One Day 5
chapter five The Rules Wednesday, 15th July 1992
The Greek islands
Dexter and Emma were lying sleepily on the deck of a small ferry. The two friends were travelling from the Greek island of Rhodes to a smaller island. They were going to stay there for a week and they were both feeling happy.
Life was changing for them. After a year as manager at Loco Caliente, Emma had left her job. In September she was going to start a college course. She was going to train to be a schoolteacher.
And Dexter had a job now. He was working for a television company. He'd started with small responsibilities - making the tea, doing research for producers. But now he was working as an interviewer. He interviewed pop stars and actors on a programme called The Bigger Picture. He had a posh flat in Belsize Park - an expensive part of north London. He wore expensive designer clothes. And he had a new girlfriend, his fourth one after Naomi. She was a beautiful and successful model.
Emma didn't really enjoy Dexter's television appearances, but she always watched them. For The Bigger Picture, Dexter had invented a new character for himself. He was a 'man of the people'. When he interviewed pop stars and actors, he spoke with a cockney accent. Emma had never enjoyed Dexter's version of a Yorkshire accent and she thought that his 'cockney' voice was even worse. Emma liked Dexter to know that she wasn't impressed by his television career. She told him this often. But all that was back in London. Today they were happy. Today, they were on a ferry among the beautiful Greek islands. They were on holiday together.
It had been surprisingly easy to arrange this trip. Dexter's girlfriend was very self-confident, so she had no problems about his holiday with another woman. And Emma occasionally slept with people but still didn't have a regular boyfriend. So they had made their plans together and they had decided on some rules of behaviour for the holiday.
One: Separate bedrooms.
Two: No flirting.
Three: No sleeping together.
Four: No nudity.
Five: No board games.
Emma had decided on the first four rules. Dexter had fought back with Rule Five. Emma enjoyed playing board games, but Dexter hated them.
The Rules had to be obeyed, Emma told herself now, lying sleepily on the deck of the ferry. The Rules made this holiday possible. But Emma wondered if Dexter was going to be able to obey them. And she wondered if she was going to be able to obey them.
They were half asleep when they heard an English voice.
'It's him,' said a man. 'He's on TV on Fridays.'
'Oh, yes,' said a girl. 'He's called Dexter something. You are that man who's on TV, aren't you?' She was speaking to Dexter now. And he was wide awake.
'Yep. On 'oliday, are ya?' said Dexter in his pretend-cockney accent.
'Yeah,' said the girl.
Dexter continued talking to her and didn't take any notice of the man. The girl was clearly impressed. 'Dexter, why do you speak like that?' Emma asked when the couple had gone. 'You aren't a Londoner and you went to Winchester College.'
'The TV viewers won't connect with me if I don't seem like them,' Dexter explained. 'Not many of our viewers went to Winchester.'
'That's a very bad reason,' said Emma. 'And you've broken Rule Two already. You were flirting with that girl.'
Emma was sitting at a table outside a small cafe on the island and drinking coffee. Dexter had gone to find them somewhere to stay. 'Don't forget, we need two rooms,' Emma had shouted after him as he set off. And he'd looked back at her and shouted, 'Of course we do!'
'She looks so lovely these days,' he told himself. 'It's the contact lenses. I hated those thick glasses she used to wear. But now she looks great. These rules aren't going to make life easy.'
But an hour later, when he returned to the cafe, Dexter seemed very pleased.
'There's some bad news, Emma,' he said. 'I could only find one room on the island. It's a wonderful room, but it only has one bed. But it's a very large bed.'
Emma believed that Dexter hadn't tried to find two rooms. She believed that Dexter had never meant to find two rooms. And of course, she was correct.
'All right, let's go and see the room,' Emma said wearily.
But when they got there, Emma loved the room. The bed was a large one. And there was a balcony. They could stand on it and look out over the sea.
'The room is fine, Dexter,' Emma said. 'We'll stay here. And you'll stay on your own side of the bed, won't you?' Late that evening, Dexter and Emma walked down to the beach. The sun had disappeared and no one else was there.
'Shall we swim, Emma?' Dexter said.
By now, Emma could read Dexter's mind. She could almost hear it working. This wasn't difficult, because Dexter only thought about a small number of things.
'We don't have swimsuits with us,' Emma replied very slowly, speaking in the way people speak to young children.
'We don't need swimsuits. There's no one here,' Dexter said.
'I understand you too well, Dex,' Emma said. 'You just want to get my clothes off, don't you?'
Dexter was silent.
'You swim if you want to, Dexter,' Emma went on. 'I'm not going to show my body to the world. And you've forgotten Rule Four.'
A moment later, Dexter had taken off all his clothes and was running into the sea. Emma suddenly felt stupid. 'Why can't I be free and uncomplicated like Dexter?' she asked herself. 'Why do I care who sees me?' She quickly took off her own clothes and she too ran naked into the sea. Soon she was standing next to her friend. He turned to face her.
'Can we talk about Rule Three, Em?' Dexter said gently. 'You see, I really want you.'
For a moment, Emma felt wonderful. He had said it at last. And it was going to happen, here and now, in the beautiful warm sea. Dex and Em, Em and Dex. It was going to happen. And then Dexter said the wrong thing. 'Of course, it isn't personal. I want nearly every woman that I meet,' he added. 'That's my problem. I can't escape it. It's like a nightmare!' 'Oh, poor Dexter,' Emma said angrily. 'I feel really sorry for you.' She was angry with Dexter and she was angry with herself. 'You're a stupid, stupid woman,' she told herself. 'You're stupid for thinking that he really cared about you.'
But a moment later, it was Dexter who was angry. He was looking over Emma's shoulder at the beach. A boy was stealing his clothes.
'Stop! Don't do that!' Dexter shouted. He started to run towards the beach. 'Those trousers cost me two hundred pounds!' he shouted at Emma, who was laughing.
When they reached the beach, the boy, and Dexter's expensive clothes, had disappeared. He hadn't taken Emma's clothes.
When she had stopped laughing, Emma got dressed and Dexter found a torn, blue, plastic bag on the beach. He held this in front of him as they ran back to their room. On the way, they passed the English couple they had met on the ferry.
'I like the bag,' the man said. 'It's a great colour.' He laughed mockingly. Dexter didn't reply.
But when they got back to their room, Dexter's anger had gone. It was a beautiful evening. And soon, the stars were bright in the sky. He and Emma had some food, then they got into the bed and lay in the dark. They didn't touch each other, and they knew that their friendship was unchanged.
'Tell me a secret, Em,' Dexter said. 'Tell me something about yourself that I don't know.'
'Well, I don't want to make you more arrogant than you already are,' Emma replied. 'But here's something you didn't know. Before I first talked to you, when we were students, I was in love with you. And I used to write poems about you.' 'That was before you knew me,' Dexter said. 'Aren't you in love with me now?'
'Oh, now - things are quite different now,' said Emma.
When she said that, Dexter started thinking about his own secrets. He'd never told Emma that he'd once slept with Tilly Killick. It had happened when he was visiting the flat Emma and Tilly shared. Emma had gone out to the shops for an hour. He was never going to tell her about that. He didn't know that Emma knew about it already and it wasn't a secret at all.
'Tell me about those poems,' Dexter said quietly, after a few minutes. 'What rhymed with Dexter?'
'Monster,' Emma replied quickly. 'It's a half-rhyme.'
'Em,' Dexter said a few minutes later, 'how many rules did I break today?'
'Three,' Emma said. 'You broke Rules One, Two and Four.'
'And we nearly broke Rule Three,' Dexter thought. 'But we have eight more days. Anything can happen in eight days.'
'Well, at least we didn't play any board games,' he said aloud.
Emma was asleep.