The Inklings: Chapter 14

The next three days were the longest in John’s life. Each morning he woke up and remembered that Fanta had his phone number and might call him that day. Then John spent the days waiting for her to call. Finally, each night he went to bed feeling miserable because she hadn’t called. On the third night of this misery, John walked home from the Pizza restaurant without any spring in his step and without even thinking about whistling. Although he knew there was a chance that when he got home he would find a message from Fanta waiting for him on the answering machine John didn’t believe there would be one. He was beginning to think that D’arby was right. Fanta had just taken his number to be polite and had then thrown it in the first rubbish bin she came across.

When John got home he could tell that D’arby hadn’t come home yet because D’arby’s uni bag wasn’t hung up behind the front door and there were no dinner dishes in the sink.

“The perfect end to a perfect day” thought John, when he realized that there was no bread left for him to make toast with. D’arby’s absence meant that there would be no leftovers around for him to eat either. John went to bed hungry and lonely.

In the morning things began to look up for John. He awoke to the smell of coffee and fried eggs. D’arby had been shopping and was making a special breakfast to celebrate because the night before he had finished writing the most difficult chapter of his thesis.

“Have a coffee” said D’arby when he realized that John was sitting up and watching him cook.

John was pleased to see that the coffee D’arby handed him had milk froth on top. That meant D’arby had filled the cups at the nearby café, not made his own. D’arby’s method for making coffee was to boil ground coffee in a saucepan (for a not very carefully measured amount of time) and then slop in some milk. Sometimes he remembered to strain out the coffee grounds and sometimes he didn’t.

“Has she called you yet?” asked D’arby and he turned the frying pan around with one hand while taking a sip of coffee from the cup in his other hand.

“I thought you said she wouldn’t call” said John

“I was just pissed off with you because you woke me up” said D’arby.

“Well, you were right anyway” said John and he stared into his coffee cup.

“Sorry” said D’arby and he also seemed to find his coffee very interesting to look at.

“Yeah, well…” said John

“Have some eggs” said D’arby and tilted the frying pan so that two eggs slid out onto two pieces of toast on a plate next to the stove.

“Thanks” said John as D’arby handed him the plate. He was glad to be able to eat because it gave him an excuse for not talking. The eggs were also very tasty and John was very hungry. He was enjoying his second mouthful when the phone rang. John looked at D’arby to see if he was going to answer the phone but D’arby also had a mouth full of eggs. John chewed a couple of times, swallowed the eggs and then picked up the phone.

“Hhhllllo” said John

“Is John there please?” said a strange voice.

John coughed to clear his throat and then said “This is John. Who is that?”

“Wait…” said the strange voice. There was a clunking sound as the phone was put down on a table and John heard the strange voice say “He’s on the line. Come and talk to him. Come on! Hurry up or he’ll hang up.”

Then John heard some rustling sounds and some angry whispering that prompted some muffled laughter. Finally the phone was picked up again.

“Hello” said another voice. “Sorry about that. My sisters found your number and decided I should call you”

“Oh” said John. “It’s nice to hear from you but I’d rather you were talking to me because YOU wanted to.” He knew that wasn’t a good way to endear Fanta to him, but he was upset.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to call you. I was just scared to” said Fanta

“Scared? Why?” asked John, conveniently forgetting that he still wasn’t the most approachable young man.

“You look sort of rough” said Fanta. “Are you a criminal?”

John didn’t know how to answer. He stood there with his mouth open, thinking, until D’arby started laughing because John looked so stupid.

“Oh, you have someone there. I’ll let you go” said Fanta

“No! Don’t hang up. When can I see you? What are you doing tonight – I mean today – I have to work tonight?” said John, while feeling like a complete loser.

“I’m going to uni” said Fanta

“Oh” said John, feeling like even more of an idiot as he remembered that most people had stuff to do during week days.

“We could meet for lunch though” said Fanta.

When John hung up the phone he started to panic because he had no idea where the place that he’d agreed to meet Fanta at was. Fortunately D’arby was in no hurry to get to uni and agreed to show him where it was. This calmed John down enough for him to be able to decide what to wear. He laid out his outfit on the floor and plugged in the iron.

“Oh no…you aren’t going to make me watch you iron, are you?” complained D’arby

“You don’t have to watch” said John “but you might learn something if you do. I’m a master ironer”

“No, you’re just a neurotic ironer” said D’arby and he decided that next time he was home alone he’d get rid of the iron.

John carefully ironed the clothes he was going to wear (even his socks and undies), despite the withering glare of D’arby who was sitting impatiently, with his arms crossed in front of him. Somehow D’arby managed to control his annoyance as John then had his longest ever shower (shampooing his hair three times). Finally John and D’arby were on their way to the café at uni.

“Do I look rough?” asked John as he and D’arby walked along

“Well, a little bit” answered D’arby

“Why? What makes me look rough?” asked John

“Probably all the wrinkles in the back of your shirt” said D’arby

“What!” said John and tried to twist his shirt around so he could examine it for wrinkles until he realized that D’arby was laughing at him.

John swore at D’arby, but D’arby didn’t care. They were approaching the café and D’arby was looking at the people sitting at the outdoor tables, trying to guess which girl was Fanta.

“Is this it?” asked John

“Yeah” said D’arby. “Can you see her?”

John had a look around. “There she is!” he said and pointed to the furthest away table. “She hasn’t seen us yet. Look! Isn’t she lovely?”

D’arby strained to see Fanta. He had been spending too much time at the computer and couldn’t make out much detail from so far away.

“Come and meet her” said John, and walked over to Fanta without even checking that D’arby was following.

When John got to Fanta’s table she still hadn’t looked up from the book she was reading and it was only when D’arby’s shadow fell across the page that she realized someone was there.

“She is so calm” thought John

“She’s pretty ordinary” thought D’arby. He couldn’t see anything remarkable about this girl.

“Hello” said Fanta, standing up

“Hello” said John “This is my friend D’arby”

“Hello. I just had to help John find his way here, I’ll be off now” said D’arby

“Ok, bye, nice to meet you” said Fanta

“She is so cool” thought John

He sat down at the table with Fanta. She was smiling at him. It seemed to John that Fanta had stopped worrying about him being a dangerous criminal. Maybe it was because he arrived with the nerdy and respectable-looking D’arby or maybe it was just because of his nicely ironed clothes.

John could smell some of the gardenias that grew almost everywhere on the campus. There was a light breeze and the sun was warm. John had a feeling that this might be one of the best moments of his life but was distracted from that thought when he realized that his eyes had been following an old instinct and counting the number of wallets and bags that had been left in easy-to-steal positions. The people in this café were so relaxed that they were being careless. John wondered how he’d never found this place when he needed some cash, until he started to worry that he had been silent too long and didn’t want Fanta to start trying to read his mind.

“It’s lovely here” said John

“Very” said Fanta


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