One Day 3
hapter three The Taj Mahal Sunday, 15th July 1990
Camden Town, London and Bombay, India
'The restaurant opens in ten minutes and I have a few things to tell you.'
Scott was the manager of Loco Caliente, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Camden Town, North London. The restaurant was one of a chain.
'First, these are the special dishes for this lunchtime,' Scott went on when his staff had stopped talking. 'Today's special soup is corn chowder.'
Several of the waiters pretended to be sick and he stopped talking again for a few seconds. 'And today's other special dish is "an amazing fish burrito" which contains "delicious pieces of cod and prawns". That's how the document from headquarters describes it, anyway - and those are the words you must use too.'
'It sounds really horrible,' said one of the waiters, laughing.
'Look at it this way - we're bringing a taste of the North Atlantic to the beaches of Mexico,' said Emma Morley. She sounded very tired as she made the joke. As she tied her waitress's apron round her waist she noticed someone she hadn't seen before - a large man with curly, blonde hair. He was wearing a waiter's uniform and he was quite nice-looking.
'And now here's some good news at last,' said Scott. He pointed at the stranger. 'This is Ian Whitehead, who is joining our happy team. Ian - this is Emma. She'll look after you today. She's been here longer than all the others.'
Emma did not think that this was anything to be proud of. She gave Ian a little smile as one of the waiters turned on the lunchtime music. The first song was, of course, 'La Cucaracha'. She asked herself once more what she was doing here. She asked herself once more what she was going to do with her life. Later, when Emma was showing Ian what he should do, she asked him about himself.
'I need to be in London,' he said. 'I took this job because I need to earn some money on the side.'
'Why? What do you really do?' Emma asked.
'Well...' he said, in a funny accent, 'really, I'm a comedian!'
'A comedian! What kind of comedian?' asked Emma.
'I do stand-up comedy in the evenings. I do gigs at small comedy clubs, but they don't pay me very much.'
Then he surprised her. He asked her to go on a date with him that evening - to one of the clubs. She was touched, but she refused.
In Bombay, Dexter Mayhew was writing a letter.
Emma, Emma, Emma. How are you? What are you doing? I'm in Bombay and it's raining. It rains here even harder than it rains in Edinburgh. It's too wet to go out so I'm staying in my hotel room. I'm a bit drunk, are you surprised?
I've seen some amazing things here in India and I've taken thousands of photos. I'll show all of them to you very, very slowly when I get back. I showed some of them to a TV producer I met a few days ago. She's from London but she's making a film here. I think she liked me - she wants me to call her when I get back to England. Maybe she'll have a job for me in TV! I'll need to work soon and I'm banned from teaching English to foreigners. I'm not sorry about that, I hated it. But I was treated very badly. That Danish girl was twenty-one!
What are you doing now? Are you still sharing a flat with Tilly? Are you still working at that horrible restaurant? You need to leave that job, Emma. Listen to me, Emma! We need to do something about your life. I'm drunk at the moment, so I'm just going to tell you what I think. You are clever. And you are beautiful. And you are loveable. And you are SEXY! You should be CONFIDENT! I want to take you away from boring people like Tilly Killick and Callum O'Neill, the computer king. Would you like to live with me when I get back to England? We would just be flatmates, of course.
Now, here's my plan to change your life. Are you sitting down? The shock might knock you over! You should be here with me in India. I'm going to wire you some money. I've always wanted to wire someone some money - it will make me feel important. Use the money to buy a plane ticket to Delhi. Then take a train to Agra and go to the Taj Mahal. Have you heard of it? It's a big white building and it's named after that Indian restaurant on the Lothian Road in Edinburgh. Be there exactly at noon on 1st August. Stand under the dome with a red rose in your hand. I'll find you.
I'll be carrying a white rose. Isn't that the greatest plan you've ever heard in your life?
Well, Emma, I'm still drunk, but it's stopped raining.
I'm going out now to meet some Dutch people in a bar. I met them earlier today. They're all girls. They're nice. Don't forget - the Taj Mahal at noon on 1st August. I'll find you.
After he had finished the letter, Dexter took a cold shower and soon he was feeling better. He was almost sober now. As he was dressing, he saw the letter, lying on his bed. Should he send it? Suddenly he felt nervous. He'd called Emma clever and beautiful. He'd called her loveable. He'd called her sexy! He'd asked her to live with him. Would she be angry with him? Would she come to India? Did he really want to see her that much? He decided that he did. He decided that he would post the letter that evening. He put it in his pocket and he went out. Then he walked happily to the bar where his new friends were waiting. At about nine o'clock that evening Dexter left the bar with one of his Dutch friends - her name was Renee. As they left, they bumped into a large German girl with a huge backpack. She was a student from Cologne and she was called Heidi. She was tired and cross, and she swore quietly at Dexter - it had been a long day. She crossed the room and sat down heavily on the sofa where Dexter had been sitting. A few minutes later she moved sideways across the sofa and felt something hard pressing into her leg. She swore again. There was an envelope between the cushions of the sofa. She pulled it out and looked at it.
Heidi opened the envelope and took out the letter. She read it to the end. Her English wasn't very good, but she understood most of the letter. She realized that it was important. It was the kind of letter she wanted someone to write to her. It was a beautiful letter. She wanted this person called Emma to receive it. But there was no name written on the envelope. And there was no address written on the letter. What could she do? Sadly, she realized there was nothing she could do.