A very quick notice that the Early Bird discount ends at the end of January. To take advantage of this you must pay by the end of January.
Without further mincing about *opens page of book*
“I’m in the wrong fucking hotel!” I said, as the name on the displays—the Grand—swam into focus. I was staying at the Majestic.
I looked at Matey’s abs again, tossing a mental coin about taking a punt with him. A loud, beery belch from his direction made the decision for me.
“Sorry, my floor I think,” I said, barging out of the lift, and sending a couple of pensioners flying, as the door opened at the next floor. I caught sight of beer-boy’s face as the door closed—hell he was ugly, I realised now, with sudden sobriety kick-starting my good taste. Lucky escape.
I looked around me, trying to locate the stairs. I’d rather risk trotting down them than risk seeing beer-boy again. Time to concentrate on small, achievable tasks, rather than the big, seemingly unachievable one of getting laid by somebody worth looking at in the morning.
Get down the stairs in one piece. Done.
Find the loo. Done.
Double check flies zipped up. Done.
Get directions to Majestic from nice looking but clearly straight bloke at reception desk. Done.
Out onto the pavement.
Whoa. I’d stepped out of the hotel and onto one of those moving pavements from the crazy house at the fun fair.
I’d forgotten what cold air could do to you when you’re one over the eight. Or nine over the eight, in my case. I clung to the railing by the hotel steps and waited until the world had stopped spinning.
I’d heard something like that already this evening. Couldn’t Manchester totty come up with anything original? At least this enquirer after my health had a bit more class.
“Yeah. Just…just an old injury playing up,” I lied, rubbing my thigh.
“Football?” He asked. He was six foot four at least, build like a brick outhouse and everything about him just screamed “rugby player”.
“No. Rugby.”Lying was becoming worryingly habitual.
“Want me to call you a taxi?”
“No. It’ll pass. I’m only going along the road. To the Majestic.”
“I’m going there, too. I’ll make sure you get home in one piece.”
By the time we’d reached the hotel, I knew that he was called Rob and he played for an amateur rugby team called the Mild Cheese, only it couldn’t have been that, could it? Maybe my hearing hadn’t sobered up yet. He was in Manchester for his mate Ben’s wedding. He’d had a bit of a fling with Ben a while back but the bloke hadn’t seen the light, so Rob was looking for someone to mend his broken heart.
I may have imagined that last bit. Wishful thinking.
What I think he’d actually said was that the “post-match” party was still going on but he was feeling like a third wheel with all the couples around, so he’d called it a night.
“I could murder a coffee,” I said, as we dithered in the foyer. “Want to join me? I hate drinking alone.”
“Yeah. Could do. Better than the stuff we’d get up in my room.”
I don’t think I imagined the “we” or the “my”.
We ordered the coffee, found a table with comfy chairs, smiled a bit awkwardly—always a good sign—and both started talking at once.
“No, you first.” I said, trying my most seductive smile.
“I just wondered if your leg’s okay.”
“Yeah. Walked it off,” I said, rubbing both thighs because I couldn’t remember which one was supposed to be sore.
“I did my adductor last season. Bloody painful,” he said, running his finger down from his groin, as if I didn’t know where the adductor was. And hadn’t already noticed his groin.
“They can be awful. Better now?” I had no idea whether—or how—it might affect somebody’s off pitch performance, but it was a worry.
“Yeah. Not as bad as when Jonny Wilkinson ripped his. Still, they don’t expect flankers to kick.”
“Just as well.” I tried to look like I knew what I was talking about. “Did you enjoy the wedding?” I wasn’t sure why I’d asked that. Maybe I was hoping I’d get the “him and Ben and the broken heart” story.
“Yeah. It was nice. Good speeches. Nothing too embarrassing. He’s been a good mate to me, Ben.”
I wondered if he was about to slip into slobbery, maudlin drunk mode, but he just sniffed and carried on.
“Ben’s always the first one to stick up for you on the pitch. Heart of gold. She’s a nice girl, too. Supports Saracens.”
“Of course she would,” I said, nodding. Like I knew the front end of a Saracen from the front end of a…
“He keeps trying to fix me up, but he’s not got a good eye. Not for suiting me, anyway.”
“Ah. Yeah.” Should I ask what the women were like, and whether the problem was the fact they were women? “No go?”
“They were okay. Couple of Tim nice but dims…”
I tried to look mature and sympathetic when he said “Tim” but I really wanted to run around the foyer pulling my shirt open and shouting, “Result!”
“…and one solicitor built like an ox—all over.”
“Blimey. What was wrong with him?” Brains and brawn and…all the rest. What more could a boy want?
“Too self centred. He didn’t need a boyfriend, just a mirror.”
There was a mental image I had to shake off quickly, especially as the coffee was on its way.
“So,” I said, when the waiter, night porter, whatever he was with the trim backside, had left us. “No nice ushers at the wedding to get off with? Sort of modern take on bridesmaid and best man?”
“No.” Rob shook his head and stirred his coffee. “Only seen one decent bloke today, and that was the vicar.”
“Oh.” Not me?
“At the wedding, I mean,” he said, pulling me out of the slough of disappointment. “Things have looked up since I left.”
We shared a look—that look, you know the one—over our cups.
“Do you really want this coffee, or was it any excuse?” he asked.
“Nah. What I want is…”
Next week it’s Clare London’s turn. Same time and place.
Liam Livings xx