London

Mind The Gap- Aldgate: The Old Stomping Ground

‘I Lincoln, take thee Stella-’

My name is Blu.

The collective gasp filled the church. Blu instinctively stepped back her eyes already saying what the fuck!

‘I’m sorry.’

But it was the look in his eyes that told her his subconscious- you know the one that tells you exactly  how you are feeling and the one that rules your gut?- told a different story.

The buzzing from the congregation grew louder and it was all she heard. So much murmuring. The poor reverend father didn’t know what to do or say so he just stood there, hands clasped together probably wondering how the fuck someone could fuck up a name called Blu. Three letters strung together it is not that complicated and it definitely did not rhyme with Stella. Some people might be confused about the non-existent ‘e’ at the end, but that is neither here nor there. What was here, was the fact that her fiancé of six months and boyfriend of five years, give or take their two month breakup three years ago, in front of their family and friends fucked up this moment, this most pivotal moment in their life. Completely and utterly.

‘For what?’ Blu asked letting in that cold air between them, but she already knew what, she saw it in his eyes. Had she been this blind all along? What the fuck was she looking at and why hadn’t she seen this coming. It was that episode of Friends all over again, there was a reason she hated that show and this moment in her life is most likely the reason.

Lincoln took a step towards her and she took a step back, so they were off centre from the altar. In front of the bride’s side.

‘I’m so sorry. I can’t do this. I can’t marry you. I don’t-‘

Blu’s fist connected with Lincoln’s face before he said the words she knew he was going to say because that split second look in his eyes said it all. She didn’t look closely enough because she was so focused on planning the wedding of her dreams. She’d actually paid for a damn cirque du soliel troupe to perform as a surprise for him, because they met each other at one of their shows in London. Someone better tell them not to bother.

She burst outside the church doors and hopped into one of the waiting black Rolls Royce. ‘Drive. Just drive.’

‘Yes ma’am.’

She looked back to see her friends and family starring at the departing car. The look of shock on all their faces. She was shaking, she felt humiliated and angry, and her hand hurt from that punch to Lincoln’s face. It did make her feel good.

The Manhattan skyline had given way to greenery as her chauffeur kept driving them along to goodness knows where. The light of the day was beginning to fade before she noticed.

‘We have to stop for gas soon ma’am.’ His voice was kind and gentle, in absolutely no hurry.

‘Sorry. We probably should, I didn’t catch your name.’

‘Anthony. But you can call me Tony.’

‘Thanks. Let’s stop for gas and I think I should have an idea where we ought to go.’ She reached for her phone but realized that everything she owned was in their apartment back in Greenwich. She needed a game plan; she was always the one with a plan.

Tony pulled into the next gas station and Blu got out whilst he filled the car. She went to the bathroom, she hated public bathrooms but now is not the time to think about the absence of life’s conveniences. With water from the tap and thick paper towels she wiped up her makeup, her flawless makeup. She needed her entire body to breathe again, starting from her face. Several paper towels later she felt clean. She removed the lace layer of her wedding down so it was only the silk slip left. The memories of creating this wedding down with the team at Dior, killed her. Hours of work had gone into it. She thought about discarding it but couldn’t bring herself to do so. She’ll send it back to them to put it to better use, hopefully some good will come out of it. Or it would make someone else happy… someday.

‘Get yourself together Blu. What next?’

That was the fundamental question to which she always had an answer. Blu is a visionary she could see a hundred steps ahead of anyone, it is why she is so damn good at her job, creating the most impactful and phenomenal campaigns for some of the world’s top brands. She always knew the next ten steps to take and she moved at warp speed whilst taking them. But now, in this moment in her life when she planned the next ten steps of her life with someone else, she had no idea what to do except sit in a stall of a gas station bathroom and cry. Which is exactly what she did. She let out all the anger and fear and hurt she felt. She was in there a while, several people came and went, some knocked on the door to see if she was okay because they could hear the crazy woman in the first stall crying. She told them what happened through tears and they let her be. Some even slipped money under the door for her. People are inherently good.

One hour later she walked out of the stall her next step clear in her mind. First things first, she needed to call her parents, let them know she was okay. She needed a phone, her chauffeur should have one.

As Blu walked out of the bathroom she saw the blue and red lights of the police car flashing and she knew they’d come for her.

‘Ms. Sinclair.’ One officer asked as she approached the Rolls.

‘I am.’

‘We got a call from the Governor, who I believe was a guest at your wedding.’

‘He was.’ Blu remained calm.

‘Listen, we got the gist of what’s going on and your folks would just like to know that you are okay.’

‘Can I borrow your phone? I need to make a call.’

‘Of course ma’am.’

The nice officers let her use the phone to call her parents.

As expected her mother was hysterical, and in tears. Her dear mom who had done nothing to deserve anything of what had happened. She loved Lincoln, their families had gotten to know each other very well and loved each other. They were to be in-laws and both sides were looking forward to the union to being even more of a family unit.

‘Mom, I’m fine okay. Please don’t worry about me. The police found me I’m with the chauffeur and I’m fine. Let me speak to dad.’ She wanted to move on from hearing her mother’s voice, the worry got to her and she needed to be clear headed. ‘Dad, I’m okay.’ Blu said, pre-empting her father’s question. No she is not okay and the world needs to stop asking her that. ‘Do me a favour, please make sure he is not at the apartment I’ll be there in the next couple of hours… I’m okay I promise… I love you too. Let me speak to Victoria please…’ she waited for her best friend to get on the phone. ‘Hey… I’m not good. Still in shock and pissed but I’ll be good. Do me a favour, can you make sure my stuff is packed in the suitcases, just my stuff. Dad is going to make sure he is not there when I get there. I just need to pick up my suitcases and head out.’ Blu knew the step after next for her. She was going on that honeymoon by herself. Ten days in Senegal and ten days in Namibia. It was a gift from her parents, a trip of a lifetime. She spent two years after graduation travelling through Senegal and she longed to go back. Namibia is a place she’d dreamed of visiting for as long as she can remember, she and Lincoln often talked about it so they were very excited about this honeymoon. They put together a fabulous package complete with chauffeur and a guide for touring. She was about to eat and pray her way across the continent- the love part was already jinxed. ‘I’ll see you.’ She hung up the phone and handed it back to the officers, who’d been waiting patiently as she made her call, they wouldn’t dare go up against a woman who’d just been jilted at the altar. This is how serial killers are made. ‘Thank you very much.’

‘Ma’am are you going to be okay?’ One asked her.

‘I intend to be. Please extend my gratitude to the Governor this was very kind of him. Thank you.’ She hopped in the back of the Rolls Royce and Tony turned and asked,

‘Where to next?’

‘To my apartment in the city.’ It was her apartment, she found it because when she moved Lincoln’s apartment was too small for the both of them. She decorated it and made it a home for them. So it was hers.

‘Yes ma’am.’ He pulled out of the gas station and waved his thanks to the officers who stood and watched them drive off. This wasn’t the weirdest thing they’d seen all day but it was up there and she’d been very calm about it. They did call it in to their colleagues in the city, to be on alert just in case the bride went crazy on sight of the groom. Still, they hoped for the best for her.

‘I’m sorry about how today turned out ma’am.’ Tony said to his passenger in the back.

‘Me too Tony, me too.’

That was six weeks ago…

London. Blu is back in London and this time it’s for good. She’d never really thought she would return to the capital of her youth when she left four years ago, and left behind a legacy, a wildness of youth, questionable decisions but a life well lived with her closest friends. She’d left it physically but they still maintained their bond over time difference and different continents. They were and are friends first over whatever and whomever and that bond helped her in the bleakest moment of her life. The past six weeks.

When she left London, it was for love… first lesson life needs to teach women, do not place your happiness on the back burner for love. But she was smitten and had a whole life ahead of her. Thirty years old and ballsy, her future looked bright and full, graduate of Oxford, Masters from LSE and a career as the head of the digital team at one of London’s premier creative agencies. London was her playground, there is no place in the world like it, her everlasting city, and a love affair to be had at every corner. She’s travelled far and wide and even left it for a bit to settle elsewhere, but London remained her constant.

When Lincoln, told her he’d accepted a job offer from a firm in Manhattan who’d head hunted him, the news came out of left field. She hadn’t entertained the thought of leaving her life behind, and moving with him, even though they’d been together two years and all indications of a future together so it was only a matter of time as to when, not if, they’d break up. He’d been so excited, it was an opportunity too good to pass up and she couldn’t possibly stand in the way of his happiness. She ended the relationship after he asked her to make the move with him, and she flat out refused. Lincoln spent two months begging her for a second chance and just before he left for New York, because she would never not let him live out his dreams, they got back together, but Blu always thought it was a temporary measure. Long distance is not her thing.

On her first visit to see him, something about being in New York changed her mind about their situation, two months after that visit she took a punt and moved across the pond. It was easy for her to find a job out there, her skills were such that it was in demand and she’d made some great strides in the industry that people were starting to know her talents. Things in her life were settled, she and Lincoln had a good thing going, they lived a good life in Manhattan and took regular trips back home to London to visit their families and friends and it worked perfect the other way too. Three years after the move, Lincoln proposed and six weeks ago should have been her moment of happily ever after, after which they should have left for their honeymoon, but what’s that saying old people have; if you want to make God laugh tell him all your plans… well she must’ve given heaven one comedy show special because the joke was on her.

Lincoln’s ex-girlfriend before her was something Blu never bothered herself with because she is not a woman who looks to details of the past to satisfy her present; nothing good comes from looking back except to sprain your neck her grandmother once told her. He didn’t ask about her past lovers and she didn’t ask about his either. But according to her sources- because she simply had to know and went digging after being jilted and one week into her lone honeymoon- the conversations with the ex, started in the early days of his move when they were figuring out the long distance relationship issue. If there was anything else going on between them when she moved and all through their relationship Blue did not notice it and Lincoln had been clever about it. It didn’t make being suckered in such a way an easier pill to swallow.

It was no surprise when Lincoln proposed a year ago and in six months they were getting married. It was all so perfect, they were in love, one of those loves that takes a girl’s breath away, one that strangers stop to marvel at on the street as they pass you by, not because you are making out sloppily but because you exude that kind of feeling. Lincoln had given her that feeling, that jolt. Or maybe it was a temporary pause from reality…whatever it was he gave it to her and common sense must’ve taken leave of her brain because she did not see that curve in the road. Did not have an inkling that anything other than the choreography of the wedding day would happen. But it did.

For four weeks she drop off the face of the earth and left him to deal with the mess he’d caused. Whilst away she arranged for her things to be moved from Manhattan to her apartment in South Kensington. The rest she would figure out later. She emailed her notice at the digital agency where she worked, and two weeks ago, returned to London under the radar. Not even her best friends knew she was in town.

She’d spent four weeks wallowing in self-pity, licking her wound and crying her weight in tears and spent another two weeks hibernating and setting up her apartment. When she turned on her phone, it was to a deluge of messages from her best friends and family and Lincoln. All of which she deleted. She has to move forward, has to get her life back and where better to do it that London. The place that reinvents itself at the speed of light. Home turf. She’d done the whole moving away thing and starting her life somewhere else and it didn’t work out. It may be for the best but it is what it is.

She tapped her Oyster card and the turnstiles parted to let her through, walking outside Aldgate Station the blare of traffic and that particular London city air blasts her in the face, blowing her long curly fro back from her face. Spring, a season for reinvention in a city that inspired much of her life. She walked the back roads with a familiarity, she’d missed. She looked up at there was the Gherkin peeking through, it made her giggle because in the early days she’s thought it looked like some sort of vibrator and today it was an integral part of the London skyline.

Still looks like a vibrator though. She thought to herself with a giggle.

She breezed through the door of the tower building and ascended the lift to the very top floor for Duck and Waffle. Letting the familiar sounds of the city surround her, the beauty of London from above still stuns her. The lift pinged open at the very top floor of 110 Bishopsgate, she made her way to the reception area bar, from the window she spotted Sushi Samba one floor below, another old haunt of hers where the food and atmosphere are a heady mix, there will be some more nights out there for sure. She was shown to the booth where her friends were waiting, the same ones she’d tore through this old town with, partying up a storm and living it up.

As they embraced her Blu thinks to herself, London it’s good to be home.