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The Ticket - Chapter One

Two people meet accidentally and although they appear incompatible they are attracted to each other.
The day it all started everything seemed normal to the point of mundanity. As he entered he noted the familiar smell of pot-pourri that seems to cling to all charity shops. He looked around the rails of secondhand clothing dominated as usual by female garments.

His eyes searched swiftly and he saw the shelves of books at the back beside CDs and video tapes of discarded movies. Amongst the crop of Catherine Cooksons and Danielle Steels he noticed a real gem: The First Circle by Solzhenitsyn. Taking it to the cheerful seventy-year-old woman at the till he paid his 1.00, politely refused a carrier bag and left the shop.

He spotted a small cafe incongruously attached to a D.I.Y. store and entered, ordered a cup of too milky coffee and sat down to peruse his prize. As he opened the book a scrap of paper obviously used as a book mark dropped out and fell to the floor. At first he lazily ignored it but then curiosity got the better of him and he bent down and retrieved it. It was a theatre ticket; thinking it was already used he was about to scrunch it up to throw away when he noticed the date; it was for that night's performance at the Empire of The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde. Just for a second he contemplated taking it to the police station but dismissed that as wishful thinking as recovery was so unlikely.

“Well,” he mused, “it looks like it's an evening with witty Oscar.”

He stood beside his wardrobe wondering which clothing the occasion warranted. He thought about his last visit to the theatre. It had been with Helen who had insisted he wore a formal suit and tie to match her black dress with pearls. Rebelling at the painful evergreen memory he selected a brown suede casual jacket and a fawn roll necked shirt with grey trousers.

With the airy aplomb of someone who had already booked he sauntered through the foyer and followed the signs to the stalls. D.39 was his designated place one seat removed from the aisle. He gazed around the gradually filling theatre. A striking young woman in a bright red dress with raven black hair strode confidently up the aisle, looked at the seat number and sat in the empty seat beside him. He felt that she made an almost imperceptible frown of bewilderment but it was gone in an instant and he could not be certain.

He took in her elfin bob with a curl over one eye, an almost Slavonic but petite face with disconcertingly sparkling green eyes and a neat but straight nose above evenly shaped lips. The overall effect was one of a well presented yet practical package. What his father would have called the thinking man's crumpet . He looked away before his gaze became a stare.

The lights dimmed, the curtain rose and he was instantly transported to the elegant humour within an Edwardian drawing room. He was totally absorbed when an intimate but authoritative whisper close to his left ear shocked his senses.

“You're okay, Colin, but you don't look like the description you gave me.”

He turned his head so quickly in surprise that his cheek brushed soft lips in an unintentional kiss. He moved his head away but she kept hers still and he was very conscious and partly pleased at her close proximity yet simultaneously baffled as to what was happening. Quelling these mixed emotions he said, “I'm very sorry you must have mistaken me for someone else.”

In a tone which he could only interpret as bemused she countered with, “I'm in D.40 you're in D.39 just as we arranged. Or don't you like me in the flesh as it were?”

He felt rather than heard the agitation of people nearby and with guilty embarrassment he realized that he owed her an explanation. “Look, miss, I'm not the Colin you were expecting but maybe we could go to the bar to discuss this?”

Without another word she got up and stalked up the aisle to the back of the stalls. He followed and she turned at the corner with a sign for the bar. When he arrived she was already sitting at a table. The room seemed strange, empty, with opulent velvet walls and the bar already loaded with drinks that had been ordered for the first intermission. Looking up at him with a faint sardonic smile she said, “Make it a vodka and lemon.” The barman gave him a slightly quizzical look but after a glance at his very attractive companion resumed his professional demeanor. He ordered her drink and a whiskey for himself and returned to the table. He put down the drinks and then sat opposite her.

She picked up her drink, took a long pull, set it down, looked him straight in the eye and raised both her eyebrows. He related the story of how he had found the ticket. She listened attentively and laughed at the end. “That's so crazy I believe every word!”

He asked, “I'm curious as to how you were expecting this Colin....my name's Phillip, Phillip Carstairs, by the way.”

She extended her and hand and gripped his firmly. “Stella Pattinson and should I tell you? Okay, why not. I made a date on a chat line and we arranged to meet this way.''

“And instead you got me courtesy of the Heart Foundation,” said Phillip. ”Rather appropriate when you think about it.”

“I think we had different parts of the body in mind,” she replied with devastating bluntness.

He felt his face heating up with an unavoidable blush.

“Relax. I'm not going to ravish you on the table no matter how bored the barman is. Quite intriguing to meet a man who blushes nowadays.”

He hid his discomfort by draining his whiskey whilst inwardly cursing his inbuilt shyness. As the alcohol hit his system he felt his confidence rise and his colour subside. “Would you like to go back in?” he said indicating the door to the stalls.

“I'm rather enjoying our own identity comedy right here,” she said. “They have a very passable restaurant. Let's go there and see how many more times I can embarrass you.”

He felt himself being mesmerized rather like a rabbit with a predator; no, he corrected, more like a sailor by a siren. Wondering what rocky shore he was risking and despite his misgivings, he heard himself agreeing and, to the barman's extreme disappointment, they walked through the bar to the door of the restaurant.

Once they had ordered she looked at him said, “You're definitely not 26 with blonde hair, well built, love playing sports, single and only interested in fun relationships. More like 39 to 43 with mousey hair, slightly paunchy (but cute with it), like literature, either married or divorced, probably the latter as you seem quite conventional and if it was the former we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.”

He felt a slight adrenalin surge in his stomach as he internally acknowledged the uncanny accuracy of her observations. However, he was pleased that he appeared to becoming accustomed to her disconcerting statements and that it was only a slight surge. He relaxed a little more. “Wow much more of this and I can see myself beating off hordes of frantic females with a stick.”

She smiled and with no attempt at an apology said, “That's more like it. There's hope for you yet.”

He began to feel that the ice may not yet be broken but it was definitely melting. He changed the rules of their verbal fencing and becoming more candid said, “Alright I'll try and be less stuffy if we could maybe talk a little about ourselves. What do you do?”

She nodded her agreement and they began. It turned that she was a P.A. for the director of an electronics company and he told her about his lecturing job at Sunderland University.

“So how long have you been divorced?” she asked.

He realized that by not denying her analysis he had confirmed it. “About 11 months give or take a teardrop or two.” he answered.

“Aha! And now that you're on the road to recovery you're lurking in charity shops for blue rinse prey.”

“More like blue stocking. No. It's possible to find old editions that aren't on current release and I find it fun to discover them.”

And so it went on as they ate their way to coffee, He confessed that he had an instinctive distrust of computers but to her life would be unthinkable without them. Phillip admitted that only now he was programming his mobile phone as prior to their divorce Helen had done it for him.

“You're such an innocent,” she said. “No-one gets to mess with my phone. It could be the collapse of the universe.” At his pointed glance, she said, “No not necessarily guilt. Nowadays I feel the mobile has amongst other things replaced the diary and has become a very private thing. It would be a bit like some stranger going through your underwear drawer.”

Coping with the variety of mental images thus conjured up he replied, “I do understand. My student flat at college was burgled and I felt personally molested afterwards.”

The waiter came to the table and asked if they wanted anything else. Looking around it dawned on them that they had been so engrossed that the time had flown and now they were the last in the restaurant. “Bill please,” they said simultaneously.

When they reached the door Phillip decided he could not let this fascinating creature escape and asked, “ Are you okay or can I give you a lift?”

“As a matter of fact my car is in for a service so no and yes,” she replied.

He drove his Volvo Estate through the evening traffic with his usual caution but found he had to consciously concentrate as he was so aware of her closeness. She lived in a block of new maisonettes beside a park and he knew her job must be well paid. Each flat was reached by a wrought iron staircase of a very sold construction he was pleased to note and not the kind with a disturbing trampoline movement. She leaned against the door and it emphasized that she was the same height as himself.

He was just about to speak but she noticed and spoke first. “Yes it's been a very interesting evening and I would like to see you again.”

The traffic noise grew muted and passersby footsteps fainter. In seconds he was aware only of her immediacy, her smell, her exciting aurora of now. He felt himself almost unconsciously moving closer. But again with a diabolical sense of timing she took the initiative. Clasping his face in both hands she kissed him. At first her lips were light with a feather like touch.

He felt himself responding and to his utter disbelief as the kiss grew deeper her right hand trailed down his body, cupped his crotch for a few moments then found his zip undid it and enclosed his hard cock which was straining over the waistband of his boxer shorts. He was about to pull himself away but froze when he became aware that he risked exposure to anyone walking nearby. She felt his body tensing and moving her lips to his ear whispered, “You're finding out I'm the ultimate prick teaser.”

Then she gave one last squeeze and leaving go zipped him back up again. This time he felt her actions so outrageous as to be beyond embarrassment. He pulled her closer and kissed her firmly and decisively. She kissed him back and with her green eyes shining, smiled wryly and said, “Seems random chance has the edge on computer dating.”

''As I understand, the little I know of the protocol. Should you have let me know exactly where you live on this first time?” he queried.

“Ah yes! The mad axeman university professor who lurks in charity shops on the off chance of dismembering stray pensioners. Beside I will stick to one of the rules. We say goodnight now and meet again later.”

Reluctantly he released her and said, “Alright let's exchange numbers and arrange something.” He carefully accessed his contact list and said, “Okay, tell me your number.”

But she replied, ”No just tell me yours.”

He did and her fingers flew over the pads of her phone and in seconds his phone beeped with a new message.

“Save that.”

He looked ruefully at his banana fingers.

She noticed and said, “Never mind, you must be good with your hands for some things. Your mouth is okay.” She kissed him again, then pulled away, opened the door and said over her shoulder, “I'll be in touch soon,” then she disappeared inside without a backward glance.

As he walked back to the car he experienced a familiar but long forgotten feeling from his youth. Why it's elation, he mused, the feeling that you want to jump for joy because you've had a successful encounter with a girl. However, he also noticed that he had another underlying emotion. Apprehension.

To be continued...

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