The First Date

By Catriona Inglis

The doors clicked, the light above turning green and Alison stepped into the decontamination room. She methodically began removing her uniform, starting with the thick plastic mask that covered the lower half of her face, placing them into the metal hatch at the left of the room. From there the clothes would go straight into the washing machine without touching anything or anyone, an efficient process. Her shoes went into the right hatch, to wait for tomorrow morning’s commute.

The warning light above her turned red then amber and she quickly began cleaning herself in the warm soapy water that was now coming from the showerhead above her. After two minutes the light turned red again and the water stopped. She reached forward, catching the drop of lotion as it fell; the special anti-bacterial soap was highly effective but it wasn’t half harsh on the skin. Alison massaged the lotion into her skin impatiently, almost tapping her foot as she waited for the light to turn amber again. When it did, she turned to face the flow of hot air that now gushed from one side, running her hands through her hair to aid the drying. The air stopped and finally the light went green, the doors in front of her opening as it did.

Finally, home, Alison hurriedly headed upstairs grabbing a fresh set of clothes from the dresser as she passed. Pulling on a thick blue cardigan, Alison nestled herself down at her desk to open her laptop. Yes! One new message. Alison barely contained her nerves as she opened it, it was Simon.

“I really want to see you too. You’re right it’s about time. Do you have space in your bubble? I’ve been isolating for a week already for work so, if you had space, we could get the transfer arranged for as soon as next week!”

Next week. He wanted to see her next week! She hastily replied. “yeah there’s space! I’m so excited to actually see you in person. I feel like I know you so well but it’ll be amazing to see you from closer than 2-feet and without those God-awful masks.” Sandra would have to go. Quite frankly, Alison had never liked her that much, she was so darn annoying but Chloe had invited her into their bubble last spring and it had been Chloe’s turn to request a transfer at the time. Well, Sandra would just have to go, Alison was sure Chloe would come around.

The metal doors clicked as the lights turned from red to green. Alison removed her mask and clothes. Red to amber, the hot water frothed around her. The lotion fell. Red to amber and the fan started. Amber to green and Alison was rushing inside to jog upstairs to her desk. Alison sighed in frustration. So, Sandra didn’t want to go did she, thought she could just block the paperwork long enough for her to be able to stay. Well not on Alison’s gosh-darn watch. That weasel had been leaching off of her family long enough. Bubble responsibility meant that she hadn’t been able to kick Sandra out on her arse after she’d quit her job and stopped paying rent. But Alison would be damned if she let Sandra stop her meeting her own damn boyfriend.

Alison took a deep breath, she’d waited for months to meet Simon, she could wait another week. They could wait another week. She’d bake lasagne, she decided.

Doors clicked, lights turning from amber to green. Alison stripped, dropping her latest thick medical mask into the trash. The water fell, followed by the lotion and then the fan. The light flicked green and Alison half ran inside almost forgetting to pick up a fresh set of clothes in her haste to get upstairs. “Hey, sorry for the wait. Sandra was being a b**** but she’s gone now thank goodness. You can transfer! We’ve all signed, I emailed them to you, have you seen?” Alison sat back and waited, restlessly joggling her knees up and down as she bit the nail of her thumb. He was typing. Alison leaned in. The dots vanished, Alison had to stop herself cursing out loud but quickly returned her focus to the screen as the dots returned.

“I am so sorry Alison but Kyle was caught with a temperature at work this morning. Our whole street has been locked down for at least a fortnight. It’ll be longer if any of our tests come back positive. I’m so sorry, I was so looking forward to seeing you!”

Alison banged her fist against the keyboard, putting her head in her hands. It was okay, it was okay. The tests would come back negative and Simon would be approved for transfer in just a couple more weeks. In just a couple more weeks she could meet the guy she had been dating for 6 months.

“See you in a few weeks then. Do you wanna facetime tonight?” She sent back. Simon was so handsome, they’d look so good together; both solid 10’s. She could wait. She’d make cottage pie she decided.

Doors clicked, lights flashed. Clothes went down, water fell, then lotion, then fan and Alison was through the doors and up the stairs almost without taking a single breath. Tonight, was the night and Alison could barely contain her excitement. Picking out the deep red dress she had bought two months ago she almost giggled. The doorbell rang and Alison quickly checked her makeup in the tall stand mirror by her bed. She was ready, her first date. Taking a deep breath Alison tried to look serene as she glided down the stairs. She took one final long, slow breath as she reached the door. Opening it she finally saw him, Simon, the guy she’d been dating for the last 8 months. The guy she’d been longing to finally touch.

He was shorter than her.

Image: David Rosen via Flickr

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