Another one-hour wonder. Again, thsi is just written off-the-cuff, so please forgive any mistakes.
He was late. She hoped she hadn’t been stood up. It would be the first time she’d ever been stood up, but he was nearly 30 minutes late. She nibbled her nails and drained the last of her second glass of wine.
She needn’t have worried; soon she saw him. He was glancing around the restaurant, eyes straining to see her. She recognised him from his photo – thank God he actually looked like that – and waved him over. He came over, all smiles and apologies.
“Sorry Samantha – do you prefer Samantha or Sam? – it’s been a manic day. I just lost track of time.”
“Either’s fine. What would you like to drink? I’ve just had some pinot noir and that was very nice.”
They agreed to get a bottle of the pinot noir, and settled down to an evening of getting to know each other better.
They had only spoken a couple of times on partners.com, but Samantha already had a good feeling about Richard Grady. He was a policeman, lived in Bermondsey, and had two cats. She sensed a good vibe from him.
“So, what were you doing that kept you so long?” she asked playfully. His face turned serious.
“I’ve been doing some investigating,” he said. “There’s someone on the Jubilee line who keeps on cutting women’s hair.”
Samantha spluttered in her drink.
“Really? Someone’s giving free haircuts on the Jubilee line?”
Richard smiled grimly.
“Not exactly,” he said. “He’s been riding the Jubilee line during rush hour, armed with a pair of nail scissors or similar, cutting great chunks out of women’s hair. The train’s so crowded and jolty, no one has noticed him doing it. But he doesn’t cut just a little bit; the other day, he cut six inches off someone’s hair. She was devastated.”
Samantha nodded. “I bet she was,” she said.
“So, considering I live on the Jubilee line, I decided to stay on it for a little while, to see if I saw anything untoward.”
“And did you?” asked Samantha.
“No,” said Richard flatly. “Anyway, I was thinking of getting the grilled sea bream, what about you?”
They ordered, and spent a pleasant time discussing their interests and hobbies.
“NO way is The Sound of Music your favourite film!” Samantha screeched, the pinot noir working its magic. “It’s mine too!”
“I’m deadly serious,” said Richard, his eyes twinkling. “Edelweiss gets me every time.” He watched her throw her head back and laugh. She had a fantastic laugh – tinkly and feminine, but with dirty undertones.
They carried on, talking about their jobs now. Samantha was a research consultant for an obscure channel’s flagship morning show. She told him about some of the bizarre stories they had covered.
“We once spent a week – a whole week, Richard! – covering Japanese knotweed.”
“So, tell me more about your job,” said Samantha, twisting her red curly hair around her finger.
“Well,” began Richard. “I catch bad guys. And do paperwork. That’s about it.”
“I’d like to catch the bastard doing haircuts on the Jubilee line,” said Richard. “It’s more serious than it sounds – a lot of rapists and murderers take ‘trophies’ off their victims. It seems like that’s what this guy is doing. And the attacks are getting more frequent. We hope he’s not escalating, then we’d see something very unpleasant between Stratford and Stanmore.”
“Anyway, on that cheery note, I think it’s time we got the bill,” said Richard, waving over the waiter. Samantha delved to get her purse out of her bag, but Richard was having none of it. What a gentleman.
“Where have you got to go back to tonight?” he asked, as they stood outside the restaurant. It began to rain, so Richard, ever the pessimistic gent, pulled out his umbrella and motioned for Samantha to stand underneath it with him.
“Wimbledon,” said Samantha, severing slightly. “It means I have to get the Jubilee line to Waterloo.” She looked imploringly at him. “Will you come with me?” she asked.
“Of course,” said Richard. “I’ll be your knight in shining armour. I mean, I’m going that way anyway, but still. Let’s go.”
They walked in that strange way that only two people sharing an umbrella can walk to Baker Street station. It was Friday night, and the station was packed. They squeezed through the oyster barrier and just mangled to get on a crowded southbound train.
“It’s only a couple of stops,” said Samantha. “I think I’ll be ok. But thank you for coming with me.”
“That’s ok,” smiled Richard, and she smiled back at him. This could be the beginning of something good, she thought.
At Bond Street, a large group of drunk lads came on the train and pushed past Samantha and Richard quite violently.
“Watch it!” shouted Richard at them, but their replies of “up yours, grandad!” were louder.
Lots more people got on at Westminster and Samantha and Richard were temporarily paralysed, with their arms glued to their sides. Samantha was beginning to feel slightly apprehensive. There were so many people, all jostling and pushing, that she wasn’t sure she’d notice if someone cut great chunks of her hair out.
At last, the train pulled into Waterloo and Samantha gratefully managed to claw her way out. Seeing as Richard lived a few more stops on from Waterloo, they had mutually decided he would stay on the tube when she got out.
She waved through the window at him, and he waved back at her. She walked towards the train to Wimbledon as light as air. She didn’t even notice when she walked past a group of giggling teenagers.
“Her hair!” they were saying. “It looks like half of it’s been hacked off!”
It had been a good evening, though Richard, as he walked into his flat. His cats began to twine themselves around his legs, but he was in no mood for that just yet. There was something more important he had to take care of first. He made his way to the bathroom, ignoring the meows of his disgruntled cats, and opened the cupboard behind the mirror. There were all his pretty things he had collected, and he had one more pretty thing to add.
He hung the masses of red curly hair reverently next to all the other hair. Sniffing them gently, he promised himself that he would have a bigger, better pretty thing from Samantha before too long.
He cleaned his teeth and went to bed. He slept soundly, knowing he had spent his day most satisfactorily.