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Lover of Beautiful but Unstable Women


by Lou Godbold


“Daddy, you've got an email.”

“Hunh?” Michael glances at his laptop, but Tilly has swiveled it to face her at the table.

“Who's ‘LA Lou'?”

“Oh, just some work thing, probably.” Or one more desperate middle-aged woman, Michael thinks, inexpertly dislodging French toast from the frying pan. I don't know why I let my friends talk me into it; it's not as if I'm really in a position to start a new relationship, what with the filming schedule and Tilly at the weekends…

“It says she's a TV drama en-enthus-iast and would love to meet you when she comes to London.”

“Tilly, don't you know it's rude to read other people's mail?”

Tilly pouts. “I was just practicing my reading,” she says disingenuously. Michael wonders if this is a learned behavior or if her mother has bequeathed her with the dissembling and manipulation gene.

“Okay, eat your breakfast now or you'll be late for school.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Why does she think your glasses are sexy?”

#

“Michael!” The very gorgeous Hazel is leaning over his desk.

“Haze! Sorry, I was miles away.” Actually, with a Vietnamese girl he'd met at Bar Italia. He was buying his breakfast bagel when he'd seen her in the mirror behind the counter dipping a finger into cappuccino foam and licking off the chocolate flecks. I can't help it, thinks Michael, I am essentially a painter, “Very visual,” then realizes he's spoken out loud. He jabs at the set designs spread before him. “Very, erm, visually interesting.”

Hazel looks at him quizzically and shifts one hip to perch on his desk. “I don't think you've heard a single word I've said. What's the matter? Is it Nadja? Is she being difficult about Tilly again?”

Nadja is Michael's ex-wife. A beautiful but unstable actress. I am a lover of beautiful but unstable women, thinks Michael, noting the exquisite landscape of flesh down the back of Hazel's jeans. God, a black lace thong. Too bad she's much too together to be his type.

“Ahem! I'm not your type, Michael.”

He refocuses guiltily on her face. Is she a mind reader?

Smiling, she shakes her head. “You men are so predictable.”

“Sadly, we are at the mercy of our hormones. But I've sworn off women, remember?”

“What about that Chinese girl I saw you with this morning?”

“Vietnamese, actually. Nice girl. A dancer.”

Hazel raises both eyebrows. “What she do? Give you a card with her number and a discount on a lap dance?”

“How d'you know?”

“About the discount?”

“About what kind of dancer she was.”

“Because this is Soho, Michael! You really are a disaster when it comes to women.”

“I thought she looked vulnerable.”

“That's the trouble with you — you romanticize women. You have to learn that we're just the same as you only without, you know, that thing.” She gestures towards his crotch. He crosses his legs protectively. “What you need is to meet a nice woman, an equal. Someone who can be a real partner.”

Michael thinks about all the unanswered emails from nice women on the dating website. I'm just too much of a romantic, he thinks. There's something so prosaic about hanging out your shingle and matching yourself to someone else's religion, hobbies, retirement plans…

Especially as he never plans to retire.

#

 The soccer match is on full blast, Michael sprawled on the couch in a dirty T-shirt and sweat pants that have seen better days. At first when the doorbell rings he doesn't hear it, the shrill sound indistinguishable from the whistles and the roars of the football crowd. Now in a lull he hears the insistent buzzing and jumps up, spilling the packet of pretzels. Damn! Who can it be? He runs a hand through his hair which only succeeds in making it stand more on end. Pulling the drawstring tighter around his belly, he staggers to the door. A female shape stands behind the rippled glass.

“Good afternoon. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I'm with the South Downs Flora Defense Fund. I wonder if you will join us in the fight to protect native species by banning the planting of non-native flora,” she says, proffering a clipboard of soggy signatures.

She is young, perhaps late twenties, her long black hair weighted by the misting rain and sticking in strands to her face. Tiny drops of moisture bead her eyebrows, her eyelashes, her lips, and he has a sudden impulse to kiss them away. He checks out the long, rain-darkened legs of her jeans, which are stuffed into clumsy Eskimo boots. She's staring up at him with a rapt expression.

“You're Michael Bessinger, aren't you? I was a film student at Brighton and Hove College before I left to work for SDFDF. You came to lecture us on TV drama?”

“Yes, come on in! You're getting soaked,” he says, realizing now why he recognizes her. Another beautiful but unstable woman.

 

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