Polly had not expected to bump into Adam at the local mini-supermarket; it had been an unexpected pleasure on the dull, damp, overcast Saturday afternoon. She had last seen him ten years ago, at a human-resources meeting in Hove, but over the years they had lost touch because he worked abroad now. Adam was still the same tall guy, but his blond hair had turned silver-white, which made him look very distinguished and handsome, quite striking. Polly did her best not to gush; he looked so dreamy.
They talked animatedly as old, familiar friends, blocking the narrow aisle, oblivious to all manner of confusion and congestion they caused their fellow shoppers. Polly was enjoying his relaxed, easy chatter, when Adam hurriedly explained that he had to dash, his father was in hospital and visiting hours had commenced twenty minutes ago. Apologizing profusely, Adam surprised Polly by asking her to join him for lunch the following weekend.
Greedily, Polly accepted. Smiling to herself, she promptly forgot to buy the vital ingredients required for that evening’s supper, wrapped up in myriad thoughts about how lucky she felt to have bumped into him after so many years’ absence. During the week, she prayed that the weather would be good for the following weekend, as it always cheered her up if the sun shone and improved her mood hugely. But if it was inclement, at least that would be a good excuse to find a cozy country pub with a roaring log fire.
Getting home late from work, she hit the answering machine button and stood stock still as Adam’s voice pierced the silence and filled the hallway. Hi Polly. About Sunday, would you mind meeting me at my house, say, midday? Hope this is okay with you, looking forward to seeing you. Bye. He left her his contact details: address and number. The answering machine fell silent. Polly leapt with joy, hugging her arms tightly around her body; she raced upstairs to survey her wardrobe to work out what she would wear, wanting to look sexy, alive, and drop-dead gorgeous.
Sunday morning dawned, a thin, pale blue sky strung with white paper trails threaded in all directions with wispy gray clouds, as if an artist had washed the soft color scheme across the skyline. Happily driving across Brighton to Hove in a very good mood, she was pleased and surprised at how easily she found his house.
Clinging to the steep incline, his house offered panoramic views across the valley; climbing the steep flight of steps, Polly took a deep breath, regaining her composure she rang the doorbell. Adam beamed at her as he opened the door. Standing on the step she realized just how tall he was: at six foot seven inches, he towered above her, making Polly feel protected but slightly self-conscious, feeling shorter than usual, despite wearing her tallest platform boots. As he swooped in to peck her on the cheek, she caught the scent of his aftershave—heavenly. If she hadn’t have been standing at the top of a steep flight of stairs, she might have let herself swoon. Thinking better of acting the fool, she kept this little ploy to herself to use later.
She laughed nervously at his carefree, casual manner because it caught her off guard. As he threw on his leather jacket, Polly looked hard at the man in front of her. He was thinner than she had remembered, and this worried her; she mused she might cut herself on the sharp edges. He had taken care to dress casually but smartly. His jeans emphasized his long legs, and his jacket masked his lack of backside. As they left the house, Polly casually offered to drive, which Adam seemed happy to accept, but of course this was a foolish notion. Gripped in a flurry of flustered nerves Polly drove hopelessly badly.
Adam gave clear directions that Polly’s brain attempted to compute. “Next right” was all he said—a simple enough request.
Polly swung the car and hooked a left, already off course and heading in the wrong direction. Adam quietly and calmly asked, “Could you turn right at the next junction?”
Polly dutifully obliged by flinging her car and taking the next left. She had absolutely no concept that she was going in the wrong direction, being hopelessly flummoxed driving her date.
“Typical woman driver,” he said jovially, laughing at her. “So, now we have established that you don’t know your right from your left?”
Polly through him a sideways glance. “Am I going the wrong way?”
“Oh.” She did her best not to blush. They both laughed at this ridiculous predicament.
“Ahead, next junction, turn right, please …”
Polly failed miserably again, hurling the car to the left, certain that she had followed his instructions to the letter.
Adam laughed out loud and hung his head as he wiped away tears, “Holy cow” was all he said as he hooted genially.
At the next junction Polly pulled hard on the steering wheel and turned left of her own accord, as there had been no instructions from her bemused passenger.
“Do you think that there is any chance that you could at some point turn right please, and head in the general direction of the coast and toward the sea, instead of away from it?”
Polly realized that driving her date around the bend was probably not the best way to secure a second date, however endearing or funny this peculiar trait of not knowing her left from her right. Could she be irritating him?
As they approached the next crossroads, Adam changed tactics. “Follow that taxi cab,” he said, pointing to the one ahead. It seemed such a simple request. But life is not simple, and in the twenty seconds that it took to reach the intersection, two more taxis turned up from different directions at the appointed junction. Polly and Adam collapsed into a heap of giggles; faced by three taxis, Polly had no hope of turning correctly. Throwing a long arm across her body, Adam yelled, “That way.”
“Oh, right, okay.”
Finally arriving at Brighton Beach, Polly parked parallel, beautifully, in a tight spot, redeeming some of her earlier, disastrous driving. They ambled off casually along the promenade to find a beachfront restaurant. Sitting in the sunshine on a bright, clear November day eating lunch by the sea was a novel experience, but the table was a little too close to the walkway for Polly’s comfort, as it was teeming with pedestrians strolling hither and thither, enjoying this unexpectedly balmy afternoon.
As they tucked into their meal, Polly dropped her knife and fork. The cutlery fell clattering onto her plate as she wished she could become a concertina and fold up to hide under the table. “Oh, shit,” she exclaimed noisily.
Adam looked at her, puzzled.
“My parents,” she squeaked, as her dad waved to her, nudging his wife, drawing her attention to their daughter seated ahead of them as they approached ever closer.
“Hello.” Her voice sank.
“Hello, darling,” her dad said, smiling at her approvingly.
Reluctantly: “Mum, Dad, meet Adam.”
Heart pounding, palms sweating; head bursting, she wanted to scream, Go away, Mum. Not now! Thinking, What are you two doing here? Eyes blazing, directed at her father, pleading with him to take her mother away, she heard Adam say these fateful words: “Would you like to join us for coffee?”
Polly nearly choked. God, she wanted to kick him in the shins; this was preposterous. How dare he? But she resisted the urge to actually kick him, because she thought, Can someone kick her date on a first date? No, don’t be ludicrous, her internal voice yelled back.
Luckily, her father declined Adam’s generous offer and began to steer his wife away by the elbow, sensing his daughter’s discomfort at their unplanned meeting.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Polly muttered under her breath, and as she glanced up she saw a delicious smile sweep across Adam’s face.
“That was fun,” he said, “watching you squirm; would not have missed it for the world.”
“You, you …” The word bastard died in her mouth as he leaned forward and kissed her.