'Not bad, not bad,' Phil said out loud, looking at his reflection. Condensation from the shower framed his features. He worked his way through the tedious toolkit of body care - clippers, sprays, trimmers. He decided against shaving, the stubble serving to disguise the thickening of his chin. There was a touch of salt-and-pepper greyness coming through, he noted. Oh well, he'd have to face that soon.
Fresher's Balls had changed a lot over the years since Phil's first one. The days of wide-eyed ingénues overwhelmed by the heady mixture of freedom, alcohol, music, and social unease, ripe to be entranced and exploited, had gone. Nowadays the would-be squire needed a bit more on his side than age and wisdom - he had to differentiate himself from the young lads whose charmless innuendoes rolled off their tongues like football chants. Phil could usually count on finding some girl to inveigle into a quiet corner, where he provided mature advice and sympathy, a paternal voice . . . Phil shook himself. From his PhD research, he knew enough about Freud to want to avoid the whole question of why some men liked young women and women liked older men. It amazed him that the term 'Daddy's girl' was bandied around in polite society without raising any concerns. He thought for a second and shook his head. His motives were clear enough - it wasn't youth he wanted, just opportunity. For some reason, he found it difficult to sustain relationships with women of his own age - they seemed to find him safe and boring, and self-obsessed. 'Well, who else should I be interested in?' he had countered in one final row. 'Me!' she had answered.
He had hopes for tonight. He combed his hair, cleaned his teeth, and slid a condom packet into his pocket.
* * *
Kaz blinked at the brightness as the bathroom light flickered on. She swayed across the cool tiles, rested her hands on the sink, and stood, waiting for her head to clear. The E she'd taken before coming out was wearing off, leaving her feeling flat. She opened her clutch bag and took out a sachet. She expertly rolled a bank-note and sniffed up the coke. 'Just sprinkling some magic dust,' she thought to herself, 'I'll be a princess!'
Prince Charming left something to be desired, though. Paul or Pete or Phil or whatever his name was, was waiting in his bedroom. Oh well, she'd had worse, she thought, remembering wild antics in nightclub toilets, bus shelters, cars, parks, car parks, even beds, sometimes. Her new flatmate buddy had abandoned her earlier, gone off with some stud, leaving her alone until this chap had turned up. He seemed to think she was new to all this, and she hadn't corrected him. He'll be in for a shock when he discovers my metalwork down there, she thought. This struck her as funny, and set off a giggling fit. She subsided onto the floor.
As she moved, a cupboard door swung open, revealing a hot water bottle and a jar of liniment. She sobered up. What was she reminded of? That's right - her parents. He was old, too old.
Kaz considered her options, and decided to leave without explanation. That was best, she'd found - made her seem mysterious and willful. She smiled. Men are such dopes, she thought.
This story appears in File Under Fiction.