فصل 03

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فصل 03

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  • زمان مطالعه 14 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Life Should Be Like a Colourful Vase

‘Your Mr Courtney sounds fantastic,’ my mother says and I smile, thinking how annoyed Diana would be if she could hear. ‘Much better than Boring Barry.’


‘Well, sorry, darling. Barry’s very nice of course, but he is a bit boring, you have to agree. I’ve always wanted you to have an exciting life. He’s the type to want you to live in a small house in a small town and to have two children. A girl and a boy.’

‘You had a girl and a boy!’ I remind her. Today my mother’s dressed in a short orange skirt and a red pullover. Her hair’s orange too, and she’s had it cut really short, like a boy’s. For some reason she’s wearing a red hat, even though she’s indoors and the house is warm. She certainly isn’t typical of people who live in Rottingdean. Neither is Dad. Mum noticed my odd shoes straight away, but she thought they looked really good. From now on she’ll probably wear odd shoes herself.

‘Yes, darling, I did have a boy and a girl. But I didn’t mind if I had two girls or two boys or even three girls and three boys. The point is we didn’t plan it all out the way Barry plans things out. We left it up to nature.’

Nature! How often have I heard that word from my mother I wonder?

Mum notices my expression. ‘Don’t look like that, darling. Nature’s a wonderful thing! And your feelings for this Brad sound very natural to me. I’d love to meet him.’

No, no, no!

Poor Barry has met Mum and Dad a few times. Actually, he quite likes them, even though he thinks they’re strange. They’re always very nice to him. The poor man has no idea they think he’s boring. But Brad! No, I can’t imagine Brad meeting my parents at all. He thinks I’m strange enough.

‘I haven’t given you your birthday present yet,’ Mum remembers, jumping up. As she goes out of the room I try to guess what the present will be. I’ve received some very- unusual presents from Mum and Dad over the years, as I expect you can imagine: playing cards for telling my fortune; huge hairy hand-made pullovers; and once, when I was a child, a pet sheep. Actually, I loved the sheep. I called him Woolly Willy, and he lived in the back garden and kept the grass short.

‘Here you are, darling,’ Mum says, returning with the biggest vase I’ve ever seen. ‘I made this for you myself.’

‘Wow!’ I hold out my arms for the vase. It’s really heavy. ‘Thank you, Mum.’ The vase is blue. Well, a lot of it’s blue, but it’s also red and green. With yellow spots.

‘I do hope you like it,’ Mum’s saying. ‘I enjoyed making it.’ She looks at me. ‘In fact, darling, that vase is a lot like the life I’d like you to lead: exciting and colourful.’

I put the vase down on the floor and give my mother a kiss. ‘I’ll do my best, Mum,’ I tell her. ‘I’ll do my best.’

When I set off for home later on, I get strange looks from passengers on a bus for the second time that day. This time I’m wearing odd shoes and I can hardly be seen from behind Mum’s vase and Kitten’s flowers. I almost expect the bus driver to ask me to buy a ticket for the vase since it is so large it needs its own seat.

Anyway, now you’ve met my mother, you can imagine, I’m sure, what it was like to grow up with such parents. Rob, my brother, is very like Mum and Dad. He never minded being different from other boys, and he’s grown up to be a man who doesn’t mind being different to other men. But as a child I always wished and wished to have a mother and father who were like everyone else’s mother and father. I was terrified of becoming strange like them. I still am. Perhaps that’s why I decided to be Barry’s girlfriend in the first place; because he’s ordinary.

And now I’ve fallen in love with someone who’s far from ordinary. Perhaps I’m more like Mum than I like to think I am. In a few years’ time I’ll probably have orange hair and be proud of my earth name. And I’ll probably still be wearing odd shoes.

When I finally get home after carrying the huge vase up the hill from the bus stop, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I’m exhausted. Also, my head still hurts from last night’s wine.

Maybe I should go to sleep for half an hour. Yes, that’s the best thing to do. Then perhaps when I wake up I’ll be more in the mood to go out and celebrate my birthday.

But when I wake up the room’s in total darkness. I quickly switch on the light and look at the clock. Seven o’clock! I let out a small cry, ‘Oh no!’ I’m supposed to be meeting Barry in a restaurant at half past seven.

As I rush around getting changed I feel as if the morning’s repeating itself. Only this time, before I leave the house, I make quite sure I’m wearing matching shoes.

I manage to stop a taxi and, much to my surprise, I arrive at the restaurant almost on time. Barry isn’t there yet, which is odd because usually he’s at least ten minutes early. As I’m almost always at least ten minutes late, he often has to wait twenty minutes for me. Strangely this never seems to make him cross.

Sometimes I’d like him to be cross. I know it seems silly, but Barry’s far too nice to me. He isn’t as boring as Mum says he is, but he is too nice. I’d probably like him a lot better if he shouted now and then the way Brad does.

Brad. There he is again, popping into my mind. Brad, Brad, Brad. I can’t go on being Barry’s girlfriend when all I do is think about Brad. It’s cruel and selfish. I must tell Barry tonight that it’s over. The only thing is, as it’s my birthday, he’ll probably arrive with a present for me. Oh, help.

Miserably I order a drink and sit at a table to wait, practising what to say to Barry in my mind.

‘You see, Barry, I like you very much, but…’

‘Barry, I’m sorry, but I’ve met someone else.’

‘Barry, thanks so much for the lovely present, but actually, I’ve decided…’

Oh no, this is going to be awful.

Just then a woman comes in. As she walks past my table I smell her perfume. It’s very familiar. She sits facing me at a table in the far corner of the restaurant and I recognise her straight away. Tania Stevenson. Brad’s girlfriend.

This is definitely the worst birthday I’ve ever had.

Quickly I pick up a menu and hide behind it, looking at Tania over the top. She’s wearing a dress I saw in a shop a few weeks ago, a dress that was far too expensive for me to buy. It cost more than I earn at the gallery in a week. Her blonde shoulder-length hair is perfect (of course) and so is her make-up.

Suddenly, I feel very untidy. I’ve brushed my hair, but it would never look as perfect as Tania’s, even if I brushed it for a whole hour. The little black dress I’m wearing is over a year old and a bit too tight for me at the moment. My weight’s always changing, you see. Sometimes I’m quite thin, but more often I’m a little fat. I take after my mother that way. The difference is, my mother doesn’t mind, whereas I do.

I need a cigarette. I definitely need a cigarette. OK, I know I’ve given up, but this is a crisis. Did I bring any cigarettes with me? Yes, surely I did! I begin to search anxiously in my handbag, but just then I notice the ‘no smoking’ signs everywhere around the restaurant. OK, I can manage without a cigarette. Yes, of course I can! I can! I’ll just have to drink more wine, that’s all.

I continue to watch Tania over the top of my menu and see her take a lipstick from her bag. Very carefully she paints her lips bright red, and I wonder if Brad will be kissing those lips later on.

Brad! If Tania’s here, then Brad will probably be arriving any minute! And suddenly I remember him asking me to telephone to reserve a table for him at this restaurant. How could I have forgotten? I hated doing it.

‘I thought I told you to get an early night, Alex,’ says a familiar voice at my shoulder, and there he is, looking more handsome than ever in a smart grey suit.

‘I know,’ I say, my mouth suddenly dry with nervousness. ‘But I couldn’t.’

He’s looking at me in that way I told Di about earlier on, his dark eyes staring straight into mine as if I’m the only person in the restaurant.

‘You couldn’t?’ he repeats ‘I see. Someone came round to your house and forced you to come out, perhaps. They had a gun, did they? Or was it a knife?’

He’s joking, of course. The trouble is, when he makes jokes like this I can never think of anything clever or funny to say back to him. Anyway, Tania’s calling to him from across the restaurant.

‘Brad! I’m over here, Brad!’

He looks up and waves at her. ‘Well,’ he says to me, ‘if you’re still sitting here at ten o’clock, I’m going to get a gun out myself and force you to go home, OK?’ He walks away before I can answer and the next moment he’s ruining Tania’s lipstick with a kiss. I don’t want to look, but somehow I can’t help it.

‘Who is that, darling?’ Tania asks in a loud voice, and when Brad looks my way, my face goes red.

‘She’s my temporary assistant,’ he tells Tania, emphasising the word temporary. ‘You met her a few weeks ago.’

‘Oh,’ Tania says, sounding bored. ‘I don’t remember. What a horrible dress she’s wearing. You ought to pay her more money, Brad.’

I sit there unhappily, listening to Tania laugh. It’s all very confusing. I don’t understand how Brad can look at me the way he does and then let Tania be so horrible about me. And suddenly I wish Barry would get here. Boring but nice Barry who thinks I look good whatever I’m wearing.

But suddenly I realise Barry’s never going to come here. Because this isn’t the restaurant we arranged to meet in…

‘Oh, no!’ I push back my chair and get up so quickly I manage to drop my handbag. My purse falls out and coins roll everywhere: under tables, under handbags, under feet.

‘Oh, no!’ I start to pick the money up, apologising to people as I reach under their tables.

‘Collecting change for the bus, Alex?’ says a familiar voice, causing me to bang my head on a table.

‘Careful,’ Brad advises, holding out a twenty-pence piece that has rolled right across the room. Standing up and rubbing my head, I look at him, knowing Tania is still laughing at me.

I take the coin from his fingers. ‘Er… thank you.’ I’m just trying to think of something, anything, more interesting to say, something to make him realise that I’m the woman of his dreams, not Tania, when the restaurant door opens and a bunch of Kiss Flowers walks in.

‘Alex!’ says Barry’s voice from behind the flowers. ‘I’ve been searching for you in every restaurant in town! Happy birthday!’

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