It’s strange how life has a way of turning sour just when one believes that things are looking sweet.
I received a telephone call from Hope last night asking if I would like to join her, Charlotte and Emily for lunch today. Of course, I was only too delighted to accept the invitation, particularly as it would be the first opportunity I have had to meet Emily. I had heard a few things about her, some of it a little frightening if the truth be known, so I was really looking forward to getting to know her.
We agreed that I would meet them at the bistro Hope had chosen, a little place I had been to myself not very long ago. It is one of those places with an open grill in the centre of the restaurant where they prepare the food. On the previous occasion, I was with some of the chaps from the Club and one or two of them caused some trouble after drinking a little too much of the very fine Beaujolais. It all started when that buffoon Richards took a shine to a particular young lady at the table beside ours. It was obvious to everyone except him that she was not interested, but that has never stopped him before. Well, he became more insistent, she and her companions got very angry and in the end, I had to manhandle the man out of the building and into a taxi. It was all rather embarrassing so I was pleased to have an opportunity to pay a return visit in what I hoped would be less troublesome circumstances.
The way things have gone so far this year I suppose I should know better than to expect a silver lining. It would seem that for every ray of sunshine there have been at least two dark clouds rushing in to blot it out.
I left home early but thanks to some unexpected congestion and the almost obligatory roadworks I arrived almost ten minutes late. Now most people who know me will attest to the fact that I can be very relaxed about most things, but one thing I do expect from myself and others is punctuality, particularly as I was hoping to make a good impression. I spotted the girls as soon as I walked through the door, seated at a table close to the grill area. I have to say that I was a little surprised at first as I did not recognise Charlotte at all. It has only been a few days since I last saw her but in that time she has coloured her hair. Where she previously sported wavy auburn locks she now had straight, bright red hair. I have seen this type of thing many times before but had not expected young Charlotte to follow in that particular fashion. I am pleased to say that Hope had not undergone any such transformation and was looking her usual bright and cheerful self.
As I approached the table Hope rose to greet me and introduced me to Emily.
My first impression was one of surprise. I had expected Hope’s eldest daughter to look at least a little like her (in the way Charlotte did, sans red hair!), but I could see no resemblance whatsoever. Where Hope and Charlotte are relatively short and dark with what my mother would have described as cherubic features, Emily was very tall and slim with short blonde hair. And where Hope and Charlotte kept makeup and jewellery to a minimum, Emily looked a little like a walking advertisement for a cosmetics retailer. Several things struck me at once as she introduced herself; the first being that the smile on her lips did not seem to reach her eyes which seemed rather preoccupied with sizing me up. She is also much taller than her mother or sister. I do vaguely remember her father and although I could not state categorically that she was very like him, by my recollection he certainly had that Arian look that Emily seemed to favour.
Once the introductions were over and I had taken my seat beside Hope, we went through the usual routine of discussing the options on the menu and comparing previous meals at similar locations. I repeated the tale of my previous visit to this particular establishment which I was pleased to see Hope and Charlotte found amusing, but Emily did not. Where I had hoped the story might provide a lighthearted opener to our lunchtime conversation, Emily wanted to pick at the events to discover more about my companion and the young lady. I had been told that she could be a little serious, but I had not expected her to miss the point of my little tale so completely. I decided at that point that I needed to be a little more wary about the things I said.
But of course, once the wine and food arrived, and I began to relax, I dropped my guard. Now I am not saying that I set out to deliberately antagonise her, but I found that she took offence at almost everything I had to say, particularly when it came to politics and the law. I am not saying that I am particularly well versed in either discipline, but like most people, I have my own opinions on the state of the country and the world at large and I am used to being able to express these views at the Club without fear of too much contradiction or hostility. Emily however, seemed in no mood to listen to anything I had to say. This is not to say we were arguing as such; rather, she had a way of putting down any opinion I wished to express with a look or seemingly mild reproach that by the time we had come to the end of the main course I was feeling rather like a naughty child being constantly chastised by an angry parent. Hope did try several times to move the conversation on, but with little success. At one point Charlotte seemed to get quite angry with her sister over some remark she made.
As we finished our desserts Hope asked if I would like to join them for coffee at home, but I decided that under the circumstances it was best to decline the offer. It was obvious that Emily has some kind of issue with me but I cannot for the life of me understand what I may have said or done to make her behave the way she did. I think that under the circumstances I was extremely restrained.
I really could not have imagined two more different young ladies than Charlotte and Emily. One would have thought that being some kind of Human Rights specialist she would be a compassionate and understanding person, but what I saw today was an angry and confrontational one. I like to think of myself as a fairly easy going sort of chap, but even I found it very difficult to find common ground with young Emily. I understand that she will be at her mother’s until Sunday so I will wait until next week to try to speak to Hope again to reschedule our evening date. I just hope that the events of today haven’t spoilt anything.
In the meantime, this evening I am going to join my old chum Cambridge for a few drinks at his club. I don’t go there very often – it’s my father’s old club and I find the place a little too quiet and solemn most of the time. It will just be a light dinner for me, but I am looking forward to tasting some the excellent new vintages that Cambridge has told me about.