Perspective, that’s what I need. I may have put a little too much hope in the first date, and I can see now that it might have been a little premature to get quotes for our Save the Date cards for the wedding. Though, it never hurts to be prepared, and in fact it helped me come to a very important decision about my future husband: he’s going to have to be rich because weddings cost a bloody fortune!
I have a coffee date today with Hank and Rachel to go over our plan of action to make sure none of us get sacked. Not that we need to get our stories straight, I mean, it’s not like we have anything to hide. I just want to remind them of the pinky-swear they made– that they would never tell a soul that I ruined the company’s periwinkle stiletto display shoe when I tried to cram my foot into it at last year’s Christmas party.
Wearing my blue polka-dot dress, I stroll through the park enjoying the beautiful spring day and lift my chin to let the breeze flow through my hair. My eyes meet the person running towards me on the jogging path, and I stop in my tracks.
“Are you following me?”
Oliver slows down to run on the spot in front of me, raising his eyebrows. “Yes, I’ve been jogging all over London to find you. You’ve saved me a lot of time though, I just finished the East side and was working my way North.”
I ignore his mocking tone and concede, though only internally, that it might have been a silly accusation.
“I didn’t know you lived around here. I’ve never seen you in this park before.” I walk through this park every day, and I would remember seeing Oliver.
“I just bought a flat around the corner from here; moved in last week.” He stops jogging in place and starts shaking out his legs. “Should I take your greeting as my ‘welcome to the neighborhood’?”
I feel a huge gust of wind lift the bottom of my skirt as a mass of cyclists fly by us on their bikes, and I blush as I try and bring the fabric down.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” I say when everything is back in place.
“Are you on your way somewhere?” Oliver asks.
“Just to the coffee shop,” I say, pointing to the building on the corner.
“Great, I could use a cup of coffee,” he says and puts his hand on the small of my back to start me walking towards the shop.
My eyes go wide as I realize he plans on joining me. I can’t have Oliver come inside with me; Hank and Rachel will think I betrayed them if I’m caught consorting with the enemy. Not that I’m sure Oliver is the enemy anymore, but I don’t know what he is so I should still err on the side of caution.
“Oh, you can’t go in there,” I say, shaking my head.
“Why not?” He doesn’t slow his pace.
“Because er–” I look around for inspiration but nothing pops into my head. I turn my head when I hear a baby wail and see a mummy group doing baby yoga in the park.
That is so cool. The minute I have a baby, I am definitely going to sign up–
Okay, focus Natalie.
“Because, I am going to meet my mother. And her women’s group. To discuss… er… women’s things,” I say and hope the fear of women discussing things will be enough to deter him.
“Your mum lives nearby?” he asks.
“Yes,” I nod. “Well, pretty close.” Actually she lives a tube, train, and bus ride away, but I could get to her house within four hours so I feel that is close enough.
“Where does your father live?”
“I’m not sure, I never knew my father,” I say and shrug.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Oliver says.
“Don’t be, I don’t know any different, so I’ve never felt like I was missing out on anything,” I reason.
“So, you don’t even know who he is?” he asks.
“Well, I’ve heard stories, but with my mother you never really know what to believe. Mum says my father was a famous poet she met when she was in Rome on an exchange in College, but my Aunty Beryl told me, after a few drinks in the pub one night, that he was a sound manager with a pop group called The Trumpets.”
“You’ve never asked your mum about it?”
“I’ve never thought it was right to ask her. I grew up hearing stories of how Philippe, my father, took her to the Sistine Chapel and told her “The Creation of Adam” was like their love: two points connecting to create perfect beauty, if only for a short time. If she wants my father to be a poet rather than Philip the band manager from Slough, then what harm is that?” I ask and can’t help but feel like I’ve maybe said too much to a man I barely know.
“Hmm.” Oliver looks thoughtful but doesn’t say more.
As we approach the door I smile. “Well, I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
“I’ll just come in and grab a cup to go,” Oliver says, reaching for the door handle.
I can see Hank and Rachel sitting at a table just through the door, talking about something to each other.
“No, you can’t,” I argue and hastily step in front of him. “They’ve closed the shop to anyone who isn’t a woman. They don’t er– want the women’s group to think they might be overheard or anything.”
Oliver frowns and tries to peer through the window, but I raise my face to block his view.
“It’s very secretive, to protect the innocent. You know how women are, talking about their bodies and… their… er… feelings,” I whisper.
“Er– okay then. I’ll just get a coffee up the road,” he says.
“That’s for the best.” I plaster my body in front of the door as Charles, my neighbor from two doors down, tries to get into the shop. “They’re closed to men today, Charles. Women only. You’ll have to go to another one.”
“What, I never heard–” he starts to argue.
“Women have rights, Charles!” I say and mentally remember to apologize to him later.
“Okay,” he says, raising his arms defensively. “I’ll just make a cup at home.”
“Good,” I say as he turns around. I shrug at Oliver, “They should really have some sort of security out here.”
“Yeah,” he says, nodding his head. “Well, I’ll let you get to it then. You don’t want to miss any of the discussion.”
I nod. “See you around.”
He lifts his hand in goodbye, and I watch his back until it disappears around the corner before releasing the breath I wasn’t aware I was holding and enter the shop.
On this cold, blistery day in Canada I thought the best remedy for the ungodly temperature would be a good laugh! Please enjoy this excerpt from White Lies. Happy Reading and stay warm!