Tuesday 21 April 2015

Head Banging

Head Banging

Sue Cross

G and T

I had just returned from a visit to the supermarket when the phone rang.
            ‘Pamela! What a surprise – how are you?’ I uttered before I could bite my tongue in regret.
            ‘I’ve had an awful few months. The migraines are forever lurking behind my eyes,’ she moaned.
            I sat down, knowing that this would be a long conversation. After commiserating, she asked if we could meet for lunch.
            ‘Are you sure that you’ll be up to it. You know, the migraines…’
            ‘I must make the effort. I’ve not been out for ages. Shall we meet at the Wine Bar in Grove Road?’

It was arranged and we met on the dot at twelve noon. Pamela had lost weight since I had last seen her and she looked pale. In spite of the heat she wore a beige body warmer over her pristine, white blouse. Although she could be irritating, I was fond of her and I felt sorry that she had to suffer such poor health. We pecked each other on the cheek and I hoped that my perfume would not cause an allergic reaction. Silly of me to have put it on, but it was habit.
            We found a quiet table in the window and soon the waiter greeted us. He had docile eyes and sported a tattoo of a spider’s web on his neck.
            ‘The special today is Chicken Chasseur with new potatoes and either salad or green beans.’
            Pamela screwed her nose up and perused the menu.
            ‘Shall I come back?’ he asked.
            ‘Er, yes. This table is no good. The sun will be round in a minute. Can we sit in the shade? Migraines.’ She sounded ominous and the waiter’s eyebrows raised a fraction.
            We duly found a table near to the kitchen, where it was suitably gloomy, and ordered some drinks.
            ‘White wine for me, please. What would you like, Pamela?’
            ‘Er, let me think. Mineral water, still. Thank you.’
            The waiter returned with our drinks and asked if we were ready to order.
            ‘I’ll have the special, please – with the green beans.’
            He scribbled in his notepad and looked expectantly at Pamela, who was wearing a pained expression. I hoped that it was not the start of a migraine.
            ‘Er, let me think. I’ll have the pâté with white bread. No butter. Dairy allergy. Does the pâté contain any dairy?’
            ‘I’ll check for you.’ He smiled and disappeared. My tummy rumbled.
            ‘Well, this is nice. Cheers.’ I raised my glass and took a gulp of wine.
            ‘I’ve come off the blood pressure pills,’ Pamela informed me. ‘They were causing so many problems. George has been doing all the housework and cooking. I couldn’t get out of bed for a month.’
            The waiter returned, looking triumphant. ‘No dairy products in the pâté.’
            ‘All right. I’ll have that, then.’
            He looked relieved and disappeared with haste before she could change her mind.

My mouth watered as the food was presented. It smelled delicious and soon I was tucking into my meal. The chicken was tender and succulent, the sauce rich and the green beans crisp.
            Pamela picked at her food and complained about the incompetence of the medical profession.
            ‘Everything all right here?’ The waiter held his head to one side, like an expectant sparrow.
            ‘Delicious.’ I meant it.
            ‘The bread is a bit doughy and the pâté is too rich. You can take my plate away. I can’t finish it.’ Pamela adjusted her sunglasses and took some tablets from her handbag.
            ‘Can I get you anything else? Coffee or dessert?’
            ‘Coffee please. What about you, Pamela?’
            ‘Er, let me think. I’ll have a chamomile tea.’
            I heard a lot about the side effects of modern drugs as we waited for our drinks. It really was a shock to learn of the dangers of such medicines.
            After paying our bill, I asked Pamela if she would like a lift home. I was worried that she was too delicate to manage the half-mile walk to her house.
            ‘Thank you, dear. I am rather tired.’
            ‘I’m parked in the car park around the corner.’
            ‘These new bifocals are so difficult to get used to,’ she announced as we strolled to the car park but, before I could steady her, she was on the pavement, prone and moaning.
            ‘Are you all right?’ I helped her to her feet.
            ‘Banged my head. I’ll be fine,’ she said with uncharacteristic optimism.
            ‘Are you sure? I can drive you round to A and E.’
            ‘No need to fuss. I’m all right.’
            I drove her home and, worried, phoned her the next day.
            ‘How are you feeling today?’ I braced myself for a detailed description.
            ‘Oh, fine. It was lovely seeing you yesterday. Can we do it again next week?’ She sounded chirpy and cheerful.

We met at the same wine bar. She was a little late and breezed in looking ten years younger. I tried to fathom what was different about her and then realised that she was not wearing her dark glasses and she was wearing eye makeup. Eye makeup! She was allergic to eye makeup and had often described the alarming the effects of even the slightest hint of mascara.
            Let’s sit in the window. It’s such a lovely day.’
            ‘Are you sure?’
            ‘Yes, why do you ask?’
            ‘Oh, you know. Just wondered.’

We had a different waiter this time. ‘Can I get you a drink?’ he enquired.
            ‘I’d like a gin and tonic. What about you, dear?’ Pamela looked at me, smiling.
            I ordered my usual glass of Chardonnay.
            ‘The special today is steak in a creamy pepper sauce with chips and side salad or broccoli.’
            ‘Yum – sounds good to me. I’ll have mine rare with broccoli,’ Pamela enthused.
            The waiter disappeared to the kitchen and I sat in silent shock.
            ‘So, how have you been since your fall?’
            ‘Fall, what fall? I don’t know – my memory has been shocking this week, but what the heck! Cheers, drink up. I’m going to have another G and T.’

About the Author

Sue Cross has published two novels, Tea at Sam’s and the sequel, Making Scents. You can visit her on her website www.suecross.com

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