CONTENTS AND FRONT PAGE STORY - 'BLIND DATE'
THE WEBSITE OF AUTHOR JANET GOGERTY
NEW - 'TIMES AND TIDES'
A COLLECTION OF 25 SHORT STORIES
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READ ABOUT THE BOOK IN CHAPTER ONE.
Jessica hesitated at the door of the restaurant. Why had she let herself be talked into another blind date after the last two disasters, someone else Di knew from “The Centre”. Jessica was a few minutes early and sat nervously at the table the waiter offered her.
Di hadn’t mentioned that her blind date actually was blind and she was taken by surprise when he arrived. Jessica had no objection to meeting men with disabilities, on the contrary, they were likely to be more interesting. She knew from Di’s work that you can’t categorise people, registered blind did not necessarily mean a world of total darkness, but as Michael entered the brightly lit restaurant he looked genuine. His guide dog led him in, the waiter greeted him and chatted for a few moments before carefully leading him over to the table where she was sitting.
As he sat down opposite her and she saw how gorgeous he was, she knew he would not have given her a second glance had he been sighted. He smiled and as she automatically smiled back, a whole host of questions came to mind about the practicalities of this date, but he was at pains to put her at her ease. He spoke in a rich baritone.
‘I’ve booked a cab for seven o’clock, it’s not far to the concert hall. I’ve already consulted the waiter about the menu, but please take your time choosing.’
‘Thanks, I can never decide and lots of the dishes…’ she faltered, wondering what her voice sounded like to him, hopefully interesting and sexy ‘look… uhm sound delicious.’
He laughed. ‘Jessica, you don’t have to avoid saying “look” or “see”. I’m lucky I haven’t always been blind, I like people to describe what they are seeing. Tell me about the décor of this place and see if it matches what I imagine. Tell me about the other diners, but not loud enough for them to hear.’
Now she noticed the scarring, it made him look more attractive, but it seemed rude to ask what had happened. Army probably, already she had romantic visions of herself as the strong wife helping him to regain his life, going to The Palace with him to receive his medal.
‘Are you okay?... If you’re quiet I won’t know if you’re still there, it’s not unknown for a date to slip quietly away.’
‘Oh I wouldn’t do that, well not till I’ve had my dinner’ she giggled.
A smile crinkled his scars, he had a sense of humour.
The concert was a good first date idea in case conversation ran dry, but they found it easy to chat.
‘Four years; I have no sight at all, accident in the lab. I’m determined to finish my masters’ degree, “the centre” has been a godsend with the specially adapted computers and of course I couldn’t do it without the help of Bella.’
‘Bella?’ She felt a stab of jealousy.
‘My dog’ he reached down to pat the animal lying quietly by his side.
Jessica thought Bella was not a name that suited the dog, but presumed her beauty was on the inside. ‘I thought guide dogs were usually Labradors?’
‘She is part Labrador,’ he said defensively ‘Bella’s the best thing that’s happened to me since the accident. Anyway, enough about me…’
The moment she always dreaded, there was little to tell; not a lot to say about the office and her favourite hobby, photography, seemed a no-go area, but somehow she found herself telling him of wandering around London, snapping people unaware of her presence. Natural shots of lives lived frenetically or barely at all. The blanket and the bench; the woman resting on the flank of the sleeping dog, who in turn lay on the reclining body of his master; the trio sheltering under a blanket, unaware or immune to the bustle around them.
‘That’s beautiful, you’ve conjured up your pictures for me, I don’t need to see them.’
At the concert hall it was a full house, their seats were right at the front so there was room for Bella to stretch out.
‘I hope you won’t get a stiff neck craning up.’
‘I haven’t been to many live concerts, I’m enjoying watching what’s going on. There’s a very tall bloke with a tiny violin and a tiny girl perched on a stool with a double bass twice her size.’
Michael laughed, the evening was still going well. Either side of them people smiled and commented on the dog. He was happy to let them chat.
Very brave you lads… good to see you out and about… they give you free tickets don’t they… marvellous these dogs, does he empty the washing machine as well?
Michael whispered in her ear. ‘It’s often like this, I just smile and nod.’
She stifled a giggle. Now they were sitting down she could see Bella properly and the dog stared back, her lip slightly curled. The creature never stirred during the first piece, her head rested on her paws and she kept her adoring gaze on Michael, except for sideways glances at Jessica.
As the orchestra left the stage at the interval Michael said ‘Take my arm the other side from Bella, I don’t want to lose you in the crowd.’
Bella paced herself and her master in the slow shuffle up the shallow steps of the aisle. Michael had pre-ordered drinks at the bar and said ‘Excuse us’ politely, but confidently.
‘If you hang back, you never get to the front.’
Jessica popped to the Ladies while Michael took the dog outside.
‘We’ll meet you back at our seats.’
‘Will Bella find them?’
There was a queue at the Ladies and as she came out she heard a ding dong and a voice saying Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please take your seats for the second half of tonight’s concert.
Michael and Bella were already seated.
According to the programme the second half was a long symphony Jessica did not know, with the third movement famously recognisable from a film she’d never heard of.
‘Shall I read the programme to you?’
‘No thanks, I already downloaded it as a pod cast so I could talk intelligently about the music.’
‘Good, because I don’t understand the programme notes.’
‘I didn’t understand the pod cast, but that should not stop us enjoying the music.’
He was right, Bella slept through it, occasionally opening one eye, but the music was thrilling. As the conductor turned to bow the audience erupted into wild applause, there were cries of bravo and some stamped their feet. Michael’s face wore an ecstatic expression.
‘Thank you for coming along Jessica.’
‘Thank you, it’s been a wonderful evening.’
She wondered if there would be another.
In the foyer his watch beeped. ‘Cab’s coming in five minutes, Joe, one of my regular drivers. We’ll drop you off home, or if it’s not presumptuous would you like to come back to my flat for coffee? I feel more comfortable on home territory and Bella can go off duty. Joe’s on duty till midnight so I’ll call him back as soon as you want to go home.’
Two rules of first dates; don’t let him see where you live, well he couldn’t, but he would hear her say the address. Second, don’t go back to his place. She could slip down to the tube station or across the road to the bus stop; Jessica had done her pre date research.
‘Yes, I’d love to come back for a quick cuppa.’
A blind man must be quite safe, if he came on too strong she could always slip away, but she felt as if she knew him well already.
The flat was ground floor, with the entrance round the back; there was a little garden that Bella was now racing round like a puppy.
‘Sorry it’s so dark, I don’t need lights.’
Inside he found the light switch easily and strolled around like a sighted person. The little lounge looked bare, but what use would he have for books and pictures?
A series of barks announced that Bella was ready to come back in.
‘I’ll put the kettle on while you and Bella get to know each other.’
Rattles and muffled noises came from the kitchen, but no crashes of broken china as one might expect from a blind man, especially if he was nervous on a first date.
Jessica found Bella’s stare unnerving. The dog’s ears twitched as she followed Michael’s progress without needing to look. Jessica reached out her hand, then patted the dog’s head. Bella bared her teeth and without warning sank her teeth into Jessica’s ankle. For a moment she was too polite to utter a sound, hoping the dog would let go and Michael be none the wiser. Bella was so perfect he might think she had accidentally put her ankle in the dog’s mouth. But as the dog tightened her grip she cried out in pain and tried to push her away.
Michael rushed in and seemed to know what was happening.
‘Bella off,’ he shouted angrily ‘this is your last bite, back to Waggy Tails rescue for you tomorrow.’
Her ankle throbbed hotly as Bella slunk past Michael. He followed her and Jessica heard the door slam.
‘Jessica, I’m so sorry.’ His put his arms around her. ‘Is it your ankle?’
‘Yes, it’s okay.’
‘Is it bleeding?’
‘No, no, not much blood, it’s just the shock, a bit of bruising.’
His closeness was taking some of the pain away, but she felt she should make some sort of protest. ‘Has she done this before?’
‘Well… a couple of times, I thought she’d been provoked, she’s such a gentle dog, perhaps I was blind to her faults and now I suppose asking you out again is out of the question?’
‘Not totally out of the question… if you get a Labrador next time.’
Michael could not see her expression to know if she was joking and Jessica did not like to ask if he really intended to send Bella away.
‘Can I see you again Jessica?’