“Will you turn that racket down George!”
“Mum! If I can’t play it loud then what’s the point?! You need it loud to appreciate the bass...you of all people should know that?”
George, yet again, perplexed by his own flesh and blood seemingly having no respect for his taste in music, rolls his eyes and reluctantly turns the music down by one notch.
Berry doesn’t need this right now. Why does he always fight everything I say? Berry has remained single long enough. When George and Harry were much younger, it was a given that they needed her undivided attention. To bring another man into the home would be tantamount to recreating World War Two. It was a shame. She was beautiful, not that she thought this herself, of course. But she figured she wasn’t ugly either. George had been incredibly embarrassed when his friends had their crushes on his Mum growing up. It was quite disappointing for him, when it dawned on him that he wasn’t popular for his amazing personality or because he rocked the bass guitar. (That was, however, why he had a steady stream of female admirers, and George was fine with that, truth be told). His Mum was tall, slim, but curvy. ( What? Even he could see that?) She had red hair in an edgy, messy bob that suited her dynamic, wild and exciting personality . She’d been a rocker in her band for over a decade and despite now aging into her 40’s (don’t ask for specifics, that’s just rude) she still had an air of awesomeness about her.
The other Mums’ would come to pick up their little ones at Primary School in their joggy bottoms, unkempt hair and usually accompanied by at least 1 buggy and several other children, of varying ages and doubtless varying fathers. George’s Mum would race up to the school gates in her bright orange ’72 Beetle, Led Zeppelin blaring from the speakers and on opening the car door would (unknowingly) catch the attention of all the jealous Mums (and any Dads sitting and waiting in the car, the gardeners, male neighbours looking on and caretakers who appeared on the playground at home-time every day). She would speedily pace up to the gate in search for her son, wearing leopard print leggings and a tight strapy top. She was never “allowed” into the other Mum’s little cliques and she was eternally grateful for that. George was always ready for his collection, as his Mum was always late. But that was ok, as her excuses ranged from the wildly unbelievable to the hilariously amusing. He looked forward to her stories of the days events. It had become his favourite part of the day. (Come on, what 10 year old doesn’t want to hear about their Mum’s cool band and how her guitarist stamped on his wah wah pedal so much in rehearsal that he blew the speakers? Or that the crowd at the gig she did were moshing so hard the stage almost collapsed?) Mundane wasn’t Berry’s cup of tea (or pint of lager) and George loved that about her. Where’s the fun in “normal” anyhow?
However, George wasn’t 10 anymore, he was 17 and had his own life now. He still, deep down, thought his Mum was great, but in his attempts to appear like a normal 17 year old should, he carried a degree of resentment and contempt for his Mum, the reasons for which he wasn’t entirely sure. He spent as much time with his friends away from the house. That way he knew their attention was on him, not his attractive, although old (anyone above 30 is old, right?) large breasted Mum (I know, I know, he shouldn’t notice, but it really was hard not to).
George was a chip off the old block. They were so alike it was scary. He was fiery, passionate, argumentative and strong-willed. They clashed constantly, and whilst being frustrated by his inability to make changes or admit he was ever wrong, she deep-down admired his ability to stick to his guns. She knew where he was coming from- because they were both from the same planet- planet “we know it all and we‘re always right- defy us and we’ll crush you”.
Harry, her eldest son, on the other hand, was quite literally on the opposite side of the scale. Whereas his brother was the fire, he was the water. Calm, tranquil, refreshing, and just all-round pleasant. It was just as well he was different to them as someone had to be sensible in this household. He preferred to be left alone, thank you very much, and would devour books on history and cultural diversity. He hoped to travel one day. He’d completed his school GCSE’S a year early, allowing him to have his University Degree done and dusted within 2 years, despite being a 3 year course. He was a lover of knowledge. And baking. His speciality was muffins. Any event worthy of being marked as special, would have a muffin dedicated to it. His Mum’s favourite was the blueberry and raspberry flavour made with love to celebrate her first paid gig at her largest event with over 5,000 in the audience. He‘d presented a huge basket-full as a gift on her departure and she wowed the band with the delicious morsels before going on stage that night. (It turns out, thats not the best of ideas, as crumbs and musical equipment don’t exactly go hand in hand. The drummer had blueberry pieces flicking off in every direction from his snare drum and Berry’s guitar fret was rather slippery to handle from the fruity residue on her fingers. At least she didn’t have bits of fruit stuck in-between her teeth. Her voice, thankfully, was no worse off. You would think they’d have thought of this wouldn’t you?) Harry’s muffins were famous, and weird and wonderful combinations of flavours were suggested, tried and experimented with. (The most bizarre request was the rhythm guitarists’ suggestion of peanut butter and chocolate spread flavour. Harry obediently obliged, but the basket in that case, remained full and eventually the hardened, stale, half-bitten muffins were thrown to the seagulls outside, and even they weren’t interested).
Berry was extremely nervous. How was it, that she could sing rock anthems full blast in front of hundreds of strangers, but the thought of meeting a guy, having a sit-down meal and having adult conversation was absolutely terrifying to her? She had told herself she’d not bothered with dating for the boys’ sakes, but to be honest, she just didn’t dig it. Men were severely overrated in her opinion, and not really worth all the effort. She spent all her time with men and boys already. To be responsible for one more was just not that appealing, frankly.
The band were all male, but Berry was very much in charge. Left to their own devices not much would be accomplished. They’d get carried away on a “Muse” riff and not notice she’d disappeared for a while, had a drink, ordered a pizza, called in to check her lads were ok, then would reappear and scream down the mic that they should actually work on their set now. No-one argued with Berry.
Now, she was doing something completely out of her comfort zone. Her boys were grown up now and didn’t need their Mum to look after them. Her best friend, Jess, had finally managed to convince her to come with her on a double date. Berry hated this sort of thing. Why they were friends she couldn’t guess, as they had very little in common. Jess represented your ”typical” woman, you could say. She paid a small fortune every month to have her hair professionally highlighted and her gel nails manicured. She read gossip magazines and religiously watched all the soaps. She wore heels in any weather and refused to own, let alone wear, trainers or heaven forbid, “slacks”. She was quite a diva. But they’d been friends for years and Berry was sick of her continuous badgering to start dating again. This time, Jess has stepped up the curiosity scale by arranging a “blind” date for Berry, as it was an old mate of her current boyfriend. (She’d made her way through the majority of their town and had started searching further afield. A good man is hard to find apparently, or keep.) Berry had been intrigued by the summary of this man being “different to most blokes, a real character” and had apparently just moved back to the UK after having lived in Berlin for the last 15 years or so. Berry had stayed in Germany once and loved it, so they’d at least have something to talk about. Reluctantly, she’d agreed.
She was regretting it now though. It had been so long since she’d dressed up for anything other than a gig, that she was genuinely not sure what to wear. They were going to the Italian in the city centre, so maybe jeans with a pretty top? Did she even own a pretty top anymore? Or should she wear that black dress which she rarely wears unless it’s early morning, before the “stomach bloating” starts its daily appearance? She’d changed several times and kept changing her jewellery to match. Good grief, why was she doing this to herself again? Up till now she had been content with Jess turning up around 10pm to give her the overview of the “disaster date” and how he was so incredibly boring, or too serious, too chatty, too selfish...the list goes on... Berry found the entire experience highly entertaining and it had become a regular agreement between them that Jess would arrive, vexed and disappointed, drink too much, put the world to rights and collapse on Berry’s sofa for the night. Only once or twice had she not turned up, and Berry knew what that meant: this one was a keeper.
This guy was someone Berry was keen to meet. To have met the extremely high standards that Jess expected and to get past the second date- he deserved a medal and nothing less. He’d also lived in Berlin, hence how he’d met Berry’s date-to-be. She had nothing to lose, and thanks to the unspoken rule that the man always pays for the meal, she would at least get a free lasagne out of him for her troubles.
Arriving fashionably late, as usual, (she couldn’t leave without finishing the washing up first, after all, what if they all came back for a coffee or something?) Berry made her usual entrance. In the end she’d opted for her tiger print top, black leather fitted jeans and black DM’s. She felt most at home on stage, so decided to dress as if she were performing. Why not?
Jess was in the bar already and waiting with a much needed drink in hand, chatting to a well-dressed gentleman. Her boyfriend was at the bar putting in more orders and Berry’s date looked up from their chat, stood up and greeted Berry with a very formal hand-shake. “You must be Berry, a pleasure to meet you.” Berry returned the hand shake and raised her eyebrows in Jess‘ direction. A mimed “wow” was met with both erupting into laughter. Berry felt on initial appearances that this man was a lovely guy, but she’d make minced meat out of him in no time. The poor man had no idea what he’d let himself in for!
Jess’ boyfriend returned with a tray of drinks. And Berry almost choked. Oh. My. Goodness.
He holds his stare for a moment, as the realisation hits them both simultaneously. There’s a silent moment or two, before Jess clears the air with an obvious attempt to get the attention back onto her, “are those for us Karl?” She rolls her eyes and reaches for the drinks to help herself to her second tipple. The moment is lost and quickly introductions are completed. Thankfully, they’re called almost immediately to their table. Berry is strangely quiet. Jess has become even more animated and livelier than usual, to compensate and Berry nods and agrees at all the appropriate places. She tries so hard not to look at him. But no matter how hard she tries, her gaze transfixes back his way. And whenever she looks his way, he appears to be doing the same. “So how did you two meet again?” Jess questions. Berry looks at her in shock, before realising that shes talking to Berry’s date and is referring to him and her own boyfriend, not her and Karl. “Well,” Berry’s date begins quite happily, “its when you guys did the music for my sisters wedding wasnt it?” He looks over to Karl for confirmation. “Oh you’re in a band?” Jess squeals “so is Berry! Shes amazing, you should hear her sing!”
The conversations are mildly interesting but Berry isn’t there. She’s gone back to that time. To Germany. To the band. And more specifically her bass player. His dark complexion, his mild but strong demeanour. Their flat. That balcony. Those months. A time she would never forget. Sometimes you have one experience in your life, that becomes a cherished memory, one that evolves into a dream that becomes so far away, you’re not sure whether it was real or not anymore.
But here he was. As clear as day. Looking as handsome as ever. And going out with her best friend. Berry explained her non chatty mood away with exhaustion and her leaving so soon to an early start at work tomorrow. Jess knows this is a lie as she rarely leaves the house before 10am as the recording studio is open whenever she wants it to be - due to her owning it. On leaving, both gents get up to say goodbye and her date appears just slightly put out and his pride damaged, but he’ll bounce back for sure. Jess’s date insists on walking Berry to the foyer. Once outside the restaurant, he gently puts his arm around Berry’s shoulder. “Its good to see you Queeny”. Silence. She doesn’t know what to say. “I hear you have 2 children?” He adds. She divulges that they’re grown up now, men in their own rights really. Her cab arrives just in time. As she steps inside, Karl gives her a tender kiss on the cheek. “How old at they? Your boys?” And there it is. “Harry, my eldest, he’s 19 now and just out of Uni...” she looks into his eyes and can almost hear the penny drop as she closes the door and swiftly disappears out of site.
Karl stands, bewildered. He wishes he had her impetuous nature and boldness, as then he’d have the courage to run after the taxi, knock on the window and insist they talk some more. A lot more. But that isn’t him. He‘ll need time to take this in. He’ll need to think it though in detail and work out his plan of action. One thing he does know for sure.
He has to break it off with Jess.