Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sam's Surprise

My writing is positively flying along, thanks to all of your input! I've just reached the halfway point, and to celebrate, here's a sample.  
And don't forget to vote in the poll above - it's an important one!

 Sam's surprise

‘Hannah,’ Winnie hurries over. ‘Josh wants to see you right now.’
This sounds serious. ‘Did he say why? Did he sound mad?’
‘I don’t know, but I’d hurry if I were you.’
In London whenever my boss demanded my presence it was because she wanted to lecture or humiliate me, or send me for her lunch and dry cleaning. Josh gets his own lunch… ‘Sam!’ I say when I see my boyfriend standing beside Josh’s desk. ‘What are you doing here?!’
‘Surprising you. Surprise.’ He sweeps me up in his arms, sticking a big bouquet of flowers into my side.
‘Ouch.’ I’m glad they’re not roses.
‘Sorry, here, these are for you. It’s probably not very practical I know, but I saw them on the way here and thought you’d like them.’
‘But what are you doing here? How did you know where I work?’ Josh and Winnie stand like proud parents at his side. Hiss grin says he probably watches romcoms and gets misty at the Andrex puppy advert. She may start humming Unchained Melody.
‘Han, we talk every day remember? You told me where you work. It wasn’t rocket science to look it up and call Josh. I wanted to be here when you finished so we’d have the whole night together. I got an earlier flight.’
Don’t get me wrong. I completely appreciate his impetuous romanticism, but I’m far from boyfriend-ready. I didn’t sleep well last night, thinking about this weekend, and was late getting up. My hair is unwashed and I’ve got no makeup on. Sam’s not supposed to see me like this. I’m supposed to rush home, shower (I haven’t shaved!), be waiting, primped and gorgeous, with a glass of wine in my hand when he arrives from his flight. Three hours from now. Obviously I can’t tell him that. I’ll have to avoid direct light until I can get to a pharmacy for emergency supplies. Hopefully he’s so blinded by love that he doesn’t notice I look like a refugee. ‘Josh, Winnie, you were in on this?’
‘Of course,’ says Winnie. ‘You never stop talking about Sam. We had to meet him.’
So much for being cool. ‘Thanks, erm, I’ll go now if that’s okay.’ They only just refrain from making kissyface noises to our retreating backs. ‘Sam, this is great! Where are we going?’
‘Let’s start with drinks, then I thought dinner and we’ll see what we want to do from there. How’s that sound?’
‘Super! Erm, I just need to stop at a pharmacy on the way, okay?’ I need some eyeliner, and mascara, some blush, a lipstick… dry shampoo, a bit of mousse. And a razor. Wait a minute, why am I worrying about these little details. My boyfriend is standing in front of me! ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’
‘Me too Han, I’ve missed you these past few weeks. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do!’ His lascivious grin says he’s not talking about the films we’ve watched.
‘I missed you too,’ I grin as I kiss him again. ‘But you’re here now and we’re going to have an amazing weekend. We don’t even need to get out of bed if we don’t want to.’ I’ll definitely need that razor, or risk making cricket noises if my legs accidentally rub together.
‘Well not until tomorrow night anyway. I’ve arranged a little dinner with my colleagues so you’ll get to meet everyone. I didn’t want to presume what you’d want to do, but I thought that’d be fun. They’re getting a table at a really good restaurant that’s famous for its duck. It’ll be great.’
I don’t want to sound ungrateful but he spends every day with his colleagues. Okay, I do want to sound ungrateful, a bit. ‘Can’t we just spend the weekend together? I told Stacy that I’ll be staying with you. I didn’t plan to see her. I see her every day,’ I add pointedly.
‘We will be together the whole time Han. I just thought you’d like to meet them. You’ve been very curious about them.’ I wish he’d stop bringing that up. Geez, cross the boundary once and you’re labelled for life. It’s not like I asked him for Li Ming’s urine sample. It was just a photo.
‘You’re right, it’ll be fun. I’m sorry, I’m just being selfish because I’ve missed you so much.’
‘Aw, come here.’ He kisses me sweetly. ‘We’ve got tonight, and tomorrow, and all of Sunday alone together. Pete won’t be around that much, but you’ll meet him at dinner. You’re going to love him.’
Pete is Sam’s flatmate. They’re grad school friends but he’d already moved here by the time Sam and I got together. ‘Based on the way you talk about him, I’m sure I will.’
‘Yeah I know,’ he cringes. ‘I sound like I worship the guy don’t I?'
Just a little.

The streets are jammed with people. They’re noisy with traffic and a feast for the eyes. Everything in the city is saturated with colour. Unlike London with its majestic if restrained buildings, or Connecticut’s shopping strips, malls and comparatively sparse roadsides, detail crowds every square inch here. Neon is everywhere, giving the city a carnival atmosphere. ‘Will you look at that. Is it a sweet shop?’ I ask, dragging Sam inside. Most of the labels are unintelligible but one section is in English. It’s stocked with dried prune products - chamomile prunes, basil prunes, green tea prunes, yogurt prunes, rose prunes, meal prunes. Europeans must get awfully constipated here. Just next to nature’s laxatives is an entire section of codfish jerky, proving that hillbilly translates across cultures. Mostly though the shop is filled with baskets of beautifully, individually wrapped morsels, and dozens of customers milling around filling plastic bags. These aren’t the boiled sweets we get at home; I think they’re actually dried fruit jellies. We watch, uncertainly, until a lady snatches a sample from a dish in the middle of one of the colourful sections. ‘Here,’ I hand Sam one and free mine from its shiny wrapper. ‘Ready? Down the hatch on three. One, two, three.’ Bleurgh. It tastes of soap.
‘That’s horrible,’ Sam laughs, putting his hand over his mouth.
‘Squeaky clean breath though.’ I kiss him. This is how I imagined my life in Hong Kong. With Sam. We’d meet after work, hold hands and chat about our days, our pasts, our future. We’d discover new places together, occasionally share too many bottles of wine in some random bar, not caring where it was or who was there, not even noticing, because we’re so wrapped up in each other. We’d start shopping for things “we” needed, each settling into the other’s flat, establishing little routines together. Sometimes we’d get together with friends and sometimes we’d spend entire weekends doing nothing but lounging around watching DVDs. We’d try different spots for dinner, and share food that we’ve never eaten before, and find our favourite haunts. We’d be a normal couple. I want that so much.
They do say ask and ye shall receive. Restaurant that we’ve never tried before? Check. Potential for favourite haunt? Check. Sharing food we’ve never eaten before? Given that the menu is a fusion of Japanese and Italian, where we may be made to eat spaghetti with chopsticks, that’s a big check.
The table is perfect, except that Sam is sitting on the other side of it. He has gallantly given me the seat facing the wall of windows, and the view is breathtaking. A shimmering panorama, Hong Kong stretches to the edges of my field of vision, the lights reflecting off the harbour. What a perfect example of modern beauty.

‘Sit here next to me,’ I propose.
‘I don’t think there’s room,’ he frowns, eyeing the small bench upon which I’m perched.  
‘Come on. Look at this view. Here, I’ll squish over. There’s room. It’s silly to sit there when you can sit next to me.’ As he snuggles in beside me with his arm over my shoulder I know this is the best date I’ve ever had.
‘This is perfect,’ he says. ‘It’s my idea of the perfect life. I never thought I’d be so happy, so content. Not that I’m not usually content. I am. As you know. I loved grad school, and London. But this is better than I dreamed. Don’t you think so?’
‘Absolutely.’ I couldn’t be happier than I am at this moment. To hear my boyfriend say that confirms everything I’m thinking.
‘I can imagine living here for the rest of my life,’ he continues. ‘I fit well in Asia. I’m comfortable, and it’s the perfect place for my kind of work. The job is going really well Han, and I love it, despite the long hours. I was really lucky to get it, don’t you think?’
Work? Isn’t he talking about us, and our perfect life? The paranoid terriers are snapping at my heels again. Why do I feel harrumphy because he’s talking about loving his job? Considering how few people do, I should be happy for him. And I am. I’d be even happier if he included our relationship in his idea of perfection. After all, I do. ‘Yes, although it’s taking you away from Hong Kong.’ Just a small fact I’d like to point out.
‘That’s the only downside,’ he says. ‘Think how perfect it’d be if you were in Ho Chi Minh!’ He sees the look on my face. ‘Ha, Han I’m only joking. I’ll be back here soon. And in the meantime, this is fun isn’t it? And we get to have romantic weekends like this together.’
‘Yeah, it is fun. I’m really glad you love being here so much. I love it too. Everything is so different, but exciting, isn’t it? Who knows, maybe we’ll spend the rest of our lives here.’
‘You never know,’ he smiles.

* * * * * 
POLL RESULTS: I Knew it! You're romantic softies. You don't want Sam to be a love-rat. Me either.

You know Sam from Single in the City. Now we're making Hannah a bit unsure about him. Are her uncertainties justified?

Yes, he's a dirty love-rat (no votes!)

No, it's all a misunderstanding (20%)

Technically no, but who listens to technicalities in matters of the heart? (80%)


  1. I love it!
    I love the way Sam says things this way and Hannah hears them that way. Absolutly reminding me of myself :D.
    This is going to be so much fun to read when you have it finished.
    And congrats on your progress!


  2. Thanks Katrin! I think they've got a nice dynamic. Hannah's not sure if she's "in the range of normal" when it comes to her inner dialog but I think she reflects many women so I'm glad readers are identifying with her.

  3. Thanks so much Miranda, it's fun to write! Hope you voted in the poll above too :-)

  4. Aw, I can't believe I missed my chance to vote! But that's okay, because I would've voted that it's all a misunderstanding anyway. :D I love Sam! He's perfect for Hannah.


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