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Chapter 2 – Maybe it’s because I’m no Londoner
I woke up first, so I emptied the fridge and the freezer for a final, if somewhat incoherent, breakfast. I boiled eggs, toasted bread, peeled oranges, the works. I could hear her stepping into the shower and by the time I had set the table and everything was ready, she appeared from the bathroom, wrapped in two towels. One over her chest, the other turban style over her head.
“I’m starving,” she said.
“It’s only a boiled egg, I’m sure you have a minute to get properly dressed.”
“You’re not dressed.”
I was indeed still in my undershirt and shorts, as I had yet to have my shower.
“True, but I am not one false move away from that towel unwrapping itself.”
“Oh, right,” she said, reaching for a wheat slice. “And then what. Tits. Like you’ve never seen those before.”
She buttered her bread, I peeled my egg. I’m not very good at that; I don’t often cook, so I’m not used to handling hot items. I was about to say ‘I don’t think I have ever seen your breasts’, but that would only lead to flashing and as far as I was concerned, last night’s episode had been weird enough.
There are two Dutch breakfast items you can never do without once you get used to them: the many varieties of chocolate sprinkles we have to put on our bread and proper cheese. Cheddar comes close, but we do cheese like nobody else. Kate had to go without that quite often (not to mention proper bread; our whole wheat bread is much better than anywhere else, too) and although starting your day with sugar and chocolate is a bad habit, it is probably no worse than having breakfast cereal coated with sugar in funny colours. At any rate, this was a treat for her.
“If you have unopened cartons, bring them along. In fact, tape this one shut and bring it, too. It’s only half empty,” Kate said, waving a box of chocolate sprinkles in my general direction. “And I’m finishing that cheese.”
“Please do. Shall I also pack a carton of Dutch milk or…”
She just gave me a sarcastically mimed laugh, her open mouth filled with chewed bread and chocolate sprinkles. For the full effect, she also moved her shoulders. Her towel slipped open and fell to the back of her chair.
Like I’ve said, I had never seen her breasts. Well, I had seen the outline, obviously, and I saw them when she was as flat as I am, at age six or so. But now I got the full frontal. They weren’t exactly going to cause her back problems, but they were very nicely proportioned. I liked her nipples: she hardly had any areolae but there were two massive red buttons, like toothpaste caps.
“Told you,” I said, pretending to be focussed on buttering my sandwich. She halfheartedly grabbed the towel, covered herself up and then got up from her chair. As she turned around, I also saw her naked body from behind. She was perfect, particularly her behind. Automatic filters that come as standard in every decent brother averted my eyes, but not before I had noticed how her bottom was so firm, I caught a glimpse of her pussy in the space between her thighs. Holy shit, imagine her bending over… OR DON’T, SHE IS YOUR SISTER YOU FREAK!
She stepped into the bathroom, still chewing, and emerged in that Lisa Simpson shirt. Had we been married, this would have been perfectly normal. But if your kid sister does this… Yeah, kinda weird.
“If we can swing by a supermarket, there is some stuff I’d like to stock up on,” she said, sitting down again.
“Isn’t it a bit expensive to go grocery shopping and then take it with you as luggage?”
“I can bring a suitcase and a bag, so why not? I’ve only got my carry-on. You can fill two suitcases, one for yourself and one on me. Plus your own carry-on.”
“Two suitcases? How long am I staying?”
“Indefinitely, I hope. Look, just pack all your stuff. I’ll help you. But I’m sure we can fit in a few cartons of sprinkles. Oh and Speculoos, drop, bitterkoekjespudding… and rookworst.”
Speculoos is a paste that looks a bit like dark peanut butter, but made with the taste of Dutch spiced cookies that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s sugar and fat, essentially. Drop is liquorice, bitterkoekjespudding is powdered pudding that tastes like almonds (but not quite, or she’d get that) and rookworst is a smoked sausage we like to eat in winter. Goes well with kale and potato stew.
“That’s it? No potatoes?” I said, mocking her. It’s very Dutch to take all this with you on vacation. The funniest thing a Belgian can imagine is the sight of a Dutch caravan along the side of the road, pulled over because it is so overloaded with sprinkles and potatoes, the tyre bumps against the wheel well. I’ve had more than one classmate in my life come back from summer vacation with this exact story.
Kate helped me pack my bags. I do this three to four times a year, for business trips and vacations, so I consider myself an experienced traveller. After seeing Kate do it, I revised my escort bayan opinion. She packed her bags several times a week and she was fantastic at it. She’d be revered as a God in Japan, I was sure. I didn’t have many clothes but I certainly had two suitcases worth, since one of my sweaters alone is fairly substantial. She managed to fit it all in one and a quarter suitcases, leaving space for more than a few personal items to take with me. And then I had a travel bag left over as cabin baggage! My life. In two suitcases. With room to spare.
“It’s too heavy,” I warned her, leaning against the bedroom doorframe.
“I’ll pay extra. Trust me, this is no problem. I’m KLM Elite, I can bring a piano to check-in and they’ll put a sticker on it. I have, in fact, had to do that once. Fucking Elton Fucking John.”
She also discarded quite a few items of clothing, including several pieces I thought to be perfectly fine.
“Put this in a trash bag, we’ll find one of those collection bins for charity. That tie is horrible, are you aware there is such a thing as a war crime tribunal these days? These socks are shiny. How is that even possible? Only cheap, nasty polyester type socks are shiny. Socks should be made from wool, you doink. These pants, oh my God… You are not getting laid in these pants. Out. These jeans have a stain on them… What do you mean it’s only small, there is no such thing! These shoes, are you kidding? This won’t match with anything… Put on this shirt. NOW. Yeah… thought so. If you do decide to run away and join the circus, you’ll just have to find a new one. Shiny knees… Worn out collar… Worn out cuffs… Oh dear God, JUST NO… This is okay, I bought this for you didn’t I? In 2010, I believe.”
I just smiled as she was fussing. Kate has always made me happy. She’s a concentrated bundle of jokes, love and positive energy and what I like best about her is that she has been determined, from day one, to have a good bond with me. Kate and I never fought, she was always on my side (and I’ve been known to be wrong a few times) and she has always simply demanded to be part of my life. Monique was never too pleased about that, but Kate never cared. She’d sometimes call me on Skype when I was at work and if I was busy she would make me leave the connection open as she was reading a book, simply because she felt like having me around for a while. I’d have grown up pretty bitter about women (and I have, to a certain extent) without Kate. I’ve always wondered what I had done to deserve her and never felt I could give enough back.
I wasn’t very good company, for a start. Shy, lonely, bitter, sarcastic. And Kate didn’t really need to be loved by me, as the rest of the world also loved her. She could turn to anyone for a hug, really. But I needed her. Only when Monique came into my life and initially gave me all that affection plus the things a sister can’t, did I finally turn into a pleasant person to be with. Kate never really had the best version of me in her life, but she simply didn’t care.
We did indeed stop at a supermarket for supplies and we also found a dumpster where used clothes could be donated to charity. I parked my car on a quiet street near a railway station along the Schiphol railway line so I’d be able to get to it whenever I decided to come back, then joined her in her rental. We dropped it off at Avis and eventually we were on board a KLM flight to Heathrow.
I detest Heathrow. It is not so much an airport as it is an elaborate hate crime against mankind, in my opinion. I’ve spent hundreds of euros extra on tickets in my life just so I wouldn’t have to go through Heathrow, simply because it is such an appalling place. But if you’re only arriving there and don’t need to make a connection, it is just about bearable.
On the other hand, I do love London. It’s the only major city I actually enjoy visiting, though that wasn’t on the cards the last few years. I know my way around, which is why I turned right and headed for the Underground.
“Are you kidding?” asked Kate. “I’ve booked a cab.”
That is a luxury I hardly ever afford myself. My company had done very well for a time and my employees had no trouble at all using taxis when they were on business trips, but I’ve always found them extravagant. Using public transport makes you get a better sense of where you are, I’ve always told myself. And it set a good example. But Kate was adamant.
“Elliott’s Row, South Bank near Elephant & Castle” said Kate, once we were in the car.
“That’s London, right?” said the cab driver without even turning to look at us. I laughed. I’m Dutch through and through but I do love the British. All flavours of them, too. They’re quite weird and they get a few things wrong, but the sense of humour that I often miss in other countries always feels like a warm bath here. It’s everywhere. Not every Englishman is Oscar Wilde obviously, (not even him: he was Irish), but they draw on a massive cultural tuzla genç escort reservoir to make their jokes. You have to be well read to understand all of them. I once overheard two businessmen talking about their CEO, a guy that looked suspiciously young given his actual age. He must have had Botox injected and his hair dyed, at least.
“Think he’s got a painting in his cellar,” said one, softly. The other just nodded solemnly. I laughed out loud, not just because I got the reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray but because these men made a seemingly innocuous remark that you’d only ever understand if you knew that book. They do this all the time and I really enjoy trying to catch them at it. It’s not something the Dutch, the Germans or even the Belgians would ever do, referring to literature for a joke. And now our driver, using only three perfectly polite words, had managed to convey he was deeply insulted someone in his cab deigned to give him directions. A proper cabbie knows all twenty-five thousand streets in London, plus about twenty thousand landmarks. It takes him about five years on average to learn them, which he’ll have done by driving around the city on a motorbike for months on end. About twelve appearances for the exam are needed before someone finally passes. At that point, you’ve earned the right to politely scoff when someone gives you directions.
Number 43 Elliott’s Row, in the borough of Southwark, isn’t much to look at. It’s on a long, narrow street with not a tree in sight. There’s parking to only one side, or it would be too narrow to drive through at all. One side of the street has fairly nice orange brick houses, four or five floors high. These units will easily go for a million pounds or more, which is cheapish in London. You can fit 4 apartments in them. Kate lived on the other side of that street, where the houses were brown or greyish, having once been yellow but now covered in soot and grime. These houses have tiny little front gardens, just big enough for a few rubbish bins, a bike, some flowers and possibly a chair. Not that there is ever any sun in that street, the buildings are too high and it lines up North to South. These are single family homes and by London standards you did well if you ended up there. It’s just a short walk from Elephant & Castle, which sounds hilarious but it’s just an Underground (or ‘tube’) station on the Bakerloo and Northern lines. There’s not an elephant or indeed a castle in sight, apart from one hideous statue which is sponsored by the Colourblind Society. I didn’t see a plaque, but it can’t be from anyone else. It used to be bronze and was an eyesore even then, looking like a toddler’s idea of a chess piece. Then they painted it, which made it worse. It’s pink.
On a related note: if you need to pee, don’t head towards Shepherd’s Bush hoping to pee behind that bush, as my dad once did.
Not many people who do proper work in London, such as bus drivers and street sweepers, can actually afford to live there, but middle class people could just about manage, though having a roommate is very common. Kate had once been someone’s roommate in this apartment (which she calls a ‘flat’, though that’s the word we use for a big apartment building in Dutch, so it confuses me) and when that person moved out, she was given the chance to buy it for a very good price. Just because she had been a nice roommate, she got it for tens of thousands of pounds less than the seller might have gotten. That’s Kate for you. Everybody loves Kate. My father helped her with the loan, but soon she started making so much money she paid off most of it in about four years. What remains of her debt is just enough to qualify for some tax breaks.
I had only ever been there twice, both times during very brief business trips to London. The first time was when the roommate, or flatmate as Kate called her, was still there. The last time was about three years ago, as I recall. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but then very few houses do compared to mine. Or what used to be mine, I should say. Monique and I had a lovely villa, tucked away in the woods around Utrecht, in a small village called Soest. It was massive compared to this. Four bedrooms. Two bathrooms. Double garage. Big pond. Tea house. The first time I saw Kate’s flat, I felt kind of sad for her. Now I was glad she was doing so well.
“Welcome to your new home,” she said, when I had brought in the last bag. She began to turn on the lights and the central heating. The front door is under a small archway, flanked by two columns. That is a tad grandiose for such a grimy house, but the entire street has them. Behind that door is a deep hallway that leads to a kitchen at the rear of the house. There is a stairway upstairs that is slightly narrower and steeper than the fold-out ladder I had to pull down to reach the attic in my villa. Upstairs has a bedroom and a bathroom. There’s another set of stairs and then you have one open space tuzla kendi evi olan escort that is her office, her wardrobe and her general storage area. You can hardly set foot in there, except to walk to her desk. The grand tour took 3 minutes and was mainly about the taps and how the water never got properly hot.
The place didn’t look very good. It was clean and tidy, but that was about all that could be said for it. It needed a lot of paint, wallpaper, some laminate floors, new carpets and probably the Corps of Royal Engineers to fix all that plumbing.
“So where do you want me?” I asked, when we were on that top floor. I was hoping there’d be another room I had missed.
“Anywhere is fine,” she said, and started to unpack her own luggage. “That closet is mostly empty, I’ll clean it out for you. Don’t worry, let me do it. Just bring up that suitcase.”
“Yes, I rather meant… Where do I sleep?”
She stared at me as if I’d just asked her what year it was.
“Bedroom. What did you think?”
“What bedroom? There is only one! Where did you sleep when there were two of you?”
“Here. This attic was my room. I didn’t have so much stuff then, obviously. That was five years ago, or something.”
“I can’t sleep here. I can hardly stand here.”
She took my hand and led me downstairs, as if I were a particularly dense toddler. We stepped into her bedroom.
“Here. Bedroom. Big bed, twice the size of what you had in the gingerbread house.”
“I’ll be here for days!”
“Weeks, more like. Look Martin, stop making such a fuss. What did you expect, the Hyatt? I’m hardly ever here so you’ll have this bed to yourself most days. I don’t think I’ll be in the way, given that I’m half your size, I don’t snore and I won’t be bringing home any boys. Are you okay sharing a bathroom or shall I have the builders come and do us another floor?”
I just moped.
“You don’t seem to be using the desk much,” I finally said. “If we get rid of that, I can put an air mattress there.”
“Don’t be like that. You slept in a bed with… her, didn’t you?”
“So this is exactly the same. We won’t have sex either. And if you need to have a wank, you can just wait until I’m out or step into the bathroom. This house doesn’t have walls made out of rice paper, you’ll be alright. Now, I’m going to unpack your stuff and hide my handcuffs and ball gag. Why don’t you go to that Tesco across from the tube station, it’s a five minute walk. Get us something to eat. Check my cabinets before you go, though I’d be amazed if you found anything in them other than a dead spider.”
And with that she bustled me out of the room. I stood there for a second and then decided a walk would do me good, because this was just too weird. I had a look in her kitchen and found only basics such as salt, sugar and oil. As I was about to leave, she shouted from upstairs:
“Are you okay for money?”
“Yes, I can use my Dutch bank card here. Where’s your shopping bag?”
“You get free plastic ones here, you dolt. Don’t go on wooden shoes either.”
“Right. What would you like to eat?”
“Not that bachelor dog food at your house. Bring home some salad, some dry pasta and some sauce at the very least. Go nuts, we need to restock for a few days don’t we?”
“By your command,” I said, sounding like Lucifer from the original Battlestar Galactica. We used to watch reruns of that together. Kate picked up the basics of English by watching subtitled shows with me and asking me about certain words. One of her special requests to me was to speak like Lucifer, a despicably immoral advisor to the show’s villain. It’s not much of an impersonation, but she was only eight or nine at the time. I heard her laughing upstairs. Who wouldn’t come back to that laugh?
I carried home three heavy bags of groceries, figuring we were pretty much out of anything up to and including toilet paper. I wasn’t far off. I’m not a great cook, but by that point I had been living alone for a while so I know a few tricks and one of them is a really rather nice chicken and broccoli pasta in a lemon cream sauce. If I ever had a date again in my life and she came home with me, this is what I’d cook.
Kate had unpacked everything and cleared some space in the bathroom as well. She seemed to be in a serious mood when I walked in, but the fact I had bought so much seemed to please her.
“Well done. How much did you spend?”
“I’d have bought groceries back home too, you know.”
“Not this much. And you got the proper stuff I see. Are you making lemon chicken!?”
“Yes, I hoped you’d like that.”
She hugged me, which was unexpected and also a bit inconvenient as I was trying to put something in a raised cabinet. In fact, one of my arms was up.
“So you’re staying? I looked at you skulking down the street from the upstairs window, I figured you might not come back.”
I put away the packet of rice and hugged her back. It was a brief hug, we weren’t in an American sitcom or anything.
“I’m staying. I’ll be a better guest, I promise. I just feel like I’m imposing so much, even sleeping in your bed. As a big brother, I’d rather be taking care of you than the other way around.”
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