Beneath the Surface in Great Flyedale. (Part 2)
Sunday dawned clear and bright with the promise of another scorcher on all the T.V. forecasts.
Understandably nervous, Jamie was displaying all the classic signs of rising panic. A matter, it seemed, of having not correctly applied the instructions on a shampoo bottle given him the previous evening by Alison. “I mean how can I meet the entire Earnshaw clan, get inspected by her mom and dad, her gran and great-gran, her brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts, with my hair looking like this for heaven's sake!”
Douglas, Damien could not help but notice, was holding the now empty bottle out at arm's length and somewhat pointlessly re-reading the directions thereupon. The upstairs door buzzer sounded.
Jamie, naked from the waist up, appeared to be looking for inspiration up on the ceiling. “That's her! Dead on time too. Tell her I'm not going.”
At once Douglas lowered the shampoo bottle. “But you must. You have given her your word now, and her family will be expecting you.”
Jamie bit his lower lip. “But I can't! Tell her no way!”
The outside door opened anyway, and Alison came in. Almost certainly she must have heard.
“Jamie, what ... oh, flamin' 'eck!”
“I must have mis-read the bottle,” Jamie explained apologetically.
“Get over to the sink,” she commanded. Damien took in her stylish bright red dress black belted at its middle, her matching high heeled shoes, her immaculate make-up. The golden-blonde tresses, suspiciously shorter than last time, appeared to have been newly re-styled into what he thought to be correctly termed a swept back look, layered down behind her ears.
“Right, run the warm tap through it gently. Aye, that's it.” She began to carefully knead Jamie's hair. “Anyone got an 'air dryer? Else I'll need some towels.”
Douglas obediently disappeared into the bathroom. Alison half turned to face Damien. “Right, could you nip up to my shop and fetch me ... no, 'ang on, I'd better write it down for you.”
“If there's something you need I can go get it.”
Jamie half lifted his head, only to have Alison firmly shove it back down again. “You keep your 'ead under that tap.”
“But we're gonna be late now. I didn't make this happen on purpose, Ali. I promise you I didn't!”
“Flamin' 'eck, relax will you! Me mam's not a monster! You'll not be flayed alive if we're a bit late!” She moved across to the table, at the same time extracting a pen and pad from a leather craft bag slung over her shoulder. A third object got dragged out, bounced on the floor, and came to rest at Douglas' feet just as he returned from the bathroom. A ring! Damien was sure of it!
Douglas picked it up and immediately returned it into her already outstretched hand.
“Ta!” She held a torn off sheet from the pad for Damien to see. “Right, here are the shop keys. The alarm pad is right by the door on the left. Here's the code. Then from the shelf behind the desk can you get me this ... it's a blue an' red box wi' a photo of a model on it, and then from the farther end of the display shelves can you find this ... it's a tall, narrow, green plastic bottle?”
The honey coloured eyes betrayed a steely glint. Damien took the hand written list and headed out with it anyway.
Damien snapped out of his reverie as Jamie re-entered the apartment. Not entirely unexpectedly the day had gone brilliantly. Damien half listened as Jamie related in breathless tones about the vast housing estate upon which much of Alison's extended family lived, of how welcoming they had all been, of how they all asked questions about Boston, and of a big shopping expedition into the centre of the dark-red brick city itself, and of eating fish and chips though not really served in newspaper anymore and never mind what the legends said - and also of being given a strange green substance which was actually quite tasty once you tried it called 'mushy peas' - and of how he and Alison had already started making plans on their way home for her to fly over for a holiday in Boston.
Eventually, as if exhausted by his monologue, Jamie decided to take his mobile outside where the signal was supposedly better, to give Alison a last call now that she'd be home for the purpose of saying goodnight.
Only partially feigning tiredness - of the emotional variety at least - Damien bade his own goodnights and headed for the bedroom which he shared with Jamie, hoping against hope that Jamie having now updated them of the latest would quickly go off to sleep and allow him to do the same. Damien felt a secret degree of comfort from what Douglas had revealed earlier in the evening about hearing Alison telling Jamie to keep hold of the ring, although he vowed he wouldn't let on to Jamie he knew anything about it. Jamie could prattle on as much as he liked but it was plainly apparent to anyone that she was simply stringing him along, perhaps until a more financially viable target came along. A desirable presence - with free kisses thrown in obviously - in exchange for lots of bought drinks, meals, a secret engagement ring, expensive and then no doubt mega-expensive presents, and probably a cash loan or five along the way. Damien grinned without humour. How to keep the guy hanging in! So blatant! 'Me dad needs to get the car fixed so as we can visit me Auntie Griselda in 'ospital. I were wonderin' if ...?' Target practice!
Damien closed the bedroom door behind him. For all that though to be a detached geek such as Douglas, and to have no proper understanding of anything beyond ancient holes in the ground, must be a blessing sometimes. Go Douglas!
From across the apartment's living area Douglas viewed the white painted door of the opposite bedroom pensively. He had indeed heard Alison quietly telling Jamie to keep hold of the ring, the very same one which had dropped onto the floor and which he had returned into her hand. But that wasn't all she had said about it. After they had departed for Leeds, and when Damien had taken himself off for a 'long walk', he had raised a swift Google search, and suddenly it all made sense. Called - as he learned - a Dolphin, it was not a finger ring at all: “I've decided I rather like 'ow it makes you bigger! Not to mention being nuzzled by its nose in the place where I am!” There had then followed some suggestions about its future use given that there was still 'heaps of making up to do', together with views about shared showers, together with plainly sincere declarations of feelings. Recognising as he did the mental anguish which Damien had been enduring of late Douglas deemed it a kindness not to give any more away than he already had. Even so, he couldn't help raising a wry little smile. There certainly was indeed much going on beneath the surface in Great Flyedale!
Copyright Terence Hugh Hazelton, 2011.
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