This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 798 words.
It was my only experience of trying to get a date with someone who worked shifts. My first few texted suggestions were met with simple ‘Sorry, working’ replies, and I started to think I should just stop messaging her. Ten days later, I got a text on the way home from work on a Friday. It was from her, with the address of a social club in North London, and one line after. ‘I’ll be there at 7 if you can make it, B’.
I got off the train at the next stop, and left the station to try to hail a taxi. It was already almost eight, and the venue was a long way from where I was. As the cab tried all the short cuts to get through the traffic, I watched the hefty fare ticking up on the meter, and wondered about why a young woman went to a community social club on a Friday night. When we got there, I used my card to pay the cabbie, or it would have cleared out all the cash in my wallet. I often had reason to be pleased about the introduction of card payments in London taxis.
I could hear the noise as I approached the club entrance, and from the balloons outside, I guessed a celebration was in progress. An old man sat at a table inside the door asked me if I was a member, and I shook my head and told him I was meeting Becky. I used her full name. He smiled, obviously knowing who she was, and pointed at the double doors. I walked in to what looked like a night out in Glasgow, at least as I imagined it. The room was festooned with Scottish flags, banners supporting Rangers football team, and a massive sign above a guy doing a disco that read ‘Happy 70th Archie’.
One thing about Becky, she was easy to spot. Twirling around on the dance floor in a fetching green party dress, her red hair catching the lights flashing from the front of the disco setup. I watched her for a while, and she suddenly spotted me. She ran across, her shoeless feet slipping on the polished dance floor. As soon as she spoke, I could tell she was already a bit drunk. She yelled loudly next to my ear, above the noise of the music. “Ah, you made it. It’s my uncle’s birthday party. Get a drink and come and join us. The bar’s free”.
Once I had got my beer, I turned to see her waving from a table over on the left, and made my way across. She patted an empty chair next to her, and I sat on it. The faces around the table were all pretty old ones. I guessed the youngest two sitting there were both over fifty. Cupping her hands around her mouth, Becky bellowed. “Everyone, this is Frankie”. I grinned and nodded, which is about the only thing to do in those situations where the music is playing so loudly conversation is impossible. Then I sat there like a spare part for an hour, feeling hungry. It was a very long way from my idea of a first date with Becky.
When the DJ took a break, I was introduced to the two youngest people on the table, who turned out to be Becky’s parents. Neither of them had a Scottish accent, but her mum called me ‘laddie’, and her dad referreed to me as ‘son’. Then Archie appeared, and I met the birthday boy. He winked at Becky. “Is this your fella, sweetheart?” She looked me up and down as if I was a racehorse. “He might be, uncle Archie. Let’s see how he works out”. Even Archie didn’t have a Scottish accent, but there was no doubt that everyone there considered themselves to be as Scottish as anyone north of the border. That was confirmed when some bagpipe music started up, and they all started whooping and clapping.
Fortunately, Becky slipped on her shoes, and said we had to be somewhere. She waved goodbye to her parents, and kissed Archie on the cheek. As we got out into the fresh night air, she said she was hungry, and couldn’t stand the stodgy party food. She suggested a Greek place she knew that stayed open late, and we could walk to it. After a few steps in awkward silence, she turned and laughed.
“You actually came to that social club. And you sat it out without complaining, or getting up and leaving. It was sort of a test, and if you are interested to know, you passed it”.
With that, she reached across and held my hand.