by Robert Gould
Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but I would honestly rather I were raised by wolves than to have grown up in this backwater town. The thought occurred to me as I was hitting the filter of my cigarette. My lips were beginning to scorch, but I kept on sucking and spluttering on the hot smoke. I wasn’t ready to return to my date with the world’s most highly functioning coma patient. I peered through the restaurant’s window. I was impressed by just how trendy its interior was. Between the soft lighting and marble table tops, it was undoubtedly the best establishment in town, but that’s pretty much the equivalent of being the most symmetrical turd in the toilet bowl.
When I returned, Rhys continued to drone on like a hungry whale. I eyed up my wine glass. Barely a thimble’s worth remained. I downed it, hoping this would prompt him to buy me a new one. He didn’t notice. In the hands of anyone else, the subject of your father’s oil company would have been at least mildly titillating. But this boy was dryer than a nun’s vagina. He didn’t converse; words literally crawled out of his mouth with ugly, spastic legs. I had been plotting my escape since I first cracked open the menu. With my glass empty, I could finally smash it to the stem against the side of the table and swing it through my left eye. I’d have to get buried with an eyepatch, but it would be the stuff of legend. Online-dating networks would collapse. No one would want to try it for fear of being bored to death, just like that girl in Wales. I would be infamous. My skin prickled at the thought.
A waiter glided past our table and took my wine glass. Instinctively, I screamed at him.
“What are you doing, you stupid idiot?” The poor boy dropped it out of sheer fright. It exploded on the tile floor like a hail storm. I wept a little as I saw the pieces of my plan scatter across the white tiles. I looked up to see our waiter shaking. His overly gelled hair and whisker-thin shaving cuts reminded me of those kids from the Christian Union who prowled the smoking areas during Fresher’s Week. They bravely offered us the chance to bin our cigarettes in exchange for a lollipop and a copy of the Good News Bible. One night I showed my tits to a group of rugby boys to goad them into gathering whatever orphaned drinks they could find in a bucket and sloshing them over the congregation. I winced at the memory. In this skinny runt I saw every wallflower I had ever teased. I prayed Rhys would leave him a tip.
“I… I’m so sorry, miss.” He stuttered. “I thought it was empty.”
“It was empty.” Even a disclosure as brief as this one lumbered out my date’s mouth like a drunken caterpillar.
“Oh, so you noticed?” I snapped.
Enraged, I fanned my fingers out and pressed them against the table top until I could feel callouses beginning to form. I eased forward.
“Then why didn’t you fill it the fuck up?” Rhys shrank back in his seat and folded his arms. I looked to my right to see the waiter sweeping up the shards of my wine glass. Most of our fellow diners had returned to their meals. Rhys muttered something quietly while looking to the floor. I asked him to repeat it, but he just frowned and looked away.
“Oh for God’s sake, Rhys. What did you say?” He finally made eye contact.
“I didn’t get you another glass because you looked a bit sleepy. That’s all.” I suddenly felt in dire need of another cigarette.
“Mate! I only seemed ‘sleepy’ because your stories were almost as flat as your ass. You were boring the tits off me!” Rhys flinched at this. His face turned red and twisted.
“Well, it’s too bad I couldn’t bore the fat off you to boot, isn’t it?!” Rhys clearly did not expect these words to come out as loudly as they did. Once again, the entire restaurant’s interest was piqued. The sound of cutlery dropping on to delph was deafening. Rhys turned as white as a wank. I could feel every female eye probing me, silently willing me to knife him. I knew I should have made an example of him somehow, but instead a dirty cackle took over. This wasn’t just any cackle; it was almost demonic, and clearly more frightening than any reaction Rhys could have anticipated. His attempts at apologising were aborted with every passing convulsion. Our traumatised waiter stood up and curtsied before returning to the kitchen.
“Rhys. Babe. Get the bill! We’re leaving.”
I led Rhys out of the restaurant. He was ghostly pale. I took his hand.
“Are you alright?” His speech was still slow and deliberate, but infinitely more compelling now that I knew what he was capable of. An apology gushed out.
“It’s fine! Honestly. I know I’m a heifer.” Rhys stopped and pulled me back. I was impressed by his power.
“You’re not though! I think you’re hot.” He wasn’t wrong. I have a nice oval-shaped face, with full lips and dark brown eyes. A lot of guys like bigger girls, even if they won’t say so to their friends. There’s a token smoker in every group, and it’s them who I’ve grown to be careful around on nights out. No matter how in depth our bonding sessions can get in the smoking area, it always ends the same way once we go back inside. I freshen up in the bathroom, and return to give him a casual wave from across the dancefloor, only for him to sneer at me. He’ll elbow his friends behind him and tell them about the fat girl who’s been following him around all night. One flash of my breasts later, however, and this boy will usually find himself being trampled by my troupe of loyal rugby players. I may be fat, but I still have assets.
“If you want to apologise for anything, it should be for being such a tedious bastard.” Rhys laughed and explained that his family were disgustingly rich, which he had no real problem with. What troubled him was how they struggled to talk about anything other than their wealth, even in each other’s company. It had rubbed off on him, and it was a habit he was trying to break. As he told me all this, I began to notice the deep cleft in his chin. I was hooked. Decent looks, rich boy guilt and a wicked tongue? Could he be any more eligible?
A quick gurgle interrupted my growing infatuation. Rhys turned his head to eject a dollop of spit on to the ground – and just like that, the dam of perfection I had built up in my head collapsed, allowing all my previous assumptions to come flooding back in. I retched.
“You’re a minger! You just spat on the street.”
“Not just any street, though. Come on. This is Aberystwyth.” My heart stopped.
“You hate this town too?”
“Of course I do! It’s horrible!” I marched right over to him and stuck my tongue in his mouth. It was bizarre; I was completely sober, but our mutual hatred for Aberystwyth was intoxicating. His tongue tickled mine in full view of the restaurant. We must have looked revolting, but I didn’t care. I pushed him against a lamppost and ran my hands down his back.
“I want you in my bed.” He nodded, and we laughed at the turn this evening had taken.
“So what’s your least favourite thing about Aber?” We were only one street away from mine, and trashing this town was like foreplay for me.
“Oh, there’s so much to choose from. You know that pub by—” Rhys suddenly stopped still and shoved me into the nearest alley way. In my surprise, I stumbled and tripped over a bin bag. I hit the ground and barked at him.
“What the fuck?!”
Rhys shushed me. He was standing just outside of the alley. He gave a quick wave to someone I couldn’t see. His eyes followed them for a moment before returning to me. I lifted my hand to find some tomato sauce streaked across my palm. I looked down. One of the bin bags had been torn open.
“Sorry about that.” Rhys outstretched his hand. I didn’t take it. “That was just some friends of mine. I didn’t want them to… you know…”
Oh my god, I thought. He didn’t want to be seen with me. I should have known! I calmly stood up and approached him.
“Don’t worry about it, babe.”
“Really?” My smile disintegrated.
“No!” Gleefully, I punched him in the stomach with a fist decked out in chunky rings. He fell to his knees and groaned. I held his head in my hands and backslapped him across the cheek. He lay on the ground and sobbed. I noticed some girly cheering coming from behind me. A voice echoed down the street. It was a group of girls from the restaurant.
“It’s her! It’s the girl who was called fat by her date!”
Their entourage applauded when they saw my handiwork. I smiled, and took a bow. It felt good to fight my own battle.