Short Story 7: Market
He glanced towards the door and shifted in his seat. She was late. He hadn’t expected that and he wondered if something had happened to her. There was no way he could find out because he didn’t have her number, only her username – cleopatra672. Her real name was Jane; he had found that much out during the last few weeks of their chats. He thought it odd that she kept the obscure username when her photograph and details were visible to subscribers of the website but when he found out what her name was, he could understand her reasoning. Cleopatra672 sounded much hotter than Jane.
He sipped some of his tepid water and looked towards the door again. An elderly couple walked into the restaurant and were escorted to a table by the enthusiastic hostess who had shown him his seat earlier. She smiled at him as she walked past his table, a sympathetic smile perhaps. He had been sitting there for over fifteen minutes after foolishly arriving five minutes before their arranged time and now it probably looked like he’d been stood up. Where was she?
She hadn’t seemed like the sort who would want to make an entrance by turning up fashionably late. She looked like a sensible type of girl; her profile said she was average height, her photos were not always clear but they always showed a cheerful girl with flushed cheeks and twinkling eyes, not much make up on and mostly unsophisticated clothing. Her hair was always held away from her face and her surroundings were never anywhere particularly exciting – living room, zoo, sitting in a park – that sort of thing.
He started chatting with her because the last few girls he had tried to talk to had blanked him after a few exchanges. With them he should have known better. They were always eights or nines and he was a solid six…maybe a seven if he bothered to shave and wear a smart shirt. Tonight he had done both and he thought he might even pass for an eight in this lighting. Jane was a five. Not a six in any way, a good old average five. And there was nothing wrong with that. In fact from experience he had found it better to date down than up because that way he didn’t have to worry too much about matching up to the girls. They looked up to him; they felt grateful for his attention. He had chosen Jane because he was going through a confidence low and needed some boosting. She had been nice and they actually had a few things in common – cricket and 80’s rock music. Whatever the outcome of tonight, he felt confident that he would feel good about himself in the morning because of her.
He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the hostess directing someone to his table until she stopped and stretched her hand out to him. Funny thing was that even if he had noticed her, there was no way he would have recognised the girl that was waiting to be greeted.
“Teddy? I’m so, so sorry. Bloody tube lines are never reliable when you need them to be. It felt like my train was stuck somewhere between Clapham Junction and hell and I didn’t have your number so I couldn’t ring you.”
He didn’t hear a word she said after it dawned on him that this was his date, this was Jane. The problem was good old Jane was not a five, or even a six. She was a knock out nine at worst. She looked perfectly preened and almost glowing in a baby blue frilly top and black fitted jeans and with her soft brown hair hanging loosely to the side of her face in little locks. How had he not noticed she had dreadlocks in all her photographs? Or that her body was so toned and her skin was so shimmery. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. This was not what he had signed up for. He wasn’t prepared to charm her; he had come ready to receive attention and not the other way round.
He finally snapped out of it and got up to greet her.
“Jane? You look…”
“Different, I know. I keep telling myself that I need to take some of those photos down but I never get round to it.”
He wished he had made more of an effort with his outfit even though a few minutes ago he had thought his choice of dark jeans and a pale yellow collared shirt was perfect. If he had known what she looked like, he wouldn’t have brought her here; she looked like the kind of girl who ate in places where the starters cost double of what the mains here would do. She looked like the kind of girl who drank champagne even though there was nothing to celebrate.
“Everything okay Teddy?”
He was carrying out a quick arithmetical check of his bank balance and trying to weigh up the situation to see if it was worth the hassle. If he left now, he would spare himself the pain of finding out that he was no match for her. But if he stayed…he looked at the frown line that did nothing to mar the pretty face that was staring intently at him. She had known what he looked like, had suffered his mediocre conversations online and yet she had turned up. That had to mean something. Maybe she didn’t see this as dating below her standards; what if she actually thought she was getting good value out of her choice. Perhaps he should give this product a few hours before returning to sender. Forcing himself to squash all thoughts of financial constraints and physical inadequacies from his mind, he smiled.
“Everything’s perfect, Jane, just perfect.”