Second Impression

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A vain man sees the error of his ways!

Submitted: March 28, 2010

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Submitted: March 28, 2010

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Ashley was a dedicated man. Dedicated to his clothes, his music taste, the way he spoke, what he ate and to the women in his life. Every moment in his life was a mosaic in his self image. The clothes he wore suggested that no more than a mere minute was spent in their choosing, ascetically pleasing in a way that suggested very little effort on his part and aroused jealousy in others. How was it that could he wear anything and make it look good? His I-Pod featured seventies bands that were only current in pop quizzes. Usually the bonus round. Every word he said was uttered with a careful measured consideration. When Ashley spoke to you then you knew that this was no rushed stream of consciousness. And when you spoke to him his deep brown eyes would appraise you in deep thought, you would never know that he was waiting for you to finish so he could begin. He ate only at those forgotten restaurants hidden in cobbled back alleys, ones where the starter was worth a month’s wage and the food looked like it had already been digested. Now women? Women he had down to that finest detail. In his daily effort to create the perfect self image there was no subject he dedicated himself to more than women. They were usually gentle, sweet with natural waves untouched by product. They wore bohemian dresses and adored Joni Mitchell. They sponsored whales, boycotted McDonalds, refused to wear even imitation fur but most importantly of all. They adored him.

Which was why, for all his dedication and effort, Ashley could not fathom why he found himself in his current predicament. The evening had started pleasantly enough. Him and his current girlfriend Crystal had been to the cinema to see the a Ingmar Bergman marathon and afterwards had gone for a walk in the park, happily denouncing modern film as trash and current actors as untalented when Crystal announced that there was something she wanted to ask him. Something she was nervous about but hoped he would understand. There was something she’d always wanted to do. It was a bit out there and involved being tied up but she hoped that he was as willing to experiment as she was. Ashley was. He must totally and completely was. He agreed immediately! Unfortunately crossed wires had ensued and a mere hour later...

___

“2, 4, 6, 8 we will not negotiate!” Crystal yelled through her pink megaphone to the bemused police officer. She turned and smiled at Ashley in an encouraging manner then turned back to the officer who was examining his nails with intense fascination. “These trees are living beings too! If the council wants to take them they’ll have to take us too!”

“Madam, if you don’t unchain you and your friend then will we have no choice but to arrest you for disturbance of the peace.” The officer was removing some found dirt from his cuticle with more interest than he had in them. “And quite frankly I can’t be bothered with the paperwork that would bring. Let’s say you’ve made your point and call all this a day now, eh?”

“Crystal? The officer is right. Perhaps we should just go home?” Ashley asked, the burn of humiliation on his face now. What if someone knew was to drive by? What if he was arrested and this went on his record? If they left now they could perhaps catch the end of X Factor. Have some wine, rubbish the show as the Satan of the music industry and then go to bed. Damnit! Cheryl Cole would never do this to him! She probably didn’t even own a megaphone.

“No, Ashley! A true activist sees it through to the end! John Lennon and Yoko Ono wouldn’t just give up and go home!”

“John Lennon did his protesting from a bed!” Ashley could feel his temper rising now “For God’s sake this is ridiculous. I’m pretty sure this tree is dead anyway. It looks diseased! Even the wood worm is avoiding it!”

“ASHLEY! Why are you being horrid? You agreed to do this with me!”

“Crystal, could you please not use the megaphone. I’m tied to you as well as this stupid bark. I CAN HEAR YOU!”

“Oh, you are being just beastly! You’re not the person I thought you were! You are a...a...meanie!”

“And you’re apparently a reject from an Enid Blyton novel. Just untie us will you?”

In a huff Crystal undid the chains, deliberately scratching his stomach as she loosened him “I thought you were the real deal!” She stormed “Someone I could count on but it was all an act wasn’t it?” She swatted him in the arm with the megaphone. “I can’t believe I ever went out with you!”

“Will you stop hitting me with that thing?” He made a grab for the weapon but she pulled it out of his reach.

“Please, could you two just go home and sort this out? Chain yourself to the sofa instead or something?” The officer took a step towards them.

“I will once this crazy...OW...will you give me that!” The play for a megaphone came a tug of war “Now, Crystal this is...ouch...stupid will you just...” She let go unexpectedly and Ashley was not ready for the power shift. The item flew from his hand and hit the nearby officer full in the face.

“Oh, dear God! Sir! I am so sorry!” He helped the bewildered man to his feet, dusting him off as he rose.

“And you? You tree hugging barmy? You are coming down to the station!”

---

And now here he sat in this holding cell. Not even his own cell! Here he was sharing with ingrates and killers no doubt. You could almost smell the lack of education. Sat next to him on his bench was a young woman. He made the mistake of making eye contact and tried to look away. Not quick enough.

“What you in for then? Or they filming the Secret Millionaire or summat?” the girl was attractive in a chavvy Lily Allen sort of way. She had dark curly hair swept into a ponytail, green eyes and a smattering of freckles over her button like nose. With a bit of effort she could be a real looker. If she dropped the working class accent and New Look outfit that is. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed and shook her head in disbelief.

“What?”

“You! You just proper looked me over and then sniffed! Who the ‘ell do you think you are, Tarquin!” she poked a red tipped nail into his chest.

“No, I didn’t!”

“Yes, yes you bloody did. Not good enough for ya am I? Well no worry, mate you don’t exactly pickle my onion either, you know what I’m saying, like”

“Pickle your..? No, I don’t know what you’re saying. Thankfully.” Ashley turned in his seat so his back faced the girl. He had enough problems without adding an ASBO ridden harpie to his list.

“Oi, Tarquin. Tarquin” Those red tip nails appeared at his shoulder and he shrugged them off.

“My name is not Tarquin. It is Ashley. Will you just leave me in peace?” He turned and looked her in the face. She sat back in her seat and smiled slowly.

“Did you crash Daddy’s car then, eh?”

“No, I did not! Look, it has nothing to do with you okay? I’ll be gone in a soon and I’ll be nothing but a distant memory. Alright?”

“I’ve got it. You backhanded the ‘elp for not cleaning the pool?”

“Actually I assaulted a police officer!” Ashley inwardly cringed at the satisfaction of seeing her impressed face. This was not the kind of person you tried to curry favour with for goodness sake!

“What? YOU? You assaulted a police officer? Who was it? The kid from “Cop and ½” she laughed and sat back against the wall, observing him keenly. “No, for serious. Did you?”

“Yes, I did I...well it was an accident really. I don’t really want to get into it. I just want to do my time and get out” Ashley put his head in his hands and groaned loudly. When were they going to give him that damn phonecall?”

“Do your time? Ohh, get you! Five minutes and you’ve turned into a Kray!”

“Oh, and want are you in for then? You a hardened criminal then? Jewel thief? Hired assassin? Street walker?” Through all this she had been wearing a half smile, on the latter the smile vanished.

“Nice. That’s real nice. I could tell you were a class act when you walked in!” She got up and walked to the far side of the cell without a second glance back.

At last! Peace. Except...why did he feel guilty? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been asking for it, questioning him like that. And what right did she have to judge him? Just because of the way he dressed and way he spoke? Especially a Tesco check out girl like her. He observed the others in the holding cell. There were two clear vagrants, two sleeping drunks and a huge mammoth of a man. He had hands the size of desert islands and arms swarmed in crude, green tattoos. Ashley would wager that both those hands bore the words “LOVE and “HATE” or maybe the latter doubled. What the hell where the police doing putting a young girl like that in here anyway? Ashley watched her in the midst of these criminals and felt a strange tug of protective instinct. Maybe when he was granted his call he could say something. They could move her or something?

“Hey, sweetheart? You lonely, love? You want some company?” The big man made his way over to the young girl. She turned and smiled at his approach.

You should do something, Ashley thought. Maybe go over? Then again she doesn’t look exactly terrified to death. More her sort anyway, probably knew him from her council estate. She threw back her head and laughed loudly at something the Colossus said. Something about eating his parole officer, Ashley imagined. Oh, God. How could a pretty girl like that be interested in that Galoot. Like he cared anyway, he had bigger fish to fry. Like getting out of here sometime this millennia.

“Excuse me? Sir? I believe I am entitled to a phone call?” He approached the cell bars and looked across to the cell sergeant. “Excuse me? Hello?”

“Sir, I will get to you in my own time. Could you please sit down?”

“I know my rights! I need to make a phone call!”

“Yes, Sir we’ve all seen The Bill but I don’t have the time or inclination to deal with you so SIT DOWN!”

Ashley jumped at the change in the man’s tone. Chastened he returned to his seat. But not before seeing the girl looking at him with a mixture of disdain and amusement. His face flushed red. What the hell? Why did he care what someone like her thought of him? Here he was feeling like the last one picked for the football team. He sat heavily, the embarrassment weighing him down. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the girl, twinkle and flirt for King Kong. She clocked his observation and smiled smugly then turned her attention back to the lug.

“So you were the man in charge, eh? You look like a man with brains! Tell me all about it!” She placed her hand teasingly on his chest and looked at him. Her doe green eyes sparkling. Who did she think she was? some kind of moll? The BFG was eating all this up! He launched into a boring detailed account of some sort of scam involving motorbikes. How he was the one who arranged the thefts, the selling and the deals. How everyone in his gang answered to him. Who cared? It wasn’t like he punched an officer now was it? Stealing was like the Diet Coke of crime. Everyone knew that.

Without even realising he was doing it he was on his feet and crossing the room towards them.

“I’m sorry about what I said earlier. You know? It was uncalled for and it was rude” the words were out before he could stop them.

“Look, Tarquin it’s okay. Just go sit down” Instead of looking pleased she looked harassed.

“But I’m trying to apologise!”

“And it’s ‘’preciated but I’m a bit busy at the moment” She gestured with her head towards the giant at her side.

“You’d seriously rather talk to this guy? I mean for real?”

“You mean instead of you? You have a pretty ‘igh opinion of yourself, like!” She moved closer to the thug and glared at Ashley.

“Listen mate, you’re seriously getting on my wick. Just sit yourself down and keep out of it” The man took a menacing step towards him “You catching my drift like?” Ashley swallowed his pride and nodded.

Moving away from the couple he shook his head in wonder. What was the matter with him. They had barely spoke and the few words they had had were full of vitriol. But why was he so full of jealousy that she’d rather talk to Attack of the 50ft Villian instead of him? She was completely not his type. And yet those green eyes kept staying with him. The tough, independent way she held herself. He bet if she chained herself to a tree she’d not only save the forest but get buildings torn down and seeds planted in their place. Then again she didn’t seem the kind of person to tie herself to a tree. He bet she’d never even heard of Joni Mitchell.

“Ashley Darlington?” the desk sergent appeared at the door.

“Is this for my phone call?” He leapt up and approached the officer.

“No, better then that Billy the Kid. The officer you assaulted has decided not to press charges. He thinks the scare will have been punishment enough. Oh, and that you should think about dating other people”

“Are you serious? That’s fantastic!” Finally a bit of luck! An intense sense of relief hit him as he walked out of the cell. Yet discreetly he couldn’t stop himself shooting the girl one last look. She was oblivious to his stare and intent on what Psycho McGee was saying. Well, whatever. It wasn’t like he cared anyway.

“Listen” he said when they were out of earshot of the cell “Can I pay someone’s bail, please? The girl? I don’t think she should be in there with those types”

“Why? You survived? I think she can cope!”

“No, really. How much is the bail set for?” He stopped at the exist, the officers hand on his back.

“Trust me, Darlington. She’s fine. And you’re free to go. So will you just go!” Reluctantly he allowed the man to shove him through the door.

-

Two hours later he was sat outside the station on the steps. This is insane! Why was he still here? What would he even say to her when she came out? He’d probably be re-arrested for stalking. How long could he wait for? What if she had been arrested for murder or something? Would he sit here until the trial for God’s sake?

“Tarquin! You were released ‘ours ago! What you still doing ‘ere?” The girl appeared behind him, green eyes wide in shock.

“Er, hi! I just...I’m not sure really. But I just kinda wanted to talk to you properly?” He rose as she came down the steps. It was a change to feel this awkward around a girl. Usually this kind of thing was smooth and easy. Predictable almost. But right now he couldn’t even guess what was going to come out his mouth next.

“Well, well, well. What do you want to talk about? Politics? French art?”

“Hey, that’s not really fair. You’re just judging me here and all I’m doing is trying to talk to you”

“And you ain’t judged me then, eh? The way I’m dressed, the way I talk? Admit it. You took one look at me and you thought you had me worked out. Well, it works both ways, Tarquin, I knew everything about you when you walked through them doors. And I know enough to know that I’m not the kinda girl you wear on your arm which suits me, I have no interest in being anyone’s accessorie. I think we are done?” she tried to step past him but he blocked her “Look, I’m flattered but we are like chocolate and cheese, we don’t go together!”

“Why not? You never know until you try? Okay, I admit I judged you and I shouldn’t have. I’m embarrassed that I did! But...there’s just something about you that intrigues me or...I’m not making much sense am I? I mean I barely know you but I just want to be around you. Do I sound crazy? Creepy?”

“Yes, but I except that from someone who chains himself to trees”

“How did you know that?” He felt wounded that his hard police punching image had been diminished.

“Desk sergeant told me. A pink megaphone, eh?” she looked serious enough but Ashley could see a twitch at the corners of her mouth. “Listen, okay. One drink, just one. And if you start bangin’ on about freeing Burma I’m off”

“As long as you don’t start talking about Eastenders!”

“I’m actually more of a Corrie girl but it’s a deal!” She linked his arm through hers and began to lead him away from the station.

“Could I just ask? What were you in there for?”

“Oh, attempted murder” He stalled and she laughed at his startled expression “I wasn’t in for anything.”

“I don’t understand? What were you doing? Hanging out?”

“That big guy I was speaking to? He is wanted for a string of motorcycle thefts, but they’ve never had anything to nail him with. Tonight I got a full confession, while wired up!”

“What? Why you? Why were you getting that information?”

“It’s what I do, Tarquin. Oh, by the way. I never told you my name. It’s Laura Golding. Officier Laura Golding!”

THE END


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