The Postponement Potential

Submitted into Contest #81 in response to: Write about a first date that surprises both people, but in different ways.... view prompt

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Fiction

My first thought was, he has to be joking! I wish now I’d just come straight out and said it. Well, maybe worded it a little bit more tactfully (or maybe not) but did I really have to say “That’ll be lovely!” Perhaps it slipped out through force of habit or before I had thoroughly processed exactly what he was saying. Anyway, Leon certainly didn’t seem to detect any note of sarcasm in it and looked delighted.

There are a couple of things I have to remember before I start feeling too bad about wishing I’d told him that he had to be joking. I’m not over-demanding. I’m genuinely not. I didn’t want to be invited to a five course meal in a posh restaurant, or for a helicopter flight over a local beauty spot, or to a night at the opera (though actually that would have been wonderful, as I love opera, but opera houses are somewhat thin on the ground round here …..!) A walk in the woods, weather permitting, or a quiet drink in the pub – I’d have had no problem with something like that.

And I’m genuinely fond of Leon’s much younger brother Charlie (though there’s 12 years between them, they are full brothers and not half Their parents separated and then got back together again, which I think is rather touching, even if my friend Leah does describe it as the triumph of hope over experience). He’s a great kid, and we’ve had some (not ironically meant!) very interesting conversations about one of the passions in his life, dinosaurs. I’d even have been quite happy about having Leon in tow as a little chaperon going to an exhibition at a museum about dinosaurs, but that would be just as hard to find as an opera house.

But an under-13s football match is not my idea of a first date. I don’t even like football. I know a lot of women do, and of course I think that the women’s game finally being the attention it deserves here, long after other countries, is a thoroughly good thing. But I don’t “do” football. I don’t even “do” watching Premier League or World Cup games on a large screen in a comfortable pub, let alone under 13s in the park on a Sunday morning.

It’s not even as if I‘d mind Leon going! And postponing our first date to another day. As he told me, their Mum and Dad are away at the moment, as his Grandpa has been taken ill. So of course Charlie wants someone from the family to cheer him on. And I would have no issues with congratulating or commiserating as appropriate. I just don’t want to actually BE there.

I know what youth football in the park is like. I have inadvertently witnessed it before hurriedly going on my way, and finding refuge in the little café in the pavilion. Somehow the football pitch in the park always manages to be sodden and muddy, even when it hasn’t rained for weeks and there’s a hosepipe ban. I swear they could save the world’s drought problems by inserting an underground pipe to the football pitch in the park. The roses can wither and the leaves turn yellow, but there sits that pitch like an unwanted oasis.

Then there’s the bad sportsmanship and bad language, the fighting and jostling. And I mean the parents, of course. Oh, they’re not all like that, and Leon has admitted that it can be a problem and they’re experimenting with the refs showing yellow and red cards to the spectators.

I tell myself to woman up. It’s not as if he’s taking me pot holing (he knows all about my claustrophobia) or has suggested something like paint balling that to me sounds as much like fun as walking over hot coals, though come to think of it, that IS some people’s idea of fun.

“I’ll tell Charlie!” said Leon, beaming from ear to ear as he took his leave. “He’ll be so pleased!”

Oh well, that’s wonderful, isn’t it? If I don’t turn up then I let down a great kid whom my Significant Other loves dearly who is no doubt missing his parents and worrying about his Grandpa, though he’s a plucky lad.

Did she say yes, Leon?” Charlie asked, his puckish little face lit up. “Did Louise say yes?” Well, who knows, maybe before too long he’ll be wondering that about another question. I love the way he and Louise get along so well. She really has a way with him, which is surprising as she doesn’t have a little brother, and she’s never taught in junior school or anything like that. But they’re what Grandpa (and oh , how I hope he’ll be fine, though he’s as tough as he’s gentle, and the phone call last night was optimistic) calls “LIKE THAT”, crossing his fingers. Well, my fingers were crossed too, but for a different reason, when I asked Louise along to the football match for what we both consider our official first date. We’ve not talked about it (there are any number of things we’ve not talked about, though sometimes it seems as if we’ve talked about everything) but I somehow thought she wasn’t wild about football. But she said “That’ll be lovely,” straight out. I must pick her up a hat and a scarf in the blue and white team colours of Tallthorpe Under-13s. Not that they have merchandise as such, of course, but some of the Mums and Grandmas (and some of the Dads and Grandpas, come to that!) are keen knitters and there are usually a couple to spare.

I wish the weather forecast for Sunday morning were a bit better. Temperatures below average, with heavy showers, they say. I tell myself that they get it wrong sometimes, and of course they do, but not nearly as often as we sometimes like to make out, and to some extent I learnt my lesson when I was stuck on the road for two days during the “Beast from the East”.

Charlie is quite pleased about it. Tallthorpe have a reputation for being a good team in what, in horse racing, they call “heavy going”. And the opposition don’t. Their pitch is Astroturf. I don’t tell him that the fact they can afford an Astroturf pitch means they’re considerably better off and have more resources than Tallthorpe. I suspect, and I love him for it, that Charlie is the Eastern Coast Junior League’s equivalent of Matt le Tisier and very much a one-team man!

A novel I once read used a plot device of chapters starting with “Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse” and to this day I can’t make up my mind whether I thought it was funny or whether it became a bit tedious, especially as it was patently obvious that Our Heroine was going to end up with everything positively peachy anyway. But now I find myself echoing the sentiments. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse …… Leon presented me with a knitted hat and scarf in the blue and white colours of Tallthorpe Under 13s.

It’s not that I have any objections whatsoever to knitwear. On the contrary, a woolly hat is a fine thing if it’s cold. But not necessarily if it’s raining. And I have even been known to knit myself a scarf on occasion, though I have long since resigned myself to the fact that I will never come any where near Mum’s skills, despite her patience in teaching me, and Mum would be the first to admit that patience isn’t generally one of her virtues. Still, I can see things through her knitter’s eye, and the wretched things aren’t even that well made. There are threads hanging down that she would have neatly sewn in!

Still, I might as well admit it. It’s not the slipshod finishing that bothers me, nor even the thought of a sodden woolly hat, but the fact that I have this horrible feeling you don’t bestow a team’s colours on someone who is only going to watch one match. It sends out a message and it’s a message I don’t want to hear. We might not use the term Soccer Mom here in the UK, but they undeniably exist and I have seen them, and don’t even have any wish to be a Soccer Sister-in-Law – though even that is getting ludicrously ahead of myself.

I have put the things on (I was going to say tried them on, but you don’t exactly try on a woolly hat and a scarf, do you?) and looked at myself in the mirror. I thought I looked vaguely ridiculous. The hat is also too small and I don’t think I have an especially big head. Well, not physically!

What next, I wondered. Will he present me with one of those rattles? Do they still make them? Will he try to explain the offside rule to me – though if he did but know it, I more or less know it anyway, not through any interest in soccer but because it comes in handy in a pub quiz team! Or at least that’s the theory, though I’ve never actually faced a question on it. And if he does, do I pretend I don’t know it or tell him I do? The former would lead to temporary irritation but the latter might make him jump to the wrong conclusion!

The news is still excellent about Grandpa, but Mum and Dad are staying just a couple of days more. “We’re so grateful you’re going to Leon’s big match,” Mum said, “And it’s great that Louise is going with you. She’s a lovely girl.”

Well, I’m most definitely not going to disagree about that! And it means something from Mum, who is generous to a fault, but doesn’t lavish praise for the sake of it. I detected a slight emphasis on the “she” and more than suspected she was comparing her to Felicity. They were always scrupulously polite to each other, but they never hit it off. The most unkind thing she ever even said ABOUT her was, “Felicity is very fond of shoes, isn’t she?” She was right, of course. Oh, she wasn’t some local version of Imelda Marcos with thousands of pairs of them, but how much was lack of inclination, and how much was lack of space and finances, I don’t know. And I don’t think she had a pair with a heel less than two inches. Even her boots were the kind that they described as “nice little boots” on shopping channels even if they’re a size 9. I couldn’t imagine Felicity at an under 13s match. But Louise – that’s another matter. She’ll have suitable footwear and a raincoat that’s not just for decoration, too.

I wonder just how water-logged the pitch has to be for the match to be actually called off. But in the first place that’s being mean to Charlie and in the second place I have my suspicions that if the surface were more suited to water polo the match would still go ahead anyway, with the players furnished with snorkels, just in case.

I thought about sewing in the offending ends as they were irritating me (Mum would be proud of me!) but decided there would be something symbolic about that and I wasn’t sure I liked the symbolism. But no I’m not going down the road of a scarf unravelling representing a relationship unravelling. Am I?

I’ve not mentioned it to Charlie yet, but I’m wondering if I should check about the match going ahead. There’s a difference between heavy going and a swamp, and I don’t doubt the Astroturf brigade will be having the vapours, as Mum says when someone is getting all het up and feeble, though sometimes people do a double take when she says it as it sounds like folk using e-cigarettes. She says it affectionately and ironically and I don’t doubt she would be the first to minister to anyone who actually was having the vapours.

I didn’t need to mention it as he did first. “You don’t think those sissies are going to complain about it being too wet, do you?” he asked. I knew I should have gently told him off for saying “sissies”, but I also knew that the way his chin jutted out but was shaking ever so slightly had more to do with worrying about the big day being cancelled than being rude about the opposition.

The match is off! “They had no choice, I suppose,” Leon said, mournfully. “To be honest, I’d have been worried about our lads, never mind the opposition. That pitch just wasn’t safe, and I wonder if any spectators would have turned up apart from us, anyway!” What does he mean, apart from us, I thought. All the same …… “How has Leon taken it?” I asked. “Badly, though he’s trying to put a brave face on. I’ve told him there will be lots more opportunities, and Mum and Dad will be there as well, but he was all keyed up for this.”

Louise is really coming up trumps! She arrived with a big bucket from KFC (okay, I think technically Charlie has had his fast food allowance for this week, but have a hunch this will operate on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis) and a DVD that she couldn’t have judged better – a 12A rated adventure movie that’s just edgy enough for Charlie to think he’s being treated like a grown up but doesn’t go too far. The combination of the fried chicken, the movie, and Louise (if he were a couple of years older there might be some serious sibling rivalry going on here!) perked him up considerably.

I wonder if they put something in that chicken! After we had finished it and, almost too predictably, licked our fingers, and paused the DVD while Leon had a bathroom break, Charlie turned to me and said, “That was lovely, thank you, Louise.”

“You’re more than welcome.”

“And Leon told me not to be upset – the match will be re – re scheduled,” he smiled proudly at remembering the correct term, “And Mum and Dad will be there to watch it, too. But you’ll still come, won’t you?”

“I’d love to!” I said.

And the weird thing was, I meant it!

February 18, 2021 08:04

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