I was up fresh and early, flying around the flat with energy and purpose.
A stiff coffee, a couple of slices of toast and a precision shave, despite the cheap and nasty razors. Odd that, since they usually leave you looking like the victim of a werewolf attack. Must have been a good sign.
The booze from the night before had slowly dissolved from my system, especially after a lengthy scrub in the shower that was so thorough, it could have removed radiation contaminants from my body. Teeth gleaming like new, skin sleek and unblemished, hair shiny and strangely compliant.
I dug out some choice clothing from the wardrobe - a pair of greying distressed jeans, a white tight-fitting t-shirt and a brand-new box-fresh pair of Onitzuka 1981's. The bedroom mirror was inviting - it didn't lie as I preened in front of it, feeling different - somehow removed from myself and bereft of hang-ups. I felt like I was 17 again - raw, wide-eyed and ready to groove.
The world's your oyster.
I checked my watch: 10:00am. Plenty of time. I looked out of the living room window - it was clear but slightly chilly, no threat of rain. I pulled out my black suit jacket and threw it on. A decent match. I added a couple of funky distinctive badges I had picked up from work to the lapel to give it a slight rock n' roll look.
I looked and felt bad-ass, ready to negotiate....NO, make that charm her into submission.
Right - priorities. Had to get some essentials in.
I ran through the list of items that would be required in my head as I locked up and left my flat, heading the short distance to the Tesco's store down the street.
Nothing would be left to chance, all avenues were to be covered.
2 bottles of wine - 1 white, 1 red
Cakes - chocolate
Wine glasses - pack of 4
I didn't know whether I'd hit the jackpot, but I reckoned it paid to be prepared.
I was in and out of the Tesco's sharply, pausing only to admire the girl behind the tobacco counter. She always gave me the sweetest smile. Amanda......she was going out with some guy in the army. I discovered that when I asked her out one time. I realised that she must have gotten harassment all the time, probably by the local drunks and bums. But she handled it brilliantly, as she was always bright and upbeat, a dish to look at. I casually waved to her on my way out, and she shyly raised her hand back slightly.
But to business, I thought. There was other prey to be had today. Not just in the physical sense either - the answers I had been waiting for for so long should be finally forthcoming.
I bounded back to the cubes with my shopping, running into Dean on his way down the staircase, his football kit on, sports bag slung over one shoulder.
"Shuuuuruup lad...What are yer all dressed up for, yer own funeral?" he cackled, his head tilting back and to the right side as he squinted in the dark characteristically.
"Nah...I might be on for this bird, like...looks a tasty deal..."
"Yeah? Sound lad.....Besta luck to yer.....She fit or is she Johnny Rotten?" he grinned.
"No....shes numero uno mate, trust me. Got a bit of previous with her, just trying to work somethin' out" I said earnestly. That didn't sound totally right for some reason...but I went with it.
"Right... Well I gotta gerroff lad, got trainin' in a minute down the playin' fields, Ian's givin' me a lift in his van" he nodded back to his sports bag.
"Sure... I'll let you know what happens, Deano....See you later"
"See yer later" he replied as he headed out.
I reached my flat and emptied the shopping in the kitchen, placing the white Australian Zinfandel in the fridge and tearing open the packaging to the wine glasses, running them under the hot tap. I methodically polished them until they glittered and put them away in the cupboard, the years working the night shift in the casino bar having at least provided me with superb hospitality skills. I then positioned the candles around the living room, one dead centre of the tidy little jet black Japanese coffee table.
I checked my funds: £50. Should be enough for a decent meal , I thought. Any more than that and I'd have to hit the cash machine on the way into town.
I flicked on the TV and sat back on the couch, drawing breath for what seemed like the first time in ages. The fare on offer on the screen was typical Sunday morning offerings - mindless, middle-of-the-road bile. Primarily catch-up shows for various useless reality shows and music videos for tunes I wouldn't torture terror suspects with. I trawled through the channels disinterestedly for a while.
My wrist-watch beeped. 1:00pm.
I was a bit rusty - did she want me to ring her or was she going to call me? I wasn't 100%. Leave it 20 minutes, I resolved.
I made myself busy tidying up - sorting out clothes I had left on the couch and storing them away, putting errant shoes back into the bedroom neatly, throwing old newspapers into the bin in the kitchen. There were a few loose dishes on the draining board, I noisily shoved them into the cupboard unevenly.
Time check - 1.15pm.
That'll do her.
I dialled her number and lounged back onto the couch.
"Hiyaaa...." she answered, quicker than I had envisioned.
"Hey. That was speedy. Were you sitting on that phone or something?"
"No....it was in my hand...I was just gonna call you"
"Great...So what's the dance today then lady? Where you wanna go? Cinema? Italian? Chinese? My call....."
It felt great having such options, so many varied cards to lay on the able.
Wait a second.
"No?" I uttered.
'I....can't make it....something's come up..." she whispered nervily, as though someone in the background was listening in.
"Why...what's wrong? There a problem?"
'It's....me Nan....she's not too well....and I can't leave her on her own, she needs...attention..."
Ahhh right, that old chestnut. Proper "Get out of jail free" card that excuse.
"I see......" I trailed off, deflated. How to deal with this?
'I'm sorry babe, maybe we can catch up later in the week? Just my Nan's really important to me....and she's very ill at the moment...."
Wow, the old one-two "family-guilt complex" combo. Always a knock-out move that.
"Yeah....sure...I mean you gotta look after your family and that....." I said vacantly, shrinking into the fabric of the couch.
"We'll catch up soon....I promise" she whispered.
"Right...OK Linda. Just let me know what's happening, Ok? I really need to see you...It's...important, like..."
"I will, I swear. Hafta go now. Byyeeeeee..."
Talk about a gut punch.
What troubled me as I lolled back onto the couch and threw my feet up onto the table, sending the candle spinning, was that we had been here before.
I couldn't question her excuse, even though it seemed flimsy and hastily contrived. I would have looked a real bastard had I questioned it. A lose-lose scenario.
I sat there for hours, oblivious to the TV set, staring out at the ominous and darkening skies outside the window. There was a static charge in the air and the faintest hint of ozone.
A storm was coming.