This morning, I was waiting at a red light, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and listening to a rather lacklustre Curly Mackaw Show. He kept apologizing for any unintentional offence he’d caused haemorrhoid sufferers through his competition, which had now been cancelled. Clearly, Connor had made him issue the apologies, and now that tiny patch of bad publicity for Villorex was over, I hoped that maybe Connor would finally start showing an interest in something non-haemorrhoid related, like me.
I grabbed my ringing mobile.
“Hi,” Mia said breathlessly. “Look, there’s been a change of plan. Genderblast have decided they want to tape Malc tonight at seven.”
As the light turned green, my foot hit the accelerator hard, and I almost careened into the minivan in front of me. I braked just in time.
“But it’s too soon. He won’t be ready,” I snapped.
“Don’t panic. Malc’s already written himself a script for this character he’s going to be on the show, some lothario who’s picky about men and keeps dumping them, until he finds his Mr Right through the agency.”
“Have you read it?”
“Yeah, it’s hilarious. They say humour’s based on pain and Malc’s had his share of shitty relationships, so it’s very astute. And another thing, can you do me a favour and make sure you escort him backstage before he goes on? Hold his hand and stop him freaking out with nerves.”
“Sure,” I said, trying to sound cool, although I was already having misgivings, big ones, about this whole idea. There was no way any sane person would let Malc go on national TV tonight, armed only with some crappy script he’d rustled up himself, was there?
Luckily, Mia was spot on about the script. It really was rather amusing, and would only require some rudimentary tweaking to make it work.
I spent my lunch hour crossing out bits and writing suggested changes in the margins. Then I called Malc at Out of this World and went through his act, line by line. As I told him what alterations he needed to make, I began to feel slightly less anxious.
“Now this bit about your fail-proof formula for finishing a relationship in ten seconds.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well you’ve written, ‘You say to the guy, ‘I’ve always wanted to have a threesome with a dwarf.’”
”What? You don’t think that’s funny?”
“No, it’s funny all right, it’s just that, isn’t dwarf a bit politically incorrect? Maybe you could switch it to …” I wracked my brain for an alternative. Malc’s horse face swam into view. “What about, ‘I’ve always wanted to have a threesome with a horse.’”
As I glanced up, I noticed that Connor was in my office, looking achingly gorgeous in a sage green suit. I gulped.
“Um, look Malc, gotta go.” I banged down the phone and looked up at Connor for a few seconds while I waited for my brain to cobble together a makeshift story about who I’d been talking to. “Sorry Connor, I didn’t see you there. I was just rehearsing a speech I’m giving to D.R.I.P. with one of the organizers. You’ve probably never heard of them, The Drive for the Rights of Incontinent People. Anyway, their annual conference is tonight and they’re putting samples of Flowerette in their goodie bags.”
He gave a twitch of a smile. “I know who D.R.I.P. are. I attended their annual meeting once, and ended up sitting next to Curly Mackaw, who‘d come along for the free booze. This was a few years back, when Flowerette still sponsored his show.”
“Don’t remind me.” Since Flowerette’s market is post-menopausal females, not the 16-25 year old males who make up most of Curly’s demographic, I’d cancelled the deal when I took over the account a year ago. “I’ve never met him. What’s he like?”
“Pretty much as he is on the radio. Basically, an obnoxious git. He got very drunk, and after the speaker had finished, he stood up and said, ‘Great speech. I nearly pissed myself laughing.’”
I chuckled. “Probably not the best thing to say to a room full of incontinents.”
“Well, the speaker certainly didn’t laugh. In fact, she had him escorted from the building.”
“And look, I couldn’t help overhearing you just now. Let’s just say that I don’t think talking about threesomes will go down very well with the blue rinse brigade.”
“Oh, right,” I stuttered. “Good point. Did you want anything, by the way?”
“Just wondered if you fancied a coffee.”
“Yes please. A no fat caramel mocha, with cinnamon on top, would be great.”
“No fat. That figures.” He held my gaze for a second, then dropped his eyes to the ground.
God he was hot. God this was awful. How could two people generate this much sexual tension? We really needed to start this affair soon, or I was going to self-combust. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that what I was really gagging for didn’t come in a Styrofoam cup. Instead I said perkily, “It’s so sweet of you to offer to go out.”
“Actually, I was just going to make instant, but if you want this mocha thing, I’ll run out and get it for you.”
I didn’t want him to think I was some high maintenance chick who had exacting tastes in coffee. Even if I was. I only drank the instant in the kitchen because I was too lazy to go out and buy mochas.
“There’s really no need. Instant would be lovely,” I said, but he was already half way out the door. Before he left, he turned round as if he was just remembering something and said, ever so casually, “Actually, wasn’t that D.R.I.P. conference last month?”
I stared at him blankly, praying for him to go.
Mercifully, he did.
How on earth did he know these things? Yes, the conference had been last month and I’d had to speak in front of a thousand conference members and hated every moment of it. I’d have been a nervous wreck if, like Malc, I was about to go out in front of a studio audience, with every eye trained on me, waiting to boo me if I failed to amuse. I had to grudgingly admit that I admired Malc for offering to take on this gig.
Suddenly aware that I had a throbbing headache, I sat down in the beige linen armchair in the corner of my office, and pressed my fingers to my temples. As I waited for my coffee, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a doze.
When Connor handed me my mocha, I opened my eyes and took a sip. I was about to protest that it had nutmeg on top, but stopped myself just in time.
“Look, I meant to say,” he ventured, unbuttoning the two top buttons on his shirt. For someone like Connor, this was akin to stripping off naked. Maybe we were making some progress at last. “Sorry I was a bit of a pain last week. Worked myself up in a lather about nothing again. That drink you mentioned, well, I’d like to take you up on it. Tonight?” His eyes twinkled. “Say, The Dog and Duck? They do a great sausage and mash.”
YYYYEEEESSSS! I screamed inside my head. This was happening. This was finally happening. We were on the same page. Then I remembered the promise I’d made to Mia to accompany Malc to the studio.
This was so not happening.
“I really would love to,” I said, as cheerily as I could. Inside I was sobbing buckets. “It’s just that I can’t. I’ve got this thing.” I promised I’d go to some stupid show. Actually I didn’t say that last bit because his face had collapsed and he’d mumbled something and hurried off.
I stood up, pulled down my blind and head butted the wall twice. Then I phoned Tanya and told her what had just happened.
“I don’t see why you didn’t just invite him along.”
“Because he’s totally straight laced, and thinks I am too. I don’t want our first date to be in a studio audience full of— ”
“Pansies?” she finished for me.
“I suppose so. Don’t make me sound homophobic. I’m not, you know. It’s just not the right setting for a first date, that’s all. You’re coming tonight, though, aren’t you?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she replied, giggling manically.
I crossed my fingers, praying I’d get another chance with Connor. It was a
miracle he’d asked once. Impossible to think he’d ask twice.