The Christmas party

I’ve never been in a relationship over Christmas before. So when I started dating Emily in early December, I began thinking it might be the year that I’d finally be able to sing along to Mariah Carey while truly understanding and appreciating her words. With Mariah’s lyrics ringing in my ears, I was thrilled to think of the potential that all someone would want for Christmas would be me.

We’d enjoyed a couple of very pleasant dates and when she text to invite me to her place for an “intimate Christmas dinner and drinks” with a close group of her friends one snowy evening, I was delighted. The day prior, she text me:

HEY. EVERYONE IS COMING TO MINE ABOUT 8PM BUT WHY DON’T YOU COME OVER IN THE AFTERNOON AND WE CAN SEE EACH OTHER BEFORE THEY ALL ARRIVE? xx

Even better! She was clearly keen to spend some time alone with me. I could picture the scene already: a crackling fire, some classic Christmas music in background, mulled wine flowing, wrapping presents, decorating the tree together, me making an innocent comment about her ‘pulling my cracker’, which she misinterprets, and we then have a jolly good laugh about it for some time. Perfect!

I pop on my best Christmas jumper, pick up a bottle red and a pack of mince pies and head to her place.

She swiftly gives me the tour and shows me in to the living room. A room which couldn’t look less Christmassy if it tried. I look around. No tree, no anything. Emily pushes open the door to the kitchen.

“Okay, so here are the boxes,” she asserts, starting to point at things. “The tree is in that box there, tinsel in that one, ornaments in that one and everything else is in that one there.” Emily looks back at me and then the bottle of Merlot in my hand. “Oh if you’re going to drink that can you do it in the kitchen? It’s a new carpet and I don’t want to stain it.”

“Oh are you not-…”

“Same with those mince pies. I don’t want to find crumbs when I come back.” she adds, with a laugh in her voice but daggers in her eyes.

“Wait, aren’t are you-…”

“I’m just going to pop out to get something to wear for tonight. I wont be long. Good luck, see you later!” she says with rapid-fire, grabbing her coat and bag and leaving the flat before I could ask her what the hell she was playing at.

It takes me a good fifteen minutes of standing still and staring at the ground to fully comprehend what is happening. She didn’t really want to spend quality time with me, did she? She didn’t really want to decorate together or get to know each other better or practise a duet to Fairytale of New York with me. Basically, she just hadn’t gotten around to decorating her house and wanted someone to do it for her. There’d be no Christmas music or crackling fire…. I started to doubt I’d even get to use any of the bauble-based innuendos I had prepared on my way over.

Close to two hours go by. I’d never before had to fully assemble and decorate a full-sized Christmas tree on my own and I don’t I fancy doing it ever again. I take it like a man though and decorate the crap out of that flat. I’m now incredibly sweaty, tired and pissed off, though, but the place was looking great. Emily texts me to say she’d been ‘held up’ and was on her way back. I took in my handy work, proud at my accomplishment. I celebrated with a glass of red and a mince pie. In the living room. Lying down. On her new carpet. No plates. No napkins. “Screw her,” I mumble to myself, mouth full of mincemeat.

I freshen myself up a bit try and focus on the positives. It would be worth it when everyone arrives and they see what I’d done for Emily. I reminded myself that the fun part was still to come and that I’d demonstrated my value, at least. It was the most gruelling manual labour (and I’m counting it as that) that I’d done in a long time. And I’d done it for a girl. I could literally feel myself maturing.

Emily returns and is suitably excited at the transformation. I grab her a glass and start pouring her a wine and tell her to sit down and put her feet up. She stays standing though and starts fidgeting with her phone.

“Everything okay?” I inquire.

“Yeah….well….ah, you know what? I’m so sorry James I totally forgot that I’d actually arranged tonight as a girl’s night only. They’ll be here soon so….”

“So…?”

“So….”

“Oh! Oh, okay I see. Right well, that’s a shame, I-…..” but before I can continue, Emily thrusts my coat at me and starts ushering me along her hallway to her front door, accompanied by plenty of “so sorry’s” and faux embarrassment. I stand there at her door, a little taken aback.

“I’ll give you a text, James, yeah? Soon, yeah?”

I spot the mistletoe above her door frame.”Oh, okay no problem,” I reply, before looking up at the mistletoe, smiling a wry smile and looking back at her. My eyes saying, “do you see what I see?”

She glances up and then back at me.

“Oh yeah I forgot about that,” mutters Emily, a little less enthused than I’d have liked.

I give her one of my top three best smiles, and tell myself that at least I’ll get a Christmas kiss out of all of this. I pucker up, close my eyes and lean in. But before I could feel her lips on mine, the door slams shut, my nose pressed up against it and I open my eyes to a face full of Christmas wreath and plastic berries.

I frown, turn away dejected, exhausted and shuffle down her stairs and out of her building. I can hear Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas blaring out from one of her neighbours windows and I take in a deep sigh and stifle a fair amount of swear words from exiting my mouth.

I look over at the flat and see written above the letter box in red glittering letters: ‘Tis the season of goodwill!’

I laugh to myself at the irony. “Aye, you’re not wrong there,” I mutter as I trudge out in to the snow.

Merry Christmas everyone.

J.

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The climb

8091180624_552c6fa870We met through a mutual friend at a party not long after I moved to Edinburgh. We bonded over the fact that we were both fairly new to the city and had yet to sample all it had to offer. We exchanged numbers and continued to talk about our lack of proper Edinburgh knowledge and used that as a good way to get together for date number one. Her enthusiasm was evident:

YES! LETS MEET UP ON SATURDAY! WE CAN EXPLORE SOME OF EDINBURGH TOGETHER! x

GREAT. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

We arrange to meet at the Grassmarket and ‘take things from there’. Perfect. Plenty of pubs to kick off with there. Following that, I’d imagine a jaunt down the Royal Mile perhaps, maybe stopping off for some pub lunch somewhere. Then depending on how the day was going somewhere nice for dinner and even more drinks later in to the night. I was optimistic. This could be a very good day indeed.

It is an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in Edinburgh, even for summer, but I am planning for a long night. I knew our pub crawl would take us well in to the evening when it would be cooler and I wanted to make a good impression. So I went for the staple dress code of guys my age, ‘smart-casual’. I had just bought some new black work shoes too, so this was the perfect time to test them out and wear them in. Shirt, black blazer and jeans. Sorted. Sure, I’d be warm at first, but as soon as we got in to a nice, air conditioned bar, I’d be laughing.

I make my way to the Grassmarket and start looking around. We had agreed to meet outside the Beehive Inn. No sign. I pop inside and look around but can’t see her, so get my phone out and head back outside.

HEY! I’M HERE WHERE ARE YOU?

OUTSIDE. BY THE BENCHES. YOU CAN’T MISS US! x

GREAT. SEE YOU IN A SEC!

Wait, hold on.

I look back at my phone. ‘us’? Did her text say ‘us’?

I stare at that small word for a good minute or so and it slowly dawns on me there was no specific clarification that today would involved anyone else but us two. Or that it was in fact, a ‘date’. Did I need to clarify this?

HEY CANT WAIT FOR SATURDAY. BY THE WAY THIS *IS* A DATE ISN’T IT?

No. That would have been suicide. But still, it was fairly obvious that we were arranging a date. Wasn’t it?!

I hear her before I spot her. Hair tied back, she wasn’t exactly dressed for the pub, though.

She’s wearing a bright orange waterproof top and those black stretchy legging-type three-quarter length trouser things girls sometimes wear to the gym, and a pair of trainers. She was also sporting one of those backpacks that’s actually not a bag, but a water bottle, complete with plastic tube all the way round to her mouth.

I stand in front of her in my evening clobber and endure a strange moment where we say nothing, both in a little bit of shock, I think. She looks me up and down for so long I thought for a second she had a serious neck problem.

“Hey,” I say, in what I was sure was a solid opener.

“Eh, hey!” she replies. “How are you? You look…good.”

“Oh, thanks. You eh…you too!”

Only a couple of sentences in this already feels like the world’s longest and most strained conversation.

“These are my friends,” she says, pointing to an equally spandex-clad ensemble consisting of two guys and a girl. She introudces me to them but in my paniced state I immediately forget their names.

“So”, I say, trying ease the awkwardness. “When you said explore I thought you meant…” and I look longingly over to the pub.

“What? No, silly, I want to really explore! I thought we could go up Arthur’s Seat!?”

“Arthur’s Seat? The massive hill thing? All the way up?”

“It’s hardly massive!”

“It’s still a hill.

I think about bailing, using my lack of appropriate attire as a reason, or maybe feign a serious leg injury. But I didn’t want her thinking how pathetic, unfit and moany I could be. That could wait until at least a third date.

“It’ll be fun,” she says and starts bouncing up and down and bending her knees up to her chest. I stifle a laugh and look over at her friends for back-up. But to my dismay they start following suit.

Not the best of starts, but hey, I’m an active guy! I do…sports. Occasionally.

I clap my hands together in that way people do to let everyone know that I’m up for it and ready to get going.

I look around, spot an oncoming taxi and start to hail it.

“What are you doing?,” she asks.

“Just getting us a taxi…”

“Haha, you kidder! Come on, lets go!”

She’s bouncing even higher now, turns and starts walking.

“Haha. Oh, yeah, of course we’ll walk there, haha I got you!”

I started walking. Arthur’s Seat was miles away, I think to myself.

We arrive at the foot of Arthur’s Seat,  and I am massively regretting the new death-shoes. My feet had rubbed up against them so much on the walk there they were now bathing in a pool of my own blood and broken toenails.

It was so ridiculously hot, too. Walking for 20 minutes or so in this heat, in jeans and a blazer….it’s not pleasant. My shirt is stuck to my body, and likewise my jeans to my legs. I don’t dare take my blazer jacket off though, otherwise I’d have to reveal the sweating armpit massacre that was going on underneath. I am breathless, visibly red, and sweating. A lot. I look at her for comfort and sympathy. Nothing. She hasn’t even broken sweat. At all.

We start the climb. My thighs are burning. I’m in so much pain, grimacing constantly just trying to keep pace with her and her friends. I’m starting to judge her now for making me continue, and for her serious lack of compassion.

We make it to the top. Her and her friends and are chatting away and gawping at the view. I’m too shattered and roasting, trying to catch my breath, to even take it in.

I try and hide it from the group as best I can and decide to lead the charge back to the bottom and show them I had plenty left in the tank. But, thanks to my new dress-shoes and my exhaustion, not to mention dangerous gust of wind,  I lose my balance and tumble forward head first, crashing on to the grassy mound and rolling so far down that I’m genuinely shocked I don’t reach the bottom when I finally stop. The group chase after me until, finally, I stagger back to my feet. I dust myself off in a no big deal kind of way, but I’m fooling no-one.

We all know this isn’t going well. I’m pretty embarrassed and, unlike most other dates, I am now bleeding from various parts of my body.

We part ways half way up the Mile and I tell her I’ll give her a text, though I’m pretty sure she can smell my sense of defeat. I assure her I was fine and that I just need to go home and clean up.

Walking home I decide to treat myself. I prize open the door to the Last Drop and limp to the bar. Solace. Peace. And most importantly, a chair. I am aching from head to toe. And on my head and on my toes. My new black shoes are now brown, as are my formerly-blue jeans. Feet bloodied and blazer muddied, I collapse on to the bar stool.

“Pint, please,” I beg.

“You all right mate?” inquires the barman. “Have you just been in a fight!?”

I shake my head slowly and mumble: “No”.

I take a deep breath, “Just on a date.”

J.