Emma looks down at the plate the waiter has just put down in front of her. A fish; a dead fish. Well
obviously it’s dead. She wouldn’t expect it to dance a jig on its bed of rocket. Rocket.?What a daft
name for a load of limp leaves. A vision of a fish hopping about and a rocket whooshing up to the
gilded chandeliers makes her giggle.
‘What’s so funny?’ asks her dad.
‘Nothing.’ A wall of silence builds, brick by brick, as they tackle their food. Emma picks at her lettuce without enthusiasm although she feels queasy.
‘So what are they teaching you at that school? What’s your favourite subject?’
‘Um . . .’
‘I see it didn’t do very well in the latest league tables.’
‘No. I like English best and our teacher, Mrs Onwaladi, says . . .’
‘What are her qualifications to teach English at a secondary school?’
Careful not to annoy her father, with his plain Tory blue tie, Emma places her fork and knife at precisely half-past-six and sits up straight. ‘Mrs Onwaladi is actually a vicar’s daughter from Kent. She has short fair hair and blue eyes and rides a bicycle with a basket on the front like you see on Miss Marple.’ So there, she is tempted to add but refrains. ‘It’s her husband who’s African, Kenyan actually and he’s a KC.’ What she doesn’t say is that he defends asylum seekers threatened with deportation and usually wins.
She looks down at the dead fish on its bed of rocket staring back at her. It is disappointed with her for eating in this posh restaurant and for wearing a skirt and tights instead of her usual jeans and sweatshirt with a political slogan about oil, global warming or animal welfare. Eye to eye with the poor fish she decides there and then to go fully vegan.
The waiter glides up to her and removes her plate with a conspiratorial wink. Her father is too busy wrestling with his animal flesh to notice, giving her time to scan the other tables. She’s the youngest person by far. Most of those seated at the tables are Young Conservatives all with smug expressions.
‘That was quick,’ her dad says as he notices, at last, her plate has gone. ‘Did you enjoy it?’
‘Delicious, thank you, Dad’ she lies.‘Thank you for bringing me here. It’s very expensive, isn’t it?’
He blushes; something Emma has never seen him do before. ‘Actually, I won it in a raffle at a charity ball when I drank too much. This isn’t really our sort of place, is it? Cecilia says she wouldn’t be seen dead in here ...’
He blushes again. How’s he going to get out of that one, Emma thinks. Cecilia is the woman he left Mum for. ‘Um … I was thinking, Cecilia, well she prefers, her second name, Isabel or Izzy, actually, would like to meet you. Only if your mother agrees, of course.’ Emma watches him squirm and drop his bloody fork on the floor, twisting his white linen napkin with both hands and has a way he used to make origami swans and flowers with her when she was little as well as lifting her onto his shoulders until she felt on top of the world. I’ll ask Mum. She actually wants me to and Mrs Onwaladi tells me I should.
About the author
Sally Zigmond has been writing and publishing fiction, both long and short for over 30 years. She is grateful to Gill James for her kindness, encouragement and, most of all, sharp editing.
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