecture. I know what you expect of me. I’ll do my best, but you know I’m not sure my hearts in it. Actually I thought I was to be at Crewe a bit longer?”

I knew I was very fortunate, steady job, huge salary, lovely company car, prospect of a seat on the Board but I hated being steamrollered. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I hadn’t been given the opportunity or the time to think about it. My life was mapped out for me by my Dad. I know he was doing it because he thought it was for the best but sometimes I wanted to scream at him “stop bossing me around, stop controlling my life, let me decide” but I never did. I was the dutiful daughter.

“Anyway, Dad, what are you up to this weekend?”

“Well there’s the opening of our new Stafford branch tomorrow. In fact I asked Tracey if she’d see if you were prepared to come to that. I don’t suppose she has?”

“No Dad, I’ve not seen her today.”

“Oh yes, she’s got a lot on her mind.  She’s been away visiting her parents. Her Mum’s not well. In fact, not well at all.”

“Oh dear. I knew she had Dementia. Is she a lot worse?” I asked.

“Yes it’s so sad. Her parents have been married for over 50 years and poor Joe, that’s her Dad, has lost his life-long partner and instead gained a constant worry. Tracey says her own mother doesn’t know her anymore and spends most of her time, when she’s awake, terrified. She doesn’t know where she is or who you are or what might happen next.  She’s taken to spending most of the time in bed as she can’t face life outside it.”

“That’s awful. There should be some way of dealing with it. I don’t know, a pill you could take or something.  We treat animals better than that.”  I wasn’t very good at dealing with sickness or anything like that.

“Well she’s not in a fit state to do anything. She certainly couldn’t decide to do herself in.”

“No Dad I suppose not. And the relatives couldn’t be given the responsibility either. They might be just after her money. Only I wouldn’t want to live like that. It’s so undignified. I mean I’ve heard some of them are incontinent. How awful is that? I’d like to write a living will that allows doctors to sort me out if I get into that kind of state.”

“Well, love, it’s easy to say that whilst you’re young. You might look at it differently when you’re old.  Anyway about tomorrow. We’re having a grand opening at our Stafford branch. Tracey has hired some models and she, and I hope, you are going to join them, dressed up to the nines. Each of you will have a pedigree dog on a lead. You’ll be there to look glamorous and attract the crowds. I’ve tipped the Press off too so you might be in the local paper or on the box.”

My heart sank at the mention of Press, glamour, models. I hated putting myself on show. But I didn’t do much for Dad and having something to do might make the waiting till Sunday go quicker.

“OK Dad, I’ll come. Will you ask Tracey to tell me what sort of clothes I should wear please?”

“Well why don’t you eat with us tonight. We’d decided to have a night in and it would be lovely if you’d join us.”

It may have been because of my success earlier but I really enjoyed the meal in with Tracey and Dad. Tracey was an excellent hostess and cook and all three of us seemed to get on as we’d never done before. I think they were both pleased that I wasn’t my usual aggressive self and that I was joining in the event they’d planned for Saturday.

Tim phoned that night just as I was cleaning my teeth so l asked him to phone back in ten minutes.  By then l was tucked up in bed with the light off. The wonderful phone call lasted for two hours. I told him about what I planned to do tomorrow dressed up in a mini skirt, high heels and a low-cut blouse, like a tart as he put it. I told him about the trip to the nightclub — also dressed like a tart. No different to all the other women. was my retort. I told him about Tracey’s Mum and he agreed something needed to be done. The National Health Service is struggling for money and is now spending half of it’s budget keeping half-corpses alive is how he put it. Yet no-one’s doing anything about it. We don’t even talk about it — might reek of euthanasia, the holocaust. I did let him get the odd word in and he told me more about his parent’s home. It sounded idyllic, if a trifle too rural and isolated for my taste.  And his family sounds nice. He’s a younger brother, still at school, and a maniac sister, who is pregnant.

(ii) Sophie and Tracey do some modelling

Next morning I had a long luxurious bath. did my nails. spent ages applying my make-up and chose my clothes carefully. If I was going to be parading around next to professional models and Tracey, an ex- model herself, I didn’t want them showing me up. i was enough of a girlie girl to know 90% of a girl’s attraction was skin deep – red Iippy, heavy eye make-up, short skirts or skin-tight trousers. a bit of cleavage, long blond hair – all tricks to tum men on. They’re such suckers – with the odd exception of course.

Dad droveTracey and me there in his Roller. Tracy looked the part.  She knew what she was doing. short skirt, plenty of cleavage, yet somehow she managed to look classy, not at all tarty. She complimented me, which was nice. but I wasn’t sure I’d achieved the same effect. The two models were already there, inside the shop. coming to grips with the dogs they were trying to control. They were both very young and looked plain tarty. Apparently we were working in pairs. one model each for me and Tracy. They had a dog each, nice looking Old English Sheepdogs, apparently brothers. so they didn’t have issues with one another; we were giving out leaflets with money off coupons and chatting to the punters.  We all stood outside the entrance doors in the warm sunshine so customers couldn’t avoid coming into contact with one or other pair.  It was busy and people generally went into the store once we’d showed them the coupons.  A photographer from the Sentinel, the local paper, turned up and I gave him a short interview.  He wanted a photo as well and I managed to persuade him to take the two models plus dogs with the store entrance in the background.  Tracey and I escaped Scott free.

At about 12.30 Tracey and her model took a half-hour break for lunch. We were swamped with customers and I couldn’t wait for them to come back. l was starving too. My model.

Veronique, was inclined to be a bit forward with the young lads and I had to tell her that this was a job, not a chance to pull. At last it was our break time. The staff room was very nice, by far the nicest of any I’d seen in any of the other branches and there was a good choice of sandwiches

and crisps to eat, provided by the management. Veronique wanted to know what it was like being famous. I told her I wasn’t but that I hated the small amount of attention I did get.

“Do ya?” she asked. “I really wanna be famous. I wanna mix wiv all the celebrities I read

about in OK magazine. I fink that’d be great.  Fanks for letting the photographer take pictures of us.  Do you fink we’ll be in the paper tommora?”

“Maybe and good luck to you if you want fame. You’ve got the looks but are you ambitious

enough? There’s lots of competition out there.  The Press is interested in me because of my Dad so l’ve a head’s start. Same for all the film stars’ sons and daughters. It’s not so easy for the likes of you. You’ll have to do something really special to get noticed. That’s why people volunteer to do shows like Big Brother. gives them a leg up.”

“Yeah, I can see vat.”

“And once you’ve made it you have to fight to stay there. It’s a cut-throat world. That’s

why celebrities go into the jungle and eat maggots. or whatever else they’re made to do. They don’t like eating maggots they just want the exposure so they can keep their celebrity status.” I was on a  roll. This was one of my pet subjects. “I’m only telling you so you can decide if that kind of life is what you really want. l mean have you seen how all the celebrities keep changing partners? It may seem glamorous to date some famous good-looking man but he’s probably only with you for your looks or your fame and he’d go off with somebody else at a drop of a hat. You must see that if you read OK magazine. I don’t want that kind of life. I want something more normal, out of the public eye.”

Veronique looked a little crestfallen after my tirade.  “I ’adn’t fort of vat.”

Dad appeared and suggested if we’d finished our break we should get back outside. He handed the dog back to Veronique and out we went. It quietened down a bit later and Tracey managed to persuade Dad to take us home. I wanted to take one of dogs with me.  They were beautiful, so friendly and well behaved but Dad said they were on loan from a firm that specialised in pet hire and anyway that he wouldn’t share a house with a dog at any price.  Other than that he seemed pleased as apparently the takings were way above his most optimistic estimate. He was on a high and wanted to take us all out for a posh meal but both Tracey and l were bushed so we ended up eating fish and chips together in front of the telly. Dad didn’t stop for long as he wasn’t keen on the sort of programme they dished out on a Saturday evening. He thought it was for the brain dead.  We were watching Pop Idol and there were some great singers and Tracey really liked Simon Cowell.

Tracey and I chatted amicably until bedtime while half watching this and that.  I warmed to her that evening. I suppose because of the shared experience.  I seemed to have found a new friend.

(iii) Tim celebrates Stanley’s birthday in Wales

Amazing.  I had arranged a date with a stunning, sexy, vivacious girl who was also my bosses’ daughter and an heiress.  Sophie must be one of the most desirable single women in the area – good looking, rich and famous.  I expect everyone will be very envious when they find out.  It’ll be the subject of store gossip and local news.  I imagine I will suffer a loss of my privacy, but what the hell, I could do with a bit of glamour in my life.  It might be cool to be recognised in the street.  What will my family and friends think?  What will Chakka think?  Would she be pleased for me or jealous?  My mind raced out of control.

Then I sobered up.  I had to decide what sort of date I should take Sophie on.  It couldn’t be expensive obviously so no posh romantic restaurants; the cinema or theatre would be no good as we wouldn’t have a chance to talk; a pub would be naff.  Problems, problems, think laterally.  Oh I know we’ll go bowling.  That’d be fun.  Even if she’s crap at it we’ll have a laugh and I could always help her if she’s completely useless.  What about eating though?  I wouldn’t want to eat there.  Crap food.  Oh there’s that little veggie place not too far from the bowling.  We could go there.

I was thinking these thoughts as the train rumbled west towards my folks in North Wales.

It was my little brother, Stanley’s, birthday so I’d decided to make the trip home for the weekend.  This meant a 20 minute walk to Crewe station, catching the train to Bangor and being picked up from the station there.  Unfortunately it was throwing it down as I set off and I got soaked before I reached the station.  I bought a soup to warm myself up and a paper to read and I found a seat on the right, the coast side, so I could admire the views.  The railway trip was lovely, overlooking the Dee estuary, past Llandudno, then views down the Menai Straits.  I always savoured the Welsh scenery, especially after weeks in Crewe, and wondered if I’d ever be happy living anywhere else.  Even the low clouds and rain streaming down the window didn’t spoil my ruminations.  

John, my father, came to pick me up in his new electric car.  I’d not encountered it before and was quite intrigued.  John was obsessed with global warming and anything that would minimise his impact on it was important to him.  Because he wasn’t well off financially he only had been able to buy an out of date model which only had a range of about 100 miles.  It was quite basic inside but the main impression I had was the quietness of it.  After discussing the benefits of his new purchase I steered the conversation onto more personal matters such as what Stanley was doing for his birthday and whether my sister, Teresa, was going to put in an appearance over the weekend.  

“Oh, I’m not sure about either of those happenings.  You’ll have to ask Wendy.”

One of John’s eccentricities was his refusal to have anything to do with any social arrangements.  He left everything up to Wendy, my mother.  I was hoping Teresa would be there, preferably on her own, without her new husband, Jock, so we could have a real family weekend.  Jock is great and I really like him and I do enjoy his music and a sing-song but when he gets his guitar out it tends to dominate everything else. Unfortunately Teresa’s often too busy to come home even though she only lives in Aberystwyth.   She’s expecting but I’m not exactly sure when the baby is due.  She seems to have been pregnant for ages.

It had stopped raining by the time we arrived at the house and although I had largely dried out I was cold. The car heater was pathetic but I didn’t say anything.  There was a lovely smell as we opened the door and it felt warm too, very welcoming.

“Hi Wendy,”  as I gave my mother a huge hug.  She was a very touchy, feely person and I always got a warm glow from her hugs.  “What’s the smell?”

“I think that must be Stanley’s birthday cake.”

“Where is the birthday boy?”

“Off with friends, they’ve gone go-cart racing, 6 of them as his birthday treat.  I hope it wasn’t too wet.  Then tomorrow’s birthday tea will be just for the family.  It’s what Stanley wanted.”

“Wow go-carting sounds fun.  I’ve always wanted to go there.  Sulk, sulk!   I didn’t know what to buy for his present so I thought I’d just give him money.  I know at his age that’s what I wanted.  What have you done for him?”

“We’ve bought him an adventure summer camp at Plas y Brenin.  They do a bit of everything, canoeing, bouldering, coasteering and so on.  Don’t let on you know though.  It’s a surprise.”

“Wow, lucky boy.  Is he staying there or are you taking him every day?”

“Oh I know it’s not far but we feel he’ll get more out of it if he’s away from home for the 5 days.  Don’t we John?”

“What?  Sorry I wasn’t listening.  I was trying to work out the heat loss through the lounge window in my head.”

“I hope you’re not considering covering it up with layers of bubble wrap like you have in the bathroom.”

“I was thinking about doing just that.  After all you do like the place warm.”

“I also like the view, so no don’t do that.  Anyway it’s spring now and the weather’s starting to get warmer.”

I rang Sophie later that Friday after Stanley had gone to bed but she couldn’t talk and asked me to phone back a half hour later.  I decided to go to bed and phone her from there.  It was lovely lying in bed in the dark just hearing her voice.  We had a very long call and she turned me on with stories of her dressing up for some function tomorrow.  We didn’t get round to arranging what we were going to do on Sunday but I promised I’d call at the same time the next day.

The birthday tea next afternoon was a great success, a real family affair – all the usual stuff, sandwiches, cake with 14 candles, ‘happy birthday to you’ song. Theresa arrived just in time with apologies from Jock who had a pub gig arranged.  She looked very pregnant but healthy and happy.  Afterwards we played games, as we always did on such occasions.  John got himself into a bit of a sulk because he lost at the train game and at Rummy Cup.  We are all very competitive and show no mercy to the losers.

I was a bit late getting to bed for my promised phone call but Sophie didn’t seem to mind.  I’d been a bit worried about how she would react to my suggestion for our date so I brought my idea of 10-pin bowling up straight away and was really gratified that she really liked it.

Sunday morning dragged a bit although I did persuade Teresa and Jock, who arrived at coffee time, to go for a walk.  Jock’s gig had been cancelled at the last minute so he’d set off early. Teresa was very pregnant but she seemed to enjoy the walk.  She’s always been a coper.  The daffodils lining our drive had just started to wilt and some of the trees were starting to bud.  Nature is truly remarkable, how did a tree or a daffodil bulb know when to emerge?  They always come out at the right time.  It couldn’t be temperature as it had been a cold March so far and other years we’d had warm springs so presumably it had to be daylight.  This would mean that trees and bulbs can measure the length of days and only decide to emerge when the day length was right for them.  And bulbs are underground?

Jock said he’d not thought of that and yes it was amazing.  Teresa wasn’t really interested in our philosophising and wanted to talk about Wendy and John.  She thought they were getting more and more eccentric.  I told her not to worry about it as they both seem in excellent health and happy in themselves and with each other.  I said I was impressed how Wendy had made all these plans  for planting at Cwm Dinas and how amazed I was at how cozy John had made the house by just burning a small amount of wood in the range cooker, which also provided enough hot water for washing and the odd shower and was the sole source for cooking. 

Jock agreed with me.

“They’ve always been eccentric,” he said, “and you love them for it.  They only seem more extreme when you haven’t seen them for a while and you’re in the mind-set of ‘normal’ people.  I think their way of life is great.  It wouldn’t suit me because I like meat and pubs and beer and other consumerist things which they disapprove of but that doesn’t stop me having enormous respect for how they’ve chosen to live.”

“Yes, I do too,” I said “but I am a bit concerned about their conversion to veganism.  It just makes them even more out of step with the rest of us.  I know it’s up to them but …  So what are you up to these days?  Still in that rock group?”

“No, that sort of fell apart. The drummer left us and I think we’d all had enough.  Things move on.  I’ve a new venture now.  I’m in a gypsy jazz trio with a couple of great musicians – fiddle and bass players.”

“Oh, shame about your rock band.  I really liked it.”

“Yeah but my new band is very exciting and we’re really going places.  I actually prefer the style of music.  Maybe it’s my age.  We’ve arranged to go to France this summer to the Django Rheinhardt Festival and play with the best gypsy jazz bands in the world.  You’ll have to come and see us.”

“Wow, that sounds good.  Maybe I could hitch there and camp.  Oh we’d better be getting back,” I said “it’s nearly lunchtime.”

The smell as we walked back in was wonderful and nostalgic, reminded me of all the other meals I’d had on Sundays.  Vegetarian food can be just as delicious as food for carnivores.  I’d tried telling that to some of my mates back in Crewe that but they all dismissed the idea.  If only they weren’t so narrow minded.  Anyway Wendy had cooked roasted stuffed cauliflower and chickpea curry, jacket potatoes which we had with garlic bread and salad.   And for a pudding we had summer pudding with coconut yoghurt.  She proudly announced that she’d baked the bread and grown the fruits for the pudding. She’d also cooked some chips and sausages for Jock who was very unadventurous with his diet and embarrassed Theresa who thought he was a Philistine as far as his eating habits were concerned.

Jock dropped me at the station soon after lunch.  I’d really enjoyed my family weekend but once on the train I became very excited and, if I’m honest, a little nervous about my date with Sophie.  I wanted to have plenty of time to get ready as I wasn’t sure what to wear and what I’d thought of as a good idea before, going bowling, seemed a bit odd now even though Sophie had assured me only last night that she loved the idea.  I tried to read my book on the train journey home in an attempt to occupy my mind but ended up dozing.

(iv) Sophie goes bowling

Tim phoned on Friday and Saturday nights and we chatted for ages! Really cool stuff.  He didn’t mention our date on the Saturday phone call and I wondered what he’d got in mind.  I asked him straight out on the second call.

“Any ideas on what we should do?”

“Well Sophie, Wendy, that’s my mother, plans on cooking an enormous Sunday lunch so I don’t think I’ll be up for eating out. That is unless that’s what you had in mind. In which case I can always manage to eat, I’ve a very flexible stomach.”

“No I shan’t be hungry tonight either. We could go to a film. I’m not sure what’s on though?”

“No, I thought if we did that we wouldn’t get a chance to get to know each other. What about going bowling? I’m not much cop at it but it would be a laugh.”

“OK. Wow! ages since I did that.  What a cool idea!” 

I enthused outwardly but was rather taken aback.  Not what I’d imagined for a first date – was used to being taken to swanky restaurants.

“Why don’t I come and pick you up at 7. You’ve no car have you?  Where do you live?”

He then gave me directions to a house with a bright red front door in a backstreet in the middle of Crewe.  I’d wondered where he lived.  When I woke up next morning I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was too excited to have breakfast.  I started to watch the TV but couldn’t concentrate so I put my wellies on and went for a walk.  I like the feel of the fresh air on my face and the sound of the birdsong but I was lazy and didn’t often venture out.  I felt euphoric and walked right round the village, far further than I’d ever walked before.  I still wasn’t hungry and just had one Staffordshire oatcake and cheese for lunch.  Then I went upstairs to my room to sort out what to wear – something sporty or something glamorous?  In the end I tried for something that fulfilled both roles and wore tight-fitting black leggings with a tight-fitting black top which showed off my figure to advantage, I hoped, and a fancy gold belt to set it off.  Eventually it was time to go.  I set off in plenty of time and arrived fully ten minutes earlier than I’d intended.  I found the place, a terraced house in a small backstreet with cars parked on both sides of it and nowhere for me to park. So I hooted. Twice. Someone from the bedroom window of a house opposite shouted something and gave me the V sign. No response from Tim. Reluctantly I drove further down the road and found a place to park on double yellows and walked back and rang the bell.  A stunning black girl with bright red lipstick opened the door which completely nonplussed me.  

“Hi, does Tim live here?” I managed to stammer.

“Oh, you must be Sophie, come in. I think Tim’s almost ready. He’s out of the shower anyway.  I’m Chakka, Tim’s housemate.” With this she grabbed me and kissed me on both cheeks.

Just then Tim appeared looking absolutely gorgeous in a polo shirt and black jeans.

“Hi Sophie. This is my housemate Chakka. Oh I see you’ve introduced yourselves.” And he casually wiped off a bit of Chakka’s lipstick from my face. I was feeling a bit lost.

“Look,” I managed, “I’m parked on a double yellow line. Could we go.  I know I’m early but I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get here.”

“Oh, OK. I’m almost ready.  Where are you parked?”

“That way,” I indicated.

“You could wait in the car if you like.  Just in case any parking wardens show up.  I’ve just got to clean my teeth.”

“No, I’ll wait.”

He dashed up stairs leaving me with Chakka, me not knowing what to say.  I needn’t have worried as Chakka put me at ease.

She said, “Tim obviously didn’t tell you he shared with me.  I can see this has thrown you and you’re not the first, by any means.  Even in this day and age everyone expects Tim’s house mate to be male.  And Tim never warns his visitors.  I think he delights in surprising them, you.  Don’t worry we’re not romantically connected.  I’m engaged and my fiancé lives in Bristol and we see each other every weekend at the moment.  It’s not ideal but we are planning to move in together soon, depending when can both get jobs in the same town.”

Just then Tim appeared and ushered me towards the front door.

“Bye Chakka,” he shouted. “Have a good un!”

As we walked back towards the car Tim said, “I’ve booked a lane for half-past. And another at 10. I thought we could have one game, grab something to eat and then have another game. I hope that’s alright, only if you don’t book you can queue for ages.”

Once in the car I wanted to find out a bit more who this Chakka was without seeming to pry too hard.

“Is Chakka your only housemate?” I ventured.

“Oh yes. The place only has two bedrooms. I think I see what you might be thinking. No we’re not lovers. In fact we hardly see each other. She’s engaged to this chap in Bristol and spends every weekend down there. And she spends every evening on Skype to him. Otherwise, I’d be there. No I wouldn’t really, she’s not my type.”

“Glad to hear it. Am I your type?” I said rather anxiously.

“Well we’ll find out if we suited to each other tonight.”

The evening went well I think.  I’m no great shakes at bowling but I did manage a couple of strikes and Tim was very gentlemanly and told me how well I’d done.  I found it a bit difficult to concentrate.  I suppose a fear of making a fool of myself.  Also I had a stupid smile on my face all night.  The meal was different from my normal fare.  Tim didn’t want to eat the kind of food they served in the bowling place so we went to a little vegetarian restaurant not far from the bowling allay.  The  décor was homely, gingham tablecloths and candles, and the food excellent.  I was amazed how tasty my meal was, never having really ventured down the vegetarian route myself.  I did get a bit upset because one of Tim’s friends was sitting on the table next to us and insisted in talking to us which meant Tim and I didn’t have the kind of cosy, intimate evening I’d hoped for.  

He did invite me in to his place and miraculously there was a parking space, a very tight one.  I backed straight in and enjoyed Tim’s appreciation of my parking skills.  He made me a very nice coffee, apparently he was really into coffee and had his own espresso maker.  We sat on the sofa in subdued lighting with some soft music on and chatted.  It was blissful but I was getting impatient for him to make a move.  Just before my patience evaporated and I grabbed him he took the initiative suggesting we dance.  We just swayed to the music, letting our bodies touch, my breasts pressing into his chest, his leg between my thighs, his arms encircling me and my fingers digging into his back.  When he kissed me I almost lost control.  I was ready for him to fuck me and said as much but he said it was too early for him.  This was a new experience.  Usually I was desperately trying to protect myself from the unwanted attentions of randy men.  

I felt totally at peace with the world as I drove home although I was slightly worried that I’d been too forward.  We’d agreed to meet next evening and I was sure I was in love.  How did I know this?  I had butterflies in my stomach and a silly grin on my face as my Dad remarked when I walked in.

“What are you looking so happy about?” he asked.

“Oh am I?  Nothing special.”

“Been out on a date?”

“Might have been.”

“Anyone I know?  You finished with that other berk didn’t you?”

“Dad that’s hardy fair.  Maybe you’re right.  He was a bit of a wally.”

“So who’s this one?”

“Oh he’s an agricultural student at Rease Heath.  He’s lovely.  And I met him at the Crewe branch when I was working there.  He was on his vac job.”

“OK.  I hope he’s not just after you money though.”

“I don’t think so.  I don’t think money is high on his list of priorities.  He’s more interested in saving the planet.  Anyway I’m bushed so I’m off upstairs.  Goodnight, Dad.”

I gave him a little kiss.