I spoke to Simon every day after our little soiree at Rob’s house, ten days of text messages, hour long phone calls, mid-morning coffees, late lunches, and sugary sweet kisses. Characters floated in and out of our lives making little to no effect on our blooming blossoming pairing. Rain, wind, sleet and sporadic moments of sunshine littered the days taking turns to remind us of our wintry settings, however none of it changed our mood. Simon made me smile, laugh, giggle, chuckle and feel so incredibly zealous inside. My moods with him were various shades of reds and oranges; like the inside of my chest and stomach had been sat next to a roaring open hearth. Simon and I had one shift together during this week; we had decided to keep people at work oblivious; it was difficult doing so as the secret we shared was betrayed by our smiling at each other. I cannot begin to adequately describe my emotions. They were the dark magic of indigo, the balminess of auburn, the simplicity of green, and the vibrancy of yellow. I was a rainbow. I felt a rainbow.
Simon sent me a text the moment he awoke wishing me a ‘Good morning angel xxx ’ to which I responded ‘It’s not a good morning. You’re not here xxx’. You see it on films, where couples have their own little sayings and routines, I never believed it realistic, but here we were having the same warm conversation every morning. At night I would usually be going to bed earlier, so I would wish him ‘Goodnight honey, sweet dreams xxx’. A couple of minutes later I would receive the usual ‘They’ll be much sweeter if you visit me in them xxx’. Sickly sweet isn’t it, but that is the way relationships begin; little routines that make everyone else reach for the sick-bucket. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would he. The only day I didn’t receive the text message was Valentine’s Day. My text was delivered at eight o’clock in the morning, by a delivery boy with an armful of chrysanthemums and a stuffed rabbit wearing a red t-shirt with Good Morning Angel xxx sewn into the fabric. There was a card with the fragrant chrysanthemums: ‘Tonight x’. It wasn’t a question, it was a sweet sweet order, and I would be obedient. I text him with a smile on my face and a warmth in my chest. ‘Tonight xxx’.
The day dragged slowly, I met Nikki for coffee who played with Henry for an hour before taking him to stay overnight with Cameron and Grace, something Simon had arranged. It amazed me how much I trusted Nikki with my son, who left with her waving and burbling the words ‘Nikka’ over and over. I could have cried as she smiled whilst he pulled her ears, tweaked her nose and repeated ‘Nikka’ in her face. I saw Jane for the first time too, dropping Cameron and Grace to her whilst she sat supping coffee in the downstairs area of the café. Jane was extraordinarily pretty, or would have been if it wasn’t for the yellowing bruise covering her left cheek. I never met her eyes, even when she offered a slender hand in greeting. No mention of my linking with Simon was mentioned, I am not even sure she knew at this point. Perhaps not, would she have let her children near me if she had any inkling? Nikki never mentioned it, so I followed her lead, smiling sweetly, and nodding in the five minutes she stood next to our table before leaving us with three kids and a beautiful day ahead. The rest of the day I watched the minutes slowly change before starting to ready myself at six o’clock. At seven Michael text me, hoping I had a good day, hoping I was happy, and hoping I remembered that he was having Henry on Sunday. Twat, fuck off, it’s my valentine’s day with Simon. I responded with a ‘Yes thanks I am good. See you Sunday.’ Nothing more. What’s good for the goose these days?
I was ready at three minutes to eight, and on the dot and chime, three minutes later my doorbell rang. I snuck to my curtained windows, looking out into the starry night from a small unnoticeable crack. Simon was nervously pushing his newly dyed black hair into place, it had been cut, and spiked, very trendy, very smart. I smiled at his nice beige trousers, his nice blue shirt, and his immaculate black shoes. We would match in my blue dress, and knee length leather bedroom boots. I breathed in for composure, and tried not to skip to the door. The lights in the living room were all dimmed, a pair of flickering candles upon my marble-effect fake fireplace provided an intimate ambiance, everything was set in the castle to invite the prince in.
I opened the door, fixing my face serious; erasing all traces of excitement and anticipation that may ruin the enigma of our first valentine’s day together. Simon stood before me, looking like someone had dressed him, discarding his signature dishevelment, no tattoo’s showing, hair just-so, and ironed clothes. This Simon was in costume, I knew he would be, Nikki told me he would make an effort. As lovely as it was, this was not Simon; this boy looked awkward. Hence my valentine’s present.
“Hi.” Simon smiled, still stood on the doorstep. He was waiting for his invite into the ladies domicile. How very quaint. How very English. So very Simon. I stepped outside, slipped my arm around his waist and tiptoed to kiss him. Not a full on wet slushing teenage-french-snog kiss, but one on the lips tenderly displaying affection and welcome.
“Hi back.” I smiled and took his hand leading him into my house. Simon looked around in a clockwise direction, briefly appraising my home as he walked in to my living room. What his immediate thoughts were, he did not stay. He just smiled.
“You look beautiful Toni.” I smiled.
“I am not going out with you looking like that.” I put my hands on his ironed shirt and kissed him again. “I knew you would do something stupid like this.” The first time that I ever had Simon confused, I could have laughed at his face, his furrowed brow and dismay at my critique of his appearance. I handed him a bag and sent him upstairs with directions to my room telling him that he had five minutes to sort himself out. He backed out of the room, eyebrows raised and headed to the stairs. Whilst he changed I went to the fridge and fetched a bottle of white wine and two glasses smiling to myself. Once the glasses were poured I heard him descend the stairs, this time the real Simon came through the door wearing my Valentine’s gifts.
I had bought him some baggy black camouflaged combat trousers, a white belt with DrunkPunk splashed across in a hot pink colour, a red t-shirt with ‘Alter Bridge’ and a line from one of their songs in the foreground, A black, pink and purple checked shirt, A pair of white and purple converse shoes, and finished off with a wrist-band showing a purple pentagram, a wooden bracelet consisting of large rectangular oak beads (one with my initials etched into) and a guitar-stud earring. He had got the idea; he had even ruffled his hair out of uniform.
“I had no idea what to get you baby, so I bought you these clothes. I just wanted you to know that it’s Simon that I am into. He doesn’t wear the uniform of the masses, and that’s who I want to spend Valentine’s Day with. Don’t get me wrong, the clothes you have up there are absolutely lovely…for the average Chav. Oh and you can you forget the posh restaurant, table booked or not. We are going to the blast something-or-other in Northampton.” It had only occurred to me at this moment that this may actually not be alright; I may have overstepped the boundary. I rattled nervously through my speech and looked up to see him shaking his head and grinning wildly.
“It’s amazing. Thank you very much. I like what it means.” Simon said simply. He noticed my eyebrows lift slightly in question. “It means you like me the way that I am. You can burn those clothes upstairs if you like. Do me a favour though please.”
“Go upstairs and wear something comfortable for yourself. If we’re going to the ‘Blast Chamber’ in Northampton, then you are going to want to wear something a little less…dressy.” Simon grinned and walked forward, picking up his glass of wine from the coffee table. He slid his arms around my waist and kissed my neck softly.
“OK. Before we go out though I want to know something.” I leant back and looked into his eyes, scanning his eyes for a glance into his mind.
“Are you wanting to stay with me tonight?” He let my question hang in the air, dramatic pause, longer than a moment. He smiled blinking his eyes once more and patted my backside.
“Go get changed.” Damn him, he could dress like a townie-piss-ant, send flowers, wear some sickly-sweet aftershave, but he couldn’t drop the enigma of his intentions. He must have known that I was gasping for it though; he just couldn’t relinquish that control right now. I skipped upstairs three at a time to grab a pair of jeans and a black top, still adamant that my bedroom boots remain. Ready in two and back down the stairs to find Simon still standing, waiting for me in the living room.
“Shall we?” He asked.
The taxi drive to Northampton flew past in blurry lines of yellow and neon green, whispering past couples with interlocked hands, restaurants with gaudy-pink lights, pubs advertising in wibbly-wobbly letters punctuated with hearts, broken up by the long black of the green belt. We chattered fluently and animatedly, trying to observe the fact that this was indeed our first date. Chivalry was on Simon’s mind, sex was on mine; however I held myself as a lady should. All through the proper talk, and polite questioning Simon held my hand. His felt clammy and warm, I didn’t realise he was so nervous until now. I hadn’t even believed that the unshakeable Simon Wood had the capacity to be nervous, so implacable in reality; breaks the noses and jaws of grown men, faces crowds and sings to them; leveled to shaking by a girl half his stature. I talked to him through the long blurry dark of the country roads, and provided him with genial conversation in the pine-scented cab. Thirty miles we travelled and talked about nothing but our day, our plans for the weekend, and when we were working next. It sounds so dull, but there was a tension there. One that existed just for us, the way we looked at each other, the words that went unsaid, the simmering double-entendres left hanging in customary conversational tones. Tension existed and only Simon and I were boiling in it. I didn’t know what to expect from the night, I chose a venue for us, purely because it advertised ‘ROCK’, had a picture of a devil on the leaflet, and the background was a monstrous looking guitar. I chose it for Simon, without fully comprehending the monster that he was about to turn into.
I think this was the moment that I knew I loved him.