Spuds were on, chicken was roasting, carpet was clean. They’d be here any minute and Ruth really didn’t know why she was so nervous.
Rachel had brought boys home before; nice lads, all beardless blushes and polite smiles, each smooth, nervous face blending seamlessly into the next, a string of Johns, Dans, Daves and Christophers.
But Rachel seemed really taken with Ocean. She said he was really authentic, whatever that meant. She’d phoned the night before to make sure she wouldn’t wear something embarrassing and that Elly wouldn’t get in the way. She didn’t want Ocean thinking they were lazy or poor or stupid.
So Ruth had splashed out on the chicken from the supermarket, Elly happily engaged with garish glove puppets on TV and the house was as immaculate as five hours’ cleaning could get it.
The doorbell rang.
“Rachel. love, welcome home. You must be Ocean, come in, sorry, my husband’s away - gallstones it is, so he’s up the hospital. He’s sorry he couldn’t meet you.”
“Mum stop fussing”
“Sorry, love sorry. Sit down. Chicken’s in the oven. Ready in about ten minutes.”
Ocean cooly scanned the room “Don’t eat chicken. Sorry. Biggest contributing factor to climate change, the meat industry. Barbaric.”
The sentence hung in the air for a second. That voice, that accent he sounded like someone from Radio 4. Ruth broke the silence.
“Sorry, Ocean, love, I didn’t realise. We’ll just have some nice veggies instead then, is it?”
Ocean didn’t speak, but he did sit at the table and Ruth took that for agreement. She poured them all a glass of chilled Blue Nun.
Over dinner Ocean explained that Ruth’s TV, her lifestyle, her clothes, her food were all basically destroying the planet, that people like her were just making everything worse.
“Those hailstones in Texas last month? Size of cars, some of them. People died. But if everyone just did their bit the world would be a better place. With just a few tweaks even you could make a huge difference.”
Ruth nervously hid her chicken under her cabbage and stammered something apologetic. Rachel was gazing at Ocean with undisguised adoration.
“After Uni, Mum, me and Ocean are going to India. He says we can buy clothes and jewellery there for basically nothing and then sell them for, like, ten times as much at Glastonbury. He says people will pay more for them because they’re authentic.”
“But isn’t flying bad for -”
“Mum!” hissed Rachel, glaring. Ruth closed her mouth, confused. Hadn’t David Attenborogh said something about flying being bad for the environment? Maybe Ocean would be interested in the programme. She had recorded it off of Sky -
But Ocean couldn’t stay long after dinner. He finished the Blue Nun, sparked up a Marlborough and hugged Ruth goodbye.
“Thanks for the food Mrs Davies. Think about what I said won’t you? Next time I’ll bring some authentic quinoa I had imported from Peru. I think you’ll love it.”
“Keen-who? Oh him from The Matrix? Do you know him then? That would be exciting wouldn’t it, Rachel?”
Rachel rolled her eyes and Ocean just smiled, patting her shoulder before the two of them clambered into Ocean’s enormous, ancient VW campervan and chuntered down the road in a cloud of authentic black smoke.