I paced in the snow. The worst kind of snow. Snow that clings with miserable determination. Grey, gritty, gutter-filling slush. People hurried home to warmth and tea and evening TV as I rehearsed the words. I would say them with cool confidence and charisma. This was a done deal. I knew it could happen. I’d seen something similar in P’tang, Yang, Kipperbang.
I looked at the shop. Max’s was a boutique on Church Street owned by an Indian gentleman called Max, who had named his establishment with imaginative flair. It was patronised by young men who wore Sta Press trousers and bragged about how much they paid for haircuts. Not misfits like me. Even the mannequin in the window was intimidating.
I glanced at my Casio. Four fifty-five and twenty-three seconds. Nearly closing time. I was all paced out and freezing cold, so I ran through my lines once more, then pushed the door and went inside.
And there, bathed in the golden light of the electric bar heater above the counter, was Flick Knightley. That hair. Those eyes. Lips like sugar.
I started browsing shirts I wouldn’t wear and Sta Press trousers I couldn’t afford, feeling a bit sick and recognising the need to steel myself or stiffen my resolve or gird my loins or something. I glanced up now and then as she folded clothes. Flick was a nickname new to me. Was she magnificent at marbles? A tiddlywinks temptress? Whatever, she was like a pop star who didn’t know it yet. The kind of girl who, upon entering a juvenile discotheque, would cause the Sta Press studs to strut across the room like Tamworth’s answer to John Travolta, while the mom’s haircut crew hid behind their Vimtos and looked on in awe. All the while modest and approachable, completely unaware of her utter gorgeousness. At least, that was the story I’d made up. I’d only seen her a few times around town after all. But here I was.
Five twenty-five. Nearly closing time. This was it. Put up or shut up. Shape up or ship out. Put your money where your mouth is. Go for broke. All that.
I put down a blouse-like shirt with a pattern I’d later learn was called “paisley”, and shuffled towards the counter as if I’d soiled my trousers. Which, to be honest, was a distinct possibility. As I approached she looked up and smiled. A generous gesture towards the odd youth who’d been in the shop half an hour but clearly didn’t belong. Realising I wasn’t carrying anything to buy, a little uncertainty played across Flick’s exquisite face.
I stood at the counter.
A moment passed.
“All right?” she said.
That hair. Those eyes. Lips like sugar.
I cleared my throat.
It had sounded better in rehearsals.
She looked at me.
She raised her eyebrows. What?
“Wondered if you’d fancy going for a drink. Sometime.”
There was a long pause during which I could only assume she was visualising an evening of Malibu and coke and conversation at Corvettes wine bar, or a sophisticated meal at the Chinese restaurant in the precinct. I mean, that was where this was heading. I had it all planned.
“I’ve got a boyfriend.”
A boyfriend. Of course. I mean obviously.
In truth the prospect hasn’t crossed my mind. I’d envisaged a blush and a fluttering of eyelashes and a taken aback oh well thank you how about Friday? Easy as that. But yeah. A boyfriend. My optimistic preparations had not factored in such a possibility.
Suddenly at a dead end, I hurried towards the door.
I glanced back as its little bell rang. “Mañana,” I said, and hurried away.
I trudged home in the worst kind of snow, working hard to convince myself that despite everything this was some kind of win. She hadn’t said no, after all. Just that she’d got a boyfriend. I mean if she hadn’t… And I’d had the balls. Fair play. Nothing ventured. And I had ventured and then some.
I stayed clear of Max’s after that. Who needs Sta Press trousers, blouses and boyfriends anyway? I saw Felicity Knightley not so long ago on Dragon’s Den. She’d developed a line of ethical clothing for children. She got her investment, and launched a chain of boutiques called Flicks.