“Oh look, Harry! Aren’t they adorable?!”
Harry looked up from the bench, where he and what felt like several hundred other people were trying to get into their ice skates, and saw Naomi, his date, looking all doe-eyed at a group of red-faced toddlers in ear muffs who were fighting over a large plastic penguin.
“Adorable,” he smiled, feeling guiltily glad – not for the first time – that his marriage had broken up and he had been permitted re-entry into the ordered, childless world of complete self-interest. He had been on several dates since he and Alice had agreed to part ways, not all of them entirely successful. In retrospect, the pretty Oxford graduate pupil at his chambers had been far too young for him and he had felt old and foolish in the VIP teepee enclosure at Glastonbury. And he really hadn’t enjoyed speed dating. Quite apart from the humiliation of having to wear a name badge with his occupation and age on it, he had found it most frustrating that there was never any time to finish the sushi at one table before he had to move on to the next. But this one, he had to say, felt more hopeful.
He watched Naomi bending down to let the toddlers play with her necklaces and touch the candy-pink ends of her long, blonde hair. She was a fashion blogger and seemed to go everywhere dressed as if it were her last day on earth. Tonight, she was in a huge, white fur coat, skintight leather jeans, cashmere leg warmers and a gash of red lipstick. Any skin uncovered by clothes was bedecked in jewellery. Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes and a pretty diamond twinkling in her neat little nose.
It was she who had invited him on this trip to the opening night of the Somerset House ice rink. She had got tickets through her work and needed to snap well-dressed skaters for her blog. It hadn’t escaped his attention that, despite his being dressed in a Paul Smith overcoat and his own custom-made ice skates, she hadn’t snapped him, but she’d soon get snapping when she saw what he could do on the ice. That he had been the 2003 Thames Valley figure-skating champion was something he tended to keep on the down-low, but he was quietly confident that his aptitude on the ice would set him pretty high in her estimations.
“You might need to hold my hand a bit,” she purred, slipping hers into his as they queued to get onto the ice. The light was dimming and the combination of twinkling fairy lights and Ed Sheeran on the speakers was proving an intoxicating combination.
He was thinking about kissing her, when he felt a slap on his back. “All right Harry, old boy?” His heart sank to see Nick Adler, a mega criminal defence QC from a rival chambers, grinning at him, as he and his blonde hedgefunder wife stepped onto the ice. “Last time I saw you, I think I beat you in straight sets! Are you coming heli-skiing this year?”
As they stepped onto the ice, Harry felt Naomi’s grip become vice-like as her long legs split like a baby gazelle.
“Oh dear!” she laughed, as the front of her blade embedded itself in his shin.
“Oh dear!” Nick Adler laughed several minutes later, as he and Mrs Nick skated backwards past him and Naomi, who was by now clinging to the edge of the rink for dear life. In a moment of competitive desperation, Harry hijacked the penguin of a dribbly-nosed child who was shuffling past them and passed it to Naomi. “I’m just going to do a few laps.”
Without so much as a backwards glance, he was off, whirling and twirling and making quite sure that Nick Adler got a big eyeful of his prowess while he was about it. He wasn’t completely selfish, of course, turning to check on Naomi’s progress intermittently. He was glad to see that she and the little girl seemed to be getting on like a house on fire and that Naomi was now trying to take a selfie of them and their penguin.
Sensing him watching her, Naomi caught his eye, straightening herself up to grin and wave. Phone in one hand, penguin just out of reach of the other, she lost her balance, grabbing the little girl’s shoulder as her long leather legs shot out from underneath her. Harry stood, frozen to the spot, as the first aiders rushed in.
“Isn’t that your girlfriend, mate?” Nick Adler yelled, as he speed-skated past, one hand behind his back.
“No, no, not my girlfriend,” Harry replied with a carefree shrug. “Just a friend. Girl I know. Medics are with her. She’ll be fine…”