I woke up the next morning to find the clothes I was wearing extremely wrinkled, my hair all tangled, and black circles under my eyes from the makeup I hadn't taken off the night before. I haphazardly went through my suitcase to find my shampoo, conditioner, and soap and hopped into the shower. The bathroom was small, although not extremely small, with cream-colored walls and tan tiled flooring. The medicine cabinet was medium-sized, with mirrored doors. I was pretty sure the sink was made of marble, along with the bathtub.
I got my first look at the apartment as a whole after I had dried my hair, walking around in my robe. A small hallway connected the bedroom to the large living room, which was fully furnished in dark blues and greens. I made a note to myself to try to lighten up the living room. There were two windows in the living room, both with views of neighboring apartment buildings and businesses. A sort of half-wall separated the living room from the dining room, which was big enough to seat at least six people. From there was the swinging door to the kitchen, which was a cheery yellow. The kitchen had all the essentials, refrigerator and freezer, sink, stove, oven, and cabinets. The cabinets were a lovely light oak color with white handles. Inside the cabinets and drawers were silverware, plates, cups, pots, pans, and everything else that I might need. I peered into the refrigerator and found that there were a few eggs, a quart of milk, some butter, and an apple.
There was also a loaf of bread in the breadbox, so I had enough food for breakfast. I went into the living room and, after a little digging, put my copy of Pet Sounds on the turntable. With proper cooking music now in the air, I proceeded to make myself a scrambled egg and toast for breakfast.
After breakfast I got dressed and started to unpack a little. I looked at the time and saw that it was 11:00, which meant it was only 5:00 in the morning at home, so it was too early to call. I decided that I needed to get some food, so I grabbed my purse and keys and left to find a grocery store. There was someone in the lobby when I was going through and I asked him where the nearest grocery store was.
"Go out the door and turn left. Keep going for two blocks, then at the next crosswalk, turn right, go four blocks and you should see the sign," he said in a very proper English accent.
"Thank you very much," I replied and headed out the door.
I found the grocery store with no trouble. Thankfully there was a currency exchange building just a block down from the store, because I walked in and realized that all I had were traveler's checks and a few dollars in American money. I got what I thought were the essentials from the grocery store and headed back to the apartment.
I had never been one who liked absolute silence, so I turned on the radio as soon as I set down the groceries in the kitchen. It was the famed BBC on the air, and they were playing "Satisfaction" by the Stones. I turned up the volume and headed to the kitchen to put away all the food I had bought.
After "Satisfaction" ended, the DJ came on and said in the typical English accent that I loved that the next song was by the Stones' rivals, the Beatles. I smiled and went and turned the volume up a little more.
"There's nothing you can do that can't be done . . ." John sang at the beginning of "All You Need Is Love". I began singing along, realizing at the same time that I was in the same city as the Beatles.
"Wow, well, if I'm ever going to meet them, this is my best chance," I thought happily while singing.
Once the food was safely in the cupboards and refrigerator, I began deciding on my plans for the day. I dug out my map of London and several brochures out of my suitcase and looked for an interesting destination. According to my map, there was a museum of British history within walking distance, so I decided to check it out. I grabbed my camera, some film, my purse, and my keys and headed out the door.
The museum ended up being a bit of a drag. I found out later that it was privately owned and had been near closing for years. I walked in to find myself practically alone in a rather small brick building that looked like it was in desperate need of a coat of paint. There were maybe two paintings worth taking note of, along with a sketch of a section of London before it burned down, and a page of a handwritten manuscript by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Other than these few items, the rest of the museum was full of furniture, clothing, and jewelry that had belonged to some lower nobility and obscure travelers. I couldn't really complain, though, since the admission price was equivalent to about ten cents. After spending 45 minutes walking the empty halls, I found that I had seen everything the museum had to offer and headed for the tiny gift shop. I doubt that more than five people could have fit in that gift shop comfortably, although I didn't have to worry about this since I was the only customer. I purchased a couple of postcards, half out of pity for the cashier who looked completely bored, and quickly left the forgettable museum of British history.
After a quick lunch of soup and salad at an outdoor café nearby, I headed back to the apartment. For lack of anything else to do, I unpacked my suitcase, neatly hanging up my clothes and filling up the medicine cabinet with my toothbrush, aspirin, and dental floss, among other things. By the time I was finished, I noted that it was 3:00 in the afternoon and realized that Mom would be awake by now, since she didn't work on Thursdays. After two rings, my mom pleasantly answered, "Hello?"
"Maria, hi sweetie! How was your flight?"
"Fine. Long, but not too bumpy."
"That's good. Did you find the apartment alright?"
"Yeah, it's just a few blocks from an Underground station, so it wasn't hard to find."
"What does it look like? Is it big?"
"Yeah, the living room's pretty big, and the kitchen and bedroom are good sized. It's a very nice apartment, a nice building, too."
"Good, I was worried you'd be stuck in some tiny little apartment, since you hadn't seen it before you left."
"Yeah, I got lucky. How are Dad and Joe?"
"They're fine. Dad's at work, of course, and Joe is still sleeping."
"I figured that; he never gets up before eleven during the summer. Have you heard from Carol?"
"Yes, she called last night to see if you got on your flight OK."
"Oh, well, tell her I said hi."
"I will. Listen, dear, I'd love to talk to you longer, but I was just about to leave to have breakfast with Mrs. Twist, and I'm supposed to meet her at 9:30."
"Oh, OK, I'll let you go, then. Tell Dad and Joe I said hi."
"I will, dear, call back soon."
After I hung up with Mom, I was at a loss for what to do. I absent-mindedly got up and turned on the TV and found some British sitcom on.
I sat back on the couch and tried to watch it, but found it a little boring.
I felt my eyes start to close, as they did when I tried to stay awake during a boring class. The harder I tried to keep my eyes open, the heavier they felt.
I woke up and glancing at a nearby clock noticed it was 5:30.
"There must be something in the air in London, because I haven't taken a two-hour nap since I was a kid," I thought.
I got off the couch and stumbled to the kitchen to see what I could make myself for dinner. I quickly realized that I had neglected to get any "dinner" food during my trip to the grocery store that morning. I ended up having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a glass of milk, and an apple. By 6:15 I was finished with my dinner and itching for something to do. I wanted to go somewhere, but none of the brochures I had described places that were evening locations. I couldn't just sit in the apartment, though, so after a glance in the mirror to make sure I didn't look too terrible after my long nap, I headed out for an unknown destination.
After wandering the streets of London for about twenty minutes, I found an antique store and decided to drop in. You could practically smell the age of the items in the shop it was so musty. There was only one small window at the head of the store, and the rest of it was poorly lit. There were two other people browsing when I walked in, both elderly women, although they both looked younger than the woman at the register. I slowly walked around the store, especially admiring the antique clothes and shoes. I found a large green hat with an equally large green feather sticking out of it and decided to try it on to see how ridiculous I looked. I quickly took the hat off, though, once I saw the alarmed expression on the face of the woman at the register. I found a schoolbook from 1892 and began gingerly leafing through it before a sequined dress caught my eye. It was hanging along with several other dresses, all equally grand. I was very tempted to ask to try on one of the dresses, but after the reaction I got from trying on a hat, I decided against it. Although the shop wasn't that large, it was crammed with antiques, so I could have easily spent an hour or two looking at all of the items. I was admiring a glass lamp when I looked up and saw the woman at the register coming towards me. At the same time I noticed that both of the elderly women who had been in the store when I entered were now gone.
"Excuse me, miss, but this store closes at 7 o'clock," she said in a wavering voice.
I glanced at my watch and saw that it was currently 6:58.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know what time it closed," I answered politely.
I walked out the door as she began turning off the few lights that illuminated the store. I wasn't ready to go home for the night, though, since it was only 7:00 and began walking again. A few blocks away from the antique store was a second-hand store that was open until 8:00. Seeing nothing else better to do, I decided to go in and see what they had.
Walking in the second-hand store I was immediately struck with the difference between this store and the antique shop. This store was obviously owned by someone fairly young, because there were posters plastered all over the walls with the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles on them. The doorways to the dressing rooms were adorned with a curtain of beads and multi-colored lights shone over the entire store. This store was also much more crowded than the antique shop.
As with many second-hand stores, this one had a lot of junk, but there were plenty of gems among the junk to keep me interested. I was especially interested in the variety of shoes they had. I noticed a pair of black boots that were in good condition that I really liked. I tried them on and although they were a little big, they weren't uncomfortable, so I decided to buy them. I wanted to look around the store more before I bought them, though. Before I knew it, I looked at my watch and saw it was 7:50. So, I went to the register with my boots so I could pay for them before the store closed.
"That'll be 2 pounds," said the young woman at the register.
I gladly paid the 2 pounds for the boots. While she was putting my boots in a bag, I asked, "Do you happen to know of any places to go around here at night?"
"Well, a lot of people go to the clubs at night. The big ones are the Scotch of St. James and the Bag o'Nails, although the Scotch is a bit hard to get in, since they audition people before they let 'em in."
"They audition people?" I asked worriedly.
"Well, they look at you through this sliding panel in the door before they let you in or not. Usually it's just the music people who get in. The Bag o'Nails just started getting popular as a club, so you might have more luck there."
"Alright, I'll try the Bag o'Nails, then. Do you know the address?"
"8 Kingly Street, in Soho, near Carnaby Street."
"Thanks a lot," I said as I gathered my purse and bag.
"Oh, one little tip, though. Don't go before 9 o'clock, nothing much happens before then."
"Thanks, I won't."
I walked back to the apartment and whipped out my map to see where Soho was in comparison to where I was. It was a bit too far to walk, so I got out my map of the stops on the Underground. There were two stops in Soho, although I had no clue as to which one was closer to the Bag o'Nails. I remembered that the cashier had said it was near Carnaby Street, and looking at the Underground map and my map of London, I decided that the second Soho stop was closer to the club. Having decided on how to get there, I turned my attention on what to wear. At the time I was wearing a pair of black dress pants and a conservative button-down purple blouse. I figured that I was not dressed "hip" enough for a club and began looking through my clothes to see if I had anything that was more in fashion. I narrowed in on my light blue skirt and my black miniskirt. I always felt a little uncomfortable when I wore the miniskirt, but the blue skirt might be too boring for a club. I was leaning towards the blue skirt, though. Although, I thought, my new black boots would look better with the miniskirt . . . I grabbed the miniskirt off its hanger and threw it on the bed.
Next, I began looking for a shirt, since
my purple blouse reminded me too much of church. I ultimately decided on my
sleeveless red top that I had gotten with my aunt that Monday. After I got
dressed, I plugged in my curling iron to fix my hair, then put on some more
makeup. I was ready by 8:50, and being fairly satisfied with my appearance,
grabbed my purse and keys and headed for the Underground.
Written by Blackbird. May not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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