Le Canard Bleu
Daisy dressed very flamboyantly for our night out. I saw Scarlett wince a little as he floated down the stairs in an ensemble that plainly made him feel a million dollars. She managed not to comment much to my relief and left the compliments to me.
“Oh, you look, really er stunning Daisy.” Stunning seemed like a good word, he would be flattered by it and it explained how we felt for quite different reasons.
He kissed me on both cheeks leaving smudges of bright orange lipstick on my face. Scarlett moved back in time for his kisses to hit only the air.
“Have you worn that on stage yet?” Scarlett’s eyes traversed the length of his gold sequined gown and rested on the diamante platform size thirteen’s poking out beneath the hemline.
Daisy grinned to reveal orange lipstick smudges on his yellow teeth, “No this is the first outing, the christening, the debut!”
“Wow,” said Scarlett dropping me a crafty wink. “We must be off somewhere special then. Are we underdressed for you Daisy?”
He thoughtfully surveyed our outfits. I wore a dark blue dress, a scarf printed with a fish pattern and ballet pumps. Scarlett of course looked effortlessly glamorous in a cream leather mini dress; she wore her hair in a French knot and towered over me in caramel colour stilettos. I felt invisible next to them. “You’ll do.”
“Where are we going?” Excitement and curiosity coursed through my veins. Are we going to your club?”
Daisy stroked his latest wig, a platinum blonde number that spilled over his broad shoulders. “That’s an idea, we could do that later, not been there for ages. No, I found a lovely little restaurant in one of those eatery guides, I’ve not been there before but it looks lush.”
I guessed he’d learnt the word lush from the girls at the club.
We clambered into a taxi and I watched the driver’s expression as he caught sight of Daisy in his rearview mirror. He raised his eyebrows a little but managed to retain his composure, a quick glance at Scarlett seemed to reassure him he’d not been ambushed by drag queens, “Where to?”
“Le Canard Bleu, d’yknow it dear?”
“Nah mate, never heard of that one.”
“Madam if you don’t mind.”
Scarlett and I slid down in our seats wanting to disappear. The driver raised his eyebrows and muttered an obscenity under his breath. “Whatever. What street is it on?”
Daisy leant forward to show him the page he’d torn out of the guide. His perfume filled the cab, a pungent sweet smell of cinnamon wafted up our nostrils.
“Oh yeah, I do know it, recently changed ownership. Used to be The Pink Duck, but was closed down by health and safety I think. Wonder why they changed the colour to blue.”
“Never mind about that, it has good reviews now so shall we be on our way?”
“Right ho Duck,” said the driver and I couldn’t help but let out a snort of laughter. I could feel Scarlett giggling beside me and soon it became hysterics. Daisy held his nose haughtily in the air doing his best to ignore us. He adopted a different character when dressed as a lady, as if he thought anyone would really believe he was one with his broad shoulders, massive feet and square jaw line. I so wished my father could see him now.
It so happened Le Canard Bleu turned out to be a very friendly, relaxed place. Dasiy flirted outrageously with the waiters and they humoured him beautifully. For a few hours I found myself distracted from the worries of my aunt’s illness.
The wine flowed so freely the three of us soon became very merry.
Daisy excused himself to go to the toilet and Scarlett and I speculated which he would use and what a shock it would be for any man to find him in the gents. Our eyes followed him to the door marked ‘Messieurs’ and we sniggered. Then we forgot all about him because a muscular young man with the bluest eyes I had ever seen approached our table and struck up a conversation about the food. Typically his attention focused on Scarlett and she seem entranced by him so it was only me who saw a very red faced man come flying out of the men’s toilet, his eyes bulging and mouth gaping. I watched as he strode over to the bar and demanded to see the manager. Daisy sauntered out behind him, pulling up his knickers beneath his dress: so much for being a lady.
“What did you get up to in there?” I asked as soon as he reached the table.
The young man handed Scarlett a card, nodded goodbye, cast a glance at Daisy and rapidly retreated into the depths of the restaurant.
“Well what do you think?” He looked at me aghast. “I went for a pee of course.”
“But that man,” I pointed to the red faced balding man by the bar. “He came out in one hell of a rush, as if he were being chased.”
Daisy stared over at him. “He should be so lucky!”
“He’s asking for the manager.”
“Well he can ask away, I’ve done nothing wrong. Just used the urinal like any chap would do.”
We giggled at the image of Daisy in his gold dress hitching it up to pee.
“I don’t think he sees you as just any chap.”
Somehow the manager did a good job of placating man with the red face; he glanced over at us and smiled.
“Best send him over a brandy. Apparently he’s never seen a lady take a pee before.” Daisy’s expression remained completely deadpan.
In the end we didn’t feel like going on to Daisy’s club, we were too tired and too drunk to bother. We arrived home to find Maddy curled up on the sofa with Goddard. I wanted to ask if it was Frank’s night off but Daisy beat me to it.
Maddy let forth a string of expletives at him, “You drunk pigs, what you know, eh?”
Goddard sat up straight, “Frank?”
Maddy protectively grabbed Goddard’s hand. “Take no notice him, he drunk and trying to wind you up darlin’. Shutup you freak. Look at what you wearing, mutton dressed up like Olympic bloody flame.”
Daisy smiled a dangerously cool smile, “Frank left his Viagra behind. Do you want it Goddard? Then you too can make her scream with passion like he did the other night?”
I felt I should stop him going any further but he’d already gone too far. My head span with alcohol and I felt sick. “That’s enough you two,” I said weakly but as if I didn’t mean it at all.
Daisy couldn’t be deterred from sticking the knife in further, “Not that we all want another sleepless night. Stick something in her gob Goddard, to keep her quiet.”
I pulled at Daisy’s arm, “Come on, I’ll make us coffee.”
“He just jealous he no get no sex because he a freak, a FREAK!” screamed Maddy.
Goddard sat, staring at the floor, his pigeon chest caving in on itself. I wondered that she fancied him at all. Poor Goddard, Frank seemed to be an arrogant git, but it could not be denied his looks were far superior. “I think I’ll go home.” His weak little voice could barely be heard above Maddy’s expletives.
I fell into bed still dressed and passed out. The next thing I knew, spindly shards of daylight were poking through the curtains at me, shooting sharp hot pains through my head every time I squinted at them. Memories of the night before replayed like a movie I’d seen a very long time ago. I vaguely wondered if Goddard had gone home, if Maddy had killed Daisy and whether I would summon up the energy to call the agency. I groaned and turned over onto my front. I wanted to go to sleep again but the hangover pains and my rumbling stomach made me get up, grab a jumper and set off downstairs in search of a cure.
Armed with coffee and paracetamol I went into the sitting room to find Maddy curled up on the sofa next to a gently snoring Goddard. The pathetic little trumpet player hadn’t even summoned up the energy to leave. Maybe he actually loved Maddy. I found that hard to believe, I’d never met anyone so selfish. Perhaps one day she would fall in love and change. It wasn’t a scenario I could imagine. I decided to go back upstairs to my bed. As soon as I reached my room my mobile rang.
“I had to call an ambulance for Aunty Clara last night, she suddenly felt terrible. They think it might be a panic attack but are keeping her in for observation. Can you come over?” My mother sounded as if she were the one having the panic attack.
“To the hospital?”
“Of course to the hospital!” she snapped.
I told her I’d be there as quickly as I could. Shoving two paracetamol into my mouth, I took a gulp of coffee to wash them down then pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and scraped a comb through my hair. Grabbing my jacket, I tucked it under one arm as I brushed my teeth. My heart thumped in my chest. Calm down, I thought, it’s probably nothing.
I bumped into Daisy as I came out of my room. “Hey where are you off to? You look awful.”
I explained, hastily thanked him for our night out and jumped down the stairs eager to get away.
Typically everything seems to run in slow motion when you need to be somewhere fast. People fumbled with their change at ticket machines, the tube seemed to wait far too long at stations, people walked too slowly and when I got to the hospital the corridors were crowded with people who wouldn’t get out of my way.
Mother had told me I’d find my aunt in the assessment unit; they hadn’t found her a bed on a ward yet. I walked for miles trying to find it. Eventually a young woman grabbed my arm, “You look lost,” she said kindly. “Can I help you?”
Within minutes I found myself beside my pale aunt. She smiled weakly and held out a hand, “Hello you.”
I stared at the tubes in her arm. “What happened?”
“I felt bad but I’m feeling a little better now.”
She didn’t sound convincing.
“Oh faint and lots of pain in my legs, I could barely stand up. They feel, well they’re still aching but I think…” Her voice trailed off.
I poured her some water. The assessment ward housed eight beds. An old man groaned in the corner. The smell of poo crept up my nostrils. This was no place for my favourite aunt.
“I sent her home to get some sleep. Don’t want her collapsing as well.” She smiled faintly. “Sit here and tell me about being a fish, I need distracting. You look pale yourself?”
“Night out with Daisy and Scarlett, need I say more?” I laughed a little.
“Oh well you must tell me about that then!” As she spoke she winced in pain.
“Well Daisy looked a bit like the Olympic flame in his gold dress and platinum wig, Scarlett as usual turned heads because she is insanely gorgeous and I swam with the flow like the little fish I am. We came home to find Maddy with her trumpet player who promptly had his illusions of Maddy’s faithfulness to him blown away by Daisy. Living in that house is like living in a constantly erupting volcano.”
Aunty Clara chuckled, “They are quite something aren’t they?”
“No one needs to watch Eastenders for drama where we live, let’s put it that way.” I stared intently at her. “Can I get you anything?”
“No dear, I’m too tired to read. It’s hot in here isn’t it?”
I nodded my head and wanted to say the smell of poo didn’t help but refrained from doing so. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed and I didn’t want to draw her attention to it.
“Tell me about being a fish.”
Why was she suddenly going on about my being a fish? Then a distant memory floated into my mind of her honeymoon trip. As a child she’d told me about how they went diving in tropical waters. Maybe she wanted to relive it. If it comforted her in anyway whatsoever, I would happily talk to her about my time as a fish.
I sat on the high-backed chair next to her bed, leant across and stroked her arm as I spoke. I felt like a parent telling a child a story, a fantastical story of aquatic creatures that had once been my companions in the London Aquarium. A life of swimming around a large tank, wondering about the faces behind the glass, not ever knowing I would become one of them. “I had a son,” I said, almost to myself, “I’ll never know what happened to him.” I told her about the conger eels, the hungry sharks, the divers who would occasionally appear to examine us. I had no idea why at the time of course, my fish brain saw them as weird aliens to be examined, but they were only there to check us for disease. It occurred to me that as a Ray I lived without fear. The aquarium was a protected environment, without any predators, no sea storms or oil spills, but a place of calm tranquility for us to exist and that’s all we did really: exist.
“Maybe that’s why I find this life a little bit much,” I gazed around the ward with the machine’s beeping and busy nurses, “I really miss the tranquility of the tank.”
Aunty Clara sighed, her eyes closed. “If only we could all live like that, in a place of beauty and peace.”
“Well it wasn’t exactly beautiful. Remember that book you showed me when I was little? I’m sure I would have preferred to live in those tropical seas.”
“You could get on a plane and visit them in this life instead. Nothing can stop you, except yourself.”
I didn’t know at that precise moment but I would carry her words with me for the rest of my life and pull them out of my subconscious whenever I became indecisive or scared. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give a person is positive words, but I only came to realize that with maturity. “I’m not going anywhere until you are better.” I said in the full knowledge that this might never happen. Then I realized something, not once had she said I was a fantasist or silly or having a laugh. She seemed to accept my memories as the truth. Only Daisy had truly made me feel normal for remembering my previous life up until now and I thought that had something to do with him wanting to be accepted for who he was too.
Suddenly she reached over and grasped my hand and held it as tightly as her weakened state allowed. “You will go though, won’t you?” she demanded, spittle forming on her lips, “Swear to me you will.”
I returned the pressure, “Yes I will Aunty Clara, I will.” At that very moment I’d have abseiled down the hospital building if she’d demanded it, but I resolved to do it, not only to please her but to satisfy my own curiosity.
“And another thing.”
I waited, somewhat concerned that there was another thing.
“Find a man who loves you, not some idiot who plays you around. This Ryan, well he doesn’t see your worth. Don’t waste your time on those that don’t realize your worth.”
I sucked in my breath; this was more difficult, I couldn’t help my feelings. “Hmm.”
“No hmm about it, there are good men in the world, don’t rest until you find one.”
I imagined myself as ninety and still looking. “Yes Aunty Clara.” I chimed like a ten year old in response to the calling out of the register.
Before I could be made to commit to any more demands I asked when Tammy and Christian were likely to arrive.
“I haven’t called them yet.”
My mouth dropped open. “You what? You better give me their numbers and I’ll call them. I can’t believe you haven’t called them, that’s crazy!”
“They are so busy, I don’t want them worrying and coming all the way back here to find I’m all right.”
“But you’re not all right.” My voice became a little shrill and the woman in the bed opposite glared at me over the top of her glasses. “Sorry,” I said and waved an apologetic hand. “They’ll be so upset if they find out about all this…” I wanted to say ‘too late’ but manage to stop myself just in time.
“They are so wrapped up in their own lives these days. I don’t want to disturb them. I haven’t spoken to Christian for nearly a month.”
I saw the pain in her eyes and suddenly felt furious. “Give me their numbers, I’ll call them.”
“Oh they are in my address book at home.”
“Don’t you have your mobile with you?”
“No, we left in such a rush.”
I felt my cheeks reddening in frustration and fury. “I’ll call them later when Mum gets here.”
“Let’s wait. I’m sure they’ll let me out tomorrow.”
“I don’t care. I’ll call them whether you are here or not.” I heard my voice crack with emotion and steadied myself, I didn’t want to upset her.
For the next few hours I never left her side, except to go pee.
© Petra Kidd 2013
Before I was born onto land… I was a fish
Also by Petra Kidd
The Eight of Swords
You can connect with Petra Kidd via Twitter @PetraKidd or visit her
Facebook page here Petra Kidd Writes
The next chapter of Before I was born onto land I was a fish will be posted next Sunday.