“I would like to apologise for leading you on,” Harry say as he sits opposite me, looking all grim-faced and unhappy.
“What are you apologizing for?” I frown. The waiter walks over to our table and takes his sweet time setting down coasters and our glasses of juice, and removing the cutlery and table settings that were in place for people having a meal.
I have to bite my tongue to tell him to hurry up so Harry can talk. As I wrap my fingers around the glass to bring it up to my lips, I look at my nails – at the beautiful manicure I have just had.
A colourful symbol of the positivity and happiness I was feeling just a few minutes ago and that is definitely now underpinned by a dark cloud whose edge I can just about see beginning to cover my existence.
“So yes, what are you apologising for?” I ask once more, once the waiter is out of earshot.
“I, er, you know…” Harry stops, inserts his finger in his collar and plays with it for a few seconds. I watch his finger, wondering how long it is going to take him to finally say what he wants to say. “Anyway,” this time he stops to sip, “when I was, er… when we were being friends-,”
“Being friends?” I frown. What on earth is this man talking about? ‘Friends’?
“You know, a few weeks ago… Anyway, I had met this other girl who I really liked and I, uh, we’ve been…”
“You’ve been what?” My face is scrunched up so hard I could crack a piece of cement between my eyebrows.
“We have been… you know… getting to know each other better…”
“And what does this have to do with me? Why are you telling me this? To hurt me? Wouldn’t it be better if you had just crawled away like other men do?”
“I didn’t want you to… I mean I didn’t want you to get the wrong impression. It’s not you. It’s me. She was already there. You were the distraction.”
“You mean I was the other woman?” I start to laugh a dry, sarcastic laugh. Just when I was about to up and give this man a chance, he turns out to be a snake – just like the others.
“I mean, you’re beautiful, Liz, very beautiful, but I was already taken-,”
“Why on earth didn’t you just say so?” My voice rises inadvertently and a couple of other customers snap their heads round to see if we are ok. “Listen,” I regulate my tone, “I was having a rather wonderful
Saturday until you came and ruined it. You should have just kept your horrible news to yourself and let me go without a hint of what had happened. It would have been no loss to me. So why are you telling me this?”
“Eh… because I thought we could still be friends.”
“For what?!” I yell once more. “You were lying to me!”
Harry looks around nervously. “I wasn’t,” he pleads. “I was just… doing what guys do. We date a few people until we decide who we want. And I didn’t want to be the typical guy and just walk away – I think you and I could be real friends. So I want to
treat you with respect.”
“Well, this is not the way I think ‘respect’ works. You should have just slunk away. That’s what respectful men do.”
WHAT RESPECTFUL MEN DO
Harry looks at me like I have gone a bit crazy – and I must admit that when I do a post mortem of this conversation with Fatma later on, what I have just said does not make sense at all.
“Anyway, I never got the sense that you were all that interested in me, anyway. I didn’t think this would hurt you at all. I just wanted to clear the air so that you wouldn’t ask questions in future when you
saw me with her, and so that we could still be friends. Because you see I really value you, Liz. And I like being there for you.”
Oh, Lord, now he sounds like he is giving me the consolation prize in a love competition. “Listen, you do whatever you want to do and leave me out of it, ok?” And I grab my handbag and walk out of there,
determined to have a few words with Louise on Monday about that useless Secret book of hers.