'Thank you for your advice, but I'm really quite certain,' Gerald blurts out as he pushes the rim of his
glasses further up his ample nose, 'I'd like the blue one.'
He had it all planned you see. At 17.55 he'd arrive at the florists. At 17.57 he'd buy a rose. At 17.59 he'd leave said shop with said rose and make his way across the road into Richmond Park. Gerald looks at his watch. 17.58 and dangerously heading towards 17.59. He looks at the shop assistant casually removing the rose's thorns; agitation flushes across his cheeks.
The schedule in the pocket of his suit jacket burns into his chest. Gerald feels faint and grips the counter for balance. A thought prods him; think positively. Gerald shuts his eyes and searches for a positive thought. He can't find one. He rifles through the annals of his mind once more only to find it occupied by the Republic of Desperation.
It starts off as a rumble, but it quickly spreads throughout Gerald's body. As the schedule possesses him, catapulting him over the counter, Gerald lands nose to nose with the shop assistant. Both are fairly surprised. But surprise quickly turns to destiny as Gerald grabs the blue rose from her hand and runs for the door.
The clock's hands make a move towards 17.59. Gerald quickens his pace. With one more tick of a second left, Gerald grabs the handle of the door, pulling it toward him with all the urgency of a desperate lover, and flings himself into the night air on the triumph of 17.59and 1 second. The shop assistant cries out, but her alarm is dulled by the slam of the door and her bewilderment at Gerald, who is running through the park counting each bench as he goes.
There it is. Bench 7. All he needs to do now is to wait for her. He sits down and places the blue rose next to him. Today feels different. He doesn't know why his stomach feels itchy inside, but he rather likes it. Brushing the dandruff off the shoulders of his suit jacket, Gerald looks around the park. No sign of her yet. That doesn't matter. She still has 4 minutes and 28 seconds to arrive on time.
He couldn't quite believe how lucky his Monday was turning out to be. A grin takes control of his face. Not the sort of grin he practices in the mirror every day. This one feels like it goes all the way to the top of his head. As anticipation shivers free from his body, a lady carrying a blue rose enters the park, counting the benches as she walks.
Gerald looks at his watch. 2 minutes to go.
The itch in his stomach becomes a tidal wave.
He feels sick.
He should go.
Yes, he should go. After all if he's waited 57 years for his first ever date, he can wait a few years more.
Gerald springs up.
Reason sits him down.
The lady appears in view. The sweetness of her silhouette catches his breath and Gerald gives into feelings.
Gerald becomes aware of something in his clenched fist.
He opens his fist and peers at the moist coins in his hand. He adds them up; £1.97. The exact price of the blue rose.
Panic takes over his body and Gerald starts running towards the flower shop, the sin of the coins scorch his hands as the evening sky darkens.
The lady arrives at the bench. She looks around for Gerald. She can't see him. Clutching her blue rose, she nervously sits and fills the silence of anticipation with a hum.
Gerald, spluttering for air, arrives at the florist.
Gerald sighs. Now he is doomed to spend the rest of the evening and 72 percent of tomorrow with the shop assistant thinking he's a thief.
The lady continues to wait patiently on the bench. Her heart pounding and her cheeks reddening with each passing minute.
"Right, it's not going to happen this time!"
And with that war cry, she walks away from the bench and out of the park.
Gerald hopelessly watches her leave from the corner of the flower shop. "Why does it always go wrong" he asks a lone magpie eyeing up the shiny 50p coin in his hand.
Loneliness nests in the hollow of Gerald's chest as the itch in his stomach moves out. He reaches inside his left breast pocket for his faithful companion, a blue Smythson notebook. Gerald turns to a new page where he lists tomorrow's to dos and files away his regrets.
Richmond Park, London