Ingrid took a deep breath, clacking her high heels on the underground steps as she ascended. The crisp city air filled her nostrils and she thought about her cat, Aubrey. Aubrey was a stupid animal. The most ridiculous of domesticated cats, with long hair that got everywhere and lamp-like eyes permanently fixed in a maniacal, startled expression. With as needy an animal as the stupid cat in her life, a high-powered job and a busy routine, Ingrid had never cared to make time for the big L. However, after rainy weekend spent brushing sticky kibble crumbs from Aubrey’s enormous face and Googling ‘conspiracy theories’, she had decided that perhaps now was the time to find someone besides the cat to spend her evenings with and tentatively typed, ‘blind dates’ into the search bar.
Ingrid strode purposefully across a main road in the direction of the Ritz to meet Phil. Phil seemed a normal enough man, his dating profile listed hobbies such as reading, cooking and travel, which was absolutely nothing to go by, but Ingrid remained hopeful. The blind dating service she had chosen to use, she supposed, attracted proactive and confident people like herself, who no doubt all led insanely busy lives and had very interesting things to say; probably a handful of perverts too. ‘Perhaps they’re all perverts’, she mused, looking down at Phil’s tagline on her iPhone. ‘Not all those who wander are lost’, it informed her. This foray into blind dating was one of no expectations.
On reaching the garish awning of the Ritz, Phil rounded the corner, grinning a stupid grin. He reminded her of Aubrey, except unlike Aubrey, his hair was totally absent. Ingrid smiled and held out a hand. Phil broke into an excited little run and panting, clasped her hand firmly between his, dousing it in sweat. She looked the man up and down. Beneath his ill-fitting jeans, a pair of khaki Crocs poked out. A faded red t-shirt depicted a gaggle of cartoon ninjas. In one hand he carried a large rucksack and in the other, a plastic shopping bag. His face was tanned and as hairless as his head, save a tiny arrow of beard beneath his bottom lip. Ingrid began to suspect that she had made a terrible error. The pair passed a red-faced and rather pompous man who made no attempt to step aside to let either of them into the building and merely looked irritated.
‘Here we go…’ Muttered Ingrid under her breath, smiling thinly at the back of Phil’s head.
‘So, what’s your story? What do you like?’ Phil fired over the wine list. ‘Where do you work? Have you ever been travelling? Tell me everything.’ He paused, looking at Ingrid’s uncomfortable expression.
‘Is everything ok?’ Ingrid’s eyes were fixed on the foot of the long, white tablecloth. Phil’s sludge coloured Crocs sat to the left of his chair as two sets of gnarled, ill-looking toes poked out from beneath the starched fabric, wiggling slowly like a clutch of infected slugs.
‘Your shoes… Why don’t you have your shoes on?’ She whispered, looking pale.
‘Oh, I always take them off when I eat. It’s more comfortable and encourages better circulation. I’ve been needing to cool off after cycling here too, bit overheated, y’know?’ Phil lifted his feet from the floor and crossed his legs so that one sallow, bloated foot hung inches from her leg. A fat bead of sweat rolled from Phil’s ankle onto the carpet. Ingrid stared down at the grubby sole and grisly yellow toenails and quickly excused herself.
‘I’ll get us some wine then!’ Shouted Phil after her as she made a break for the toilets.
Emerging from the bathroom Ingrid peered across the room to see that her date, now cross-legged on his chair had also removed his ninja t-shirt revealing a collection of hideous tattoos of assorted sizes that all depicted the Buddha in one style or another, and was rummaging in his plastic bag for something. She watched him pull out a glaringly yellow bunch of petrol-station chrysanthemums triumphantly and place them between her knife and fork, grinning his stupid cat grin as though his knock-out romantic allure were a failsafe superpower. Ingrid faltered for a second. Still wearing her coat she realised that making it out of the Ritz without Phil noticing would be an easy feat. Seizing her opportunity, she fixed her gaze on the exit, walked calmly across the restaurant, through the front doors, past the red-faced man who was still hanging around outside, now shouting angrily at a doorman, and onto the grey, speckled street.
‘Strike one’, she said aloud to herself, sighed deeply, and walked towards the tube.
Written by Emily Beeson
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Next Wednesday: Dalton
Part 1– Charlie Malbery
Part 2– Albert
Part 3- Ernest Malbery