I check my texts as I exit the tube and there's already a message there. "Pick you up in five minutes, usual place."
My stomach does a little flip and I stride forth with renewed purpose, pausing only to rummage in my bag for any of the ten lipglosses that comes to hand. I stand on the kerb and watch as the massive black car glides to a stop. I open the door with a big grin on my face.
He grins back and leans over to help me with the door.
"My favourite and most classy lady!" exclaims Serge and I clamber in and ease myself onto the smooth leather seat. I relax back and reach for the seatbelt, as the familiar feelings of peace and sanctitude wash over me. The door clunks shut and its just me and him again, just how I like it.
The last time I saw him was when we met for a drink just before Christmas. We went to a pub near his house. I'd just finished work and was a bit drunk and in high spirits. I didn't even mind when we got pestered by some people selling tacky Santa hats for charity. We were mucking about taking pictures of each other wearing them although as usual I wasn't able to command his full attention. He kept checking his phone and dashing off to take calls, but I was in such a good mood I didn't really care. He told me he was going away for Christmas, with his family of course though they never got a mention. After two drinks which I probably really didn't need, he went outside again with his phone and as the minutes ticked by my happiness became tempered with irritation.
My phone rang. Guess who. He's been called away. Sorry, and happy Christmas and all that. Yeah. Happy Christmas to you too.
I sat on my own downing the last of my drink and absent mindedly pulled the horrible polyester bobble off the stupid cheap hat.
"You're an idiot dear girl" I told myself. "And nothing good is ever going to come of this"
But here I am again, and there's a lot to catch up on. He tells me vague stories about his trip, including a very strange tale of how he was convinced he had spotted a politician who has been out of the public eye for many years, and was googling pictures of his wife to see if it really was him. I laughed, I'd forgotten about his obsession with famous people. (Once I was talking about an actress friend and he stopped and pulled over to check out her imdb profile).
He asks me what I've been up to and I tell him the usual flighty tales of parties and outings.
"Oh and I tried having a boyfriend for a month and a bit. Which was nice but it didn't end so well."
He looks puzzled and asks what happened, so I settle back and tell him.
I met him at a ball I'd attended at the beginning of December. I walked up to the bar and he was just standing there watching me and asked if I would care for a drink. Even though I was wearing a dress that cost the price of the average family car, I had less than £20 in my satin purse and knew I would have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
I smiled and gratefully accepted the coupe of champagne. We got chatting and ended up hanging out in the bar for some time. He was beautifully dressed in immaculate white tie. No shady dicky bows on elastic here. Full dress shirt with studs, a silver fob watch on a dainty chain and shiny black patent shoes. He did however break a couple of my rules - he was only an inch or so taller than me and patently didn't trouble the 6 ft mark plus he was seven years younger then me. He was also downing pint after pint of bitter like he was dying of thirst. But he was good company and we even had a little dance at one point. As the night drew to a close we were both the worse for wear and got into one of those stupid snippy little drunken fights.
As always when I meet someone who is actually nice to me, I tried to completely ruin it and boasted in his face that I had slept with someone else the night before (this was actually true) and that I was infatuated with a married man (also correct). He looked crestfallen and stomped off to try and flirt with the nearest piece of ball gown-clad totty. He failed so miserably that I actually laughed and warmed to him once more and went back over to him.
I held out my hand as he slumped against a table.
"Let's get out of here" I offered.
"My place or yours?" He slurred.
"You said you had a wine cellar" I replied, already hailing a cab.
And thus I woke up in his well appointed South London bachelor pad, still wearing my dress but only one of my six inch long diamond drop earrings.
We then went on to have a completely hilarious afternoon of oysters and champagne then a really rough pub to top up our levels. I stayed another night. Unfortunately I had to go to work the next day so ended up stumbling into my office wearing a pair of his black trousers plus a cardigan that i unearthed at the bottom of my bag, teamed with diamanté strappy flats, which got completely ruined in the rain. I whispered to an understanding workmate the reason for my slightly crazy attire and she swore that no one would have realised, since mannish tailoring is 'so right now'.
And thus began five weeks of glorious stress-free dating. If he said he was going to turn up, he did. There were no secret wives or children hidden in the cellar. He was solvent, handsome and intelligent, albeit a little eccentric in his attitude to clothing.
"I bet you don't own a single pair of jeans do you?" I quizzed him. He looked at me aghast and spat "I'm not a COWBOY."
At first I found this endearing, although the self-imposed rigid conventions that he appeared to live by began to grate. It also became clear that he was far more into me than I was to him.
On the first night I met him, he had muttered that he was "madly in love" in the back of the cab, which I put down to the heavy drinking. But these utterances soon became standard-issue.
He treated me to dinner at his achingly old school 'gentlemen's club', although he'd been in there drinking steadily since lunch. When I pitched up, a vision in prim pencil skirt and silk, he was steaming drunk and shouting a lot. I realised that these intimidating and alien surroundings were obviously his natural habitat.
We sat down to dinner with a table full of braying poshos I didn't know from Adam and he announced to them all, once again, that he was "madly in love with this girl." I should have been flattered, but I was just embarrassed and hissed at him to stop drinking. He ignored me and I ended up having to pour him into a cab to take him back to his flat and screamed at him when he decided he wanted to make pasta. All of a sudden I felt like his mother.
Probably the nicest 'date' was the night before my birthday when I was quietly sitting alone, contemplating another anniversary of waking up alone, a year older yet none the wiser. He was out somewhere having drinks and texted to say he couldn't stop thinking about me and just wanted to come round. Thankfully he wasn't steaming and it felt like I was breaking a long and particular miserable curse when I woke up on my 'special day' without a hangover and next to a warm and willing body. I had to get up early and go to the hairdressers but I was so happy I even picked up bacon and bagels on the way back and selflessly made him a near edible breakfast - and that NEVER happens. He stopped short of coming out for lunch with my friends which I didn't actually mind; it was one of the nicest birthdays in recent memory.
He was away for Christmas but we kept in close touch and confessed that we missed each other. But it began to unravel earlier this month. All the giddiness of the party season was over and we went on a lacklustre date to a gallery, solely because he'd been given membership as a present. Neither of us were remotely interested in the show and retired to a bar afterwards. He was ill and not drinking, and I found it oddly irritating. I drank two large martinis in a weird show of defiance. As we walked out into the cold grey afternoon he cheerily asked if we were going to back to mine, oblivious to the fact that I'd barely spoken to him all afternoon.
"No" I replied, "we're not."
He hadn't even realised anything was wrong. Telling him it was over was like clubbing a cute puppy to death but it had to be done. He was very upset. I buttoned up my coat and strode off to the tube without looking back.
I look across at Serge to see what his reaction is. He looks bemused and I wonder if he's actually been listening. He's apologetic and says he has to go home for his tea, like he's 12 years old.
We kiss and he tries to shove his hand inside my mac. It's a new year and I'm still furtively kissing married men in cars.
"Im going to take you for dinner soon so I can see you properly" he says as I clamber out. But I know it won't happen.Suggest a correction