Chapter Four

Terminal Three

12 months ago

It has been quite a few weeks since he first asked her out at the book launch and if she is honest, she still cannot give a sensible answer if anyone asks why she agreed to that first date. The TV crew had sneered at him, especially at his apparent ignorance of the requirements of broadcast journalism and it had been more than the usual hostility between journalists and the PR fraternity. He had come across as smooth and insincere just like many of his contemporaries who have often been compared to a fanatical religion: an echo chamber of bloated self-importance and self-righteous froth.

   Nicola knows full well that PR people are known to have hides that you could line your shoes with and there are those who describe themselves in grandiose terms almost bordering on black magic.

   There have been times when she has been plagued by PR people herself and on one occasion, she became so annoyed and frustrated with the constant calls that she had told that particular Mr Silver Tongue to go fuck himself. She felt a little ashamed afterwards but despite that it worked! She never heard from him again.

   All of which makes it even more bizarre that she should agree to a date with her very own Mr Silver Tongue. Maybe it was because it had been some time since the last love of her life had departed after getting a better offer from his ex. It had succeeded to her subscribing to the ‘all men are bastards’ club for a while and she had devoted her energies to work and to art. It had also been some time since she had been out with anyone other than Evie and Pam.

   When Alex had asked her, a bit hesitantly, she had been rather tempted to tell him to closely examine his backside, but then she thought it might actually be fun to listen to all the bullshit while enjoying an expensive night out. She had smiled when the thought had occurred that people like him are usually so self-opinionated that they don’t realise that they are being ridiculed, especially if it’s with po-faced sincerity.

   But it had not turned out like that at all. He had been self-effacing and had appeared really interested in her life and her career to the point that she realised that it was she who was doing all the talking and not him.

   When he had dropped her at her house feeling rather pleased with herself, she had opened the door to be rapturously welcomed by Sonny who had appeared holding his lead. She told him earnestly that she had been out with a nice man who had bought her a lovely meal and given her plenty of wine and that she really didn’t feel like going for a walk.

   But Sonny was not about to be cheated out of his nightly walk sniffing out the squirrels and the fox who also enjoys the nightlife in his neighbourhood. He had gazed at her wistfully and stood on his back legs placing the lead in her hand.

   ‘OK, just once around the block, no more,’ she had said to him sternly.

   That date led to the second which was a visit to the Palace Theatre to see a thriller called ‘The Bodyguard,’ followed by another meal. That had gone well too; indeed, even better in that he had begun talking about his life in a very understated way. Gone was all the bluster and the self-exaggeration that went with the public image and instead there was a man somewhat uncertain of his identity in the complex world of publishing and PR.

   The biggest difference, however, to the first date was that it had ended with a kiss in his car when he dropped her home. And it wasn’t just a casual peck on the lips either. Well, it had started that way, as is so often the case, but she ended it when it became increasingly passionate, and a wandering hand had begun to explore a breast. She had gently removed it, smiling, saying it was time to say goodnight.

   In truth, it had been some time since she had shared a bed and although she could feel herself becoming aroused, she was not sure she was ready to share one with Alex. She was greeted, as usual, by Sonny and this time she needed a walk in the cold air asking herself the question if she would; if indeed she should, invite him in next time.

   But, of course, inevitably she did after the next date. The next morning her thighs were sore which puzzled her until she remembered what they had done when passion had ruled, and inhibitions were forgotten.

   It had been quite some time since anyone had been so attentive to her needs. There had been too many ‘fuck and forget’ sessions when she was younger when her body had simply been used leaving her feeling cheap and frustrated.

   Since then, Alex had become a regular visitor, sometimes staying the night, especially of a weekend, but more often leaving her in bed asleep and quietly closing the door on his way out. Nicola increasingly began to feel that perhaps, just perhaps, Alex could be THE ONE. Sonny was not so sure. He regarded Alex warily keeping his distance and ignoring invitations to be stroked.

   It was about this time that she confided developments to Evie. ‘You did what,’ was her yelped response. ‘Are you crazy? You let a creep like that shag you. Have you lost your mind for chrisake?’ She had stared at Nicola frowning. ‘You’re going to tell me that you’re in love with him next I suppose.’

   Nicola had shaken her head saying: ‘Nooooooo. It’s just nice having someone who is good in bed and who treats me like a princess when we’re out.’

   Evie shakes her head sadly. ‘You’re just being used. It will not end well, and you’ll regret it. Seriously Nicola, get real.’

   Nicola’s colleagues at the BBC were, of course, entirely ignorant of any of this. She could not face the hilarity, the sniggering, and the sideways glances during whispered conversations.

   It was a little later that Alex had complained about her going out with Pam instead of seeing him. She had deferred then thinking that it was natural and pleasing that he would want to be with her. But then a major row had developed a week later when she announced on the phone she was going out with Evie. It had ended with her turning her phone off and then having a riotous time in a club where Evie was a regular.

    Since then, an uneasy peace has been restored apart from a new niggle when he passed comment on the way she dresses which he described as ‘provocative’. It first she took it seriously but after the third time she became annoyed and decided to neutralise it by simply grasping his balls and squeezing. Not too hard, mind you. That really wouldn’t do. But it had worked, for a while at least.

    A few weeks later they are invited out to a meal at a super posh joint in Manchester city centre. Definitely not the sort of place to wear jeans or a T-shirt, unless of course you’re super rich in which case you could arrive half naked, and all the rules would be ignored. It was an invite from two chums of Alex, also in the PR business. Nicola greeted it wryly and was less than enthusiastic.  Having a PR executive as a boyfriend was bad enough, but the prospect of three of them all spouting bullshit at the same time is not her idea of a good night out.

‘It will be fun,’ declares Alex, appearing in hios finest with a wide smirk until he catches sighr of her which makes him stop and stare. She is wearing a bright green V neck Loosen long sleeve plain blouse with Low Rise Skinnies heans. ‘Are you really going like that?’ he asks, frowning.

‘Yes, I bloody well am and if you don’t like it, I won’t go at all,’ she snaps.

   ‘I might have bloody known you would want to be different. Why can’t you dress up and be stylish like a normal woman.’ She gives him a hard stare and before he can say anything their taxi arrives.

   They arrive at the restaurant and are

greeted by a casual Raphael and Sebastian, both wearing fashion jeans and tops. ‘You look gorgeous,’ oozes Sabastian, grinning broadly, revealing gleaming teeth as he pecks her on both cheeks. ‘Love the outfit. Just call me Seb.’

    ‘Hiya flower,’ beams Raphael giving her a full body hug and then studying her approvingly. ‘Has anyone told you how gorgeous you are? She responds with a demure but mischievous smile. e starHe studies HHHHH

They sit down and a waiter materialises to take drink orders. ‘I’ll have a gin and orange,’ says Nicola. Alex glares at her. ‘Nobody has orange with gin and tonic,’ he growls. ‘Why do you have to be different?’

   ‘Because that’s the way I like it and since I’m the one drinking it, why do you care?’

   ‘Perfect,’ declares ‘Seb’, glancing at both of them in turn. ‘I’ll have one too. ‘So will I,’ says Raphael not to be outdone and who has also instructed Nicola to call him Raph while casually resting a hand on her knee.  They order one for Alex as well without actually asking him. He scowls at her. When the drinks arrive, Nicola holds up her glass for a toast grinning playfully at them both.

   Despite her earlier misgivings, the evening is fun and full of laughs. ‘Seb’ and ‘Raph’ playfully teased her and showered her with complements. Having two articulate, witty men making it plain they both rather fancy her is a game she enjoys playing. Alex is a reluctant onlooker wearing a forced smile while all this is going on. She later decided that they must have been doing it deliberately. Maybe Alex is not as popular as perhaps he believes.

   In the taxi on the way home there was a fraught silence for most of the journey eventually broken by Nicola. ‘That was a really great evening,’ she said knowing that it was anything but for Alex. ‘I could go out with those two any time,’ she says staring out of the window.

   ‘You were a fucking disgrace,’ mutters Alex. ‘Why didn’t you just open your legs and invite them in.’

   ‘Yes, you’re right. Maybe I should have. Just drop me home and give me a ring sometime, or don’t. I am past caring.’

   ‘OK. OK. I’m sorry,’ he says hurriedly holding up both hands. ‘It’s just that I hate it when other men look at you like that and even more so when you encourage them. I’m crazy about you. You do know that don’t you? We don’t spend enough time together as it is, and I get jealous when you spend time with other people.’ He hesitates and looks at her artfully. ‘I have a suggestion to make. Can we have a little chat when we get to your place.’ There is a pleading in his tone, so she agrees. ‘Just ten minutes,’ she says. ‘I’m tired.’

When they reach her house, she opens the front door and is greeted by Sonny and his lead. She promises him a walk; ‘Alex will be going home very soon,’ she says, pointedly.

They go to the kitchen and stand either side of the divider. ‘Aren’t you going to offer me a drink?

     ‘No,’ she says bluntly. ‘What is it you want to say?’

    ‘I think we should move in together.’

   ‘You want to move into my house?’

   He shakes his head. ‘No, I think you should sell this old pile and we can buy a nice modern apartment in central Manchester instead. It would be more convenient for both of us to be nearer our offices, don’t you think?’

   ‘Would it? What about Sonny?’ She bends down and gives him a cuddle. ‘You wouldn’t like to live in a flat, would you? You would miss the garden and the countryside too much.’ Sonny’s tail wags furiously.

   ‘Well, we could just find a good home for him,’ says Alex staring at the dog distastefully and then he turns to her, a triumphant smile on his face.

   She just stares back at him.

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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