This is the fourtennth part of a fiction serial, in 775 words.
As she stuffed pitta bread covered in hummus into her mouth, Becky wasted no time telling me the short version of her life story. She was Scottish, (of course, but not really) and had an older brother who was living and working in Holland. She had always wanted to be a nurse, and had done nothing else. She loved working in Accident and Emergency because of the variety, and intended to stay in that speciality. There had been one serious boyfriend in her life, from the age of fifteen at school, until they were both twenty-two.
The relationship had survived university, and she had expected to eventually get engaged, and married. But they didn’t survive a New Year’s Eve party when she had to work, and he ended up sleeping with her best friend. She lost both of them that night. Since then, she had been on a couple of dates, and had sex with one random bloke she met at a dinner party. Swallowing some more pitta, she looked at me across the table. “And you?”
I told her the truth about my love life, or lack of it, finishing up with the sorry saga of Justina and her two kids in Lithuania. After sipping some of her Demestica, she nodded. “I believe you”. I wanted to reply to that, but let it go. During the main course, she chatted about work. Her work. Then it dawned on her to ask me what I did, and when I mentioned banking and mortgages, her eyes glazed over a bit. Her considered reply was, “Oh well, I suppose someone has to sort out mortgages, and I’m sure it pays better than my job”.
I suggested a dessert, and she shook her head violently. “No, I think we should go back to mine for sex. I don’t know you well enough to risk going to your place”. I was completely floored. I would never have expected sex on that first date, let alone suggested it. But I certainly wasn’t going to turn down her offer.
She gave her address to the cabbie, and on the way she was upbeat. “I hope you don’t think badly of me, Frankie. But as far as I am concerned, if I like you enough to spend time with you, then I don’t see why we shouldn’t have sex. Do you agree?” I nodded, having no idea what to say. As we got close to her place, she suddenly remembered something. “Have you got condoms? I don’t have any at the flat”. I nodded again. There was one in my wallet, and now I was worried about her use of the plural.
Despite my intention to settle the fare, she insisted on paying for the taxi, and I surveyed the big house on a main road in Chalk Farm as she sorted out the money.
Becky shared the place with two others who worked at the same hospital. They had the top floor, plus the attic extension. Although the inside was rather shabby, the age of the building provided large rooms, with huge windows. After walking up the stairs with her carrying her shoes, we entered the flat to hear some shouting coming from a television. Off the wide interior hallway, an open door led into a massive living room, where three saggy and battered sofas surrounded a square coffee table, opposite a very large plasma-screen TV.
Two women were sprawled over each other on the centre sofa, with the head of one resting in the lap of the other. The one lying down was introduced to me as Fliss, and I was told she was a radiographer. She grinned and waved. The other one was called Jackie, a nurse who worked on the Coronary Care Ward. She looked older, maybe thirty-five, and spoke with a Northern Irish accent. Fliss was enromously fat, and she filled her Primark pyjamas to the extent that it seemed she might soon burst out of them, like overripe fruit. Becky sensed my akwardness, and confirmed what I was wondering. “They are a couple, as you can see”. Then she grabbed my hand and led me back out and down the hall into her room.
Inside, her large room overlooking the garden resembled a rubbish tip for clothes. Piles of tights, underwear, and socks were dotted around, and various pairs of shoes and boots seemed to be lying where they had been thrown, some with crumpled jeans on top of them. The doors of the old double wardrobe were wide open, unable to be closed because of the sheer number of items inside. She made no apology for the state of the place, as she turned her back to me, and knelt on the bed.
“Unzip me please, Frankie”.