Sunday morning, I am in bed and actually biting my crimson nails in frustration. Why? Well, listen to the story…
Not long into the week, I was visited by a sudden urge to go for a luxuriously hand pampering treatment and manicure and as I had just left Harvey Nichols, I called Space.NK in Knightsbridge for an emergency appointment. A delicious hour in hand-spa-heaven later, I emerged with soft-as-a-baby’s-fuzz hands and provocatively crimson nails. Of course, I had no inkling what those nails would do for me…
It happened on Thursday.
I was just about to enter the Halkin in Belgravia to enjoy a girls’ night out at nahm with my friends Carla and Justine, when I dropped my clutch. I hastened to pick it up, afraid it could burst and spill my girl’s handbag secrets onto the crowded street, when my beautifully manicured hand met with that of a stranger. He had picked it up (it had thankfully not revealed its contents) and, with a slight curve of his lips, handed it to me.
I had barely time to thank him before I was swept into the entrance hall and lost sight of him.
A spectacularly Thai meal and a few bottles of Chardonnay later, we left in high spirits to go on to Nozomi for a Nashi-caramel Martini (seriously, if you like sweet things, you must try this delicious concoction!). I had quite forgotten about the stranger and was happily chatting away with my girls, when the waitress appeared and handed me a small crème-coloured envelope.
It was addressed to: The Lady with the Crimson nails
Bewildered I took the envelope, muttering my thanks, and for a heartbeat I stared at it. Excitement flooded me. It had been quite a while since someone had approached me in such a mysterious way and my curiosity had been piqued.
The envelope contained a small folded piece of expensive stationary, the top of which was embossed with an unfamiliar crest. Holding my breath, I opened it. The thick, smooth parchment contained just one line.
“Saturday, 8pm – where we met today”
I spun round to locate the sender of the mysterious note, but didn’t recognise anybody. Although the remainder of the evening passed in a blur of Martinis, giggles and girls’ talk, my mind couldn’t stop dwelling on the proprietor of the crème-coloured stationary… who was he?
I spent the best part of the week shopping all my favourite haunts for the single best ‘secret date’ dress in London. After changing my mind so many times that not only the most patient shop assistant but also my faithful Kate was utterly confused, I settled on a gorgeous Alexander McQueen brocade dress.
Filled with anticipation and excitement, I hailed a cab to take me back to the Halkin on Saturday. My hair tied loosely at my nape, I was sporting the new frock, which beautifully silhouetted my slender frame, high sling back peep-toes and a short black leather jacket. To top the look off, I had applied dramatically black Mascara, nude lipgloss and – of course – crimson fingernails.
(Now, this goes against all my rules when it comes to first dates. We all know that we should dress down rather than up on these occasions – never underestimate what your effort tells about you! Oh but, this date sounded so exotic, so exciting that I simply couldn’t curb my enthusiasm…)
I had timed my arrival for ten minutes past, not wanting to appear overly eager but afraid that my stranger wouldn’t wait if I came much later. Surely, I turned heads when I got out of the car; but the mysterious sender of the note wasn’t there…
I was on the verge of losing my painstakingly gathered nerve, when a dark-liveried, white-gloved gentleman valet approached me, bowed slightly and asked me follow him into the hotel. My heart pounding, I stepped into the elevator with him and drove up to the top-floor suite. I was ushered into an elegant white sitting room (my interior-design loving heart was leaping) and there, with the back to me, head bent over a large book was my stranger.
Turning round he smiled at me.
He was in his forties, a good looking man with an aquiline nose, olive skin and black hair that was beginning to grey at his temples. He strolled over to me and took my hand. Looking down at my crimson fingernails for a moment he said “It is a great pleasure to see you again. My name is Leon de Meiras.”
With an elegant movement of his hand he invited me to sit and the white-gloved valet opened a bottle of champagne with a soft pop. Slightly dazed and not entirely convinced what I was stumbling into, I sat and accepted a glass.
However, Leon turned out to be an attentive, entertaining host and after a short while of sipping champagne and light conversation, I started to feel relaxed. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
When the light began to fade, lanterns were lit on the roof terrace and I noticed that a table had been set for dinner outside. Soon, a waiter brought up a cart with silver domed plates and Leon gracefully offered his arm. We had been discussing horses, apparently one of Leon’s favourite pastimes and we spend the best part of another delicious nahm dinner amicably arguing about the best breeds.
It must have been well past midnight, when – as spontaneous as our conversation had begun – it ceased. Leon had lit a cigar and was absentmindedly sipping from a tumbler of scotch. Suddenly, I felt the cold creeping up my back and despite the several glasses of champagne and wine I had drunk, I felt uncomfortably awkward. What now?
Quite abruptly I stood up and gathered my bag and jacket. Leon got to his feet, too and regarded me with slightly raised eye-brows. “Let me call you a car,” he said. “You look fatigued.” He nodded at his valet and escorted me back through the beautifully decorated suite to the door. There he stood for a moment absorbed in thought. “It was the crimson, you know,” he said gently.
Before I had time to ponder my own feelings, I was back in a cab and on my way to Kings Road. A five minute drive later, I arrived home, still confused. He hadn’t even tried to kiss me…
Oh, why had I panicked? Had I ruined something potentially great? Who was this mysterious stranger, for I hadn’t actually found out more than his name and passion for horses – not even his number. Leon de Meiras…
When I checked with the Halkin earlier this morning, he had gone. Did I mess it up? And will I ever see him again?
xx Sophie (in bed agonising over lack of courage)
Having skidded headlong into my thirties, completely unprepared for what was expecting me, has probably been the best that has ever happened to me. Dating has never been more intriguing - life has never been more amazing! Laugh and cry with me on my way through the often fantastic and sometimes abysmal London dating scene…View all Sophie posts.