Only Connect

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tall and awkward, out of place Violet knew she should not have gone to that party !

Submitted: July 06, 2017

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Submitted: July 06, 2017

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Only Connect

 

“Violet! There you are ! Come in – everything’s in full swing. Red or white ?”

“Hello Felix ! Yes it really is me. I’m not just a hologram . . . I’ll have red please.”

“Thought you would. You haven’t changed,” he said archly.

“I have actually, in many respects . . . except that I still prefer red.”

“Oo. Still the sharp tongue though, I notice.”

“Still the 70s haircut, I notice.”

“Touche ! And meow ! The wine’s in the kitchen.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“Grab some before it all goes.”

“Yes, I will. Thanks.”

But Felix had already turned his attention away – a couple was just entering, one bearing a bottle of Sherry.

Violet, rather tall, thin and studious looking, with auburn hair and glasses, wove her way through the crowded, well lit living room to the compact kitchen. It was pretty stifling. Someone must have something cooking in the oven, she mused, without bothering to check. She grabbed a glass and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Red from the worktop and poured herself a drink. She sniffed the liquid briefly before putting the glass to her lips and taking a large draught. She lent back against the fridge-freezer and glanced around the poky room, glass in hand. On one wall there was a huge poster of Kurt Cobain, looking gloomily out at the world. Across the window space there were rather worn red curtains. The other two walls were obscured by white chipboard cupboards.

As she stood there taking in the scene something light fell on the floor by her feet. She bent down carefully, wine glass still in hand, and picked up a fridge magnet advertising the island of Tenerife. It was a cheap, crude souvenir of a ubiquitous type. Violet quickly stuck it back on the freezer door and left the kitchen.

Back in the crowded living room she cast her eyes around to see if she knew anyone. She didn’t recognise any of the other guests. And nobody seemed to be without a conversational partner. So she stood back, glass in hand, on the edge of the proceedings, feeling nervous and vulnerable.

Somebody had changed the CD on the stereo from vintage Stones to Westlife. This was certainly more agreeably retro to Violet’s taste as she heard the familiar strains of Uptown Girl emanating from the sound system. As she listened she began to wonder whether in the circumstances she was that ‘uptown girl’ herself, slumming it a bit in her efforts to meet new people. But if so, where was her charming Ronan ? Violet wondered whether she should bail out and go and talk to Felix – the only person at the party she knew. But she quickly decided that would be an admission of defeat; and he might make her suffer for it, especially after her jibe about his hairstyle. No, she would have to wait and somehow pluck up the courage to talk to a complete stranger; but everyone seemed to know everyone else except her. So she stood there, drink in hand, feeling completely out of it.

The minutes passed. Five minutes became ten, ten became twenty; half and hour passed and no one came over to talk to her. She had gone for several refills by this time. Once or twice she had ventured to try to engage someone between conversational partners, but each time she had been too timid and the person in question had quickly found another interlocutor with whom they seemed instantly on conspiratorial terms. In fact as she stood there feeling rejected it began to seem to her as though the whole thing really was a conspiracy to make her feel uncomfortable. But almost as soon as the idea popped into her head she dismissed it, telling herself that she mustn’t get paranoid.

A quarter of an hour and one more drink later Violet decided that it might be best to cut and run. She was just getting squiffy for nothing. She would make her excuses to Felix and leave – no one else would even notice if she slipped out, she suspected. Hence she sidled her way through the indifferent throng and tapped Felix on the shoulder. 

Felix spun round and said:

“Oh, Violet. Having a good time?”

“No. Look Felix, I think I’ll go now. I don’t know anyone here. And I’ve got work tomorrow anyway,” she lied.

“You can’t go now ! There’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Oh no, I don’t think so Felix. I think I’ll get an early night.”

“Nonsense ! Where is he ? Erm, Robin,” he said turning to a short-ish young man with a fulsome beard, “You’re not talking to anyone, are you ?”

“Well actually,” began Robin . . .

“Don’t worry about that, whatever it was. I want you to meet Violet,” said Felix, corralling Violet and Richard with both arms towards each other.

It all seemed inevitable to the two strangers, so they dutifully introduced themselves to one another and began not talking.

After an awkward silence which seemed to last interminably, Violet broke the pause by venturing: “So you know Felix well?”

“Err, actually no. I met him for the first time down the pub, erm the Cabbage Patch, a couple of weeks ago. He said he was having a party and asked me if I’d like to come . . . he was very persuasive.”

Violet laughed from embarrassment. “Oh, I see. I’ve known him for years without really knowing him. I met him at University.” This seemed to break the ice by placing the two in a something of a conspiracy against ‘mine host’.

“Really ! From the way he talked about you I thought you must be quite close,” said Robin.

“I see. I wonder what his agenda is.” 

“I wonder. He likes to present himself as the life and soul, I think.”

“Yes, doesn’t he just.”

“Don’t say it too loudly, he might hear us.”

“Don’t worry, the music’s too loud for that.”

“Sorry, what was that?” he pretended not to have heard her.

Violet laughed again, behind her hand. “Oh dear,” she said.

All of a sudden Felix swung round as though he really had been listening in to their exchange and said: “I’ll tell you what Violet, Robin, perhaps you’d be able to talk more comfortably in the back room . . . it’s so crowded and noisy in here you can’t hear yourself think !”

“Well at least I suppose we wouldn’t have to shout to be heard,” shouted Violet.

“Okay, that’s fine by me,” said Robin.

Felix ushered them into the back room of his three bedroom apartment. It was clearly a room which didn’t get much use; the walls were painted a subtle shade of off-white with a tinge of green and there was a pristine red sofa which was obviously new. A thick-pile beige carpet, a coffee table by the sofa, a clumpy red armchair and flowery curtains drawn too completed the minimalist ensemble.

“I’ll get you guys some wine to be going on with,” said Felix, disappearing for a couple of minutes and then reappearing with a bottle of red and half a bottle of white wine and plonking them unceremoniously on the coffee table. “Enjoy !” he said in a fake American accent, and left them to it.

Back in the lounge the sound system had been turned up, the lights had been dimmed and Black Sabbath was booming raucously out of the speakers.

A blonde girl came up to Felix, pecked him on the cheek and said very loudly: “Well done Feely – thank God you got rid of those two old bores . . . what did you do, tell them there was another party going on somewhere else run by undertakers?”

“Certainly not! I just put them in the spare room with a couple of bottles of wine.”

“Oh, nice one Feely. Why did they want to come here anyway?”

“God knows ! But I’m sure he wouldn’t bother telling you.”

“You patronising sod!”

He kissed her full on, smiled and said, “But you love me all the same!”

“Don’t count on it,” she pouted, and promptly disappeared to the kitchen.

Back in the spare room Robin was recharging two glasses with red wine. Handing one to Violet he said: “Do you think Felix banished us just so that he could turn up the volume?” The relentless beat was now thudding through the thin walls.

“Oh,” said Violet, and then more thoughtfully, “yes, you’re probably right.”

“Do you mind?” asked Robin with a wry smile.

“No, I don’t think I do,” said Violet, with an answering look which reflected his tone.

“Quite glad to be out of that,” said Robin.

“Yes,” said Violet, “not really my scene either.”

“I rather thought not,” said Robin, “that’s good.” 

“What would be your scene? I think I might be able to guess.”

“Go on then.”

“Hmm, I would guess art galleries, museums, theatres, books, restaurants perhaps, music of a serious kind,” she hazarded. 

“How did you know?” he said, with a sideways glance. Then he laughed, comfortably. 

“It’s easy to spot,” said Violet, just as it must be easy for you to spot that I’m a bit, well, out of place.”

“Yes, I did notice. What, kind of floats your boat then ?”

“Geology, geography, palaeontology . . . and I’m a bit of a chess enthusiast, though not in any way an expert.”

“That’s interesting, Violet; passion is physics, actually, and chemistry to a lesser degree . . . and I also play a bit of chess.”

“Really ! What’s your least favourite opening?”

“French Defence.”

“Why?”

“Because you know, usually, when someone plays e6 against your e4 . . . that they only want a draw. And as in football it’s hard to break down your opponent when they ‘park the bus’, if you’ve heard the phrase.”

“No . . . you’re into football too then.”

“Well, a little bit – enough to know that when a team, usually an away team, ‘parks the bus in front of the goal’ they have just come to defend.”

“Oh I see! Yes that makes sense in relation to the French defence.”

“So what’s yours?”

“Er, sorry?”

“Least favourite opening?”

“Oh, yes. Mine’s the Orang-utan; it’s just so off-the wall, unpredictable.”

“Ah yes, b4. Look b4 you leap.”

“Exactly.”

“Not a fan of hyper-modern chess then?”

“No. More of the Classical sort.”

“We must have a game some time.”

“Why not? So long as e6 and b4 are banned!”

“Well of course. Chess pieces at dawn then,” said Robin, with a broad smile.

Back in the lounge the party was now in full swing. The music was beating out oppressively, the alcohol was flowing, the lights were low – but not quite as low as the humour from some quarters.

Courtney was dancing with a dodgy looking youth who had a shaven head, injudiciously placed safety pins and a liberal covering of tattoos. Being a good looking, vivacious girl she was naturally attracting the attention of other youths in the immediate vicinity as well. One of the youths in question, whose name was Jared, was determined to get in on the act and asked Courtney for a dance when the music stopped and her tattooed dance partner went to the loo. She agreed and off they went to the sound track of The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night.

After a few minutes the tattooed, shaven-headed youth returned to the dance floor and wondered what was going on. He waited his opportunity and grabbed Courtney by the arm as she danced by with Jared, yanking her to a standstill.  Naturally this did not go down well with Jared, and an altercation broke out, possibly made worse by illegal substances. Felix jumped in to calm things down, put a friendly arm around the tattooed youth’s shoulders and led him over to the other side of the room to cool down.

In the back room the discussion had moved on: Violet was explaining her idea of the interconnection of all things. “And so you see,” she was saying, “since all things are really understandable in terms of physical, chemical and electrical interactions at an atomic level . . .”

“Yes indeed,” said Robin, “please go on”.

“Okay . . . well even human beings are just in a way amazingly complex chemistry sets, made of the materials of the Universe created in the crucibles of stars . . . you follow?”

“Yes, I’m with you.”

“Well it’s easy to see that all phenomena are made up of these same building blocks, i.e. atoms and elementary particles interacting chemically, physically and electrically . . . throughout all the matter of the Universe . . . thus the interaction and interdependence of all things, every one consisting of these interacting atoms and particles, from tiny snowflakes up to enormous stars, solar systems and galaxies.”

“Yes. That’s very interesting. You’re right of course. And every element having emerged from the Big Bang – the initial very hot hydrogen and helium cooling and then coagulating to form stars . . . and those stars forming all the elements in the tremendous heat of their cores, eventually burning out and exploding and spewing all these elements out to form planets, comets, new stars and so on . . . and everything including human beings are made of these same basic elements. It’s fascinating and beautifully logical!”

“I see that we’re on the same wavelength,” said Violet . . . “which is surprising, or maybe not so surprising given our academic backgrounds . . . and the interconnection of all things of course.”

They were by now seated quite close together on the sofa, although the body language left a bit to be desired: they were each so carried away by the subject matter that they were sitting quite stiffly. Robin noticed and said, by way of introducing a lighter note:

“Well I suppose then there must be some of this chemistry working on us right now, this very moment in time . . .”

Violet relaxed and smiled, touching Robin on the arm momentarily in a gesture of incipient intimacy.

“Have some more of this indifferent red wine,” Robin said.

“Well if you insist.”

“I do insist.”

At that moment there was a tremendous crash emanating from the lounge, which shook the walls of the whole apartment.

“What the hell’s going on?” said Robin.

“Oh don’t worry about it,” said Violet, it’s obviously just kicking off in there.”

Back in the lounge it really was kicking off. The tattooed youth had lost his rag and started a fight. In the process a heavy table had been turned over. Fortunately there were some big guys at the party who had far more self control and they stepped in and broke it up before the place got smashed up. But that was effectively the end of the party: mine host ordered everyone to leave pronto, and whilst the tattooed youth was reluctant to go he had no choice. Thus ushered by the heavy boys everyone filed out, down the stairs and out onto the street.

Left bring order to his somewhat chaotic apartment Felix began the process of clearing up. But after half an hour of clearing up and tidying the lounge and not getting very far he decided to turn in and face the rest in the morning.

Next morning Violet, bleary-eyed and in a state of semi-undress went to the kitchen and

encountered Felix, cooking something on the stove. He had a smug look on his face as he

said gently and with a wink:

“Hi Violet. Did you sleep well?”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Sofa-bed comfortable?”

“Yes. Thanks.”

“Fancy a full English Breakfast – sausage an all?”

Violet couldn’t help but laugh.

 

GAW Jan 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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