A Realistic Chick – Lit novel (in less than two thousand words!)
It won’t happen in a burst of sunlight, Violins won’t be playing in the background when you see him for the first time. He isn’t a mysterious stranger from an exotic locale. He’s more than likely a work colleague or a friend of a friend. Chances are that you’ve seen him a million times before: at that house party where you had a little too much to drink and had to be carried to a taxi, or maybe across the bar at someone’s emigration night out as you say goodbye to another mutual acquaintance.
You’ll exchange a few words at various times, always with one of your friends in tow. One night you’ll ask your work colleague or friend what his story is. Is he single? Or attached? Or recently broken up with his ex? Any weird scars? A history of drug abuse? No? She’ll laugh and tease you and wonder aloud whether you fancy him. You’ll shush her and tell her not to be so childish.
And then there’ll be another chance meeting, your friend will remember your carefully phrased queries and she’ll talk to him and invite you over to join in. Once the two of you are chatting amiably she’ll retreat and leave you to it. You speak to him properly for the first time. He seems nice. He doesn’t appear to be a serial killer or an emotionless robot. That’s a good result; this is dating in Dublin after all. You have to go but he asks for your number. You give it to him, reasoning that the worst that could happen is that you get a free meal and some cocktails out of him.
You wait a few days, idly wondering if the phone will ring or he’ll text you or something. After what he believes is a prudent amount of time (three days or so), you’ll get a short text from him inquiring after your well-being. You’ll respond and a couple of days of gentle flirting will follow. Both of you seem to be at a loose end this Saturday. Do you suggest a meeting? Before you can work up the nerve you get a non-committal offer from him. It says something like “Fancy a drink this weekend?” You stop breathing in panicked terror. “Yes. Where & When?” is your reply. He names some middle of the road establishment that serves alcohol (necessary for any first date with an Irish man). You’ll agree to see him there and the hunt for the perfect outfit begins.
Saturday arrives and after the third attempt you have found an outfit that says both: “I’m interesting” and: “I’m not too worried if this doesn’t work out” in equal measure.
You arrive late; he’s already staked out a table and a couple of chairs in the bar. You join him and he asks you what you’d like to drink. You’re flustered and a million questions flash through your mind. Do men like women who drink pints? Is it too early for a Jager-bomb? Is a Long Island Ice Tea acceptable? Will he freak out if you order the same thing as him? You settle for a bottle of beer. The usual first date conversation happens. You compare numbers of siblings and interests. He likes football a bit too much. He is familiar with every Bruce Willis movie ever. You like cats and yoga. So far so good. He makes you laugh a couple of times and he smiles occasionally. His teeth are acceptable. So that’s good. The night draws to a close and he walks you to a taxi rank. He gives you a peck on the cheek just before you climb into the cab and mentions that you should do this again. He says he’ll call you in a couple of days.
The next morning you find you have two text messages. One is from him: “Did u get hme OK?” and the other is from your mutual friend: “Well? How’d it go?” You text him and call her. She wants all the details so you tell her.
On Monday evening he calls you. Are you free later this week? You mull over potential responses. Saying Wednesday will make you seem too eager; saying Saturday may imply that you’re not really interested. You suggest a trip to the cinema on Thursday. Date two happens and is a qualified success. It’s cold so he puts his arm around your shoulder as he walks you to the dart station. You kiss him goodbye and he waits to make sure you board the train safely. This is it you tell yourself.
Six dates pass, you’re an item now or so all of your friends say. Now you’ve reached an impasse. It’s time to take the next step and stay over at his place. You’d have him stay at yours but your flat mates wouldn’t approve. Dinner on Friday night goes so well that you miss the nitelink bus and he invites you to stay over. You walk back to his city centre flat and it’s neat and tidy, it’s been recently cleaned. He offers to make tea and you gratefully take a cup. You sit together on the corner unit and stare at his book shelf. Nothing sets off your alarms, it is stuffed with biographies of footballers and rugby players and there are a refreshing lack of dismembered dolls heads scattered around the place. He’s normal you say to yourself. Thanking the heavens. He chivalrously offers to take the couch and you can have his bed. You declare it to be nonsense and both go the bedroom. The sheets are freshly laundered.
What happens next isn’t as mind blowing as you had hoped….
Over the next few months you meet his parents and he meets yours. Nothing takes place during these events to de-rail what’s happening. You holiday together someplace sunny. You spend a lot of time on the beach; he buys a lot of drinks with little umbrellas in them. You return home nut brown and refreshed.
It’s suddenly time to move in together. An extra wardrobe is purchased for your shoes and clothes; he clears some space in the bathroom for your toiletries. Domestic bliss occurs despite some arguments about what to watch on telly on those quiet nights in.
You look at the drama that goes on with the love lives of your friends: break ups and cheating and blazing rows and despondent loneliness. You realise that what you have isn’t bad after all. You have a stable life with a man who cares for you and you never have to be lonely again.
Marriage is inevitable. Both of your parents want to be able to invite all their friends to your special day. Plans are made, dresses are bought, and bouquets are picked. The days leading up to the event are stressful, mostly because everyone else wants their say on the event. You wish you could just elope somewhere. He suggests the same thing and you consider it but it’ll break your mother’s heart. The day happens, vows are exchanged. Your first dance is some song that means something to you both. People clap and cheer and do their best to run up an almighty bar tab. A couple of your friends cry. He wanders around the venue with a cigar and laughs with his teammates from the soccer team.
The honeymoon is fine: Sightseeing and mild food poisoning are involved. You return home and its business as usual. The only major difference is that you need to get used to having a ring on your finger. That’s it.
Children are discussed at length. He’d prefer not to. Not just yet. He wants to wait. Men are never in a rush. They can father children at any time; it’s you who has a biologically imposed time limit. You agree but a few years down the line it happens anyway. It wasn’t planned but it’s time. Isn’t it? Your first is born and takes its toll on both your body and your relationship. But they always do. He takes some time to adjust to being a father but he pulls through in the end. Your life dissolves into a micromanaged daily routine. Feedings, nappy changes and late nights give away to school runs and nativity plays and dancing practice.
He stays later and later at work. He says it’s a busy time of the year but you suspect something else. You never prove anything and he reverts to normal after a few months and you figure that he’s copped on and ended whatever it was. Eventually you forget about it.
Life continues: another child, a dog and family holidays at Disneyworld. You begin to feel your age but it feels like only weeks have passed since that first date. Every so often he’ll do something that reminds you that he cares for you: a trip to Paris without the kids or he’ll wrap his arms around you when you’re sitting together in the back garden enjoying the late summer sunshine over a cold beer.
And then he gets the news you’ve been secretly dreading: he’s sick. Whether it’s his heart or lungs or spleen you know what’s going to happen. He dies one winter night just before Christmas.
The next six years pass by achingly slowly. You never really realised how much time you spent together, often not actually doing anything important. Just having him close enough was enough. And now you’re bereft. You spend most of your time looking back on how things once were. July brings coughing fits and you know you’ll be joining him shortly. Your last thought is how quickly it all went.