The door buzzed open, and I walked into the echoing lobby. I smiled awkwardly at the concierge, immediately regretting my choice of a black minidress as he looked me up and down conspicuously, (probably assuming that I was a call girl). Tugging at the hem, I continued down a long, plush corridor and there he stood, posed in his doorway. He looked up slowly through his eyelashes, a Gaston- like smirk playing on his lips:
“Theeere she is”
He drawled. As I leaned to receive a loud ‘mwah’ on each cheek, my vantage point over his shoulders allowed me to see, with horror, that the apartment behind him flickered with candlelight – every conceivable surface was covered with them. I was about to enter Smaug’s cave, and there was no going back.
An alarmingly hot hand found the small of my back. Struggling against my instinct to recoil, I was guided further into the glittering lair. As we proceeded, I began to notice the sound of a crooning voice oozing from a hidden speaker – my hosts fingers began to click, and his foot to tap:
“Ahhh, I love this one”
He closed his eyes soulfully, continuing to click and tap — ‘Oh God, please, please, no’ I prayed silently. Alas, God was busy with more important tasks at that moment. Knees slightly bent, fingers a-clicking, my very own Frank Sinatra spun jazzily on the spot, and began…to sing. I watched on in absolute excruciation, wishing that he would ‘fly to the moon’ on his bloody own.
Mercifully, he stopped after a minute or so – perhaps he had caught a look at my expression (that worn by the parent of a child hacking through a violin recital). Perhaps not – he was shimmying over to the fridge, from which he liberated a bottle of champagne. Whilst opening the bottle, he glanced up, giving me an uneasy feeling as his eyes rolled over my body –
“You know” (he popped the cork with a flourish) “not many girls could pull off a dress like that” (said with a wink)
Ah, the back-handed compliment – charming. This was clearly a man who kept a dog-eared and heavily annotated copy of ‘The Game’ on his mahogany bedside table.
“Thanks, I’ll copy that in my diary, surrounded by little hearts”
I replied sharply. Sadly, Gaston did not hear, as he busied himself with pouring champagne into two elegant flutes, and soon launched into a story about ‘Biff’ and ‘Tatty’s engagement party. Apparently Biff had had an unfortunate incident involving a ceremonial sword and a bottle of ‘vintage LP’ – he roared with laughter at the memory, I tittered politely in response – immediately taking a huge swig of champagne to drown my self-hatred.
What was I doing here? Could I escape? Or was I now resigned to grin and bear it? What if he had his own ceremonial sword, solely reserved for deserters? After graciously gifting me another long-winded story of Barbour-clad glory, Gaston excused himself to the bathroom. I seized my chance, doing what any girl would’ve in that situation – I sent two swift texts to my best friend:
“SOS!!! Trapped in clammy clutches of Hoorah Henry!”
“P.S. If I die, you may have my collection of seashells and best fluffy socks”
I stared at the screen, willing a reply to appear. I heard the distant sound of a tap running – no reply. The bathroom clicked open – no reply. Footsteps grew closer – still no reply. At some clinking noises from the kitchen, I quickly placed my phone on the coffee table and arranged myself in what I hoped to be a relaxed looking position on the hard sofa. I was perfecting a semi-interested examination of a hunting-scene painting on the wall, when he sashayed back into the room, carrying two heavy-looking glasses –
“I’ve taken the liberty of making us a G&T, daaarling.”
He said, and promptly slid himself along the sofa, until his leg pressing uncomfortably against mine – he really was radiating heat at an alarming rate –
“Ah yes, you’ve spotted that wonderful piece – funny story actually, Biff and I were in hot pursuit of some rather bothersome heffalumps when… ”
He trailed off, as he placed my drink next to me on the table. Glancing quickly to where his eyes had fallen, I saw that my phone was now glowing brightly – 1 new message from ‘Ma Main Gyal V’:
“Lolllll mate he sounds horrid – leave before you are beheaded by a rogue croquet mallet”
At that moment the word ‘Fuuuuuuuuck’ definitely appeared written above my head (à la Bridget Jones). Hurriedly thanking Gaston for his hospitality, I grabbed my coat and high-tailed it out of there. Nearly jogging, I passed the baffled concierge in a blur of minidress and was finally free into the fresh, winter air.
Walking briskly, to put as much distance between myself and Gaston’s grotto as possible, I made a mental note to add an item to my ‘Untrustworthy Characters’ list:
-suspiciously jazzy men, with a penchant for candles
I would strongly advise you all to do the same. Please join me next Sunday for my ‘just right’ date – strictly no red chinos.