On the tube on the way to my rendevouz I got a message from him.
“So sorry, running late, couldn’t get out of work, I’ll be there in 15/20 mins”
Damn. This was disappointing. I hated being the first to arrive on a date. Trying to look demure and nonchalant took effort, and that is exactly how you needed to look while waiting for a date to arrive. First impressions were everything. The last thing you wanted to be doing was crouching over an iPhone looking like a gormless idiot.
Ah well no harm no foul I’d nip to the loo check my make-up and get the drinks in…
“Hey, cool no worries, red wine ok with you ?”
“Perfect. I’ll let the lady choose the grape, won’t be long I promise, looking forward to meeting you”
My tummy did a little flip.
Walking into Gordon’s I realised there wasn’t a hope of use finding a dimly lit corner to hide in. The place was rammed, filled with Thursday night revellers and bankers from the the surrounding area. It was standing room only with people spilling out onto the laneway outside. Undeterred I battled my way to the bar, flicked through their extensive wine list and settled on a nice light Rioja. Tucking the bottle under my arm and sliding the two oversized upturned wine glasses between my fingers I spied a gap in the crowd near the doorway. I made my way over and stood on my own for all of 10 seconds before looking up and there, in the elevated doorway, stood my date.
I got to take him in before he saw me. He was very handsome. Tall, like 6’2 with a trimmed beard and sparkly eyes. He was wearing a shirt and tie, chocolate brown pants, with nice brown shoes and a long light brown overcoat. He scanned the crowd before finally settling on me. We locked eyes and he stood there for a full 5 seconds just drinking me in. His lips curved into a smile as I returned his gaze with a beam. At that moment two little blue butterflies escaped from a cage and started gracefully flying around inside my tummy. He stepped down into the bar and walked manfully towards me. He had a charming and dignified gait and oozed a kind of quiet charisma. He did not lose my gaze once as he came towards me.
“hey you” he said walking right up to me, he bent to kiss me on the cheek, placing his big manly hand on my upper arm as he did.
“Hi!” was all I good mutter before suddenly a guy appeared in front of us.
“Maaaattteeeeeee!! He exclaimed, wrapping my date in a bear hug “I thought that was you, what the fuck are you doing here, long time no see man” This dude was clearly delighted to see my date but I was still holding the wine glasses and the wine in my hands and my date seemed slightly mortified/stupefied that this little guy was wrapping himself around him.
“Dude I haven’t seen you since Oz, how’s things? man there is a whole gang of us here you gotta join us”
My date looked at me ruefully….. the guy continued. “Gideon’s here and his girlfriend May, they just flew in from Oz last night. Dude it is so fucking good to see you, come on, you have to come over we have a table” Just then the guy noticed me standing there. “Shit sorry I’m being rude, how you doing” he said extending a hand to me…
“Uh yeah this is um, Ariana” my date said introducing us. This was the first time he said my name and he nailed it. Perfect pronunciation. He had a lovely soft lilting english accent, slightly posh but not too posh. I sort of shrugged my shoulders in his direction as I couldn’t shake his hand without dropping and smashing either the wine or the glasses. My date noticed as if for the first time and said “Oh hey, gosh sorry let me help you” taking a wine glass from between my fingers.
He turned then to our intruder and said “Sorry mate we’ve just gotten here and we are gonna catch up, I’ll pop by the table in a bit and say hello to everyone, so great to see you too” he said slapping a hand onto his mates shoulder.
“Course, course, no worries” he said giving him a knowing smile and nodding at me before walking off into the crowd.
“Well shit, that was awkward” said my date as soon as he was out of ear shot
“Ha, oh my god, I was worried you’d want us to join their table”
“Oh god no, I’m so sorry you must have thought I was so rude, I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name, he was a friend of a friend of mine when we lived in Oz like 6 years ago, I totally panicked”
“Ha no worries” I laughed “Soooo um, Hiii” I said lamely “Rioja ok?” I asked proffering the wine over his wine glass.
“Oohh Rioja nice choice” he said holding his glass steady for me as I poured in the throng of the crowd. “I can’t believe how packed it is, I thought we’d be able to grab a quiet table”
“I know me too, such a shame, maybe we could grab one outside” I suggested
We headed for the door, he walked behind me but had an arm outstretched protectively beside me as we went through the crowd. Outside was no better and we had to walk to the very end of the lane before we could find a high table to perch our drinks on.
Away from the crowd and the immediate chaos of our introduction we found ourselves suddenly alone standing in front of one another and it got ever so slightly awkward. We had talked so much, so incessantly the last 3 nights and now we were just exposed, no glass screens and filtered text conversations to help us to be our most witty and our most funny, we had no where to hide so we were suddenly like too little schoolchildren coyly looking at each other. But it was clear we liked each other …Well I liked him and he seemed to like me back. One could never be too sure of these things.
“So” he said nervously “This is mad isn’t it, I feel like I know you really well and yet we’ve only just met”
“Ha, I know, it’s weird eh” I agreed “So um, well hey what is it you do”
“Shit yeah, we still don’t know. So sorry I was late, work was a mare today and I just couldn’t get out in time, I work in Westminster, for the Foreign Office”
“Wait, what? You work in Westminster? Oh my god so do I, I just started there on Monday”
Me being me the words fate, serendipity and kismet all sprang forth in my mind.
“Oh cool, it’s a magnificent place to work, what do you do?”
“I work in advertising, I just got a new job working for the Spectator”
“Ah the old Speccie, great publication”
“You a fan? I take it you’re a Tory so” oh great Ariana yeah start a conversation about bloody politics why don’t you. To be fair though he did work for the government, it would be hard not to.
“Ah well I work for a load of Tories now, my boss the Foreign Minister is one, so it wouldn’t be great if I wasn’t slightly aligned to their principals” he said sarcasticly with a smile “But of course that could all change in the next election so I’m probably as politically fickle as they come” he said “What about you? The Speccie is notoriously right wing”
“Ah I just sell the ads in it, I used to sell ads in the Daily Mail and FHM & Zoo too so I’m about as fickle as you are when it come to employer loyalties” I retorted
“Aw good old FHM. Big fan of that magazine when I was a lad” he said with a cheeky grin.
“I bet you were” I nodded, “along with every other warm blooded young male”
“But hey that’s a seriously cool job you have there, do you work in the Houses of Parliament?”
He proceeded to tell me all about his job. Or as much as he could at least. A lot of his job was a matter of foreign security and so he was limited on what he could say. He worked really closely with the Foreign Minister writing his speeches and general admin duties. He made out like he was a glorified civil servant hopping from one role to another within the department itself over the past 10 or so years he had worked there. He had started young and worked his way up, he loved his job and he got to travel for extended periods of time. He had been to South America and Scandinavia and Australia and lots of other places in between. He was fascinating and I was enthralled listening to his stories. Before I knew it he was pouring the last of our wine into my glass.
“Shall we get another bottle here or are you hungry? Maybe we can grab some food if you are up for it” he ask breezily.
I was thrilled. It was going well, better than I hoped considering the build up and anticipation. I was also starving and could think of nothing better than to grab a bite to eat.
“Sure I’d love to, where do you fancy”
“Ah well it depends on what kind of food you fancy but there is a lovely little tapas bar I’ve been to before just over Waterloo bridge near Bermondsey that we could go to if you like”
“Perfect, I love tapas, lets finish our wines and head over”
There was a frisson of excitement in the air. There was an undeniable spark between us and it really did feel like we had known each other for a long time and not just the time it had taken us to drink our Rioja. Before we left he asked me lots more questions about my career, whether I liked it, what I didn’t like and I chatted comfortably about my new job and how much I was enjoying working near Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, and how excited I had been that day when the Queens Guards practiced one of their marches right past my office building.
He was interesting and interested. And I fancied him, a lot.
All in all ideal first date material.
When we finished our wine we made our way out of the bar and headed towards the twinkling lights of Waterloo bridge. It was a mild evening in January and we linked arms as we walked through the station. He put me at ease and made me laugh and the warmth of the wine was starting to take hold. Half way across the bridge I suddenly just got this urge to kiss him. It was all going so well and I just thought, maybe he is a terrible kisser. Maybe that’s where it will all go wrong. I suddenly just stopped and turned him towards me, reached up on my tippy toes and just kissed him, right in the middle of the bridge, with the London eye looking down on us disapprovingly.
It was about then that six more red and yellow butterflies joined the party in my belly.
It was a gorgeous first kiss. A lingering kiss. A perfect blend of hard and soft. His beard tickled my chin and it was a couple of seconds before I opened my eyes. He smiled at me and said .
“Wow. I um, wasn’t expecting that” he stuttered
“ha um yeah sorry about that I just got an urge to kiss you ” I said suddenly embarrassed
“oh god don’t apologise, I mean it was lovely, just a surprise that’s all, it’s usually me going in for the kill, but I’ve been wanting to kiss you since the first night we chatted so ….” He bent his head and kissed me again
Whoosh. Full on butterfly rave going on !
This kiss was harder more determined and just lovely. We giggled at one another and linked arms once again and carried on to the restaurant. We got a table at the bar in front of the chefs and ordered a range of small plates for us to share and another bottle of wine. I don’t know whether it was the fact I was tired from my busy week in the new job, didn’t have much to eat that day or just the general excitement from the date but I found myself getting tipsy half way through our meal. I caught myself blathering on about something or other and momentarily lost my train of thought when I realised he was just kind of staring at me. I think/hope he was just struggling to understand me. My Irish accent mixed with the speed at which I talk is hard for anyone to understand at the best of times but it gets worse when I get tipsy. I was also raging with myself cause I was pretty sure I had been boasting to him during one of our mid week chats that I was Irish and had the liver of an ox and could drink him under the table !
I slowed down and ordered some water and let him take the reigns on the conversation. He told me about his family. His parents were still together and had a loving marriage and his sister had one kid who he loved being an Unkky to! We shared the tapas like pros ensuring we both got a taste of everything and before long we were the last two people at the bar. It was closing in on 11pm .
“So I think we have time for one more drink if you fancy it before the last tube leaves”
The water had done it’s job and I wasn’t ready for the date to end so we headed hand and hand down to a little cocktail bar on Bermondsey street stopping intermittently to steal some first date kisses . There are no better kisses than good first date kisses. Fact.
He went to the bar to order us some drinks. Incidentally he paid for the meal too which was very gentlemanly of him. Suddenly I realised where we were. It was a bar that my ex boyfriend had broken up with me in. It was filled with bad and sad memories and I had vowed not to go back there. I was so smitten I hadn’t even realised it was that bar until that moment. He returned from the bar delighted with himself carrying our espresso martinis but his smile dropped when he saw my face!
“Oh my gosh what’s the matter” he said concerned
“Oh nothing nothing it’s fine” I said trying desperately to avoid telling him why my face momentarily looked like a slapped arse. Whatever you do Ari don’t both break the cardinal rule of talking about your ex on a first date .
“No really what’s wrong” he pressed
“ah no seriously it’s grand, it’s just my ex broke up with me here, in this very seat” I relented. Idiot!
His face fell. He looked horrified.
“Oh my god I’m so sorry ! Of all the bars on this street I could have taken you to” he said berating himself . “We can go” he said motioning to stand
“Oh god no don’t be silly. Look this was the bar my ex broke up with me in. Now it’s the bar I ended an absolutely cracking first date in” I said rather smoothly even if I do say so myself
He smiled and kissed me on the lips and then handed me my martini and said “Cheers, to a great first date, I’m already looking forward to the second”
To be continued …..
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