Looking back, perhaps I shouldn't have gone out and eaten alone. It was a decision influenced by my gut rather than careful planning. It was bound to go tits up.
Yesterday was odd, in that I had a blind date in the morning (I thought it went well, but he later texted to say he was seeing someone else. Fucker.). A lady came all the way from Birmingham to pick up some beads.
I watched Skyfall. That wasn't odd. That was bloody great.
By 6pm, I was hungry. After much discussion with myself, I decided I'd earned a takeaway, so ordered a Wagamama takeout. (I have never done this before.)
Off I went to Wagamama. When I got there, it looked so inviting that I asked the waitress if I could eat in. (I have never eaten on my own before. I don't know what came over me.) I was sat at the tiniest of tiny tables, flanked by single women pretending to work on laptops. I didn't have a laptop, or a paper - or anything, except my phone, which I immediately scrabbled out of my bag and started texting furiously. To no one, of course.
My food came and I thought how I brave I was to do this. How grown up I was. Look how I use my chopsticks, as if I really was Japanese. How....
FUCK! MY EX HUSBAND HAS JUST WALKED IN! WITH MY KIDS! AND HIS TWENTY-YEARS-YOUNGER GIRLFRIEND!
Now, picture, if you will, the scene. I have noodle juice all over my face, eating alone. My ex is chatting happily to his girlfriend and I thank my lucky stars that a) she doesn't know who the bloody hell I am from Adam, and b) he is as blind as a bat and, even though he is standing but a few feet away, cannot tell the difference between me and the seven foot tall hairy waiter standing next to me. (Although this might be more to do with my lack of recent Immac-ing.)
Tween is always in his own world, has spied the menu and his thoughts are on food. But Teen has seen me. Teen's eyes get so huge that the encompass his whole face. His jaw slackens.
I go white.
He makes a little smile with his mouth, and the whole party sit down at the next table. My boys face away, my ex and his squeeze face towards me.
I slide a little bit under the table. I might have had a little wee.
My brain is overrun by parallel thoughts, by far the loudest being HOW THE FUCK DO I GET OUT OF HERE? But also in the mix is: Jesus, the boys must be embarrassed. This is the first time they've been introduced to her, and now they've got to deal with their Norman No Mates mother sitting behind them. And also, this: God, she's young. How must she be feeling? That's a tough gig. And: What in the mother of Mary does she see in him?
I text my friend. She doesn't answer in a nanosecond, so I give up on her, cussing. SOME FRIEND.
I decide to get up, nonchalantly, hoping against hope that I don't slip up, trip, fart, belch or cause any disturbance that would draw attention to me. I slide myself against the wall around the restaurant until I come to a halt next to a waiter. The manager, I think.
"Please." I hiss. "My ex husband has just come in with his girlfriend who is TWENTY YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM and MY kids." A bead of sweat falls off my nose. "Please." Tears form in my eyes. "Help me."
The manager looks at me with pity. Thinking about it, he might have been studying my noodle juice. He takes me by the elbow. "I understand," he murmurs, "let's sit you at the back." And he pulls me to the back of the restaurant, sweeping up the remnants of my food as he does so and settling them back down in front of me.
I sit next to a couple who aren't talking to each other. I am desperate to tell them what's going on, but manage to pin my mouth shut.
"Would you like some water?" the manager asks. I nod weakly.
From my new position at the back, I have a good view of the merry party. My ex and his girlfriend are still oblivious to my little cameo performance, but Teen has told Tween, and Tween keeps leaning back and staring at me. I wave and smile, but he can't make me out against all the happy noddle-eating visitors.
It is better here, at the back, but now I am trapped, and daren't walk past them to leave. So I keep ordering more food in the hope that they will finish. Noodles, gyoza, cheesecake, coffee - and still they were there.
I needed back up.
I texted my plumber friend who I'd enjoyed a small dalliance with some time back. I was supposed to meet him later but PLEASE could he come and rescue me? I gave him a potted explanation and sat back to wait for a response.
It came quickly. 'I'll be there in 5 minutes.'
My God. Six words have never been so gratefully received. And lo, after some more nervous phone-fiddling and cheesecake eating, he was there. Liked a much smaller, more Irish and less attractive 007. At that point, I truly loved him.
We laughed (O how we laughed!) about the situation and drank an awful lot of coffee, waiting for them to leave. They didn't leave. And he needed the toilet (I, dear reader, had gone earlier by mistake, if you remember).
He said, "Hide behind me", forgetting that he is two inches shorter than me and built like a twiglet.
It was never going to work.
So he went in front and I attempted to walk, camouflaged, behind him. He managed to hide about a fifth of my body behind his athletic (but miniscule) form. As we were leaving he stared at the girlfriend. Stared and stared. And he said:
"You are better than her."
And suddenly, it wasn't 'what I call' such a bad night, after all.