He was once described as a man with a cat and a cabinet full of whisky. She’d never been to his house, never seen his whisky and never met the cat, but James Hendry had the kind of accidental transparency that meant it was not necessary to know his life. You knew his type. She was another of his online dating escapades, and this one was going just about as well as any other.
James had once again chosen a chain pub, the chain pub which offered the cheapest most cheerful something-and-chips options in town. He hoped there was something under a tenner that could please anyone, and on teachers wages, hoped she wasn’t going for a repeat performance of the last three women he took here. They’d all ordered the sirloin steak, and all insisted they share a bottle of wine. None of them were whisky drinkers.
Morag shrugged off her coat and tried to hold her spine straight in the cheap hunched-backed chairs. At least hold yourself like you want to be here. Fuck, Weatherspoons, really? This is what is deemed taken a lady out to eat in this town?
‘It’s warmer in here than it, uh, normally is’. His voice cracked and despite his best attempts his hands were already twitching uncontrollably. He gulped, feeling his throat contemplate a coughing fit.
‘You come here a lot then?’. She started to build a tower out of the beer mats, between them creating the perfect stereotypical scene of man-meets-woman awkwardness.
‘No, no...’ He gulped again, ‘I took my Mam here a few weeks ago’. She had barely looked up from her beer mat taj-mahal, and he was beginning to hope she’d order a 10oz steak, just so he could avoid any further conversation. ‘You... what do you do’?
‘It says on my profile’
Shit. He hadn’t even got past the picture and the age. Come to think of it, how old was she? She was bloody smiling at him. At least he hoped that was a smile. Was she angry? He could never tell with these women.
‘Come on, Sir, you’re a teacher, and I am a...’ She held the palm of her hand out to him, as if waiting for him to deposit the answer there. She was still slightly smiling. He just sat there stunned, opened his mouth. Closed it again. They were normally so quiet and dull he looked and felt like the big I-am next to them. He wondered if this was odd behaviour or if he was even more out of practice than his mam had suggested. Then she got up swiftly, grabbing her bag. James leapt up, hitting his knee on the way and then didn’t know what to do. She stood by their table with her bag, looking at him. He stood there. She smiled, yet a-bloody-gain.
‘I’m just going to the loo. Are you coming?’ She looked him up and down, and without allowing him a response, strolled away.
He looked down and realised his napkin was hanging lopsidedly from his belt. Suddenly feeling very self-conscious he removed it and sat down. He gulped again.