off line

He is lonely. Quin makes a habit of meeting women from internet chat rooms to eat with, drink with and perhaps if very lucky mate with. None have repeated the experience and Quin is waiting for the latest chat up girl, the one he feels is the answer to his dreams…”

 

by christine tothill

 

Quin stands at the bar; his left elbow rests on the polished wood, his right hand holds his glass. Quin’s mind wanders as he watches his image in the mirror behind the polished glasses.

He is alone. He is lonely. Quin makes a habit of meeting women from internet chat rooms to eat with, drink with and perhaps if very lucky mate with. None have repeated the experience and Quin is waiting for the latest chat up girl, the one he feels is the answer to his dreams. She ticked all the boxes, each and every one.

Quin looks at his hair – the style, the length and wishes he’d visited the barbers earlier in the day, before coming to meet Belinda.

He places his drink on the bar mat and brings both hands up to comb through his hair. He leaves it messy. He likes it that way. He picks up his glass of wine and sips slowly, savouring the taste and swallowing gently.

On the bar is a bowl of stuffed olives glistening in olive oil. Quin takes one – dark and swollen with a slice of red pepper bulging from inside and puts it in his mouth. The olive slides slowly over his tongue and into each side of his cheeks before he gulps it down without biting into it. Quin is hungry and the rumblings from his belly are well hidden by the smooth music being played throughout the bar stroke restaurant.

He looks at himself in the mirror and a loser stares back at him. Perhaps this time, this one time, will be good. It will be the right one. She will be the one.

‘Looked at the menu yet?’

He can see from the image in the mirror she is tall, too tall. Slim, too slim.

‘Quin?’

He turns to her, whispers in her ear, ‘Belinda.’ He smooches her loudly on both cheeks as she leans forward expectantly. ‘Great to meet you – at last.’

‘So, you haven’t looked at the menu yet?’ she says. ‘Being a foodie, thought you would have sorted it out by now.’

Bet you did, he thinks as he takes in her expensive smelling perfume and her over manicured nails.

Belinda beckons to the barman, ‘I’ll have one of what he has,’ she says, ‘and make it two fish specials at the table in the corner.’

‘Fish?’ Quin says. ‘Suits me.’

Belinda and Quin each take a bowl of olives to the table and they settle down on the window seats. Belinda sucks the pepper from the olive before popping it through her crimson lips. She finishes off the lot and Quin watches his dream fade. He has a thing about messy eaters. Messy in bed he can deal with, but messy eating is a turn off.

The fish dish is very pleasing, Belinda’s words, not his. The conversation flows and they reach desert. Belinda chooses a raspberry soufflé and they pick at it with their long-handled spoons, touching now and again, springing back in surprise and laughing. Quin soon realises he was being harsh on her and is at ease with this woman.

‘So, where shall we finish up?’ she says, ‘your place or mine?’ She wipes her mouth with her napkin and folds it carefully, placing it back on the table.

‘Mine I reckon’, he says. ‘Not too far, walking distance.’

‘Really?’ she says. ‘Thought mine was nearer. Quin, if you don’t mind me saying, but, in real life – if you know what I mean – you’re different.’

‘Ready then?’ he says, placing his credit card on the plate. He’s choosing to ignore her remark. He beckons to the waiter.

‘On-line, you were more astute, more outward if you see what I’m getting at?’ Belinda says.

Quin presses his secret number into the credit card machine and waits for Belinda to shut up.

‘I found you so talkative and assertive on-line – but really you are a bit shy aren’t you Quin?’ She goes on, ‘we used to say such silly things to each other didn’t we? Then, blimey, we went and found out we only live two miles apart, all that time and we never knew.’

‘Ready then?’ he says again.

Every single time. Nothing changes. He glances at himself as he passes the bar, he likes what he sees but what he doesn’t like is the tall blonde beside him.

Originally published:
Issue Fifty-Two
April 2008

 

(illustrations: troy dockins)


Christine Tothill is British and lives in Spain.  She writes short fiction, flashes and articles.  Christine has published work in UK and Spain.  She writes with Alex Keegan’s online Boot Camp and plays the organ in any other spare time she has, which is hardly ever.

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