Tuesday, September 25, 2007
4. A pub, a club and Nan
I had to try and do both – get over to Nan’s party in Salford well before seven and get Ahmed to pick me up in his car after not too long.
The party had swollen: Nan had invited all her friends and so the venue had changed to the pub. And there they were, she and her buddies in their sparkly tops with their gins and tonics, and all Grandad’s pub mates from before he died, and it wasn’t long before they’d started a sing-song, and the pub was booming with ‘Matchstick Men’, and a guy with an earring who was standing just outside and wasn’t one of the party stepped in each time between the lines and shouted, ‘Alley-alley-oh!’ with a grin.
Well, Ahmed was very late: someone had let his tyres down – again.
Of course the family had wanted to know why I wasn’t staying. I thought they might worry like Brenda and Jody if I told them about the mystery, so I just mumbled about meeting someone, and it sounded so feeble I got all guilty and embarrassed, and guess what, it had given Nan the wrong idea. When Ahmed finally arrived – with oil or whatever on his pants and hands – Nan shrieked (she’d had a few gins by now): ‘So this is your boyfriend, Catherine!’. Well, I went bright red (why in heaven’s name did I go bright red?) and Ahmed looked so awkward I was no longer torn but just glad to be gone.
By the time we’d parked the car it was ten-fifteen. We cut through a bit of Canal Street under the trees festooned with blue lights, and tangled with girls in lit-up bunny ears and people in pirate costumes and a bald guy with a full glass who stopped us to ask if we were having a lovely evening and announced beatifically that he was having the time of his life.
The whole of the city partying as if there was nothing wrong anywhere in the world, or as if things are so beyond help, what with wars and global warming, there’s really nothing else to do…
The session was done, but there was the guy I was looking for, whom Ahmed said was called Tom, still in his stripy hat and finishing packing up the van with his band. ‘Hey!’ I called. ‘You gave me a number and no-one answers!’
He looked dismayed to see me. He even seemed to retreat from me.
He said, ‘I think he lost his phone.’
‘My mate. Neil.’ Neil? Who did I know called Neil? No one.
‘Well, what did he want to tell me?’
He looked strangely panicky. ‘I’m sorry, it’s not for me to say.’
I was furious, I guess I got aggressive. ‘For god’s sake!’ ‘Come on, mate,’ Ahmed appealed to him, ‘Can’t you see this might be freaking her?’ But Tom shook his head and put up his palms and then started getting in the van. I said, ‘Well give me his new number and’ - scrabbling in my bag for pen and paper - ‘here’s mine.’
He took it and jumped up without giving me a number in return, and the van started up and was gone.
I couldn’t believe it.
And that was when Ahmed put his arm around me. As if there aren’t enough complications without Ahmed letting Nan put ideas in his head…
Voting has now closed. You decided that Cat should be uncertain of her feelings for Ahmed; we'll see how this plays out in next week's chapter of our blogstory, posted on Tuesday morning.