After six months as a single man I began to develop a relationship with a woman from the office called Emma. I was a low-ranking employee; Emma was in the company’s top three. We started talking for the first time at one of my rare appearances at a work outing. I had noticed Emma at work but we had never spoken. She was, in effect, my boss and I assumed that she was far too good-looking and talented for me.
However, the look in her eye and the occasional smile led me to believe that we might get on well. After a shy ‘hello’ I began to chat to her. All I could think of was incidental conversation such as how loud the jukebox was, the smoky atmosphere of the pub. She didn’t look particularly interested.
As I was about to give up she leaned across and shouted into my ear: ‘You used to be a plumber didn’t you?’ Grasping the chance, I began to boast of my plumbing expertise. Her sudden enthusiasm for the subject was explained by her recent plans for decorating her new flat, in particular the bathroom. My confidence grew and with it my plumbing achievements and knowledge of the skill.
Gradually our workmates drifted away and time was called at the bar. Deep in our conversation about grouting we moved on to a late-night wine bar and continued to bond over the option of antique or modern taps.
Over the next couple of weeks I spent more and more time at her flat, and as our romance blossomed she started to return to the subject of her bathroom and her desire to have it redone.
I knew she was well paid and assumed she would get some top designing plumber to come and do it for her. But I was wrong. She asked me and I panicked.
The truth was that I had only been a plumber’s mate and I had been sacked after three weeks, most of those spent lugging radiators and lengths of pipe up and down flights of stairs. In reality it was only a labouring job.
Emma wanted me to replace her suite with one similar to that in my own bathroom.Despite my desperate attempts to wriggle out of it with excuses of not having the right tools (she said she’d buy me new ones), the cost (she said no problem) or that I couldn’t take money from her (we’d go on holiday and she’d pay), I could see no way out.
Over the next week I read more books on plumbing, central heating, tiling and tongue-and-grooving than Handy Andy. Just when I thought my fate was sealed and I was on the verge of turning her bathroom into a leaking building site, I broke my arm. Not wanting to wait until my arm had healed Emma paid a professional to do the job – much to my relief.
Her bathroom is finished and my arm is out of plaster but I still haven’t confessed that I don’t know one side of a washer from the other. I live in fear that one day she might want to change the bathroom or she’ll get a leaky sink; for now I’ve got away with it.
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