Saturday afternoon. In Magdalena’s flat.
Ana: And you say that he never even looked at you?
Magdalena: Not once. If you asked him the colour of my eyes, he wouldn’t have a clue. I don’t look as bad as all that, do I? You’re my best friend, Ana. Tell me I’m not that bad to look at, am I? He never looked at me once! He just stared down at his shoes and mumbled!
Ana: So that’s it then. Mission accomplished! Now you can forget about him!
Magdalena: Ah, there’s the rub, Ana. I don’t want to. He’s got something if only I could dig it out of him.
Ana: But if he can’t put two words together and never looks at you, what use is he! Give him up.
Magdalena: No Ana. I think I know what this is! He suffers from ‘intellectualaphobia’! That’s it!
Ana: And what is ‘intellectualaphobia’?
Magdalena: That’s when a man is afraid of a woman who he thinks is cleverer than him. He just goes to pieces. But, oddly enough, the same man is perfectly calm and relaxed with other women!
Ana: And so you think that James is not as clever as you?
Magdalena: Yes, of course I do.
Ana: Well, really!
Magdalena: I have seen it in other men before.
Ana: Well, I think that is pompous and presumptuous.
Magdalena: There is no point in false modesty, is there! On the other hand…
Ana: On the other hand…?
Magdalena: I also have a suspicion that he is a better person than I am. Still, there it is. We are what we are!
Ana: So you are not going to let him disappear into the night?
Magdalena. Certainly not. He has something. There’s something there. And he’s not bad-looking at all.
Ana: ‘Not bad-looking’! That’s high praise coming from you! I remember what you said about some of the others. There was Charles. The one with the sticking-out ears. Well, I won’t repeat what you said about him! And then there was Lawrence. Do you remember Lawrence? What was it you said? ‘If he had a few more brains, he might be half-witted!’ So this James is ‘Not bad-looking’! In that case he must be another Cary Grant. Did you know that Cary Grant came from here? From Bristol? Did you know that? Anyway, I am looking forward to meeting this new wonder!
Magdalena: Quiet a moment, Ana! Sometimes you talk too much!
Now, back to what we have to do. I must plan this campaign carefully. For a start, you have to come on Friday. James is sure to bring his friend, Henry, for moral support, so you can deal with him.
Ana: Deal with James?
Magdalena: No, deal with Henry of course. Sometimes, Ana, you are very slow!
Ana: Ah, with Henry. Thank you very much! What do you mean, ‘Deal with him?’
Magdalena: Talk to him, decoy him, keep his attention, engross him , occupy him, whatever you like to call it, so without Henry, James will be exposed to direct fire. Ah, Henry… James! Henry James! This is becoming very literary! It promises well!
Ana: ‘…exposed to direct fire’. This is all becoming very military! And I’m not sure it promises well at all!
Magdalena: Well, love is a campaign, isn’t it! All is fair in love and war! So that’s it then. In fact, I’ll phone James now and make sure he asks Henry to come. Henry James! That is really very good!
Next Friday evening. At the Llandoger Trow, King Street.
Magdalena, James and Henry arrive together and find a table. The dining area is busy with the pleasant hubbub of young working people beginning their Friday evening and determined to make the most of it. Ana has not yet arrived.
James: Right here we are then. The three of us! How pleasant.
Magdalena: There will be four of us actually. I have asked Ana along. She’s a friend of mine.
Henry: Ah, that’s great. The more the merrier!
Ana: (Rushing in) Right, come on Magdalena. Not a moment to lose! You’ve got to come right now! A crisis at work. All the students in the Spanish department have gone on strike. (To James) You’d never believe the chaos!
James: No, I don’t think I would. Would you, Henry?
Henry: I certainly wouldn’t!
Magdalena: Don’t worry! It’s one of Ana’s little jokes! As if she would rush in and whisk me off when we’re just getting to know each other. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it James!
James: (Uncomfortably) Oh yes. Ridiculous! Very!
Ana: I always like to make a dramatic entrance. Magdalena knows that! Just imagine me rushing in and wanting her to leave you after five minutes. That would be just crazy, wouldn’t it!
James: Oh yes, I suppose it would.
Ana: (To Henry) No one would be so silly as to do that, would they!
Henry: No, no, of course not!
James: Could we change the subject?
Magdalena: Perhaps it would be as well.
Ana: Now which of you is Henry and which is James? I don’t want to make a mistake, do I?
James: This is Henry. I am James.
Ana: I thought it was the other way round. Silly of me!
Magdalena: So there we are then. Now what are we going to eat? I’m starving. I’m so glad I don’t have to rush to the university to deal with striking students, aren’t you James?
James: Oh yes very glad. I have been looking forward so much to this evening, haven’t I, Henry?
Henry: Looking forward to what?
James: To this evening and seeing Magdalena and Ana and you and having a beer…here…with all of you. All of us. All four. Together. Haven’t I?
Henry: Oh yes. I can’t remember anyone looking forward to anything so much. You’ve been thinking about nothing else all day. Haven’t you, James?
Magdalena: Don’t be silly. (To James) I expect you have been thinking about your foundations! Anyway what are we going to have to eat? Concentrate on what you have to do now.
Henry: Yes, seize the opportunity. What did Shakespeare say?
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the height, leads on to fortune.’
Magdalena: Almost, Henry. Almost, but not quite!
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’
‘Flood’, not ‘height’ Henry!
Then it goes on.
‘Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.’
You don’t want the voyage of your life to be ‘bound in shallows and in miseries’, do you James!
James: Oh no! Certainly not. Hamlet is so right!
Magdalena: It’s not Hamlet. It’s Brutus. In ‘Julius Caesar’.
James: Oh really?
Magdalena: Act 4 scene 3.
James: Oh right. Very good. Wait a minute! I have a DVD of ‘Julius Caesar’ at home. The Stratford on Avon version.
Magdalena: Really? I’ve been looking for that for ages! Could I borrow it?
James: Well, of course.
Magdalena: I’ll come round for it. Wednesday evening. Is that OK?
James: Well yes, I mean no. I don’t want to give you the trouble of coming round. It’s very difficult to find my house. Everyone gets lost!
Magdalena: Do they? Well, I’m sure I’ll manage. And it’s no trouble at all. So, what’s your address?
Henry: (Whispering, to Ana). She’s got him now. He’s lost!
Ana: (Smiling, she speaks quietly to Henry.) Yes, I rather think he is. Let’s see what Wednesday brings! (Loudly) Now, to more important things! What are we going to eat?
James’ flat in Clifton. Wednesday evening.
James is nervously pacing up and down the dining room, and from time to time he looks worriedly at the front door. He is holding the DVD in his hand. Finally the doorbell rings.
James: That’ll be her! Now keep calm, keep calm. Two deep breaths! No, better take three. Now calm, James, calm!
(He goes towards the door and with a final burst of courage, steps resolutely forward and opens it.)
Ah, Magdalena, how lovely! Very good of you to come. Difficult to park, was it?
Magdalena: No, I parked right outside your front door! No problem at all. It was so good of you to ask me over here.
James: Yes, well. Here is the DVD. (He hands it to her, and moves towards the front door.)
Magdalena: Thank you so much! (Walking past James into the room.) I’m dying for a cup of tea. I haven’t stopped all day.
James: Tea! Dying! Oh yes, I’ll go and make you some! Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I won’t be a minute! (Magdalena walks round the room, looking it over.) Ah, yes, well, make yourself at home.
James goes into the kitchen. Magdalena sees his computer which is on the table. She touches the screen and a page of chat appears. She quickly checks that James is busy in the kitchen and starts to read.
Magdalena: Wow! It’s one of those getting to know you chatrooms. Who’s in it? Alex. Alex? That must be James! He is Alex!
(She quickly finds her mobile and takes a photo of the screen.)
Right, that’s all I need. And everything is fair in love and war!
Magdalena puts away her mobile and stands in front of the computer screen as James comes in with two mugs of tea.
James: Would you like ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or ‘Hey Jude’?
Magdalena: Pardon? ‘A Hard Day’s Night’?
James: Yes. These are Beatles mugs, you see. I have the whole set.
Magdalena: Right. In that case I’ll have ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Much more interesting!
James checks which is which and hands her the mug of tea. As he walks around the room she moves round to hide the computer, which is still on.
James: Here you are.
Magdalena: Thank you Al.., I mean, thank you, James.
James: Pardon. Oh, that’s alright! Do you take sugar?
Magdalena: No thanks, never.
James: But you took sugar in Starbucks.
Magdalena: That was in coffee. And it was in the morning.
James: And this is tea and it is in the evening.
Magdalena: Which is different.
James: Oh yes, absolutely. All the difference in the world! No comparison at all! Chalk and cheese! Where was I?
Magdalena: I think you were just about to drink your tea.
James: Ah yes. (He takes a long sip, looking at Magdalena over the rim of the cup.)
Magdalena: (Looking round the room.) It’s good to see people in their natural habitat, isn’t it! This isn’t bad at all! Quite surprising!
James: I can’t claim any merit for it. I just arrived last week, walked in and it was like this. It was already furnished! Marvellous view too. You can see the towers of the Suspension Bridge.
As James walks towards the window to show her the view, Magdalena closes the computer quickly.
Magdalena: It’s a very beautiful bridge! I’d like to walk over it. Wouldn’t you?
James: But you can see it much better from here, you know. Distance lends it perspective. Much better from here.
Magdalena: But I would like to walk across it and look down at the river so far beneath.
James: (Worriedly) Would you?
Magdalena: Yes, I would. But I am afraid to go on my own.
James: You! Afraid! I mean, yes, it is very high. (Reluctantly) Would you like me to go with you?
Magdalena: Oh, lovely! What a surprise! It would never have occurred to me to ask you! Next week? Sunday? At 3 in the afternoon?
James: Well, yes.
Magdalena: Good. That’s it then. Right. I must go. A very pleasant cup of tea, James. Now, I must get on my computer. I have a lot to do. I have ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ ahead of me!
James: Ah work, is it?
Magdalena: Well, you could call it that. Goodbye!
Thursday evening. Magdalena’s flat. There is a large bag on the sofa.
Magdalena: Ana, I have loads to tell you. You just won’t believe it!
Ana: Try me!
Magdalena: I am April now!
Ana: Say that again.
Magdalena: That’s what I’m called. The name I’m going by! My alias!
Ana: Your what?
Magdalena: I am in one of these online chats, and there my name is April, and I’ve been carrying on a flirtation with someone called Alex. In the chat!
Ana: You’ve been doing what?
Magdalena: Getting on very well with Alex, who is, by the way, a great chatter. And who is this Alex? I hear you ask.
Ana: No, you don’t, but do go on. I can see you are desperate to tell me!
Magdalena: It’s James!
Ana: It can’t be! James? Anyway, how do you know it’s James if you all have (pauses, and then slowly) “aliases”?
Magdalena: I looked at his computer.
Magdalena: Yesterday evening when I went to pick up the DVD. Well, he went off to make some tea, and I happened to see his computer on and I just happened to see the chat, and he was Alex.
Ana: How could you stoop so low! Nobody should look at anyone else’s computer. It’s like no man should ever look in a woman’s handbag. It’s just not done!
Magdalena: All is fair in love and war!
Ana: Yes, you keep saying that, and the more I hear it, the less convinced I am that it’s true. If James ever looks in your handbag, which I am sure he won’t, don’t come running to me!
Magdalena: He would never do that!
Ana: No, he wouldn’t because he is a nice person! Much nicer than …!
Ana: … than some people I know . But if the cap fits… Anyway, you and Alex are getting on very well, are you? Virtually, I mean.
Magdalena: Yes, but it’s more than virtual. I have persuaded him to meet me tomorrow evening. We have a date.
Ana: But he’ll recognise you straightaway!
Magdalena: In my long blonde wig? (She fetches the bag from the sofa and takes out an enormous blonde wig, which she puts on)
Magdalena: Yes! And my scarlet T shirt! (Ana shakes her head as Magdalena takes the clothes from the bag, one by one.) My tight scarlet T shirt! (She holds it up.)
Ana: Your what?
Magdalena: And my green mini-skirt! With long blue socks and purple trainers!
Ana: Is that all?
Magdalena: Yes, that’s all. (Worried) Is it enough?
Ana: It’s far too much! But you’re right. He’ll never recognize you! I would never recognize you!
You must send me a selfie!
Magdalena: Anyway, he has never really looked at me all the times we’ve been together. Even if I dressed normally, he wouldn’t recognize me! And that’s very annoying! I do like to be looked at! And even if he does find out it is me, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Ana: It would give him a terrible shock.
Magdalena: That’s just what he needs!
Ana: Well, I still don’t think it’s a good idea. Where are you going to meet him?
Magdalena: At that new place in Welsh Back by the river. Falsetto’s, it’s called.
Ana: Good luck then, but you’re playing with fire.
Magdalena: I hope so! We’ll see what happens next!
Thursday evening. James’ flat
Henry is sitting on a long white leather sofa. James hands him a beer.
Henry: What’s this?
James: It’s San Miguel. It’s a Spanish beer. Go on! It won’t hurt you! You may even like it! Anyway. I have news!
Henry: (bored) Good or bad?
James: Good, I think. Yes. Very good, in fact. My love life, which has been, admittedly, a little erratic at times, has taken a turn for the better. I have met a fantastic woman!
Henry: A fantastic woman? That sounds ominous! And what’s her name? This fantastic woman.
James: It’s April.
Henry: It’s what?
James: April! It’s April, just like the month! You’ve heard of April, haven’t you?
Henry: Yes, and I’ve heard of December too. Thank goodness she isn’t called December. Just imagine, ‘I’d like you to meet December, December Smith!’ You say you’ve met her?
James: (Proudly) Oh yes. (Hesitantly)Well, I have met her online
Henry: You have what? Online! Look, James, this sort of thing, this dating on line, is so dangerous. You go on and on chatting night after night, all very easy, all very cosy, a lovely relationship, but it’s false! It’s the house that is built on sand, James! Steer well clear of it! Don’t touch it with a barge pole!
James: But we are not going to go on and on chatting.
Henry: What do you mean?
James: We’re going to meet up. Tomorrow!
Henry: Really James. Now you’re rushing things! Anyway, she probably won’t turn up. You’ll be left sitting like an idiot on your own at a table for two! That’s one of the worst things that can happen to anyone! This April is probably some elderly lady with grey hair and a walking stick who just wants company.
James: Elderly ladies with grey hair and walking sticks do not join online chats!
Henry: You’d be surprised!
James: Anyway, April has sent me her photo. She is not elderly! She’s young and she has blonde hair. She looks fantastic.
Henry: Fantastic. Yes, that’s what you said before. She’ll be well into middle age, whatever that means today, and when you meet her, she’ll say she uploaded a photo of her daughter by mistake.
James: Then I’ll say I want to meet her daughter!
Henry: You don’t know the reaction of a woman when you say you want to meet her daughter! Well, you go, but on our own head be it! Where are you meeting her?
James: Oh, one of those new places on Welsh Back down by the waterfront. Soprano’s, it’s called.
Henry: Falsetto’s, you mean.
James: That’s it! I knew it was something to do with singing.
Henry: Well, I’ll have my mobile with me. If things turn difficult, give me a call. I don’t like it one bit!
James: You’re just jealous, Henry! It’ll be a turning point in my life. Just you wait and see.
Friday evening. In Falsetto’s.
Magdalena goes in, dressed normally, and carrying a large bag. She sees James already sitting at a table. James sees her and tries to hide behind the menu. He is sitting there, with the menu held up in front of him, as Magdalena comes up.
Magdalena: (Moving the menu to one side) James! What a pleasant surprise! I never thought I’d be meeting you tonight!
James: Ah. Hello Magdalena. How are you?
Magdalena: Oh I feel good tonight! I am ready for anything! Are you eating alone?
James: Er no. I’m waiting for someone, you see. They’ll be along soon, I expect.
Magdalena: They? Are there two of them?
James: Er no. I mean ‘she’. She’ll be along soon. I expect.
Magdalena: I see. Well, I’m sure she won’t come while I’m here. So I’ll go then and leave you in peace.
James: (He stands and shuffles his feet self-consciously). Yes. Right. Very nice to have seen you.
Magdalena: Yes, it was! Have a nice evening! Well, we’ll meet again sometime. Sometime soon! Goodbye!
Magdalena goes to the restaurant toilet, and, like Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire, takes the clothes from her bag and does a rapid change. She soon emerges as April with long, wavy blonde hair, bright red lipstick, tight, scarlet T-shirt, green mini-skirt, long blue socks and purple trainers.
James: (To himself) Well, I hate to admit it, but it looks as though Henry was right. She’s not coming. No one is coming. Not even an old lady with a walking stick! I’d better go. You can’t win them all.
He gets up and prepares to leave when Magdalena enters as April. James stands and welcomes her.
James: (Totally self-assured and at ease) That’s me! Great to see you! I was getting a bit worried!
Magdalena: I had trouble finding the place, but now I’m here! You recognized me?
James: Of course, I recognized you! The prettiest girl in the restaurant! It was easy!
Magdalena: I have a feeling that we’re going to get along!
James: I’m sure of it! Now to important things! What are you drinking?
Magdalena: I’ll start with a gin and tonic, and then I’ll continue with gin and tonic!
James: Well, that’s decisive. You know your own mind!
Magdalena: Oh yes, I think you’ll find that I know my own mind!
James: (Calling the waiter) A gin and tonic and a pint of Guinness, please.
Meanwhile, Henry, with his mobile in his hand, is patrolling the street outside Falsetto’s in case he is needed. Ana arrives.
Ana: Henry! What on earth are you doing here?
Henry: (Looking guilty) Oh, hello Ana. What a pleasant surprise! Small world, isn’t it!
Ana: What on earth are you doing here?
Henry: Well I was doing some work at home and…I came out for some air.
Henry: And a beer and a meal and …so on. What about you?
Ana: Oh somebody told me about this place and I was curious and so I thought I’d try it out.
Henry: Ah, right. Shall we go in together then?
Ana: In here? In this restaurant?
Henry: Yes, in here. You wanted to try it out, didn’t you?
Ana: Oh yes. Right let’s go in.
Ana and Henry enter the restaurant together. The waiter takes them past the table where James and Magdalena are sitting. Henry looks apologetically at James as does Ana at Magdalena. They are taken to a table some way from James and Magdalena, but they can still see them.
Ana: That was James, wasn’t it!
Henry: I think it might have been. A distinct resemblance anyway.
Ana: It was him. And who is that woman?
Henry: The one with the yellow hair?
Ana: Yes, the one with the yellow hair. Who else? The one with the yellow hair and the scarlet T-shirt and the green miniskirt. They seemed to be having a very good time.
Henry: I’ve no idea. Never seen her before in my life. Probably a colleague from work. Another engineer. Probably talking about work, you know.
Ana: Ah yes. Very likely! (Looking at James and Magdalena) They seem to be getting on very well. For work colleagues, I mean.
Henry: Ah yes. Apparently there’s a very good atmosphere in the office.
Ana: (Sees James take Magdalena’s hand). Yes, a very good atmosphere!
James and Magdalena are getting on very well indeed, though from time to time James looks over his shoulder.
Magdalena: Why do you keep looking around? It’s almost as if you are afraid to see someone, or that someone might see you! Someone you know! How ridiculous!
James: Well, yes. It is ridiculous, but before you came I met someone I knew, and I have a feeling that she might appear again. It’s a sort of premonition!
Magdalena: Don’t be silly. If she was here, she’d come and talk to you, just like I’m doing. But you’re with me so forget all about her! If you’re so afraid of her, she must be very heavy-going!
James: No, she’s fine. She really is. But I just hope she doesn’t turn up right now.
Magdalena: She won’t! Not as long as I’m here!
James: No, I suppose not. But just to be sure, why don’t we move on to the White Hart? It’s not far away. It’s a great place for a drink.