By Friday, I decide to leave it altogether. We haven’t agreed a date for the first seduction as such, and what’s more, we certainly haven’t agreed that it’s my responsibility. I consider, wearily, how these things are ever my responsibility – the special events of life, like birthday presents and keeping in touch with old friends, that add up to quite a lot of wife-work when you step back. We could just have a nice discussion about it on Friday night, I think, and make a plan from there.
But then, at some point along the way (and in fact this was a about 5pm on Friday night, with Herbert due home in an hour), I realise how mean-minded this is. The spirit of the thing, I tell myself, is not to measure this against that, to drag the same old, petty irritations into this. A seduction is as act of generosity, a gesture of goodwill. The resistance I’m feeling is rooted in fear rather than any genuine sense of grievance.
I practically hurl myself into the bath, managing to shave my legs and underarms without a great deal of bloodletting. It’s a good (if unusual) omen. I may not have a seduction ready, I think to myself, but I shall at least be utterly lovely when he arrives home. I spray around a bit of perfume, and get dressed, considering the rather hot red dress I wore to a party last Christmas. No, I think, I will not dress up as someone else tonight; I will dress as myself. I want to feel relaxed and at my ease, not trussed up like a ridiculous turkey. There’s more than a faint whiff of suburban housewife in that. After a bit of light deliberation, I put on a pair of seamed stockings with knee-high socks over the top, my frilly knickers, a denim skirt and a stripy jumper. Looking at myself in the mirror, I feel relieved that I look much like my normal self.
It is only when I’m putting on my makeup (lots of black eyeliner, in tribute to Herbert’s rather unfortunate crush on Gwyneth Paltrow in the Royal Tenenbaums) that a thought strikes me. What if we start all over again?
When I first met Herbert, I used to pack up my overnight things in a small, brown vintage suitcase; Herbert has since commented, misty-eyed, that he knew his luck was in when he saw me with that case. The real McCoy has long-since disintegrated, having been walked home too many times in the rain. But I do have a small, blue vanity case, bought recently in a charity shop, which might do the job. It will be useless, of course, if I don’t take it out of the house. I must meet Herbert at the pub, I decide, to get that whole ‘first date’ feeling.
I rather wish I had decided this before 6 o’clock. Praying for Friday night traffic to delay Herbert, I rush around the house, searching for the bloody blue case. When, eventually, I find it (stuffed down the side of the sofa, obviously), I realise that it is full of books. I tip these out onto the living room floor, and then tidy them up again, realising that there’s nothing remotely seductive about coming home to a bomb-site (although this may actually have served to replicate the state of Herbert’s house when I first met him). I deposit my purse, phone and keys into the case, throw on my lovely new black & white brogues, and nearly run out of the door, hoping that I won’t bump into him walking up the road.
What actually happens is that our cat, Bob, follows me nearly all the way to the pub, wailing for my attention. Herbert, however, is nowhere to be seen. I buy myself a steadying vodka & tonic and then, on a whim, ask the barman if I can get a table in their upstairs restaurant a little later. This will be a much more grown-up date than when we first met, then.
I am, I realise, surprisingly nervous. It all feels like a bit of a risk. I hope he’s not disappointed. As I carry my drink to a table, I notice that a couple of men by the bar actually check me out. This has not happened in a very, very long time. It must have something to do with my look of intent, I think; or maybe it’s just that I’m a woman on my own on a Friday night. I text Herbert:
For my first seduction, I’m taking you on a date. When you’re ready, meet me in the pub.
No reply. I gulp at my V&T, thinking that he almost certainly has a flat battery. It is ever thus with Herbert’s phone. Fifteen minutes later, I get a text in return saying,
Groovy. On my way.
Herbert arrives in his best shirt, looking more scared than I do. What a ridiculous pair we are. He goes to the bar and buys me a cocktail, which I drink gratefully. ‘Look,’ I say, ‘I’ve brought my little case with me, just like old times,’ and he looks baffled for a few beats and then he laughs and says, ‘what have you got in it?’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘just my keys I’m afraid. And my wallet.’
But we’re a bit more relaxed after this. We chat happily and he puts his hand on my knee. I feel quite splendid, actually – sort of excited to be with him. He normally thinks it’s pointless going to the pub on our own, but tonight it means that we have to pay each other some attention, rather than crashing out in front of the telly for a few hours before falling asleep. ‘I wondered if I should put my suit on before I came out,’ he admits after a while. I’m pleased that he felt like it was potentially this important, but glad he decided against it.
To cut a long story short have a couple more drinks and a very nice dinner (I have to swap starters with Herbert, who is rather alarmed by his roast teal), and then we retire home & to bed. I draw a veil over the proceedings at this point, not though modesty, but because my memory is, uh, a little hazy after two cocktails, a vodka and tonic and half a bottle of wine. I have a vague notion that it involved the reverse cowgirl, but I can say no more than that. I can divulge, however, that we also had (entirely unscheduled) sex the next afternoon. Yee-hah, I say! Bring on seduction number two!