by Jo Buttner
Bah Humbug! Who needs a boyfriend anyway? I don’t need a man to define me. I huff chilly air through my lungs hoist my shoulder bag across my body. A flip of my long Dr. Who style scarf perfects the look of someone who’s done some Christmas time travelling and come out the other side wishing that he hadn’t eaten all the mince pies this year.
I sigh, hefting my bulk across the quiet London road. My mother always says,
‘You simply can’t wear that feather boa with those shorts. It is quite the wrong time of the year – besides, it makes you look fatter!
But the feather boa has always had more glamour to it than a long stripy scarf mother, why don’t you understand these things? A fella like me has to express his feminity – how else am I supposed to pull some luscious lads?
This thought catches me unawares as a drifting picture of Tom’s face slips into my mind… well not only his face, his 6ft tall rugby players hulk of a sexy man beast, with those great big hands and his even bigger –
Phwoar! That was a fast car! Look at that! That thing’s got an engine like a twin turbo purring cat. It’s a shame the weather’s not better – it would look fabulous as a convertible…
My god darling, I completely forgot you for a second then – back to Tom then. Tom is the love of my life, the light of my heart the man of my dreams… or at least he was right up until last night when I found out that he had a girlfriend.
Seriously? A girlfriend? Who wants one of those? Although… it has to be said that I had an inkling he wasn’t interested in me when I went around for tea om Boxing Day. I had of course been invited… Or at least, the invitation left on my desk that was addressed to ‘My Darling’ and inviting me over for tea, a tipple (and hopefully some titillation) seemed to suggest a certain effeminate flair that I had always found appealing in Tom, despite his masculine form.
I only found out about the girlfriend by climbing into his back garden to look through the living room window – an act of devotion which ruined my brown leather brogues not to mention my 100% silk Vivienne Westwood tie that our rich Aunt Josie gave me, which got caught in the rose bushes beneath the sickly sweet scene of – yuck, yuck, yuck!
Oh! Woe is me! In this normal street, full of normal houses, I am an exotic bird trapped in the beige life of a 16 year old!
Approaching the door to our very normal house I notice Sophie through the window. My little sister a.k.a. Moppit is the devils spawn: incorrigible, indestructible, and irrefutable. Her nickname, which is short for mop and bucket on account the number of times my mother has mopped up sick stains from the kitchen floor – usually after being fed an unorthodox meal of not-quite-baby food – is well earned. At 6 months she was able to produce toxic waste capable of burning through the plastic seat of her high chair, now aged a year Moppit can hurl projectiles to within a 5 metre radius, fart, squeal and vomit 6 of the 7 colours of the rainbow (she’s not yet mastered the difference between indigo and violet).
Stepping through the portal of our front door I enter an otherworldly space which is not, as you may expect, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Normality stares back at me: the settee belching an array of different coloured plastic toys oozes across an otherwise empty room where my mother, in her role of ‘good mother’ appears to be frantically dusting and tidying the shelves filled with many of her creative projects in various stages of decay. Moppit, as I had seen through the window, is sat in her baby chair carefully rocking it backwards and forwards to make a slow but steady approach to the open window, on the sill of which one sticky fist already rests.
‘What, darling? Did you have a good time with your friend?’
‘Moppit’s trying to make a runner, did you feed her wall paper paste again?’
‘No darling, I think its smash this time – the corner store had run out of baby food. It’s those Catholics across the road – 12 kids they have! 12! And they must still be feeding them all baby food at the rate that store runs out…’
Hark at her! Mum of the year! God knows what Moppit’s actually eating; it tastes like flour and water to me. Perhaps Mum’s trying to glue up her esophagus so she can get a good night’s sleep!
Avoiding a sticky missile thrown in my direction, I ignore my mother, who is now railing in earnest against the Pakistani couple who own the corner shop – apparently feeding Moppit their world foods version of apple sauce with ‘some spices’ had given Moppit explosive powers that rivaled those of Chernobyl – and start to climb the stairs.
A gloom of depression descends to meet me halfway, greeting me as my thoughts turn towards Tom once more. Why? Why leave a message for me like that in class, and then humiliate me?
No matter. Why should I need him? I own a sonic screwdriver and Tom Daley lives in my room… True, he is just a cardboard cutout currently modeling a black feather boa – and nothing else besides – but his reliability is unanswerable as a boyfriend! I decide to change into something more comfortable, climb into bed and pick up the phone.
‘Aye aye Captain! How’s it?’
Camille always called me Captain when she answered the phone. It’s one of the things I like about her. The Captain – it’s got that kind of natural allure I associate with handsome figures of authority, like, for example, The Doctor.
‘Camille, darling it’s been awful, I went over to his house and he has a girlfriend! I could have died!’
Camille, a dark, bookish kind of girl is perhaps not the kind of person you would associate with someone with as much flamboyance and razz m-tazz as me. Nonetheless, we have had a hard and fast relationship since the first year of secondary school when we both discovered a mutual intrigue in the world of Sci-fi. Camille liked the mutinous monsters and the things that go bump in the night, whereas I was absolutely fascinated by David Tennant…
I went on to explain the full extent of how and why I could have died: in a stylish reenactment of Romeo and Juliet on the stage of the Globe Theatre ideally, where I could melodramatically bewail my loss before collapsing off the edge of the stage with the grace of an elephant on acid. Camille’s frosty lack of sympathy sat on the other end of the phone.
‘I’m sonic screwed Camille!’
‘You screwed up alright. What kind of a weirdo stares through someone’s window for gods sake. Wake up Captain and smell the sea air – Tom’s straight’
‘Screw you! I was expressing the deeply rooted feelings of my heart with the efficacy and elegance of Tom Baker on a mission…’
‘Oh really? You’re so wound up in your bloody fantasy world of Tom this, Tom that – Oooh Tom’s just absolutely fabulous darling – Who do you think you are? Joanna Lumley?’
‘Wait – who’s Joanna Lumley?’
‘Oh my GOD don’t you even watch TV? Ab Fab? Dawn French? Jennifer Saunders? No? Why don’t you try joining the real world for a change and help me build my intergalactic space map.’
In the midst of this argument I heard a commotion downstairs. A loud crashing noise followed by the wee-woo wailing of an alarmed Moppit and the stomach-churning sound of a rainbow being disgorged. Moppit was apparently not just alarmed – but armed.
‘Sorry, gotta go – Muppet Moppit emergency – speak soon.’
‘But I – ’
‘Look, I’m sorry I forgot about your project -’
‘It was supposed to be our project’
Oh god. Girls. Needy. The sound of commotion downstairs was worse. There was some one banging and shouting at the door. Was that – No, it couldn’t be. The sound stopped. And started again.
‘Look I’m sorry. I said I’m sorry – I really have to go.’
I hang up and tumble down the stairs to find a work of modern art rendered all over Moppit, who was now giggling cheerfully bouncing up and down whilst pointing at an equally impressive art work on the window pane. And behind the window pane – the handsome strong-jawed face of a man whose appearance made me go weak at the knees. My trousers dropped.
Tom. Doctor of my days! Tom! Weak knees now plainly on view – not to mention my starry galaxies underpants – I wiggled my pj bottoms casually up my legs trying to pull the movement off with a kind of chic, as if it was totally normal for my clothes to spontaneously fall off of me at the sight of a man so –
And then I see her – my mother on the other side of the window with Tom. What is this? No, really – what is this? Have I stepped through some kind of backwards time warp leaving me on the wrong side of the window with a baby and my PJs around my ankles instead of on the right side of the window with Tom? I mean really, what was he even doing staring in through the window like that? Oh god, I bet she’s telling him that story about the time she found out I wore women’s underwear – she tried to make me jump when I was taking a leak at the beach in Majorca. Trust me, drinking Sangria with your Mother is never a good idea, especially when your Mother delights in finding out all the most embarrassing things about you so that she can tell all the neighbours about it…
The door swung inwards, as my mother, who had apparently mastered the complex task of turning the doorknob to let herself in, dragged Tom into our front room.
‘What darling? I was just having a little chat with your friend here. Ted, didn’t you say your name was?’
Thrown off guard by the deep attractive huskiness of his voice, I momentarily forgot the situation. Moppit. Sick. Tom. Mum. Trousers… Around my ankles.
I blushed, hoping Tom hadn’t noticed my compromised situation. I think Moppit has finally mastered the colour violet. It’s on my face.
‘Yes, well Ted here came around to see you darling, only I was out in the garden when he arrived – Darling, are you going to pull those trouser up or must you wear them like that? Kids these days, you boys are always walking around with your trousers down half-way to your ankles…’
I hoist my trousers up and tie the cord at my waist up more tightly. Wait – Tom came to see me?
‘Anyway, from what I gather Ted has something to say.’
I look up at Tom sharply, wondering how he managed to pull out the very nickname that would make my heart melt coming from his sonorous lips.
‘there’s someone I need you to meet.’
And in through the door came another Tom. An almost Tom. A Tom with wide broad shoulders, a fighters physique and dark hair.
‘This is my brother, Sam’
Sam leaned forwards to shake my hand. Sam. Tom has a brother called Sam. From top to toe a second Tom – in a Navy uniform! That explains why I’ve never seen him at school! Tom only joined our school in 6th form, but Sam must have decided on a military career rather than school. He could certainly pull it off – I would never join the Navy, I haven’t got the shoulders for the uniform. Mother says that the best way to choose a career is to go by the uniform – that’s why she refused to become an accountant and joined the theatre, she says that black suits make her look pale but that on stage no one really gives a damn if you choose to wear a pink tutu on the Sunset Strip or not if you can stand the press. Not that my Mother has ever made it to the Sunset Strip, mind you… Anyway, Tom – I mean Sam – he can pull it off. That uniform – those shoulders!
‘Your brother? You mean -? It was your brother I saw?’
‘You’ve seen Sam before?’
‘Through your living room window. I saw him with a girl. I thought that he was you…’
‘You were looking through our living room window!’
‘Hey! You were looking through mine too – it’s not that creepy!’
I looked up at him as I said this. I wanted him to say how deeply romantic he thought it was that I’d traversed muddy seas and ruined my leather brogues for him and I’d risked naming and shaming by my best friend for him. I wanted him to say how my love had plumbed the depths of the oceans and melted his heart. There was a look of disgust on his face.
‘Eww! Babies sick! God, how’d you put up with this little puke-maker Captain? I’ve got it all over my foot!’
Stepping forward, I feel a spread of warmth through my body when Tom reaches for my hand.
‘It’s not creepy,’ he said, ‘it’s actually quite romantic.’
The warmth is seeping up my trouser leg now, sodden with my little sisters sick. And we stand there staring into one another’s eyes.
Then Moppit starts crying.