I liked the new girl. She was quiet, polite and hardworking, plus she knew how to be a receptionist unlike the last woman! She had been here three months now and we were a good team. Settling into lunch that day which sadly was a working lunch like the many we had to have due to staff shortages, she suddenly switched the conversation.
‘Emma? Can I asked you a personal question?’
‘Sure, Alia,’ I replied. There was nothing I liked better then talking about my life.
‘How did you met your boyfriend?’
I looked at her. She was dressed in her normal long black coat, floor touching black skirt, loose and long black top and a black hijab which covered her head and neck, only showing her dark face. I had often wondered if she was in mourning since she was always dressed in black, but I hadn’t been able to bring myself to ask.
In contrasted, I always dressed in bright colours, favouring; blues, greens, purples and whites. I wore knee or ankle length skirts with leggings or tights, some days I put on trousers. My blouses and tops were sensible enough but some of them did draw focus to my large chest. I’d wear a matching jacket or cardigan as needed. With it being late summer, my skin was lightly tanned. I wore my long med brown hair up or down, depending on how I felt.
I had never seen even a wisp of Alia’s hair so I didn’t know what colour it was. she didn’t wear any makeup either whilst I went through the whole colour plate in time with the seasons and the weather. We both wore glasses- me thin metallic purple frames and her’s thick, round and black old fashioned frames.
I also carted a large and very full handbag around with me, whilst Alia seemed to keep everything in the deep pockets of her coat. Alia had a ring of keys attached to her which constantly made sounds as she moved and reminded me of the housekeeper in The Secret Garden movie.
‘My boyfriend?’ I questioned.
Alia nodded and waited for me to launch into the story. She was use to my length talks now.
‘On a dating website,’ I answered, ‘that’s where I’ve meet all my boyfriends, expect the ones I dated in education. I guess I find it easier, you know? I have a habit of creating bad first impressions with men. Plus, there’s so many different kinds of men you can meet and I’ve found it far better then bars and nightclubs.’
‘Oh,’ Alia responded.
‘Of course, if I could meet a boyfriend naturally I would do. I like the build up of friendship then the slow falling in love and the realisation of it,’ I explained then give a small shrug.
‘So, you’d like it as a fairy tale? Love at first sight?’ she asked.
‘That would make it easier, wouldn’t it? But life doesn’t happen like that.’
I laughed and give a little shake of my head.
The phone rang and our conversation was interrupted by someone making an enquire. After I had dealt with them I turned back to Alia.
‘Why did you want to know anyway?’ I asked her.
She looked a little guilty and there was a slight flush to her cheeks, slowly and almost in a whisper she said, ‘because I would like one.’
Alia pulled her hijab to cover more of her face as if she had told me a dirty secret and now needed to hide away.
I thought over her words for a moment. Sipping my water slowly.
‘And why can’t you?’ I asked.
She didn’t reply and had suddenly found something to do on the computer before her which totally had all of her focus. She ignored me as if I hadn’t spoken.
Casting my mind about, I wondered if Alia came from a family were arrange marriages were traditional. Perhaps, her parents were very strict about her seeing men? I wouldn’t know the truth if I didn’t ask, but I was nervous too and knew it would effect how I saw Alia.
Instead, I asked, ‘you know, online dating is normal now. It’s how most people met. Would you like me to show you how to sign up? I’ll put you on the free site I used. I meet my current and last three boyfriends off there.’
‘But how did you know they were….okay?’ Alia asked.
She looked at me shyly over her shoulder.
‘Well, because I set myself some rules and stuck by them. Plus, once you’ve talked to them online for a bit you get a feel for them. Then you can meet up with just the ones you want too. You have to meet in a really crowd place that you know well. Like in town,’ I added.
Alia waited for me to go on. Her interest peaking and her expression becoming more relaxed.
So, I did, ‘and never go to their houses or a location they suggest that you are not happy with. Art galleries and museums make for good first dates. Or meals out. Whatever you feel comfy with.’
‘So, would you like my helping signing up?’ I asked.
Alia paused then in small voice said, ‘yes, please.’
I smiled broadly and wheeled my desk chair over to her corner. With my help Alia would be fine and I’d make sure she found a suitable boyfriend.