A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times



Whoever it was that said that men couldn’t multi-task had obviously not known me in my youth. I was at the tender age of sixteen, taking my O’levels at school and working around twenty hours a week at my father’s snooker hall for pocket money (the slave driver). For all intents and purposes, school for me was more or less over. I was working already and felt no real need for further education. All I had to do now was to pass my final exams.

I’d done my time and learned my lessons and all I had left to do, was prove it. And all was going quite well to date. I had already taken all but one of my exams without breaking into too much of a sweat and was riding my bicycle to school for the last of them that particular day.

What a guy you may be thinking by now but if truth be told, what a jerk might have been much nearer the mark. You see I was young and still very cabbage looking (green) as far as the ways of the world went. And on my way to school I had to navigate a very steep hill.

Well I huffed and I puffed and soldiered on uphill until I reached the top and when I finally got there I made the mistake of employing all of my previously learned cycling skills.

Look mum, no hands....

Yes you read it here first. I was on a major road, speeding downhill with no hands on the handlebars. The newly fitted speedometer on the bike read just below forty miles an hour and I was pushing hard for fifty.

Now half way down this hill (on Chester Road, Stretford) there is a parade of shops with off road parking in front and it was just as I was drawing near to those shops that mother Earth collapsed before my very eyes. To me, I was in complete control of my steed, successfully dodging the traffic and all was well. Well for now anyway.

What I didn’t take account of was the oncoming traffic. Within the batting of an eyelid, I was hurtling down the road, with no hands to control the bike, straight into the path of a car that had just turned out of the oncoming traffic, into the parking facilities for those shops. I really didn’t stand a chance.

Next thing I knew I was bouncing head first over the bonnet of said vehicle. The bike stooped dead as the front wheel buckled to match the front wing of the car and I just carried on. Crash - Bang - Wallop I went over the bonnet. All the traffic stooped and all eyes were now on me and my airborne body.

The driver of the car immediately stopped and raced to my rescue. I was lifted from the ground on the opposite side of the car to where my bike lay and he carried me to the comfort of a nearby shop where I was quizzed as to whether I was still breathing, alive, or indeed human.

Fear not dear reader. Apart from a few bruises, a fat lip and a severe denting of my pride, I was still in one piece and a lot more worried about getting to school for the last of my exams, than I was about all of the fuss I had just been a part of. The bike was retrieved and looked after by a kindly shopkeeper, my parents were informed and on their way over to take care of the legalities (which I heard no more of) and my ‘assailant’ offered me a lift to my school once he was sufficiently convinced I was still alive and kicking.

That was ten o’clock in the morning. We arrived at the school at about half past. The teachers were informed of my prior misdeeds and yet still allowed me to take the test while preparing to make allowances for any failure. Fortunately for me it was physics, one of my favourite subjects and despite the lack of earlier revision, I sailed right through it, unlike I did that car bonnet.

Schools out...

Having endured the last two hours of that test, my school career was now over. All I had to do now was to make my way (on foot) back to the shop where my bicycle was, and due to the new far, from round shape of the front wheel, carry it home with me. It took me six weeks to straighten that wheel out by hand, during which time, my results had come through.

I had earned myself the princely total of eight full passes. Five grade A’s, two grade B’s and one grade C. I had eight shiny O’levels to prove my intelligence (provided that driver kept his mouth shut that is). My schooling had obviously worked.

And so to work I went...

Probably fortunately for me, my tender age of just sixteen years prevented me from being a fully fledged ‘bar steward’ (read that as you will). I wasn’t yet the legally required age of eighteen to work full time with my dad due to the joys of the alcohol that was being served on his premises so I now had to find me a full time job. However that didn’t mean I’d be giving this place up. After all, I had already spent half of my life there. I had met thousands of people and made quite a lot of good friends.

Having started there at the tender age of eight, making sandwiches for resale, washing down the bench seating around the snooker tables, cleaning the beer lines and processing memberships etc., there was plenty for a young chap to do on the Sunday’s my father took me into work with him. That of course was in the good old early days, but as time went on and the bum-fluff started sprouting from out of my chin, other duties were to later include a dabbling in book keeping, wage processing, stock taking, ordering supplies and building and contents maintenance, and in the fullness of time I even got to man the beer pumps.

All credit really must go to my father for this. He was very good at delegating while at the same time still keeping a watchful eye over me without being too intrusive. I learnt a lot from him about running a business and to a certain extent, even more about successful man management skills. He was a brilliant role model and even to this day, I still walk in awe of him.

Cue the snooker star...

Don’t panic, it wasn’t me. After spending so much time at the snooker hall, I quickly got bored with the game even if I was quite proficient at it. I had grown up in full view of many of the big names in snooker at the time, not to mention many more of the clientele. And with this is mind it was no surprise that even at the tender age of sixteen and three quarters, I was head hunted of a fashion.

It sounds really grand on paper but in reality it was nothing like. He was just an ordinary Joe I had grown up in front of. He came in twice a week for a simple snooker session lasting five hours with his friends. He watched me grow up and had a position available for me if I wanted it. He was a plumber by trade, a simple one man band outfit with an opening for a government sponsored apprenticeship up for grabs... if I wanted it.

Now granddad, a retired postal worker was really good with his hands and many a time I had spent alongside him in his makeshift workshop (a second bedroom). It was really through him that I developed my creative bent. I loved to watch his mastery with woods of all kinds, turning old planks of second hand timber into beautiful pieces of furniture. So it was little wonder then that I jumped at the opportunity of going ‘on the tools’.

So right on cue, I had snookered myself into a new career path that I could chalk up for myself, taking on board all of the tips of this new found trade. (And here the puns end).

Hey diddle-de dee, it’s a plumber’s life for me....

Now without going too far into the ins and outs of the plumbing game, all I will say is I spent a productive four years as an apprentice plumbing and heating engineer. My boss Allen was also a formidable bloke in his own right who was more than happy to share the wealth of his knowledge with me. And being a hands on kind of guy, we would be sure to get or hands dirty first doing the practicalities of the job while I listened to his dulcet tones relating the whys and wherefores of the theory behind it all. He was a great believer in one learning by your mistakes and needless to say, there were plenty of those in my first couple of years, some of which involved us getting thoroughly drenched.

Fearing the thought of ever boring you to death now, I won’t go into this much further but I would like to add this little anecdote...

It was the mid seventies when I took up this plumbing lark and at that time, Britain was still to a large extent, having its water supplies plumbed through lead piping.

And when plumbing lead piping, it is essential to have no water in the pipes to come into contact with the molten solders we would be working with to joint the two pipes together.

Sometimes though, it wasn’t always possible to fully drain said pipes but we plumbers had our trade secrets to counter this and one of those tricks was to plug up the pipes with compressed bread, make the joint, and then when you turned the pressurised water back on, it would blow the bready plug through the nearest open tap.

Anyway one particular day, we were working in an empty house and yes we needed to plug the pipe. Needless to say, there was no bread available to us so I was sent next door to borrow a slice or two.

“Certainly,” said the lady of the adjoining house and she disappeared up her hallway towards her kitchen, leaving me stood at her front door like a lemon. And imagine my surprise when she returned with a tray.

“Here we go dear, I’ve done you a plate full of sandwiches and a pot of tea. We can’t have you going hungry while you’re working now.” She said. If only she had known.

And so, a full four years later...

There I was still a plumber. I had done all sorts of drains, guttering, bathrooms, kitchens, central heating systems, tiling plastering and even serviced the odd boiler or two (no names please). I’d also taken further exams and gained my full city and guilds trade membership. I was fully indentured now and doing more and more work alone.

It wasn’t all good news though. Allen had developed a serious heart condition and was forced into early retirement.

This meant I was now on my own and for the first time in my life I was looking for work. I still had the snooker hall though as I had always worked there on a part time basis (the things you do for family eh?). And unbeknown to me, there lay my secret weapon.

With over three thousand members and almost five hundred regulars every week, many of whom had watched me grow up in front of them, it wasn’t very long before a few small jobs were coming through for me and from those tiny acorns, mighty oaks were about to grow.

I was reliable, affordable and gave good advice and value for money and within only a few months, I found I was soon inundated with work. So much so I had no choice but to now declare myself as being self-employed.

Of course it hasn’t always been that easy. There were times when even master plumbers like me have had to diversify. I’ve worked on domestic and commercial projects, often had to go industrial, and in the harder more financially depressed times, I’ve even taken on part time work to supplement my wage. There have been good times and bad and quite often it has been quite trying.

But the good times, in my own experience have far outweighed any others so I reckon I’m now stuck with it. Well I hope that’s the case, because all in all, I’ve been at it for over thirty years now. I’ve had a wide and varied career and I’ve had apprentices of my own since then. And for anyone that thinks there’s no truth in being at the right place at the right time, maybe I might just be the exception to the rule.







GOING SOLOSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend





Hell had finally found me. And by hell I mean my past. For years now I had been living a brand new life, I was a totally new person, new name, everything. I had settled into my new life so much that I had almost entirely forgotten my past, something that at one time I never thought would be possible to forget, and well I didn’t think I would even be able to escape it, never mind have the opportunity to be able to forget it. But I knew that this day would probably come, the day the devils of my past would return to try and seek their revenge, me and my bravery had ruined them and their evil lifestyle.

I’d effectively caused the collapse of a whole criminal underworld. Lots of people were sent to jail as a result of my actions. But although the likelihood was that my cover was now blown and I would have to start again once more, deep down I believe that put in the same situation again then I would have done the same thing all over, because otherwise many others would have suffered a far more worse life than the one that I had when I was subject to the abuse of these merciless people.

Back in my teens I had fallen in with the wrong crowd, tried drugs, got hooked on them, and as you know, the more you want something you are addicted to the more you will do to get it, and that included borrowing large sums of money off dangerous people, and owing so much money is what lead to me doing something considered a major crime in the criminal world, I cooperated with the police.

By getting these people put behind bars was the only way that I would be able to get rid of the large debt that I had owed them. I knew the risk of doing this; I knew that other people like me had often tried something similar; they ended up being brutally murdered, so I had to plan extremely carefully to make sure that I didn’t suffer this fate. And all that while still under the influence. Luckily for me my plan was effective and I managed to succeed, but once we got to court, these criminals had easily worked out that it was I that had landed them in the dock, and I knew that their sentences would only be a few years at most, this was correct; the longest sentence handed out was only 15 years, and within a few years from now, they would begin to track me down.

Of course there were other people that owed these vile creatures lots of money but instead of taking my chosen route, they tried to pay it back by any means possible, whether that was doing (illegal) jobs for them or having sex with them if the person was good looking enough; and people just tried to make sure that they didn’t upset the people that they owed the money to.

But here they were, I could see them once again before my very eyes, but for now they couldn’t see me and I hoped it would stay that way. They looked pretty much identical to the last time I saw them, whereas I had physically completely changed.

It crossed my mind that I might just be able to walk out past them and they might not recognise me because of the vast change in my physical appearance. But I decided against trying that, it was far too risky, these people were vicious predators with hawk eye vision and I was there prey, they would most likely recognise me if they ever laid eyes on me and would attack, even if they were only 10% sure they were attacking the right person.

By now there were lots of these burly looking gang members walking around this usually quiet street where the worst crime was that of being working class, the residents were now answering the door to gang members and looked frightened for their lives and so they should, these men would trash your house if they had the slightest feeling that the person they were after was in there.

That was the worst thing about this whole situation that was unfolding before me, it was that the damage that was being caused was all my fault, if I hadn’t ever tried those drugs as an impressionable teenager then none of this would have ever happened.

That’s the thing about drugs though; the effects don’t just hurt you, your family and friends, it hurts completely innocent strangers too, as I was now witnessing here. If I was to do the right thing by these people then I would have to go out there and give myself up to them to stop the damage being done to my neighbours but I didn’t. I simply couldn’t.

It was devastating to watch as these innocent people had their homes trashed as they furiously denied knowing a name and physical description that they had never heard nor seen, the name and physical description that were of me in the past. And as they got closer to my own house I decided that I must get completely out of their view.

There was a loud banging on the door; they had now reached my house at the end of the street. I completely froze. What the hell could I do now to get out of this situation alive? I made sure that I stayed out of view, but I could somehow still feel their eyes looking around the room from the outside the window. The emergency alarm that had been installed for me by the Witness Protection People was placed on a table directly in front of the window; it was completely useless to me in this actual situation.

The door knocked again, if they had hit it any harder it would easily cave in, but then again if it didn’t get answered then they would just kick the door down. And just as I thought, within moments the door crashed down into the entrance lobby floor. Shit I thought to myself.

I’d often thought about arming myself but only a gun would be satisfactory right now, with any other weapon they would have easily overpowered me quite quickly. I was now face to face with them, they instantly recognised me straight away.

“Nice to see you again” he said in his cold hard voice. He even recognised me in a complete state of panic. I tried to make out that I had never seen him before.

“Sorry, have we met?” were the words that fell out of my mouth.

“Don’t mess me around again, you’ve already taken years away from me”. He kept closing in on me; I was literally being backed into a corner. I kept telling myself that at any moment now the police would burst in and save me, surely someone must have managed to call them by now.

Continuing with my plan I offered this devil from my past some ID, for some idiotic reason thinking that would help convince him I wasn’t who he wanted. I waved my driving licence in his face.

“Look, look, I’m not who you think I am, please leave me alone”, I wept.

He then punched me extremely hard in the face, knocking me straight out, I haven’t seen that house since; I don’t even know where I am now. And as I lay here trapped in this hoodlum’s makeshift dungeon, all I can think is my days are truly numbered. I’m totally screwed and back to square one all over again, only this time it’s going to be a whole lot harder for me to escape.



TRAPPEDSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



“So there I was standing in the shower, practically naked, kissing my best friend and secret crush and I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect ending to the worst day of my life”.

"It’s about time" I mouthed quietly as he broke the kiss. “Oh no, I actually said that out loud.”

Going back a bit....

I guess my story kind of starts about a year ago when I asked my best friend to come with me to what was bound to be a boring wedding, expecting it to be of little consequence. I was so wrong. The thing that I really hadn’t expected or known about him is that he could dance, and when I say he could dance I mean he could really dance. He led me across the dance floor with grace and precision. I felt like I could fly. He led me through complicated patterns and techniques with ease and although I had no idea what I was doing, it really didn’t matter. I felt beautiful and special like I had never ever felt before. Like there was no one in the world more important to him than me.

Okay so maybe it was a little selfish of me to think like that but you can’t help how you feel. Anyways, as the dance came to an end he brought me into a low dip on cue with the soothing music. I saw his face only inches away from mine and as he slowly moved closer I felt like I couldn’t breathe. He was going to kiss me and at the time I wanted it so badly. That’s the moment I reckon that I truly fell for him.

Well unfortunately he didn’t kiss me then. No, instead he guided me graciously back to my feet and just complimented me on my dancing. It obviously hadn’t had the same affect on him because he had a girlfriend two weeks later. That was the reason I blamed him for the current failures in my love life. Every guy I ever dated just didn’t seem to come anywhere close. Although I do admit I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic so every time my current relationships ended I would wait for him hopefully for two weeks before getting involved with anybody else.

*****

I woke up and lifted my head from the table. Now you’re probably wondering why at 8:30 in the morning I would wake up with my head on the table? Well the only thing I'm wondering is why too. I honestly didn’t hear my alarm go off at 6:30. You would think as I rushed through the house trying to pull myself together for my class that started um.... around about now, that I would have clued in on the thick, half-opened, slobber covered Non-Euclidean Geometry textbook on the table. Yeah, normally something would have seemed suspicious about that in itself and that coupled with the fact that I woke up at the table, it really should have clued me in as to what I had been trying to accomplish last night. Of course you have to understand here that I'm the type of guy who never misses a class. It’s not that I'm a nerdy academic or anything, although I admit I usually get good grades, but the main thing is being late for anything just pisses me off.

So I rushed out the door after a hasty shower and completely forgetting to shave and before getting three steps towards my car I find myself lying on my back. I was fine, I reasoned. The bruises on my back would soon fade and the little spinning birds would leave me alone. I got up and slowly looked around judging my fourth step experimentally. Freezing icy rain was falling all around me. Everything was covered in two inches of slick ice, the very same ice that was too smooth to hold my trainers in place on the ground. So being more careful, I slowed down enough to walk myself to my car.

Alright now here’s the next problem. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me at all and looking back it was just more of an irritation but at the time it seemed like a really big deal. Here’s the thing - Remember the two inches of ice covering everything? Well apparently I had hoped this had excluded my car. I was wrong. And after the tediously slow work of chipping the ice off my windscreen enough to see where I was driving. I got in my car and started to drive to school.

And after the way I've been talking this whole time you’re probably thinking I'm one of those negative sarcastic guys that nobody really likes to be around - Quite the opposite actually. I'm usually quite optimistic. I went to bed last night thinking today was going to be a great day. In fact I had a very good reason to think today would be a good day, and that was my best friend Penny.

Penny and I have known each other quite well since high school and we slowly became the best of friends. Then something terrible happened, I found myself falling for her. It wasn’t all at once or some big romantic thing. It started with some of the little things she did that I suddenly found attractive. Normally I would have been happy about it, but she always seemed to be dating one guy or another so I had done the most sensible thing I could at the time, which was choose to ignore it.

I’d dated a few girls since then and make no mistake I kept all my thoughts about Penny purely of the friendship type... while I was dating anyway. It was the times in between that made things a lot more difficult between us. Well for me anyways. She had no idea.

Anyway, I knew it was a bad idea to be feeling that way about her at all because I thought I knew a little about female psychology. Correct me if I’m wrong but girls have something I like to call the friend zone, aka the dead zone. Let’s face facts here but once a guy gets into a specific girls friend zone, it is very nearly impossible to become anything more. Bear in mind that after this point you can be the best looking, most romantic, most caring, or most wealthy man alive (Yes despite what women say both looks and money do make a big difference to them) and she will look right past you and go out with the first jerk she experiences a small degree of "chemistry" with.

So back to the present, this is the reason I consider myself optimistic, because I was happily looking forward to today. Why? Because I’d noticed a distinct pattern in Penny's dating habits. No I'm not the stalker type but after four years of knowing her, I finally caught on. See every time she breaks up with a guy there is two weeks where she is single and then she'll be dating another guy again. Always two weeks. Exactly two weeks even. And this day was the last day of that second week. I decided I was going to take advantage of that and be the next guy she dated. That had been the plan anyway.

Back to the present, the next thing that happened was probably my own fault. One of my bad habits when I'm in a hurry is to exceed the speed limit when I drive. Nothing too fast, just say - going 70 in a 50 zone. Apparently the cop, cleverly disguised in a neon pink Mini Cooper did think it was too fast though. So after another 15 minutes and finding myself a £60 speeding ticket the richer I pulled up at the university.

There was only five minutes left in the class and I normally wouldn’t have gone at all but Penny was in this class as well and I had an hour break before my next class. It was the perfect opportunity for me to charm her a bit. It wasn’t until I got to my expiring class and saw it absent one familiar face that I remembered an important phone conversation from the night before.

"Hey Michael, one more thing, my cars at the garage." Penny's voice came through the receiver.

"You know I could have just helped you fix it" I told her. It would have been cheaper for her and I knew a lot about cars.

"Yeah but anyways, I was wondering if I could get a ride with you to uni tomorrow."

"Sure thing I'll pick you up at 8" I responded casually.

*****

Every time those two weeks passed I felt my heart break more which brings me to the present. Well actually yesterday but I'll pick up the story from there.

Anyway, that was the last day of my two weeks I had allotted for him to ask me out, again. I decided that this time I would make him notice me and to do that I needed a plan. First of all I needed a way to make sure I spent more time with him. So I told him a little white lie.

"Hey Michael, one more thing, my cars at the garage." I added casually at the end of our conversation on the phone.

"You know I could have just helped you fix it" he replied.

I flinched at that remark. How could I have overlooked such an easy flaw? I continued anyway. "Yeah but anyways, I was wondering if I could get a ride with you to uni tomorrow."

"Sure thing I'll pick you up at 8" he answered.

Alright that sounded way to much like a date but that was what I was after. I went to bed with confidence that my plan was going to work. My confidence was soon shattered the next morning though. I got up early to make sure I would look good for my crush. He always said he liked skirts on women so even though I almost never wore one and it was freezing outside, I wore a skirt for him. I was so distracted about thinking of what his reaction might be that it took me twice as long as normal to do my makeup that morning. Eye shadow: check. Eye liner: check. Lip gloss: check. Simple but pretty I decided, finally satisfied with my appearance.

I was finished getting ready and waited the last fifteen minutes till he would arrive. Then another half hour passed... And then another half hour. Something went wrong I kept telling myself. He was never late for class and he wouldn’t stand me up. He obviously had a very good reason for being over an hour late. Feeling slightly disappointed I called my friend Jess. She was the only one who knew about my crush on Michael and she didn’t start class until later. I was hoping she would have some good advice for me.

"Wear that low cut blouse you got last summer" That was Jess's only advice. I sighed.

"I don’t want him to like me because I'm a tramp" I whined back at her.

"Don’t worry he won’t think your slutty it will just be enough to remind him... that you’re a woman." She giggled on the other end knowing she had won.

Still talking to her I pulled the t-shirt I was wearing over my head. I discarded it on the floor and went searching for the prescribed top. Just then the doorbell rang. "I think he’s here" I stated through the phone in a hushed voice.

"Answer the door then!" She insisted.

"I’m in my bra" I argued searching frantically for the blouse. I finally found it and made it to the door fully dressed, but not before the doorbell rang again.

"So is it a good reaction?" Jess teased when I opened the door to him. 

“Oh my gosh Jess, what if he heard you?” I felt like saying but instead I ignored her comment and made an effort to hide our conversation from him "No he's here. Yeah I should be fine. OK. Bye."

Now I just needed the right answer to one question to set my day right. "Where the hell were you?"

"I’m really sorry. My alarm didn’t go off," okay I could live with that, "and I forgot."

My heart dropped. He had forgotten all about me. ‘So much for getting him to notice you’ my cynical side threw in for good measure.

*****


I checked my watch. 9:31, Shit. I needed to apologise and the sooner the better. I quickly reached into my pocket for my cell phone and at this point wasn’t really surprised. I'd forgotten it at home. Okay, no problem. I go to her house pick her up, and hope she doesn’t kill me during the drive. It was a great plan.

So I got to her house, up the front steps, rang the doorbell and waited - And waited. I rang again. Finally, the door opens and Penny stands there facing me talking on her phone. "No he's here. Yeah I should be fine. OK. Bye."

While she's finishing talking I noticed two things. One, it was subzero temperatures outside and two she wasn’t dressed for it. The top she had on had just a low enough cut to draw attention to it but not enough to actually show anything or make her look slutty. If that wasn’t enough she was wearing a skirt in this weather too. It was a long enough skirt but a skirt nonetheless. She would surely freeze. Not that I would complain if she was fine with it.

"Where the hell were you?" She asked, raising her voice in a way that told me my fears were well grounded.

"I’m really sorry. My alarm didn’t go off and I forgot." I hurriedly tried to explain.

Now knowing Penny, I probably would have gotten out of this whole mess if I hadn’t spoken those last two words.

"You forgot?" Her rage was building. I was in trouble. Now I probably should have paid attention to exactly what she had said as we made our way to the car. It went along the lines of she’s mad at me, was waiting for nearly two hours, missed an entire class, all because I forgot. Oh and something about how she would get someone else to give her a ride next time if she was too much of a bother to remember. However what really got me into trouble was voicing what had been distracting me during this interaction.

"Has anyone ever told you that you are really sexy when you’re angry?" If the car hadn’t been started seconds before, you could have heard a pin drop. Now, there are two kinds of angry women: The kind who yell and the kind who remain completely silent and refused to talk. Penny was both and her silence was way scarier than her yelling and it was her silence that I faced the rest of the trip and despite my apologies and explanations regarding my late arrival the best response I got was a nod that let me know she was actually listening.

Finally as we parted to go our separate ways she gave me a simple emotionless "See you after class" before she left.

"Sure." Knowing she needed her space and today of all days, it would be a really bad day to screw things up even worse I didn’t push things further and instead headed to my second class of the day. Non-Euclidean Geometry.

*****

It didn’t stop me from letting him have it. "You forgot?" I asked coolly. On our short walk to the car I made him aware of just how upset I was until he said something I really wasn’t expecting.

"Has anyone ever told you that you are really sexy when you’re angry?" He interrupted my rant just after starting the car. I was shocked to say the least. Rarely had he ever told me I was pretty or beautiful. I was pretty sure he had never called me sexy before. Maybe this day would still turn out alright. I was so lost in thought that I didn’t even notice him talking to me the whole way to uni.

"See you after class" I promised him before leaving him at his math class.

“Sure" I heard him say as I was already planning the next move in my plan - Jealousy.

It was probably a bad idea but if it would get Michael to notice me I decided it was worth it. Tony was a well known player who had been hitting on me since... well since before I broke up with my last boyfriend. So I didn’t feel bad about leading him on for a little while. Despite being a smooth talker he was a jerk and deserved anything he got. Now to be fair I didn’t expect him to ask me out in the first fifteen minutes of me flirting with him. I mean I had been flirting with a different clueless guy for the last two weeks all to no avail.

Of course I told him no. Then Michael walked into the cafeteria. Keeping with the plan I leaned forward on the table and resumed even stronger flirtations with the man I had just rejected. I'm terrible I know but it was worth it if only to see the possessive look on his face as he sat down right beside me. My heart raced. This was no time to get nervous but it felt so good knowing that with the slightest movement my arm would brush against his.

“Hey who’s this?" he asked and I was slightly disappointed that the possessiveness was gone from his eyes and his voice. It was just him being his usual protective self. 

"Oh this is Tony." I motioned to him in a last attempt to get a rise "How was your test?" I asked remembering that he had his math midterm today.

"Pretty easy actually." He was so smart he got 90s with little to no effort. If I didn’t like him so much I'd have been envious. "How’s your homework going?" He asked the question I was dreading. I hadn’t even started my math homework yet and wasn’t looking forward to it.

"Terrible. I’m just not good at math" I confessed. It wasn’t any secret that I wasn’t as smart as him but it served to dampen my mood even more knowing that he would probably want to date a smart girl.

"Well since I'm driving you home we could stop by my place and dig out some of my old assignments. If it would help." Okay my day just got better. Maybe being bad at math could be a good thing after all. Having made further plans with him nothing would get my mood down.
 
"I need to get some work done." Tony cut in standing up to leave. "See you tonight," he told me with a wink and left before I could respond. I know I left him on a flirty note but with Michael’s appearance I was sure he'd back down. Well I knew one thing for sure. I wasn’t going out with him tonight.

"Penny about this morning..." Michael broke into my thoughts. 

"Don’t worry about it" I cut him off with a smile. If he was still worried about that then maybe I still had hope yet. 

"You’re sure?"

"Yeah I thought about your explanations and its fine." I assured him letting him off the hook. Of course mentioning his explanations I couldn’t help but think of his compliment this morning and a light blush graced my cheeks. Michael had complimented me. Tony was gone and I was spending the afternoon with my crush. For the next hour I wasn’t going to let anything worry me. Except maybe the thought of totally screwing things up.

*****


Non-Euclidean Geometry, Non-Euclidean Geometry why does that ring a bell? At this point two things clued me in. One: Everyone was frantically going over their notes in a last minute attempt to learn something. Two: The professor was advancing towards the seats with a thick pile of white test booklets. Oh Yeah mid-term today. I stopped to calm myself before taking my seat. Don’t worry it’s only worth 30% of my final grade that’s not so bad. Alright mental check, what did I study about Non-Euclidean Geometry? Suddenly it all came back to me. Non-Euclidean Geometry is the study of models of geometry which do not use all of Euclid’s 5 postulates. Yep that was it, as far as my studying got. Well at least I could define it. How bad could it be? Famous last words...

One hour and a nearly blank test later I had the answer to my questions. So having failed my test miserably I left the classroom to meet Penny for lunch. If that one thing would go right today, the rest wouldn’t matter I decided. I would ask Penny out and she would say yes... as soon as I made up for this morning. I made my way to the central campus cafeteria that we usually met at for lunch with high hopes. Quickly shattered high hopes.

As expected I found her sitting in the usual area of the cafeteria with her food already purchased waiting for me to get there. Well most of that statement was correct. She wasn’t waiting but what she was doing was blatantly flirting with the guy sitting across from her and much to my dismay leaning forward on the table to give him what I could only imagine was quite a pleasant view. Did I give up? No. I had expected as much to happen. This was after all, the last day of her two weeks of week being single. So far she had no idea how I felt about her so her predictable behaviour was normal. The fact that he looked like a smooth-talking S.O.B. would be irrelevant.

I bought some food for myself and joined them at the table. Of course with this new guy sitting in my usual spot across from her I had every excuse to sit beside her instead. So I smugly sat right alongside her leaving very little room between us. "Hey who’s this?" I asked trying to sound as if he was of no consequence.

"Oh this is Tony." She stated motioning to my apparent rival. "How was your test?" Great - Even she remembered my test, the one I had forgotten.

"Pretty easy actually." I lied. Hell if I was going to let this Tony know that I failed.

"How’s your homework going?" I asked in reply.

"Terrible. I’m just not good at math" She confessed. I already knew this from several previous occasions. She was good at essays I was good at math. Together we'd make quite the pair. I was determined to show her that.

"Well since I'm driving you home we could stop by my place and dig out some of my old assignments. If it would help?" I suggested. I had taken linear algebra last semester and found it rather easy. Tony I could tell was getting irritated by this new information and his exclusion from the conversation.

"I need to get some work done." Tony cut in standing up to leave. "See you tonight" he told Penny with a wink and left before she could respond. Tony had managed to get the last laugh but I still had until then to win her over I argued.

Alright task one, Tony's departure: complete. Task two, make up for this morning: still pending.

"Penny about this morning..." I started. No girl liked being forgotten for two hours so I knew I was treading on thin ice but things seemed to be turning around so maybe it would work.

"Don’t worry about it" She said with a smile. A smile? Ok what happened to the Penny I forgot this morning? Can you say major mood swing? Wait hold the phone. Every time a woman is mad at you and says it’s alright, it's never alright. But how to broach this further?

"You’re sure?" I asked dubiously. Giving her some credit, she wasn’t one to hold a grudge for long but she had made a pretty big deal about it this morning so you can see my reasoning for doubting her statement.

"Yeah I thought about your explanations and its fine." She listened to my explanations? Now I just knew something was up. I hoped Tony wasn’t the cause for her newfound happiness but either way I would have to be grateful for it.

*****

He seemed to be oblivious to how he was making me feel having not moved any further away. Or the fact that many of his remarks carried a flirty double meaning that I’m sure he didn’t mean. Or how he was complimenting me a lot more than usual. Maybe the whole jealousy thing had worked after all. The problem was every time he did, I lost my ability to form proper sentences and I came off looking like an idiot. So instead of enjoying the compliments like I should have been I ended up making us both feel awkward. Just great Penny! He thinks you’re a bumbling idiot.

Glancing at my watch I was shocked at how much time had passed. "Oh I'm late for class" I said jumping up from my spot and it was suddenly draughty in the cafeteria. I looked down and saw Michael staring at my panties. My face grew incredibly hot at the embarrassment. This is why I never wear skirts. My immediate reaction landed on his right cheek leaving a distinctive mark. I quickly pulled up my skirt and rushed away from the embarrassment.

It wasn’t until after I was in class that I thought about the mistake I had made. I had never willingly stripped in front of a guy. My sense of romance and morals wouldn’t ever let me have sex until I was in love in a very committed relationship, preferably marriage. It was a decision I had made when I started dating in high school. I knew it was the right choice and despite all the jerks I dated that broke up with me on that fact alone I was determined to stand my ground on my choice. So it’s understandable that slapping Michael had been my immediate reaction.

Looking at the facts though, he had been sitting really close. It was a pretty safe assumption that he hadn’t tried to undress me in public considering how protective he could be. And now I not only embarrassed myself in front of him like that but also slapped him for it. I doubt he'll even want to help me with homework now. Suddenly I was very glad that I wouldn’t be seeing him for the next three hours.

Sadly it proved to be that it still wasn’t long enough.

*****

Our conversation continued like on normal days each of us talking about whatever was on our minds. Yep I told her anything and everything on my mind with the exception of one minor detail. How I felt about her, only the single most important thing that had been consuming most of my thought processes this morning. Yeah that little titbit of info I kept all to myself. Don’t get me wrong I tested the waters. Several times I turned the conversation with some flirty remark or compliment but no matter how natural I sounded slipping it into the conversation she always grew slightly awkward as a result. She'd stumble over her words or say an awkward thank you. Not exactly the response I was hoping for.

A familiar thought came back to me. If I tried this and it didn’t work I would turn our long standing friendship into a series of awkward encounters. I definitely didn’t want that but I ask you, is it better to be close to having what you want and never get it or to lose what you want forever? Ideally I decided it was better to get what you wanted but that was seeming less and less likely as the day went on.

"Oh I'm late for class" She jumped up quickly beside me and I turned to face her but immediately spotted the colour red. Ok backtrack for a second here. What colour was her shirt? I suddenly couldn’t remember but I had a feeling my gaze was lower than that anyways with her standing and me sitting. Her skirt, now trapped under my arse, had been black so ... Two things occurred to me. Yes my brain seems to process things in pairs but that’s not what’s important. One was I had been sitting very close to her and the second was that her face was as red as her panties which were currently on display for the entire cafeteria. My thoughts didn’t really get any further before my face had a very distinct 5 finger red mark to match.

The red from her panties was replaced once again by black and she was gone before I even had a chance to defend myself. Well that couldn’t have gone any better. Now Tony was the charmer and I was the pervert. Perfect! What more could a guy want?

I couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I didn’t see her for the next three hours on account of our classes being offset. She, I was certain, counted it as a good thing.

*****

When he met me after class I still couldn’t broach the embarrassing subject to apologise. Silently I followed him to his car hoping he wouldn’t just take me straight home because of the incident.

Luckily (For me) I didn’t have to wait the entire ride to find out if he would still help me. Unfortunately it came at the expense of a flat tyre and a soaking for Michael putting him in an even worse mood.

"Are you alright? You look freezing." I asked concerned. Suddenly I felt really guilty for slapping him earlier.

"Yeah I'll be fine. I just might need a hot shower before we work on your math." How it is that him mentioning the shower also made me think of my accidental stripping this afternoon I'll never know but not trusting my voice at this point I sat in silence for the rest of the ride.

*****

When I met her at 3:30 things were still awkward between us. Oh and when I say awkward I mean you would be able to cut the tension with a knife. No it would probably take something more like a chainsaw - Yeah that’s about how thick it was. Apologies followed for the umpteenth time that day but they did nothing to ease the tension. The drive to my place would be very awkward indeed.

At least it was no longer subzero out. Most of the ice had melted in fact and there were puddles situated everywhere. Finally something was looking up, or so I thought. My positive attitude didn’t last even for the ten minutes before I heard a terrible noise and the car became very hard to control. I had a flat tyre. Why not? It seemed to be the way everything else was turning out today. Alright, put on emergency brake, pop the boot open and change the wheel. Simple not much of a hold-up. But remember those puddles? Well I was about half done taking off the wheel when a car drove by going faster than I had been this morning (Where’s the cop in the mini cooper now?) and a nearby puddle changed its normal location to dripping down off my back.

I take back anything I said about it no longer being cold out. Because when you’re drenched, it doesn’t need to be subzero to be cold out. Nope, I was definitely freezing well enough with the few degrees above zero the sun had chosen to give us. And I still had a tyre to change. Another ten torturous minutes and I was back in the car, still soaking wet but no longer dripping, to face the embarrassment of the situation.

"Are you alright? You look freezing." Penny asked concerned.

"Yeah I'll be fine. I just might need a hot shower before we work on your math." It was definitely what I needed now, a nice relaxing uneventful hot shower.

*****

Five minutes into his shower his phone rang. Having been over at his place many times already I felt comfortable answering it when the caller id showed it was his dad. Mr. Palmer was a great fatherly figure and usually teased me about his son so it was no surprise when he asked me to give Michael the phone despite the fact that he was in the shower. What did come as a surprise was that before I knocked on the door Michael opened it and pushed me to the floor with his hands on either side of my head.

Now I might have seen this as a romantic aggressive gesture especially when his eyes said they desperately wanted to kiss me. But despite this and how good his bare chest looked I came upon the realization that he was on top of me butt naked.

That to me drove home his true intentions.

Slap! The second time that day I had marked him. But this time he deserved it. How could he? He retreated from his approach to his own room and I failed to notice the towel lying on the floor by my feet. He only wanted me for my body. That really hurt me but what hurt more was that I wanted to give it to him just for some empty form of affection from him. I shook my head. I needed to get out of here fast. I was at the door when he came back out, fully clothed.

"Penny wait" I didn’t want to stay but the begging in his voice compelled me to do so.

*****

Before you say anything (no, this isn’t the part where she ends up naked in the shower with me). Remember we left the school at 3:30 so even with changing the car tyre and getting soaked and cold and the drive home it can’t even be 4:30 yet. The little incident that started (or ended depending on how you look at it) this whole thing happened at 8:30 still four hours from now. Alright now that that’s settled I can get back to enjoying my hot shower. Or maybe not.

The water was freaking cold. Yeah that’s fine it should warm up soon. It’s only been five minutes running on what should be hot. Yeah I'll be fine. Out of all the days for a hot water heater to quit it just had to be today. Not that it was the first time it had quit on me. I was pretty handy with tools and could always manage to get it working. Really I should have expected it to quit on me today with everything else that happened but no, for some odd reason I thought I’d have a few minutes to relax today.

Fine! I turned off the shower and dried myself off. Then upon noticing that the only clothes I had in the room were my dirty wet ones from earlier I wrapped a towel around my waist and l left to go to my room. Another mistake.

I had barely opened the bathroom door before I saw her face all to close. Already having started my forward momentum I didn’t have time stop from running into her knocking both of us to the ground. My hands went out to stop me from falling on her and landed on either side of her suspending me inches above her. It was a delayed reaction for both of us. I as usual, examined the situation. I saw her face only inches from mine. I saw for the first time today that she was wearing lip gloss on her beautiful lips. I saw the phone in one of her hands and noted that it wasn’t the dial-tone coming from the receiver. Now I’m just taking a stab in the dark here but I'm guessing she could have noticed different things.

She probably saw me lying above her after knocking her to the ground. She probably saw that upon me hitting her, my towel came undone and was lying at our feet. I’m guessing this because I saw her hand coming across my cheek and not in a good way. The sting of her slap snapped me back to my senses. I quickly got up and went to my room to get dressed before either of us could say anything.

I couldn’t get dressed fast enough. When I got out she looked like she was on her way out. "Your dad called." She informed me clearly avoiding the fact that she had just seen me naked and she was leaving much earlier than planned.

"Penny wait" I called to her. Obviously she was mad at me again. But I wasn’t going to give up just yet.

*****

"When you invited me over you said it was so we could work on schoolwork" I argued coldly. So what if my intentions had ventured a little further than school I had still planned on doing something ...clean.

"Just let me explain. It was an accident." Yeah of course, I haven’t heard that one before.

"Look I know guys only seem to have one thing on their mind but I thought you were my friend" I thought you were different. My heart begged for him to have some kind of explanation. Even to say that he liked me for who I was, along with the obvious and now unwanted physical attraction. He didn’t say a word only hung his head in shame. So I left. It wasn’t that far to walk back to my place and I definitely didn’t want a ride from him. The tears started falling as soon as I left and as much as I wanted to get away from him I was betrayed by the part of me that hoped he would follow.

*****

"When you invited me over you said it was so we could work on schoolwork" She made a point of putting emphasis on the last word.

"Just let me explain. It was an accident." I tried but she didn’t seem to be listening.

"Look I know guys only seem to have one thing on their mind but I thought you were my friend"

There was that word again - Friend. It’s funny how such a positive word can hurt so much. You know you think with the good marks I get and all my theories about female psychology that I could have clued in. Every time I tried to change things between me and Penny, I well... changed things. Yep I made them even worse.

Apparently she was disgusted by the answer I failed to give her in time because she shook her head and left. I decided that the best thing I could do right now was leave her be. It was only seven blocks to her house from here. I'm sure she didn’t want another awkward drive.

Ok that didn’t go as well as planned either but by tomorrow she would be dating Tony anyway and I could explain the whole situation without the awkwardness or my feelings getting in the way. Hopefully, our friendship would return to the way it was and it would all be fine again. If the definition of fine is to have screwed things up in epic proportions, so badly that the girl of your dreams despised you, yeah then it would be fine.  Ok yeah I know. I’m overreacting but what’s a guy to do?

*****

Needing someone to talk to I called Jess up and between my tears told her what had happened. She tried to reassure me by telling me that guys will be guys and how not everyone’s a virgin but it didn’t make me feel any better. She tried to reason that Michael was just a jerk and somehow that wasn’t any easier to accept either. Finally she gave me something I could think about further.

"If he’s the guy you really think he is then he wouldn’t try to have sex with you unless he was genuinely interested in you." It gave me a bit of hope. If all guys were like that then wouldn’t it be best to make sure I'm at least with the one I love? I knew it was weak logic but if I had some sign that he actually had feelings for me, maybe I could compromise my morals a bit. Maybe he would be worth it.

I had been thinking these thoughts for a while when the doorbell rang. My heart instantly sped up. Had he come after me after all? That would mean something right? I wiped the evidence of my tears from my face in the bathroom quickly before I answered the door. My heart felt like it got stepped on again. It was Tony.

"What part of no don’t you understand?" I asked harshly angry at the world for the irony.

"I dunno, your actions were saying something along the lines of “I’m a little tart.'" He stated with a smirk while pushing through the open door.

"Just leave me alone. I will... Never... Go out... With you!" I hoped I would get it through his thick head.

"Don’t kid yourself. You want this as much as I do." He stated harshly making me instinctively take a step back in fear. Before I could react he pinned me against a wall and crushed his lips against mine.

Only a second after our lips connected I did the best thing I could think of at the time. That involved my knee very forcefully going between his legs. He got the message. He reeled back in pain. "Get out before I call the cops on you" I yelled.

Finally he complied. "Bitch. No wonder the last guy dumped you." He stated knocking over a bag of take-away food on his way out.

*****



Well the first thing I would do is fix my hot water heater because that’s what started this whole mess in the first place. Letting my practical mind take over I attacked the problem in a step by step procedure. Step one double check that there is a problem. I turned on the shower again letting it run empty. I reached my hand into the shower a few times and feeling nothing higher than its previous scorching temperatures of somewhere around zero degrees I moved on to step two. I turned off the water to the house using the main stop tap. The water in the shower stopped as affirmation. Step three, fix the stupid water heater.

That went better than expected. It only took me an hour and a half this time instead of the usual 15 minute tweaks. I really do need to replace it and since being a student pays so well, I should have just bought a new one. Alright, now I’m sounding sarcastic but again can you blame me? Alright it was now 6 o’clock, time for supper. Now despite everything else that had happened today that thought also led me to my stupidest idea yet.

See another thing about me is that I just can’t leave well enough alone or in this case bad enough. See I look at all those lame chick flicks they call movies. There always comes the point in the plot where there’s been some misunderstanding or the main characters been hurt or whatever. Anyways the protagonist always responds by some type of withdrawal. Oh and the ones I especially think are stupid are the guys that just let the girl walk away with a smile on their face thinking its best for the girl. And in all those movies the girl really wants the guy to fight for her which you know he'll do eventually and it’s really what makes the whole "dramatic part" of the movie rather lame. If he had just fought for her in the beginning all of it could have been avoided.

Yes I know I'm in this little thing called reality and it’s a far stretch from the movies but at this point I decided that I wouldn’t make the same stupid mistake. I would fight for her until I found out whether or not she wanted me to.

Ok, going back to how the thought about supper led to this. Her favourite restaurant wasn’t far from here and I knew that whether or not she had worked on her homework she would be in no mood to make herself any supper tonight. My idea was that a take-away would be the perfect way to apologise, explain my accident, and hopefully ask her out like I'd been meaning to all day.

See what I mean about being too hopeful? Alright so I called the restaurant, and picked up the food half an hour later like they told me. Then I took that moment to think the very thoughts that I’m sure doomed me. Hey things had actually been going right for half hour already. This could work. It seems my luck continued as I made it to her house without any difficulty whatsoever. I grabbed the food and approached her front door noticing it was already open and there were voices within. I assumed she was talking to one of her room mates and pushed the door open all the way. Ok... now just to clarify this was my biggest mistake of the day.

There she was, Penny the girl I had fallen for kissing Tony. Once again, it seemed my two weeks was up. I had run out of chances. I ducked out quickly and quietly to save myself the embarrassment, not even realizing I’d left the take-away on her front step.

*****

Come to think of it that was the first I noticed of the take-away from the Thai Food Emporium. Thinking Tony had brought it, I picked it up to discard it when I noticed a note inside.

I bought you your favourite. Before you say anything please let me explain. I didn’t mean to hurt you and I really do care.

A tear rolled down my cheek for the billionth time that night. The writing looked deliberate as if the person had taken extra care to make it neat but I still recognized it as belonging to only one person. Michael. He actually did care. Alright, we would compromise.

Mind set on what I would do I searched out my skimpiest pair of underwear and put them on before redressing in the clothes I had just removed. I grabbed the bag of food (thankfully considering what happened next) and made the walk to his place expecting him to answer the door. When he didn’t, I shook the handle to find it unlocked so I decided to take things a step further and surprise him.

Okay so the plan was to strip to my skimpy underwear and let him know things could work on both our terms if only for him. It was the boldest thing I'd ever done in my life and despite my nagging morals I decided to stick to my decision. That was over an hour ago. And now I had already eaten my share of the food and was getting cold feet, well cold everywhere else as well. So when he opened the door and came back into his own house I turned and... Ran. Not knowing where else to go and too embarrassed at this point to face him I hid behind the curtain in the shower.

*****

I drove away. I didn’t really care where I went at this point or how much time passed I just needed to think and yet escape all thoughts at the same time. Really I shouldn’t be upset. I knew all day this was coming so why did it affect me? The answer I would never admit. After driving for a while common sense finally took over and I returned home. Then I just walked. It saved on gas I reasoned. No reason to go broke for something so stupid.

After I grew tired of that I returned back home for real. Went to the tap to get a glass of water and realized that in light of my brilliant, aka stupid idea I forgot to turn the water back on.

And this is where things got interesting. Upon turning the water back on the shower water also came back on. And upon the shower water coming back on, I heard a high pitched squeak of shock coming from the shower. I ran into the bathroom to find the shower curtain was now closed. Opening it slowly, it revealed Penny standing inside blushing wearing nothing but black lingerie.

This time instead of thinking I acted without hesitation. I was so caught up in the fact that she was in my shower in her underwear that I didn’t even try to stop myself. I stepped into the shower beside her and pressed my lips softly against hers.

So here I stood in my shower soaking wet, kissing a girl who hated my guts, about to be pummelled by said girl, and I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect ending to the worst day of my life. I parted from the kiss and took a step back bracing myself for the resounding slap that would inevitably follow but instead all I heard was.... "It’s about time."

*****

Between my scream at the initially cold water, his discovery of me and that kiss we all know what happened next.

So here I was standing in the shower, practically naked, kissing my best friend and secret crush and I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect ending to the worst day of my life.

It really was about time.

And it turns out much to my relief we didn’t have sex that day either. In fact I found out that he too didn’t agree with the idea of premarital sex. However, he assured me that even if he did, he would have respected me enough to wait until marriage simply based upon my request. He also made me promise that day that I would never sleep with a guy unless it was truly what I wanted and to never compromise my beliefs for anybody.

Tonight though, I would indeed lose my virginity because today we finally said our vows. Today we finally got married. And tonight would be the perfect ending to the best day of my life.




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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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