'Flying High' by Alison Wassell
Backstage, the host winks at Keith as they shake hands. When filming starts, he gets a laugh out of assuming Heidi is Keith’s daughter. Keith rests his hand on Heidi’s waist.
‘The love of my life,’ he says, kissing the top of her head. Keith suspects that Heidi is blushing, although it’s impossible to tell, with all the make-up. He likes a woman who takes care of herself. He squeezes her waist again and she giggles like the schoolgirl she was, not that long ago.
‘Flying high tonight, it’s Keith and Heidi,’ booms the host. There is more applause. It occurs to Keith that Flying High is a pretty lame name for a quiz show. He grins and waves as they are ushered off stage to make way for the next pair of contestants.
The first round is about celebrity couples. Keith lets Heidi demonstrate how much she knows about people he has never heard of. She knows a lot. She wins 100 air miles, which is what they call points. The host jokes that at least that’s enough to get them home. Heidi smiles and looks down at her new Louboutins.
Before the next round the host asks Heidi how she met Keith. She tells him how she lost her purse after a girly night out, and had no money for a taxi home. Keith stepped in, like a knight in shining armour. She gazes up at him, at this point, and he affectionately touches the tip of her nose, the way they have practised.
Round two is about books. The camera zooms in on Heidi as she rolls her eyes.
‘I take it you’re not a great reader,’ says the host.
‘Boring…’ says Heidi, in that sing-song voice that used to irritate Keith when his daughter used it. He smiles indulgently.
Keith is a reader. The other couples don’t get a chance. They are in the final.
The host leans towards them. Only one of them can take part in the last round, the one that’s worth 5000 miles, and will take them wherever they want to go. Keith shrugs and gestures towards Heidi. He believes in her, he says.
Heidi stands in the spotlight, pressing her knees together like a child who needs the toilet. She has sixty seconds to name as many Bob Dylan songs as she can. The studio clock starts ticking. Heidi says nothing. Keith stands beside the host, his mouth frozen into a grin.
‘Who is Bob Dylan?’ says Heidi, at last. She fails to offer a single answer. The buzzer sounds and Keith re-joins her. He hugs her, assuring her that it doesn’t matter. Hand in hand, they leave the stage.
Keith ends it, that night. He thinks of himself as a tolerant guy. He can forgive most things; even Heidi’s belief that every word ending in an ‘s’ requires an apostrophe. But he can’t be with a woman who doesn’t know who Dylan is. That’s a step too far.