She doesn’t understand it. After all those messages, all that tantalization by text, the man she sat opposite tonight could have been a stranger. He is a stranger of course, but after such intimacy, as they have shared through phone media, she now struggles to understand what has changed… She can’t understand what she did wrong.

Was it the dress? Was she too ‘overdressed’? Or was it something she said? Whatever it was, that caused him to be so cool, it’s too late now to reconcile the situation and instead all she can do is conjecture over what was.

The dress was beautiful, black viscous with a crocodile pattern to the fabric and a gold zip that runs from the top to the bottom, and she can imagine him, unzipping it with his teeth. His breath close to her neck as he moves down from where he has been nuzzling her neck, and then zipping it slowly until he is at the top of her knee, where the dress ends. From there he would begin his ascent upwards, with small butterfly kisses tracing a pathway up until he reached her upper inner thigh. And by this time she would be moist, her body arching, maybe shaking as she tried to anticipate his next move.

Her father said she was channeling ‘The Avengers’, and maybe that was through the boots. The black leather, five-inch stiletto boots she didn’t need but brought anyway. More debt accrued but worst-case scenario, if she does have to go on the game at least one part of the wardrobe, is sorted. They hug her legs, defining her calves and pushing her slim frame higher, so she totters slightly, like a new-born giraffe trying to find its feet. When she opened the door to them, she hopes he drank in the sight of her, but he said nothing and their hug which normally means so much was brief so not to be obvious to those around.

He had asked her to be accessible and she had toyed with the idea od the Love Honey black lace crotchless panties, which now transpire she has three pairs of. What for most people is an oversight, for her, is another sign of being in recovery. Forgetfulness and confusion going hand in hand with her medication side effects. But if she then had worn the suspenders, and oh she was so close to wearing those, the wrong angle could have provided the wrong view for the wrong person, and there were children present. A lean over, at an awkward angle, would have revealed the lace tops and then her father would have made fun of her. So in the end, she errs to caution and wears tights commando, praying he doesn’t excite her too much, as dripping in nylon is neither comfortable or pleasant.

Hair had been tied back in a casual plat, loose and with some movement. Concealer had been applied then removed when powder had accentuated wrinkle lines. Cheeks blushed, eyeliner on, and teeth radiant, almost white, she felt she had looked good. But he barely looked at her, and when he did his eyes were high purposely ignoring that tempting crease between her elevated and positioned breasts, revealed by the first 5mm of gold zip unzipped. She wanted to look ‘sexy’. She felt ‘sexy’. But by twenty minutes into the evening, although she was committed to her level of the dress she did feel it was rather wasted on her audience.

There was never going to be an opportunity for them to be alone together. And even if, in a moment of madness they had been put together on a team for charades, and had, as the teams always did go off to the bathroom to discuss their act, what would have occurred? Nothing. Jammed in, by the sink, bath, loo and bide him so tall, and her on stilts, neither would have dared touch the other one. Almost although a spell has been cast, they are both untouchable, a force field of propriety between them until… Until a time which may never come, and yet, she won’t give up on hope yet. She never knew she could be here, with the messages and pictures of him on her phone. She’s come this far. Now she just needs to believe the rest.

They have all gone home now. FFF, his son, his mother, and sister are probably home now, and she is left in casual attire, to flop unceremoniously onto the blue corduroy sofa, her mother keeps threating to reupholster. An annoying fact, as it’s taken her 14 years to learn to love these ones. On her phone are the pictures she has been taking through the evening. She conjects over whether to send the provocative images of crotchless lace knickers or her in said lingerie. Weighing it up, as much as she wants a reaction, and a response, for that ‘hit’ of self-confidence and validation, she suspects that right now she won’t get one, or the right one at least. If any response at all. It might seem a waste, but she has to keep telling herself this, this is the long game.

Instead she messages back another boy and sinks into the comfort of the Panettone tin and some ridiculous Susan Hill ghost story, where an old house is haunted by a woman shivering and wet lurking in corridors and yet the hero seems inextricably drawn to buy it. Even after he ends up briefly trapped in a room with three doors into it, and where all the doors slam shut with no handles on the inside. Just the sort of feature Right Move would be featuring she suspects. ‘Self-closing doors, and live in specter – unique features, a one of a kind’.

Daisy is tired and the cake with its soft spongy texture and juicy currants and raisins sates her needs for now, and time passes, cake eating allowing her to quietly ponder the absurdity of the night. The beautiful outfit, the slightly dry turkey, the game of rummy, he kept winning, even though he was shuffling the cards. Eventually, her phone buzzes and it’s him, almost as though he can hear her. Nothing gripping though. Nothing to set her heart racing.

It’s FFF with the photo of the yachts that were left stranded on the local beach a few months back and a thank you message for dinner.

[11:48 PM, 12/26/2019] FFF: Thanks for a lovely evening. Please, can you forward this to your father? Thanks.

[11:53 PM, 12/26/2019] Me: Wow 😮that’s what I missed that day… 😢

She is torn as to whether to now send him a shot of her, with the line, ‘And this is what you missed tonight!’ but something stops her in her tracks. The message is cool, calm and collected. He didn’t drink at all tonight, and as she thinks to his at strained patience with his sister she begins to wonder if that decision wasn’t almost a technique of control so he didn’t lose his temper with her. It’s one thing she knows well, and that is, when you can’t control what’s around you, you control yourself. A law which reverses nicely when necessary, but generally a prescription for optimist control and continued impressions of sanity.

Daisy can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for him and his mother. FFF is meticulous, OCD, creative, driven, ‘on it’. His sister, her brain fucked over by drugs and misuse is chaotic, inarticulate, a fragile flower, a time bomb, a coiled spring, who at any point might explode. Thinking back to some quote Daisy won’t get right she realises that when you can’t control something in life, you control what you can. FFF wasn’t going to be able to control his sister’s behavior so instead, he didn’t drink, so he wouldn’t get unnecessarily angry and could manage a situation if it arose.

It seems to be becoming clearer. The mists are passing and Daisy is feeling some semblance of logic emerging.

[11:55 PM, 12/26/2019] Me: Hope there was no drama at home – thanks for coming around x

Pause.

[12:19 AM, 12/27/2019] FFF: No all good thank you.  Alice recovered.

Bingo. God knows what ‘Alice recovered’ means, but it speaks volumes for how much she must have struggled at dinner. How, what they, her family and she took for her norm might have been a heightened sense of urgency. She can’t imagine quite how hard it must be for him, she can try, but as someone who is used to people not understanding her situation but trying to and failing, she won’t pretend to him something other than what she knows to be true.

[12:30 AM, 12/27/2019] Me: It must be hell being Alice, but I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging it is for you and your mother – I’m so sorry. I wish I could do something but in all honesty, the best thing I can try and do for her is a friend – sending a hug – you seemed almost totally on edge tonight until right near the end when you almost relaxed a little x

[12:31 AM, 12/27/2019] FFF: Well I was a bit worried she was going to lose it. 

Every day is a challenge with Alice.

[12:31 AM, 12/27/2019] FFF: Thanks for understanding.

Oh boy, how little you know of my challenges and how low I have dropped at times. And how much do I now feel bad for my long-suffering parents and family? But she is making amends now, and just maybe her experiences as back-breaking as they were are now giving back in terms of an understanding of what is to be the broken one, and also the family close by.

This is the point at which Daisy knows she has to step up. She needs to reassure him. She needs to lean through the phone and stretch out her arms to hug him. A bit soft cuddle that will squeeze his arms as her body pushes into him. The sort of hug you give someone when you want them to know it’s alright. She hasn’t been able to do this in the real world yet, so instead, she needs to hug him with her words.

[12:33 AM, 12/27/2019] Me: Even if she had – lost it – or anything – seriously – it wouldn’t have been an issue.

I’ve had my moments! I felt for her with overheating as I do with my meds.

Try to understand my family love yours (and what she doesn’t say is ‘AND I LOVE YOU!’)- there is no judgment – just care. We are here for you all – whatever happens, or doesn’t. X

It’s late now, and he is likely in bed. She doesn’t need any more cryptic message exchanges; she has what she needed. Which is an explanation?

[12:37 AM, 12/27/2019] Me: Sleep well and fingers crossed for ‘walkies’ 🐕on Tuesday x

Her sleep is restless. Nightmares about the girls she went to school with and her art not being good enough. Her not being good enough. It’s only when she wakes and realizes it is Friday that it clicks that yesterday she rearranged her days of the week, moving Boxing Day to Sunday, as it really with all this decadent eating, it felt like a Sunday! Urgh.

At 7:18 am she goes down to use the bathroom and seeing the time takes the opportunity to brush her teeth and have a shower. After 34 years of life, it suddenly occurs to her that you don’t feel human until you have brushed your teeth. Technically it might be time-saving to be standing drying while you brush your teeth in the morning, but until you have felt the cool minty foam and had the vibration of the brush inside your dirty and smells ridden hole of a mouth you really don’t feel human.

The shower isn’t powerful but it is hot. And once out, she feels cleansed of the night before. Standing in the steamy bathroom she drafts her morning note.

[8:20 AM, 12/27/2019] Me: Apologies – for some reason I had decided to move Christmas to a Saturday – so yesterday was Sunday and today was Monday – clearly it’s not – so if another day works better – just say? Out today but I think our other plans are quite flexible. I hope you slept well.

That’s where she will leave it. No erect nipples seen through tight t-shirts shots. No cleavage photos or pouty headshots. It’s time to get on with living. Living her life. Not waiting around for a man to catch up and entertain her.

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