Tracey and Tristian had an understanding, she was always right. Sure he could have his opinions, and express them any way he wanted, but Tracey had the final say. Their names; such a contrast in the perceived unrealistic interpretation of class convention, was always a source of amusement to them and their friends.
They both relished the usual conversation between new friends and acquaintances of how they and their names became intertwined. For some their names were just that, but for others, familiar with the popular culture of naming someone based on the trend at the time, theirs held an interesting significance.
Being born as they were, on the same year, they seemed to grow up at the opposite ends of the 80’s class divide. Many thought there were no class divides any more in the UK, but the masses knew different. A strategic end of war decision by governments meant that those with much would live close by to those with little. To the casual observer, a coincidence echoed throughout England, but it was part of a carefully orchestrated social plan.
Tristian and Tracey were a good example of this social interspersion. Tracey; born to a working class family, growing up on a South London council estate. Tristian; born and bred with money, although the wealth came from a very modest pursuit. His father owned a number of Fish & Chip shops.
He had a grasp on frugality though, and learnt the value of money early on in life. His father, rewarding him for doing well in exams, bought him a portable CD player, worth £200 at the time. Within two weeks, he handed it back to his dad broken, with a nonchalant ‘fix it’ glance. The CD player wasn’t fixed until Tristian got a job working in Woolworths saving up to get it repaired himself.
It was a subtle but valuable life lesson, and Tristian knew the value of money from then on, and its power. A quality that endeared Tracey to him from the moment they met. She was walking in the rain, some 10 years ago now, high heeled shoes coming apart in the rain as she walked, their soft leather uppers even more beyond repair with each puddle she stepped in. The interview had gone well, but now with little money, she was forced to walk home in the rain, unable to afford any other mode of transport.
Tristian pulled up alongside her in his Audi A3 sport, bought new that week.
‘Want a lift?’ he said, after grimacing at the rain soaking his immaculate shirt and arm as the window opened
‘I’m not getting in your Audi’ she said, with a look of discourse and intrigue
‘Isn’t the response supposed to be, I’m not getting in your car? What difference does it make if its an Audi? Don’t you like them? If I had of pulled up in a Vauxhall Corsa, would that have been better?’
Tracey laughed, she couldn’t help it. He was mildly amusing she thought as she could feel droplets of water running down her back.
‘You’re right, the car doesn’t matter, and I like Audi’s, I just don’t want to get in the car with a stranger, and…You are a stranger, and besides, as I like Audi’s, I wouldn’t want your seat to get wet’.
It was Tristian’s turn to laugh, as he thought of something to say.
‘How about a coffee then? I’ll park and we can go and find you a seat we don’t care that gets wet?’
She was quick witted and didn’t need as long as him to come back with a retort.
‘So you do care about your precious car getting wet?’
Tristian was raising his game; she had but the ball in play.
‘I was actually trying to eradicate the notion of me being a stranger to you’.
‘ooowwwhh, posh words won’t help you get me into…….’
She paused, fleetingly trying not to think what where else she could possibly like a man of her dreams to get her into. The rain was now coming down harder, her bag trying to slip off her shoulders, and her defeated umbrella flexing in the wind.
‘Get you into where? I’m only trying to get you into a coffee shop. I know we are on the street, but get your mind out of the gutter, I hardly know you.’
It was a make or break line from Tristian, as he sensed this little tat-a-tat had gone on too long and the circumstances were far from ideal. He was modest about his looks and his appeal to the opposite sex. He always thought of a friend’s advice.
‘A man should never think they are the most handsome thing in the world, they must always think they are a little bit out of their depth when it comes to women. Then they may fair OK. Arrogance is no substitute for intelligence’.
‘OK’ said Tracey, finding him attractive and not scary, but still nervous and trying not to give too much away. ‘What or where do you suggest. And hurry up and make a decision I can’t stay for long, I’m blooming freezing.’
He thought about parking and sitting in a coffee shop with her. It was not even 6 in the evening, they would be sure to find somewhere. He would get wet, she was soaked, and clearly cold, it wouldn’t be the best start. He took a chance…
‘OK, you’re wet, and cold, so if you don’t want a lift anywhere, would you like me to leave you stranded here and take your number?’
She thought about her options. She had an instinct, she could trust him she thought but getting in his car would be a stupid thing to do. He was ahead of her in this thought process, scrabbling around in his car for a pen and paper, he offered them both out the window.
As the rain started pelting the paper, the bag finally dropped off her shoulders onto the cascading river that was the pavement. Her umbrella was dropped too from her other hand, almost dissolving onto the pavement disintegrating into several pieces.
She gave in, almost gasping with exacerbation as she carefully wrote down her name and number on the piece of paper, the rain drops appearing to fight with each other to tear it apart, the rain seeping into the ink making the numbers appear to weep.
‘Do this a lot then do you with a pen and paper at the ready?’ She hoped the number would still be legible by the time she passed it back to him. ‘It’s my home number, I still live with my parents, I don’t have a mobile.’ She thought she’d get that all out of the way in one go.
‘OK’ he said, ‘I’ll call you’. Handling the piece of paper like it was a rare and priceless manuscript, noticing her name as he tried to work out if the number was real. Realising she didn’t know his name as he delicately lay the piece of paper on his passenger seat.
‘I’ll need your name’ she said, ‘I get a lot of calls’.
‘It’s Tristian, and don’t take the piss’.
‘I won’t’ she said, ‘until I see you again’.
He gave her a beguiling glance as he pondered once again whether the number was real. She very ungracefully gathered her soaked belongings from the pavement, lingered on his glance, thinking for a second it was now his fault she was getting wet. He waited for her to walk away, then pressed the button to raise his window, and drove off past her quite progressively, beeping his horn twice.
Mark Scotchford © 01/06/2014