‘Are you Tom?’
Tom’s standing under the clock in Waterloo Station, a red carnation in his buttonhole and a copy of The Daily Telegraph under his arm. He’s hoping he looks tongue-in-cheek and not like a cliché.
‘Yes, yes, I am, hi!’ Standing in front of Tom is a short (despite wearing high heels; Tom doesn’t like high heels, he thinks they look tarty) girl with long auburn hair that’s tied up in a ponytail (Tom doesn’t approve of ponytails, he thinks women should wear their hair down). He goes to give her a kiss on the cheek, but changes his mind and shakes her hand instead. ‘You must be Rachel?’
‘Yes, that’s me. I’m not late am I? The train was a bit delayed because of the fog.’
‘No, no, not at all. I got here early. I didn’t want to keep a young lady waiting. What would you like to do? I thought maybe we could go on the London Eye.’
‘The London Eye? In the fog? Will we be able to see anything?’
‘Hmm, good point, well made. How about the zoo then? The elephants might be a bit of a waste of time, but we should be ok with the giraffes though, eh? Or maybe we should just go to the aquarium? They’re nice and brightly coloured and, as far as I know, you don’t get fog underwater.’
Rachel’s mobile rings (Tom doesn’t approve of mobile telephones). ‘Sorry, I’d better get this, it might be a friend whose mum has fallen down the stairs and needs help or something. Hello? Emma? Are you ok? What’s that? Your mum’s fallen down the stairs and you need help? No, no problem, that’s ok, I’ll be right there.’ She turns to Tom. ‘I’m really sorry but my best friend’s mum’s had an accident and I’ll have to go. Really sorry, another time maybe?’
Tom shrugs. That’s three dates in a row that have ended up abruptly with phone calls from best friends in distress. Funny that.