‘Well, those look like nice strong muscles,’ she said, ‘I think that I’ll need to feel how hard they are.’
He stared at her, open-mouthed. The old woman was leaning towards her husband and pointing at Jamie’s legs.
Mel hooted with laughter. ‘Put them away,’ she said, ‘too much flesh for our first date.’
The old woman said, ‘Leave him be. I was enjoying seeing a young man’s legs for a change.’
Jamie hurriedly lowered his trousers back down into place, blushing.
‘Now you know something of how women feel every day’ she said, ‘as though they’re up for auction at a cattle market.’
‘What did you mean, “first date”,’ he asked, still embarrassed.
‘Don’t take things so seriously,’ she said, ‘I was only playing. If we’re going to start dating, you’ll have to get used to my teasing.’
‘Is that a “Yes” then,’ he asked.
‘Perhaps,’ she said, ‘but I need to know whether your intentions are honourable.’
‘Naturally’ he said.
‘That’s a pity,’ she said, ‘I’d hoped better of you. Interview failed.’
‘I lied,’ he said,
‘Of course you did,’ she replied, ‘You’re a man. Okay then, where are you taking me and when?’
He suggested a meal at the hotel where they’d gone for the family get-together.
She countered that she’d prefer somewhere that wasn’t local – perhaps over at Hebden Bridge. They agreed on the following Saturday if Jamie could book a table.
Jamie collected Mel from her home and drove them to the pretty town of Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. He’d parked his car on the roadside outside her home. When he’d rang the bell, Mel’s mum had answered the door.
‘Oh, you do look smart, love,’ she’d said, ‘I do hope that you’ll both have a lovely evening, but drive safely, won’t you?’
As they walked to the car, he told her that she looked amazing.
On the way there, they’d talked most of the way about schooldays. They’d attended different schools, but were nevertheless surprised that their paths had never crossed before.
He’d managed to book them a table at La Perla Italian Restaurant. Once they’d been shown to their table, they both chose from the Specials Board.
Mel had come in her puffer jacket in case the evening was cool by the time they left. Below it she wore a baby-blue, soft woollen pullover with long sleeves and a mock-turtleneck, over white linen, tapered, ankle-grazer trousers and spotless white trainers.
Jamie was also dressed casually in a soft fleece, grey zip-up hoodie over a red-checked open neck shirt and white linen trousers with navy boat shoes.
‘What do you think of the place?’ he asked.
‘It’s lovely,’ she said, ‘The Italian setting seems authentic and exactly right for a first date.’
‘Does that mean that I’m guaranteed a second date then,’ he asked.
‘That depends,’ she said, ‘I’m going to test you on how much you’ve really noticed about me.’
‘Go on then,’ he said, rising to the challenge.
‘Close your eyes,’ she said, ‘and put both hands over them so you can’t see. No cheating!’
‘Right!’ she said, ‘What am I wearing?’
He managed to get that right, almost spot on.
‘Describe my face,’ she demanded, ‘I need to know what you’ve really been looking at all these weeks.’
‘Easy peasy,’ he said, ‘A lovely elfin shape with a chin that nicely avoids being pointy; long blonde hair; blue eyes below blonde eyebrows; long eyelashes; a cute little straight nose, and cupid’s bow full lips.’ He paused, ‘Pink lipstick and blue mascara that goes with the colour of your pullover.’
‘Bloody Hell,’ she said, ‘Full-marks – for diplomacy if not objective reality. I didn’t expect that degree of recall. Hmm! Even I fancy me listening to you. Second date guaranteed.’
As they ate they both agreed that it was nice to meet outside the shop – not small talk, not talking shop, just talking as though they wanted to talk.
She saw an attractive waitress heading their way in a short skirt – she waited to see his reaction, but he hardly took his eyes off Mel as the girl took their dessert order. She was pleased that he’d kept his eyes off the waitress – even if it had been for no other reason than he’d known she’d have noticed otherwise. Observation and memory – tick. Attentiveness – tick. So far so good.
‘I’ve really enjoyed tonight,’ she said later over coffee, ‘and this seems a beautiful village.’
‘The best part for me,’ he said, ‘has been your company.’
‘Bullshitter!’ she said, laughing, ‘but thanks.’
She placed her hand over his, ‘I’ve enjoyed your company too,’ she said.
They walked hand in hand to his car, where he opened the door for her.
Once they were on their way, he asked whether she wanted to hear Tony’s proposals for her new role and for recruiting a replacement for a junior assistant.
‘Don’t you dare,’ she admonished him, ‘Please don’t spoil our evening by talking about work. There’ll be time enough for that on Monday. What I want to hear is how you see our relationship progressing?
He told her that he hoped that she’d want to come out with him again.
‘I’ve already said that I will,’ she said, ‘but you still puzzle me. I can’t see where we’re headed.’
He asked her what she meant.
‘Jamie, you’re a really nice guy,’ she said. ‘We obviously got off on the wrong foot when I started in the shop. I misjudged you and I’m sorry that you got the rough edge of my tongue that night. The timing was wrong. I’d just dumped Craig and I was still in a bad, anti-man mood. Am I forgiven?’
He glanced at her, taking his eyes off the road for a second or so.
‘Of course,’ he said, ‘I did understand what you were getting at that night, and you had every right to be concerned.’
‘Well, in a way I’m going to contradict some of what I said in the park,’ she said, ‘I claim a woman’s right to change her mind.’
She waited while he changed down a gear to negotiate a sharp bend in the road.
‘What worries me is that I don’t feel any passion from you.’ she said, ‘Adoration – yes – but real passion, no.’
The dam of his inhibitions broke, and he told her how he’d felt about her for months – especially since the day at Hull.
She asked why he’d waited to say anything.
He told her that he’d been afraid to come on too strongly since the evening in the park café.
She told him that he’d gone to the other extreme – that she couldn’t see things progressing without finding out how they were in bed together. She had no intention of waiting forever.
They agreed to have a long weekend – a Friday and Saturday night together not too far away. He promised to book a cottage in the country away from Codmanton.
As they reached her home, he opened the car door for her, and they stood as she got out, facing each other and holding hands.
‘Would I be hoping for too much, until then, to hold you in my arms and kiss you?’ he asked.
She pulled him towards her, put her hands to his face, and lifted her face to his, her lips to his. Afterwards, she felt that she no longer had any worries about his passion.
More of Liverpool. I said that I’d intended to do try my hand at street photography. I did manage to bring back a few shots. Today’s photo is of a young woman sitting, reading, in a shelter in Abercromby Square in the Liverpool University area.
For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/50 secs @ f/8 and 85 mm.