When the cat’s away the mice will play, I actually thought. I actually thought those words, like an idiot. I went over to Paula. “I saw Wellington yesterday,” I told her. “You still going out with him?”
“Why?” She replied, all suspicious and not wearing a neck brace anymore. It was a simple yes or no question. I didn’t want her life story.
“He was with a girl so I was just wondering if he’s dumped you yet.”
“Where? Where did you see him?”
“Harve des Pas,” I told her. “He’s a very attractive man, you know that?”
I’d tried to do a 18mile run yesterday but I completely blew my nuts off after about 12 miles. I was wearing too much clothing because the weather tricked me by being about a million degrees. I’d had to walk after 12 miles and I didn’t have any money on me for a Diet Coke or a bus home. I was so desperate for a drink I’d thought about going into a shop and leaving my wedding ring for security in exchange for a Diet Coke, with the promise of returning in my car later to pay for the Coke and to collect my ring. I didn’t do it though, it was a stupid idea, so I walked for a while and then I saw Wellington in the distance with a girl who was thinner than Paula.
I thought about asking him for a pound.
Then I thought if he didn’t have a pound it would be a big awkward mess.
“Sorry mate, I haven’t got any cash,” He’d say, patting his pockets even though he knew he didn’t have any cash in them.
“Don’t worry, no problem,” I’d reply, trying to be casual and masking my disappointed but Wellington would see right through me. Wellington would then ask the girl he was with if she had any cash. It was possible she wouldn’t have any either and she’d say ‘sorry’ and she’d mean it. They’d both be stood there feeling sorry for me. “Ah, it’s fine, really!” I’d say, smiling weakly and getting ready to run off. I’d run until I was out of their sight and then I’d stop and die of thirst.
“I think I’ve got some in my truck, it’s just back there,” Wellington would add.
“No, it’s fucking fine. I’m fine. Okay?” I’d say angrily. “Stupid! Stupid!” I’d say hitting my forehead with my palm. “I shouldn’t have asked.” I’d be angry. Angry because they felt sorry for me and angry my run had gone so badly.
Instead – to avoid all that – I hadn’t passed Wellington. I’d taken a detour over Mount Bingham, adding another mile on my trek home.
“What was he doing?” Paula asked.
“With a girl.”
“With a girl.”
“Well, that was it.”
“So why mention it?”
“That you saw Wellington with a girl?”
“You’re just stirring.”
“Because you haven’t got anybody.”
“She doesn’t like you,” spat Paula.
“She doesn’t like you either!” Man, that was lame. “It might not have been him. I thought it was. I only saw him from behind.”
“What was he doing?”
“Just walking along, with his new girlfriend, obviously madly in love.”
“Yeah, he was serenading her and got down on one knee and proposed.”
“For real, then they did it and had a baby. Cute little fucker. Black babies are the best.”
“I can’t believe Wellington would do that to me.”
“You just can’t trust them.”
“I feel anger towards you for telling me all this but really I should be angry at Wellington,” she said, stony faced and I nearly cracked up. When did Paula get funny?
“I know. Well, there might me an innocent explanation.”
“What, when he fathered a child?”
“Maybe it was his sister?”
“That’d be an innocent explanation.”
“Nah, it wasn’t him. But, well, it’s going to happen sooner or later.” I punched her playfully on the arm. “He’s way out of your league.”
“Don’t mention it. He’s probably doing it for a bet, going out with you.” I hadn’t noticed but throughout this great conversation I’d been getting closer to Paula. Literally and not literally. “It’ll be okay,” I joked and put my arms around her. She smiled and I put my finger on her forehead and ran it across, pulling rogue hair from her eyes, I then kept going and stroked her hair with the flat of my hand, feeling her skull and finally cupping the back of her neck. She looked up at me, causing rolls of fat to form where I held her. I love the rolls of fat on the back of a person’s neck when they look up. When I’m on the bus and there’s a bald fat person in front of me it’s all I can do not to grab that fold.
“Am I not pretty?” She asked breathlessly. I closed and opened my eyes slowly.
“You are pretty, quite pretty.” Were we still fucking around? I ran my tongue over my teeth, just in case, they felt quite clean. Paula was still looking up at me. She closed her eyes but kept her head cocked. Although we were messing around I had to stick my bum out so as not to prod her with Raph. I call it Raph. I took another step forward with by bum sticking out so I was practically leaning on her with my full weight. She stumbled backwards a step hitting the oven with her bum. She still didn’t open her eyes. I leant towards her and closed my eyes.
“Hey! Wadda fuck, man!” Shouted Enrique from the front of the shop. I immediately stood as upright as I dared.
“I was just about to bang Paula.” I said for distraction purposes. Paula chuckled but our eyes met.
“What chu do? Chu kissing?”
“Don’t be fucking stupid, it’s Wellington.” I said. “He’s a dog. Seeing another girl. Paula’s upset.” I chuckled.
“Dat worm!” Shouted Enrique but I could see the cogs turning behind his eyes. “Why he cheat on you, chu bootiful! He crazy.” Paula looked up at Enrique and smiled and then she looked down again.
“Don’t bother,” I told him and then I looked at Paula.
“Wellington’s in England so it wasn’t him,” she said
“Pretty sure it was.”
“What’s he doing in England?”
“Is he leaving?” I tried to hide my delight.
“We’re thinking about it.”
I tried to hide my horror.