He had told her that he would be wearing a light-coloured suit and carrying a copy of the Telegraph. Oh yes, Bridie thought, the Telegraph. He's definitely a doctor. “Light-coloured suit”, she liked the sound of that. Clearly this was a man of style and taste. She tried to contain herself as she walked in, not get too excited. Tried not to imagine herself swanning into his surgery with twoHarrods bags swinging under her arms, or sitting in a fancy restaurant ordering hors-d'oeuvres, or arranging her porcelain figurines on his mantelpiece. Trinkets to remind her of her past life. The dull thud of loneliness as she woke to face each hollow day in Kingsbury. The empty fear of growing old and unlovely, alone.
He had asked what she would be wearing and she said, “A Jaeger suit – beige.”It was good to get the Jaeger bit in, let him know what kind of a woman she was. Clothes said so much about a person, she thought.
“That sounds nice, Bridie.”
Polite, gentlemanly, nothing nasty or smutty in his tone. He had used her name. That was a good sign.
She had asked him what his name was.
“Pat,” he said. No surnames yet. That was informal, friendly – although he hadn't sounded Irish.His accent had been rather marked in its Englishness.
Bridie looked around. The bar was almost empty, early Wednesday evening was not a busy time, but the bar was nice, it felt safe enough, not like some of the noisy pubs in Cricklewood and Kilburn where she had spent so many of her early years in London. There was lots of wood and old artefacts, and artificial orange trees in large woodenboxes at each side of the door. Very elegant, Bridie thought. There were two young women sitting at the bar, and a few couples scattered around the place. In one corner was a group of young men in suits – talking business she supposed, and next to them in the corner was a little Indian man reading the paper. It was unusual to see an Indian in a pub, she thought. But then, they were everywhere thesedays.
Bridie decided to wait at the bar, get herself a dry white wine. She'd buy the first round tonight, she thought. Show she was an independent woman, not just some young bimbo after his money. Give him the right impression.
It was five past. He was late. Bridie paid for her drink and took a self-conscious sip. She examined her nails. Pink Pearl Mist, subdued and feminine – nothing brassytonight. She looked around her anxiously. Six minutes past. Maybe he wasn't going to turn up. The humiliation! No, he had sounded reliable. Maybe she was in the wrong pub? Maybe there was another Orange Grove pub nearby that she didn't know about. Had she got the name wrong perhaps? Orange Grave? Orange Cave? London was so big, there were so many places with the same name! She wished she hadbrought one of her crossword magazines with her as a distraction. Maybe the whole thing was a big mistake. Maybe she was making a fool of herself...
She turned around and the little Indian man she had seen earlier was standing behind her. With her being perched up on the stool he barely reached her shoulders.
“I'm waiting for someone,” she snapped. This was really too much. The cheek ofit. Where was Pat? Why was he late? This little Indian obviously thought she wanted to be picked up. She began to feel afraid.
“Are you Bridie?”
He knew her name! What was going on? She had read about things like this in the papers. This Indian man must have been following her. A stalker! A pervert! Maybe he worked in one of the markets and had heard Sharon use her name. This was horrible! Andwhat would Pat think when he arrived, would he think that she knew him? This wouldn't be a good start. She must get rid of him quickly, but she couldn't move a muscle. She just stared at him blankly.
“I'm Pat,” he said.
Bridie looked him up and down. Beige linen-mix suit, light-coloured, copy of the Telegraph, which he now held up to her.
Morag Prunty, An Independent Woman, 2002.
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