In the immortal words of Vicky Pollard my attidue to posting the next chapter of the novel was "Yeah but, no but."
However,when I thought about it I thought what the heck. Especially as a couple of people had wanted to know what happened next. Is it pretty? No but yeah but.
This Charming Man
I had never seen Miranda nervous before. To be fair I had only known her for three weeks but the intensity or our relationship made it seem much longer.
"What's with you Phil? Nobody has wanted to meet my folks before. Nobody in their right mind. Are you in your right mind? You don't seem left brained."
I liked her when she was chirpy.
"Obviously no brained to want to meet your father, darling."
"I know. I'm sorry."
Miranda was talking faster than she usually did and walking erratically down Brick Lane. Nobody paid her any attention even in her boots and short skirt. They were too busy sizing up the menus in the curry houses or sightseeing or looking for cheap clothes in the limp racks that hung in the street.
"It's a long time since I've been to Whitechapel."
"Now don't knock it Phil. You know my obsession with Jack the Ripper."
"Less than healthy if you ask me."
"Phil. You are so old before your time and I didn’t ask you." She turned to me and her lips were a strange hue of red, more crimson than blood or cherries. She kissed me full on the mouth and cupped my cheeks in her hand. "Mmm you are still sexy for an old guy."
But she was distracted, the forthcoming visit playing on her features, making her forget the moment as she noticed an Indian girl, less than 20 but hunched in the street with a crippling deformity.
"That's what too much curry does to you Phil."
Somewhere 10 minutes later a creaky iron gate turned into a garden on a half street, hidden from a main street under dark green yews that seemed to be perpetually damp even on a summer day.
"Phil this is dad," Miranda said and she seemed smaller and more brittle, her voice ready to crack like a reed.
Her father was a thick set man, swarthy with Italian good looks with dark eyes. He was dressed immaculately in a waistcoat with pin striped trousers.
"Young Philip. I have heard a lot about you. All of it good I may say which is unusual given Miranda's.."
"OK dad, Stop now."
"Yes dear. Do come in. This is a humble abode but we have some exceedingly nice cakes. Mister Kipling I believe. They are the best. Would you agree young Philp?"
"I would Mr. Barnes."
"Fantastic," said Mr. Barnes, throwing a wide hairy arm around my shoulder. "Don't you agree my girl is the best? The prettiest girl in all of the square mile and east to Dover dock, sir."
"I am forced to agree with you Mr. Barnes."
"Good young sir," and noticing Miranda had disappeared upstairs he turned his wide swarthy features to mine his broad arm heavy round my shoulder. "Between you and me sir, Miranda had a troubled childhood. There was the death of her mother and well I had my issues and she got in a lot of trouble at convent school."
I remained silent, not wanting to know more about Miranda's troubled childhood so early in our meeting, if at all. Fortunately Mr. Barnes seemed like an easy going type who failed to notice my silence before adding. "Of course she redeemed herself in adulthood and has become the fine lady we all know and love."
He assumed such a upstanding air, I half expected him to show me his Royal Doulton collection is in humble abode in a humble neighborhood. In turn I would complement his toby jugs and resist the the urge to elaborate and tell her how I had loved her close to the railway line last night and come to the conclusion it was electrified and we could be the first pair of burned lovers in the history of Burnt Oak. We were certainly getting a whistlestop tour of London's more obscure places.
. Barnes told us he was attending his niece's school piano recital and we were welcome to come along. I couldn’t square the accommodating Mr. Barnes with Miranda’s comment about her father being sick in the head.
"No. I am going," I heard him tell somebody somewhat abruptly on the phone before turning to us with a broad grin. "Miranda. You look so pretty. You are a lucky man Philip."
"Mr. Barnes I think I am the luckiest man this side of the Tower Bridge."
His brows knitted momentarily. "The other side too, of course, Mr. Barnes."
"Of course you are son," and his big wide, hairy arm was round my shoulder again." Miranda is what they call a classic English rose. With some Italian in the mix." And he let out a loud chuckle.
As the toilet flushed I was in the lobby with Miranda. "I don't know what you are talking about. He seems like a great father."
But Miranda was steadily chewing on her nails and didn’t seem to hear me.
"I didn't know you went to a convent school."
"Hell yes. Worked wonders."
Mr. Barnes had given me a glass of wine and I was somewhat in love with the world. Even the ceramic ducks on his wall seemed to have a post-modernist flair.
The effects of the alcohol wore off on the walk to the school during which Mr. Barnes provided a running commentary. "You can still see the holes on the wall of the Blind Beggar from a shootout involving the Krays."
We turned and the small East End school appeared. Mr. Barnes shook hands profusely with teachers on the door and we sat down to see his niece, a precocious blond haired girl of 15 go through the motions on the cello as Vivaldi sounded out brassily across the hall.
"Marvelous recital," twittered the principal. "Next week do come and see Brahms. There is pizza in the auditorium. Lemonaid too.”
Mr Barnes squeezed my shoulder. "I am partial to a slice of pizza. Wigwams do the best pepperoni. Are you familiar with them Jimmy?”
“I don’t think I am Mr. Barnes. It’s Philip by the way.”
I don’t think he heard me. He was making a dash across the hall to the makeshift pizza and fizzy drinks table. By the time I caught up with him he had picked up his paper plate and joined the line, still humming some bars from the concert. From stage left I spied a spotty youth who could not have been more than 17. He came zipping across the floor on a skateboard, skidded to a halt and cut into the line in front of Mr. Barnes.
"Hey son. I think you have cut in front of me," Miranda's father commented lightheartedly, still whistling the dying chords of Vivaldi.
The youth stared at him with expressionless eyes, the gum moving up and down in his mouth.
"Appears that way granddad,"
"Hey son. I think you have cut in front of me, "Mr. Barnes repeated. He was no longer humming or whistling.
"That so?" said the youth.
"Yes," replied Mr. Barnes. I felt a pressure on my hand as Miranda squeezed it a split second before the impact. It was a dull crack and the youth was lying on the floor, blood pouring out of his forehead.
I still see the scene sometimes in slow motion when I am anxious or waiting at a bus stop. Mr. Barnes casually head-butting the youth and the teen's yelp of pain as blood flowed from his smashed up nose like a fountain. And Mr. Barnes turning away and trying to brush off the rivulets of blood as if they were cake crumbs and making another comment about Wigwam's pizza, except nobody was laughing. Not Miranda, nor I, nor the principal who had turned white or the police officers who took him away.
I had never felt so much pain for my girl before or since. I wrapped my arms around her and told her it would be alright, even though the auditorium was spinning and through the tears that stained her green mascara, she shook her head and clung to me like wreckage and sobbed and the words wouldn't come out but when they did she had a curious look curled on her lips.
"So what did you think of dad then?"