Even when I was coming back from the Men’s Room, she managed to waylay me at the partition between the two room areas, leaning right into me. She said that if I was having any difficulty finding an employer, her Dad owned a catering company and she was sure that she could put in a good word for me. I told her that I’d now got a job offer that I’d be accepting.
When I got back to my chair Susie had gone.
A fine mess you got me into
Paul was fine by Tuesday, so I was feeling better myself when I phoned Susie to tell her that I’d had a couple of quotes back by email plus some other types of reply. When she answered her phone and heard my voice she was quiet. She said that she was unable to talk at that moment, but said she’d phone me back. She then said something that baffled me completely.
“I’d be grateful if from now on we simply stuck to the business in hand..”
She then closed the call.
I didn’t hear from her again until the Thursday morning. She thanked me for my card and asked me what I’d wanted when I’d phoned on the previous Tuesday. I told her that I’d just wanted to go through the replies from the online companies with her. I asked her if we could meet so that I could show them to her and agree what to do.
“All right,” she said, “Come round to mine about ten on Friday morning. I won’t be going to the park tonight.”
She rang-off again. I had no idea what had happened between us and was afraid to ask.
I didn’t go to the park and I didn’t go to watch netball either. I felt as if I was carrying a large, lead ball in my stomach.
Accusations, Questions and Answers
When I reached her house on the Friday, Susie let me in and led me straight to her dining Room. Her laptop was on the table. She sat down and invited me to sit down too. She was wearing a floaty, silky top over black jeggings.
I asked had she had a nice birthday, but she said, “Let’s stick to business, Paddy so there’s no misunderstanding.”
I looked at her. There was no smile on her face, I noticed that her hands were squeezed into fists, her eyes were narrowed and they looked moist with tears.
“Susie,” I said and reached to touch her arm.
“Get off me!” she yelled.
I jerked away from her holding up my hands to show that I meant no harm.
“I’m sorry Susie,” I said, “You looked distressed, angry – I don’t know which. I just wanted to offer comfort.” She burst into tears. I waited for her sobs to subside. I moved my chair back and to one side so that I could see her better.
“I have no idea, Susie,” I said, “what I’m supposed to have done that you are being like this. I feel like I did when Helen left me without a chance to talk things through. I won’t bother you again.”
I stood to leave. My chest was tight and I was fighting back tears myself. I still had my laptop in my hand, so I started to walk to the door to leave.
From behind me she called out, “Wait!”
I turned around.
“Wait,” she said again, “I don’t know whether you deserve a chance to explain, but I was upset by how you acted on Sunday night and I feel I deserve to know why you felt free to gossip about me behind my back.”
I walked around to the other side of the table and sat down. I didn’t want to be accused of molesting her.
“Susie,” I said, placing my laptop on the table in front of me, “We either sort this out now or I may as well go home. Tell me what you think that I did wrong on Sunday and explain what this nonsense about gossip is. What am I supposed to have said and who did I say it to?”
“Okay, she said. She stood and faced me, arms folded across her chest. “Sunday. You’d only just arrived and you were staring at Jenny’s tits. She had to tell you to put your tongue back in. Then you had to make that stupid gross comment about not recognising her with her clothes on. Remember?”
“This is what’s stupid Susie,” I said. “When Jenny said that, I hadn’t even noticed her approaching because I was too busy staring at you. It was you that she’d seen me staring at. You looked amazing in that black and red dress with your hair done like that. I was awestruck. As for that comment, Yes, it was a daft thing to say, but she looked daft in that top and skirt – mutton dressed as lamb. She’s not a teenager anymore. It was intended as a joke. I should have kept my mouth shut.”
“It didn’t stop you fooling around with her when she was sitting on your knee,” she said, pulling a sarcastic looking face with her mouth.
“Look,” I said, “I never asked her to sit on my knee, I didn’t want her to sit there and I did not enjoy it at all. I was absolutely embarrassed. I didn’t fool around with her Susie, whatever it may have looked like. I didn’t know where to put my hands without appearing to grope her. I made an excuse to get away from her as soon as I could”
“Well, it certainly didn’t look that way to me,” she argued. “And what about you two whispering sweet nothings to each other when you were standing near that wall; you couldn’t have squeezed a credit card between the two of you. Everyone was watching.”
I laughed. “Well, Susie, that tops it all. Jenny waylaid me on my way back from the Gents. I can’t remember much of what she said, but she did offer to ask her dad to give me a job.”
“She didn’t,” Susie said. She looked shocked. “What did you say back?”
“I told her that I had received a job offer that I was accepting. I thought that it would have been bad manners to have told her that I wouldn’t have accepted anyway.”
“How do you mean?” she asked.
“Listen,” I said, “If I’d accepted, I’d have been in hock to her and her dad for as long as it pleased them. I’m sorry to have to say this about one of your friends Susie, but she looked like, and was acting like a tart. She’d clearly set her cap at me – as my mum would have said. I wasn’t interested and I certainly couldn’t be bought that way – by the chance of a job, or by whatever chance she was offering by the way she was dressed.”
Susie unfolded her arms, moved away from the wall and sat down again.
“Well,” she said, “Good for you. It does make sense now that you’ve explained it – and it might explain why I thought that you’d been gossiping about me.”
“Thank God for that,” I said, feeling that a weight was falling from my shoulders. ”What I don’t understand is why it would have mattered to you.”
“Can I come back to that?” she said.
Today my featured photo is an opportunistic shot that I took while walking around Liverpool photographing graffiti. I just liked the juxtaposition of the gigantic warrior soldier, maybe, in my imagination, he’d been beamed there from another time, appearing to be looking over the shoulder of the young woman – perhaps trying to see what she was looking at on her phone.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-3ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera and 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 35 mm and f/19. Shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO 560. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.