One Day 8
Chapter eight A Crisis Saturday, 15th July 1995
Walthamstow, East London and Soho, Central London
'I'm going out now, Ian,' Emma called. Then she added carefully, 'Are you sure that you don't want to come with me, darling? Dexter will be pleased to see you, if you do come.'
'No, I can't come tonight.' Ian replied, entering the room. 'I've got things to do tonight, don't you remember? I'm performing at the House of Ha Ha. You go on your own. I'll be fine.'
This was the right answer, Emma thought. She was quite glad that she was going to see Dexter alone. She wanted to talk to him about her relationship with Ian Whitehead.
Emma was beginning to understand that she had made a bad mistake about Ian. They were living together now in a flat in Walthamstow. They had bought the flat together. And that was the mistake. Ian loved her very much, Emma knew this. And she had told herself often that she really loved him too and that she wanted to spend her life with him. But she now knew that it wasn't true. She was no longer happy with Ian. She just didn't love him.
She knew that Ian hated the success of her career and that he hated the failure of his own career. He still wanted desperately to be a stand-up comedian, but he only ever performed at pubs and small comedy clubs. Ian just wasn't very good at stand-up and he didn't earn much money from it.
Emma was feeling trapped. So she needed Dexter to understand. She hoped it was going to be possible to talk sensibly to him tonight. She was feeling a little nervous about that. Perhaps talking about Ian wasn't going to be easy. In the past, it had been easy to talk to Dexter. But now he had changed. He drank far too much and he was more careless than ever about people's feelings.
Ian wasn't Emma's only problem of course. She was no longer enjoying her job much either. She was a good teacher, she knew that. But she got tired and she didn't have much time to write. She still wanted to be a writer, but when she did write, the results were never very good. That was as bad a problem as her relationship with Ian. But the greatest problem for Emma was that she knew, in her heart, that Dexter Mayhew was the person she really loved.
So there it was. Everything was a bit hopeless. Ian's career wasn't what he'd hoped for and her career wasn't what she'd hoped for. She had a feeling that Dexter's career wasn't quite what he'd hoped for either. Suki Meadows was his girlfriend these days. But she was now clearly the star presenter of Late at Night. Dex was definitely the number two person. He wasn't very popular with the audience. And nasty people often wrote cruel things about him in the newspapers now.
Emma and Dexter were meeting for dinner at an expensive restaurant in Soho. It was the kind of place where fashionable people ate - people in television, like Dexter and Suki Meadows. Emma hoped she was going to like it.
Dexter was waiting for Emma outside the restaurant. He was talking on his mobile phone. Emma heard his caller's voice quite clearly as she arrived. 'TEN MILLION VIEWERS THIS WEEK, DEX!' the voice said, very loudly. 'TEN MILLION!'
'Suki, let me explain something about telephones,' Dex replied into the phone. 'You don't need to shout into them. The phone does the shouting for you. I have to go now,' he added when he saw Emma. 'I'll see you soon.'
'Dex, those things are so stupid,' Emma said, pointing at Dexter's phone. 'Why don't you throw it away?'
'You'll have one in less than six months,' Dexter replied, kissing her. 'You'll see. I'm right.'
They went inside the restaurant and sat at the bar where Dexter bought drinks. After a few minutes, they heard a soft, female voice behind them.
'Do you want cigarettes, sir?' the voice said. They turned to see a very tall, extraordinarily beautiful girl. The girl was dressed only in black underwear and stockings, and she carried a tray containing the cigarettes. She had a fixed smile. It wasn't a happy smile. Dexter bought some cigarettes. He spent a long time finding his money, so that he could look at the girl's body. Then the girl moved away.
'Why is she dressed like that, Dexter?' Emma said.
'I don't know, Em,' Dexter replied. 'Perhaps all her ugly clothes are in the laundry. You could look like that if you wanted,' he added. 'You've got a great body.'
'But I don't want to look like that,' said Emma.
Soon a waiter took them to their table. They ordered drinks and when those arrived, they ordered food. Dexter was drinking quickly. 'And soon he'll be drunk - again,' Emma told herself. And she couldn't stop thinking about the cigarette girl. 'Why am I eating in the kind of restaurant where girls have to dress like that?' she asked herself. Then she asked Dexter the same question. 'This place is terrible, Dex,' Emma said. 'Haven't women made any progress in the last hundred years?'
'You don't understand, Em,' Dexter said. 'Dressing like that gives her power over men. She enjoys it.'
'Don't be stupid, Dexter,' Emma said. 'The owner of this place makes her wear those clothes. If she doesn't wear them, she'll lose her job. She only works here because she needs the money, you can see that. She has no power over anyone!'
'Well, you're still the same old Emma, aren't you?' Dexter said crossly. 'Emma, the angry, socialist feminist. I thought that you'd mellowed, but clearly I was wrong about that. You never want to compromise, do you?'
After that, the evening got worse and worse. Dexter frequently left the table to visit the toilet. Each time, he stopped to talk to the cigarette girl. The last time it happened, Emma saw him push a piece of paper into her stocking. Emma had no doubt that he was giving the girl his phone number.
When he returned to the table, Emma decided she had had enough of his behaviour. She pushed the table away from her, spilling their drinks, and ran up the stairs out of the restaurant. She could hear Dexter behind her, calling her name. She didn't turn round.
In the street, Dexter finally caught up with her.
'Emma, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you,' he said desperately.
Suddenly, Emma turned to face him.
'Dexter, whenever I see you now you're drunk,' she said. 'I haven't seen you sober for three years. I don't know you any longer. You're obnoxious these days. You were always a bit obnoxious, but now you're totally obnoxious.' 'I'm just having fun, Emma,' Dexter replied.
'Well, it isn't fun for me,' Emma replied. 'Let's stop this now, Dexter. You don't care about me. We don't have to meet any more.'
'Emma, of course we have to meet,' Dexter said desperately. 'We're Dex and Em, aren't we? We'll always be Dex and Em.' For a moment he was quiet. He was thinking of the day of his mother's funeral. He was thinking of Emma's kindness to him that day. She had held him as he cried uncontrollably. He had always taken her for granted, he knew that. 'Why am I throwing all this away?' he was asking himself. But he knew that he couldn't stop himself.
'Dexter,' Emma said sadly. 'I love you very much and I probably always will love you. But I'm afraid I don't like you any longer. I don't like the person that you've become. I don't want to hear from you again. Please don't try to contact me.' She left him standing in the street and walked away.