I drove to Charlie's new abode in fashionable SE3 and manouvered my way around the complicated landscaping until I found her "house" - she quite likes the whole institutional feel of the complex as it reminds of her of her boarding school and her "house" there - although she couldn't have liked it that much as she tried to set fire to it twice. But that's another story.
"I'm so looking forward to this evening!" Charlie said as she tossed salad with gay abandon, put some sesame seeds into the oven for toasting and cracked open a bottle of Elderflower wine. It was actually nice to see Charlie without a) weeping on her shoulder or b) being inundated with "helpful" leaflets from the Top London Hospitals Psych Department. "Let me just go and get the cake in from the car" I said, opening the flat door and heading out into the expensively scented communal hallway only to find myself in pitch darkness. "The light switch is helpfully at the door end of the corridor...." said a voice immediately behind me. I paced forward and found the switch and flipped it just in time to hear the door to Charlie's flat go "click". She looked at me, I looked at her. "Oh fuck!" we both said in unison.
A quick summing up concluded that
- we were locked out
- with no keys
- and no mobile phones
- with no windows open
- and the oven was on, toasting sesame seeds
- with candles flickering merrily on the mantlepiece, table centre and window ledge
- Charlie had no shoes on and was wearing a fetching apron
Okay, said I, keep calm. Charlie gazed at me in wonderment and said "How can I keep calm? We are LOCKED out, with NO keys, and no MOBILES and my NEW FLAT is about to be burned down by CANDLES and the OVEN!!!!!" "It'll be fine" I said, stroking her arm as if she were a nervy thoroughbred."Who's got your spare keys?" I asked, feeling momentarily smug that had she given me her spare set as I think I suggested when she moved in, we would be out of this mess in around half an hour - the time it would take me to drive home and back. There was no point in ringing anyone - especially David who would panic and never let either of us forget it if he had to come and "rescue" us.
"My brother" she said, eyes huge in her face. "Your brother that lives in Esher or your brother that lives in Sittingbourne?" "Matthew!" Bugger, the one that lives in Sittingbourne. Not that either were five minutes away. "Have you left a set with a neighbour?" I demanded. "No, I don't know them." came the small reply as she threw herself at the front door. "What are you doing?" I snapped. "Listening for flames" she whimpered. I suggested, in withering tones, that I go outside and take a look through the window.
"We need an emergency locksmith" I said, pacing the expensively scented corridor and wondering why the hell, if The Management could provide pot pourri for the hallways, they couldn't provide a light switch closer to the flat doors. I banged on the door opposite whilst Charlie hopped from foot to foot. To be fair, her immediate neighbour wasn't remotely fazed to have a snivelling woman beg for access to his Broadband and a phone while some bolshy cow prowled round outside the House in search of open windows to Charlie's flat. When I returned from my prowl (firstly checking on the candle situation) Charlie had a glass of wine in her hand and was sitting on the stairs.
An hour and sixy five quid later, we were back in the flat, on the sofa with Charlie vowing never to leave the flat ever again. She'd had some good advice from her neighbour ("always flick the catch up and/or take your keys with you") and from the locksmith ("always make sure you have a spare set of keys somewhere close") and was frantically stuffing freshly cooked pizza into her face.
"How were you so.....calm?" she demanded of me, as she clutched her aching head.
I'm always calm when other people have a crisis - I'm a complete fruit loop when it comes to my own and would have been climbing the walls had I been Charlie tonight. But I tell you what.....it did take me out of myself and I've been feeling so much better since.
And Charlie dropped her spare set of keys off this afternoon, along with a request that I tell no-one what happened. Now....would I?!