My bedroom resembled a closing down sale in a clothes shop, I was less than one hour away from my dream date and I was starting to get anxious. Mum had promised that she’d washed and ironed them, yet they were nowhere to be seen.
With just one hour to get ready I had no choice but to phone her at the hospital, a frustrated voice answered.
“Jacob, I’ve told you before, you can’t phone me at work!”
“Sorry mum, but I’m desperate, I can’t find my white jeans anywhere, I thought you said they were ready.”
“They are Jacob, they’re hanging on your dad’s trouser press in our bedroom, you’re eighteen years old, you need to start taking responsibility for your own life, I have to go, and you have to calm down, good luck tonight, you’ll be fine.”
I almost ran down the hallway and into my parent’s room, there they were, my lucky white jeans nicely pressed and folded. They were two years old but every time I’d worn them good things had happened and if I ever needed some luck, now was the time.
My day hadn’t started too well, I was overtired and irritable. I’d been awake half the night wondering what I should wear on my dream date.
Four weeks ago, Grace had strolled – no wafted – into the class at college, it was the start of term, she was new and every eye in the room was on her. The girls eyed her with envy, the immaculate blonde hair and perfect make-up, the lemon cardigan casually thrown over the shoulders above a knee-length yellow flared skirt and the white shoes for a perfect end to a perfect image. The boys just ogled with open mouths, most of them drooling. Me? I was most definitely in love for the first time in my life.
Over the following weeks I made every excuse to be around her, inconspicuously and from a distance, I even managed to find out where she lived but I was no closer to even speaking to her. Then one day in the corridor someone brushed past her knocking her books to the floor, I saw my opportunity and rushed across to help her pick them up.
“Some people are so rude,” I offered.
She looked up and smiled, as she picked her books up.
“I guess he was late for class, hi, I’m Grace.”
“Hello, I’m Jacob, let me give you a hand.”
I walked with her to our next class, in that short stroll I found out that her dad was an Army Captain and he had been transferred to a nearby base, her mum had passed away three years ago, and she was an only child.
She seemed to like me and over the next couple of days we met for lunch and just generally chatted, By the end of the week we seemed to know each other intimately, I walked her home on Friday afternoon and plucked up the courage to ask her out, I was surprised when she said yes. I tried to look cool but inside my heart pounded and I felt my stomach turn over,
I arranged to pick her up at 7.30 the next evening, I just had to get past two hurdles now, I needed to book a table at Rossini’s Italian restaurant, and I needed to plead with Dad to let me borrow the car. The booking was easy but borrowing the car was proving to be hard.
“I’m not sure son, you haven’t long passed your test, I don’t think you could handle her.”
I was desperate, so I promised to mow the lawns, take out the rubbish regularly and keep my room tidy for a month.
“Ok, but I want you to also promise me that you’ll be careful, you’ll look after her and take your time, treat her with respect.”
Did he know I was going on a date or did he talk about his car that way?
It was Saturday evening and because of the time I’d spent looking for my jeans I was already running late, I found a half-decent white shirt, but it still didn’t look right, so I opted for the blue satin.
I had just ten minutes to get to Grace’s house. As I backed off the drive in a hurry I heard the brakes of the other car screeching, I held up my hand in apology and sped off down the road. Even if dad’s car had wings I was never going to make it on time, I started to think of an excuse.
The traffic was heavy, and I wasn’t concentrating. I slammed my foot on the brake, OMG! I was inches from the car in front of me, I needed to slow down, to calm down and stop daydreaming or I was never going to get there in one piece.
As I pulled into the tree-lined avenue I began to perspire, why was I so nervous? I rang the bell. A very tall and stern-looking man who I presumed was her father stood in front of me. He looked beyond me at the parked car.
“You’re late young man, Mm, nice car, daddy’s I assume, she won’t be a moment. I want her back by eleven.”
He didn’t invite me in, he just stood there his huge frame filling the entrance easily and I just stood there nervously for what seemed like an age trying to avoid eye contact, then she appeared behind him. My heart started pounding, she looked stunning, her hair was tied up, and she wore a knee-length green satin dress with matching shoes. It made me wish that I’d made a bit more effort instead of my two-year-old lucky white jeans.
I could hardly concentrate on the short ride to Rossini’s, we chatted nervously about mundane things mostly. I was so proud when she took my arm as we climbed the steps to the restaurant, she seemed pleasantly surprised at my choice.
“Wow, I’ve never been in here before, this is one of the nicest places in town I’ve been told.”
“It is,” I said proudly. Little did she know that the owner was a great friend of my dad, they shared many Sunday mornings on the golf course. It had also cost everything I had in my savings plus the £20 dad had slipped me with a knowing wink.
As we entered the host who greeted us coughed politely and nodded toward the sign ‘Smart dress only’ my heart sank, then he reached beneath the oversized lectern and pulled out an assortment of ties, for some reason, known only to the dark depths of my mind I opted for the white one, I caught a glimpse of myself as we walked past the mirror, I looked like an extra from the set of Saturday Night Fever, I felt so embarrassed.
The waiter pulled her chair out for her before I could get around to it, we sat down and he produced the wine list, I scanned it quickly before I realised that I was driving and couldn’t have any alcohol anyway.
“What would you like,” I asked.
“Could I just have a glass of Merlot?”
“I’ll have a soda and lime please.”
“I’m so sorry, I would have ordered a soft drink if I had realised.”
“No, no that’s fine,” I said, “We’ll both have wine the next time – that is if there is a next time, sorry I’m jumping the gun a bit.
Grace laughed at my attempts to say the right thing and we both seemed to relax a lot more after that. The waiter came across with the drinks, pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit the candle. Now my dream date was complete, it was how I had dreamed it would be.
I found it difficult to take my eyes off the beautiful young lady sat in front of me, but every time I stole a look at her she was already looking at me. I smiled nervously, I wondered what was going through her head, was she thinking that I could have made a bit more of an effort, I mean, who wears white jeans to an up-market restaurant, and who forgets to don a tie. The more I thought about it the more uneasy I became, and Grace noticed it.
“Are you ok?, you seem a little flustered, I hope I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Now I really felt embarrassed, “No, honestly, it’s my fault, I feel a little underdressed and a tad uncomfortable about the tie situation to be quite honest.”
“Well, I think you look great.”
That seemed to put me at ease, the waiter arrived with two menus, as I studied it I was more concerned about getting something that hadn’t been laced with garlic, this was in anticipation of the obligatory goodnight kiss of course. We both ordered and spent the next twenty minutes getting to know each other better, at least we were both in sync with our likes and dislikes, I noticed that she enjoyed a glass of wine, in fact by the end of the meal she was on her third glass of Merlot and we were really getting on well, she reached out to touch my hand – her fingers lightly touched the stem and knocked the full glass of Merlot into my lap and all over my white jeans.
I grabbed the serviette to wipe myself and in my hurry I grabbed the tablecloth instead, the candle tipped over and set fire to the other serviette, her dinner dropped into her lap and my arms were everywhere trying to wipe the sauce from her dress.
All I could hear was her shouting my name ‘Jacob.’
“Jacob, Jacob can you hear me?”
I opened my tired eyes, it was my wife shaking me, I had fallen asleep on the sofa.
“You were dreaming Jacob, I have no idea what about, but your arms were flailing Have you seen James? he's supposed to be meeting that nice girl Lindsey in an hour?”
The taxi pulled up outside as she brushed a speck from James' suit. I looked at the time. I had picked Grace up at 7.30, and we had a great night as we shared a bottle of Merlot.
All that was twenty years ago, I had been reminded of it as my son waited nervously for his taxi to take him on his first date to Rossini’s.
His mother came into the room and gave his suit a final brush.
“Don’t fuss Grace, you’ll make him as nervous as I was, twenty years ago.”