Mind the Gap (Part 1)
So Christmas was going to be different! After 3 years of living in my own flat, I’d kicked my boyfriend to the kerb. All my friends were in couples, I didn’t want to be their third wheel, so I packed a bag and drove to visit my parents. Moving away from the suburbs, they had a house with a couple of guest rooms so I could have company or privacy – still it felt funny to be less independent than usual.
My mother told me they were attending a drinks party, friends who were going on a cruise for christmas were having people round before they left. I’d met a few of my parents’ friends so I I’d be able to make conversation, but wasn’t looking forward to it much. Still I got dressed up – a leather pencil skirt, stockings and heels, cute cardigan unbuttoned at the neck. I was still getting used to my new hairstyle – the long wavy curls my ex-boyfriend loved were now cut into a blunt bob. I wore damson purple lipstick and big hooped earrings.
As we parked I admired their grand house; in an old market town it fronted onto the town square and looked to be three storeys high. As my father raised the brass knocker the door swung open and our host welcomed us in, his face flushed from the toasty temperature inside! The house groaned with guests and there was a low hum of conversation. Standing on the periphery I had a chance to admire the fancy decor – Laura Ashley meets gentleman’s study.
Our host and hostess were very welcoming. I soon had a drink in hand and was trailing my mother, saying her hellos and introducing me, explaining I was staying over christmas. It was heavy going though, how much could I say about doing admin in a firm where I’d worked for 4 years? Most guests were middle aged and I was floundering.
Suddenly my eyes were caught by a vision of youth, his ‘viking handsomeness’ speared me! With chiselled cheekbones, milky skin and flaxen blonde hair, his grey eyes were pale and I was transfixed by his beauty! Then I flushed, embarrassed, not sure if I’d been staring – time had stood still for a moment. I was about to ask my mother if she knew who he was when he hobbled over to our group, walking with a stick.
Our host introduced his eldest son Hamish and my mother leaned in to ask what he’d done to his leg. A suitably dramatic story followed about being pushed from the path of a speeding van on a night out, the push propelling him into a wall. He’d sustained injuries to his leg and cracked his ribs. But better than being hit by the van, we all agreed, amidst noises of shock and concern. My mother introduced us. Hamish was polite, but after very little small talk he explained that he was retiring to his room, he needed to keep the weight off his leg. Everyone was sympathetic, I was thinking lucky bastard, when I realised he was speaking to me! He was asking if I wanted to join him.
Could I? Would my parents think it was rude? My mother was smiling and nodding that I should go. Flashback to the years of parties I’d been to with my parents, ‘young people’ would be encouraged to go off together to watch TV or entertain themselves, despite the fact that we had nothing in common. This time, however, my hormones were invested in me spending time with this ‘young person’. I followed Hamish up the stairs, admiring his forethought as he handed me a bottle and snagged tray of snacks to take with us.
OK – I was 25, but I really hadn’t been in many boys’ bedrooms! A room with a bed and someone of the opposite sex usually had an agenda, so I immediately felt a nervous frisson. Add that to the fact I didn’t know this guy, (although I wanted to!) and now we had to make conversation for about an hour! He showed me into a fussy but tidy bedroom, I sat on the bed and he took a desk chair (the outward signs said gentleman!)
This was his sister’s room (that explained the decor!) he poured himself a glass of Coke, he couldn’t drink with the tablets he was on for his injuries. I was feeling a little calmer by now.
As we talked I discovered he was in his first year of university, perhaps I had the upper hand, being older with more life experience. Hamish had the self assurance which often comes with private education and wealth, a confidence that nothing was out of reach, no doors would be shut to him. He wasn’t obnoxious or entitled, but he had that shine about him created by youth and privilege. I found him charming and open, we chatted easily. He put music on in the background, something I hadn’t heard before, so we listened and discussed the development of the artist’s style from his last album, moved onto live acts we’d seen and Hamish stated his ambitions to be a music manager – probably the one area his parents’ influence had no reach!
While we talked I felt fascinated by his sheer beauty – his eyes were hauntingly pale, but very intense when he was animated about a topic. His lips were full and he smiled widely, generously and laughed easily. Such a change from my ex-boyfriend who’d become sulky and complacent towards the end, never wanting to go out or try new experiences. This young man had his whole life in front of him and was eager to explore.
He touched on girlfriends past, there had been one at his private boarding school, which sounded intense and formative, as first loves often are. His most recent had been older – 26 and a model – how did his parents feel about that I wondered? They were cool with it apparently but it was short-lived as they were never in the same place, it seemed to have been a ski-holiday romance.
It was a surprise when my mother put her head round the door to say they were leaving – even more surprising was that I didn’t want to go! She must’ve read my expression.
“If you want to stay longer, Fred can bring you home,” my mother said.
“Okay,” I agreed, “that would be great! If that’s alright with you?”
I felt suddenly shy. Was Hamish simply being polite entertaining to me? Perhaps he was dying for me to leave so he could get back to his Xbox. But he nodded, smiling widely and we carried on where we left off as soon as the door closed. I don’t know what else we talked about but I wanted to make an entertaining impression. The time flew, then his father knocked on the door to say Fred & his wife were leaving. I got up reluctantly, smoothed the soft leather of my skirt over my hips and headed downstairs.
There was the usual fuss, locating my coat, did I have a scarf? Thanking our host and hostess for the party and wishing them well on their cruise – all the time I hugged to myself the pleasant, warm feeling that spending time with Hamish had created, not looking for anything more. He would go on holiday with his family the next day, my visit with my parents extended to the start of January, then I would return to my flat and my job …
“Oh no, I’m not going!” Hamish answered Fred’s wife (was she called Sally? I wasn’t sure) “I’m staying at home to look after the house and the cats.”
I stood there dumbstruck by that tidbit of information, looking up at Hamish’s six-foot frame where he stood, a couple of stairs up from the bottom. Then I noticed I was positioned immediately under a sprig of mistletoe and I blushed – I felt Hamish’s eyes on me and ‘imagined’ everyone was thinking “Kiss, kiss, kiss!” Amidst a flurry of goodbyes and christmas well-wishes I was swept out of the front door, down the steps and into Fred’s car for the journey back to my parents’ house.
To be continued …