| Amanda's Wedding |
By Jenny Colgan
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Most of the really messy things in life don't actually have a beginning-they kind of bear down on you over years, like the consequences of not cleaning your bathroom floor (stickiness, cholera, etc.).
This one did, though. It definitely did, and I remember it extremely clearly. Well, in a fuzzy kind of way.
Thank Godit was my bed. So, one, I was actually in a bed; and two, it was mine. I was beating the odds already. I prized open one very sticky eye and attempted to focus it, to try to work out where the smell was coming from. I appeared to be jammed between the wall and an extremely large and unidentifiable chunk of flesh.
The chunk of flesh was connected to lots of other chunks, all in the right order: But I didn't notice this until after I'd sat bolt upright in terror at a potential Godfather-type situation in my bed.
Everything seemed weirdly out of proportion. Maybe I was still drunk. I pawed at the sticky stuff at the corners of my eyes. No, something was still very wrong.
An inappropriate hand was slung across me. It appeared to be about the size of my stomach, and my stomach is not renowned for its tininess.... A thought began to worm its way into my head.
I knew that thought and tried to avoid it for as long as possible, but alongside my hangover voice that was howling, Fluid! Fluid! the thought whispered, Oh, my God... it's Nicholas... again! I grimaced like I'd just swallowed something nasty, which, let's face it, I probably had.
Slowly creeping my way off the end of the futon, and feeling worse and worse, I crawled into the kitchen in search of aspirin and Diet Coke. Fran, of course, was lying in wait. She didn't live here, but she made herself more at home than I did. Her own place was a three-foot-square studio that induced immediate Colditz fever, so I'd got used to her wandering in and out.
"Good morning!" trilled Fran, bright and breezy. She must have been putting it on. Through a strange fogwhich I supposed was the alcohol in my system filling me right up to the eyesshe actually looked quite good. I couldn't focus on her mass of fuzzy hair, but I did notice that she was wearing one of my T-shirts, not quite covering thighs that didn't even meet in the middle. I hated that.
I summoned all my energy to pipe, "Hello!"
"No, no, absolutely fine. I've just suddenly developed a taste for a half bottle of warm flat Coke, okay?"
There was a pause. Then she said, "I take it you'll be wanting two glasses?"
"Aaaaaaargh!" I put my head down on the kitchen unit.
"Mel. Mel Mel Mel Mel Mel!"
Fran backed away.
"I know, I know, I know," I admitted. "Oh, my God. Shit. Shit! I think maybe I'll just move, starting now."
"In a towel?"
"You're rightall my clothes are in my bedroom, and I'm never going in there again! Why don't I start a fire?"
"Well, it's a bit risky, and I don't think Nicholas would fit in a fire engine."
"That's okay! He could die! In fact, that would be good!" Fran poured us both a cup of tea and looked sorrowfully at me.
"Come on, don't worry. Look on the bright side."
"There's an eight-foot-tall accountant in my bed who smells like a polecat whom I have now woken up with twice, thus ruining any potential excuses, and you're telling me to look on the bright side?"
"Ehmm, how about... if you spill any tea on the towel, it won't matter, because you'll have a towel handy? Okay, then... ehmm ...it means you're not the type of girl who has one-night stands?"
"Oh God, what am I going to do? Is Linda around?" Linda was my dumpy flatmate. I saw her only about once a fortnight. Possibly she hid from me.
"She scuttled past about twenty minutes ago. She looked pretty tired. We might have been a bit noisy last night. Wasn't Nicholas trying to pretend he could play the trumpet?"
I grimaced. "That wasn't a trumpet."
Fran grimaced back at the memory. "Bloody Amanda!" she said. I nodded vehemently. Whenever anything really bad happened, Amanda was always mixed up in it somewhere.
Fran, Amanda, and I had gone to school together in Woking, one of those dreary endless London surburban towns, not city or country, just lots of people hanging round bus shelters wondering if they were missing something. I'd met Fran when she ran past our house at age four, chasing my older brother with a cricket bat.
Amanda lived next to us, and the three of us walked to school together for years, Amanda usually in possession of the latest Barbie doll outfits and extra sweets from the man at the corner shop with slightly dubious tendencies. Despite her blue eyes, strawberry blond ringlets, and general air of pinkness, she was pure evil and played Fran and me off against each other with the talent of a Medici poisoner.
Our biggest wish as children was to grow up famous and be on Celebrity Squares. Twenty years on we were all still following this wish: Fran in the time-honored method of going to drama school, then hanging about for years and years and years, usually round my flat. I'd decided to do it by marrying someone very handsome and famous. I kept a close eye on Hello magazine to check out when celebrities got divorced. However, Amanda trumped all of us totally while still at school by getting her dad to invent a new way of opening milk cartons or something and suddenly becoming utterly, stinking rich.
We didn't really notice at first, just that all through the last year of secondary school she kept sighing and talking about how boring everything wasbut then, we were teenage girls. Then we saw the new house, with the pool and the built-in bar, and realized something was seriously up. Her dad had left her mum by this stage and was too busy chasing totty our age to really care what we did, so we had big parties, shopped, and got tipsy in the new Jacuzzi with the gold taps: It was a fabulous year.
Eventually Fran went off to Central School of Drama to pretend to be a lizard for three years. Amanda was heading for Durham University, and not having much imagination, and rather less sense, I applied there, too.
I hardly recognized Amanda when we went up on the first day of freshmen weekmainly because her hair had changed color and she talked differently. She gave me a lift up in the open-topped sports car her dad had given her for getting accepted into the university and cut through the town like she owned it.
I knew when she dumped me in my eight-foot-square midden in the nasty students hall with damp running down the walls and shouted, "There you are, darling! See you around, yah?" that somehow things had changed. Things had. She never spoke to me again, except every six months when she'd condescend to take me out for a drink to remind me how wonderful everything was for her. I don't think it meant as much to her if she didn't have someone to look down on, and that was my job. I fell for it every time: The next day she'd ignore me in the corridor.
If things were fair, I reckoned, it would all go wrong for her one day. As things were, she got a good degree and as a result of her blondeness qualified for a job in PR and now got invited to lots of showbiz parties. I got a terrible degree, probably something to do with the bile marks on the paper, and ended up reading copy for a boring marketing company in Paddington.
But I still saw her. Every so often she'd phone, Fran and I would go see her, she'd gloat, and we'd get her to pay for all the drinks. And that's how it had started last night, when the phone rang.
I'd finally worked out that darling is PR code for inferior acquaintance.
She hated that.
"Listen, how about you and Francesca and I meet up for a drinky tonight?"
Tonight? As if we had nothing better to do.
"I have news!" she trilled.
"Oh no, this is definitely drinky kind of news."
"Okay. Fran!" Fran was lying on the sofa, drawing a mustache on herself.
"Fancy a drink with Amanda tonight?"
Fran made a snarling noise, shook her head violently, and contorted it into the face of a cougar, which apparently they teach you at drama school.
"Great," I said into the phone. "We'd love to. Where?"
"The Atlantic?" she simpered. No chance. Cocktails and nob ends. Plus she lived in posh North London and we lived in Kennington, one of the nice but scruffy ends of South London, so it was like trying to arrange an intergalactic alliance.
I parried with the Ship and Shovelboth dirty and potentially dangerous.
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Melanie. All right, the Ozone, then."
"I'll raise you to the Pitcher and Piano and no further."
There was a sigh on the end of the line. "Well, if you must," she pouted audibly, which had zero effect on me, as I don't have a penis.
"What did you do that for?" Fran groaned once I got off the phone. "She'll only have been promoted or been asked out by some poof in a West End musical or something."
"You never know," I said. "Maybe something's gone horribly wrong. Maybe she's up the duff by some sailors or something, and we, as her oldest friends, are the only ones who can truly comfort her. Heh heh heh."
"Did she have an up the duff voice on? Or perhaps a twee gloaty voice?"
I thought for a minute. "Ehmm, twee gloaty voice."
"Well, that's it, then. Sean Connery's son asked her to lunch or something. And we're going to have to listen to two boring hours of how fantastic everything is for her, and we'll be so bored we'll get accidentally drunk, then she'll drive off somewhere much more exciting completely sober and we'll stay and get totally plastered out of bitterness and self-loathing and hate ourselves for days."
"Uh-huh. So, what are we going to wear?"
Amanda flounced into the bar right on time. She was a four P's girlpert, pretty, petite, and prompt.
"Darlings, hi!" she crowed across the bar. I forgot: When she got posh, she also got loud. "White wine okay?"
"Special brew for us, Amanda," shouted Fran. "But in a glass." Amanda finally wandered over with the drinks after checking to see if she knew anyone, perched down on her perfect arse, and turned to us with a smile like a morning weathergirl.
"What's your news, then?" I asked helpfully.
"You'll never guess what, girls!"
"Ehm, you've won the lottery, for double world fairness? You're actually a man? You're pregnant by forty sailors?" Fran said the last bit under her breath.
"Oh, my God! Who to?" we yelled simultaneously.
"You know him, Mel. You rememberFraser McConald, from Durham."
"Fraser who?" said Fran.
But I remembered. Sweet, big, gentle Fraser, with the scraggy hair and old clothes. I'd fancied him madly, he'd ignored it, so I'd followed him around pretending to be his mate instead. For years. Not one of my proudest moments. God, did this girl have to win all the time? Fraser was... well, the pick of the bunch, as far as I was concerned.
"You and Fraser! Arse bastards!" I said. "And also I mean, Wow, you're getting married! Congratulations, that's wonderful! God, and quick!" Fraser never did anything quickly, I seemed to re-member. I had a flash of him mooching about the college, trying to find somewhere to sit down and stretch out his incredibly long legs. I was usually trailing about ten feet behind, just in case he dropped anything and I could pick it up for him.
"Oh, I know." She displayed the ring on her tiny finger. "He says I just swept him off his feet! Hee hee hee!"
Swept him off his feet? Or ran him over with a steamroller?
Fraser didn't even like being swept off his feet, I thought mutinously.
Fraser liked striding about in hills and reading Viz magazine and failing his engineering exams.
"I remember him," Fran said. "A couple of times when I came up. Lanky bloke. Lank. He didn't seem like your type."
"Yes, well," simpered Amanda.
"How did you meet him? Chess club?"
"No, actually, it was the funniest thing... I was purring..."
"What?" I said.
"Oh, my job, darling, you know."
"I was working for these clients in Edinburgh who are launching some ancient royal castles guide. Anyway, who should I see in the portfolio brochure but my old friend from Durham, Fraser." I didn't point out that she can't have said two words to him the whole time, as he blushed a lot and wore the same pair of Converse trainers every day for three years.
"Anyway, so I thought I'd go see him for a drink"
"Hang on," Fran interrupted. "What the hell was he doing in a brochure? Was it a brochure for Converse trainers?" Amanda tinkled her tinkly laugh. "No, actuallyand you'll think this just mad, me, little Amanda Phillips from Portmount Comprehensive...."
"What?" demanded Fran.
"Well, actually... he's a laird!"
I knew, though.
"Oh, I know, isn't it cute? Well, it's like a lord-only Scotch!"
"Is this true?" Fran looked at me.
"Ehm, I knew his uncle was. Maybe if his dad died, I suppose..." Amanda looked at me in shock. "Melanie, you knew all that time and you didn't tell me!"
"Amanda, you met him once at a party, and you said he smelled funny."
"Noo, that can't have been me." She laughed again.
"Did he smell funny?" Fran asked me.
"Only when it rained."
"Darlings!" Amanda said with an edge in her voice, "this is my big news!"
We settled down, and her coy smile came back.
"Anyway, we got together and we just had so much in common; we just laughed and laughed... then he was down in London looking over land deeds, so we went out again, and one thing led to another at the Caledonian ball, and now I am going to be Lairdess Amanda Phillips-McConald!"
"Hey, his name's Phillips, too?" Fran said sarcastically.
"No, no, you see, I'm keeping my name and taking his name.
It's a feminist statement, really. Didn't you see me in Tatler?"
Fran said later my eyes were like saucers. So she asked, "Is he rich?"
"Don't be silly, darling, what's in Scotland?"
"History? Great natural beauty? Mel Gibson?"
"Sheep and alcoholics, darling. No, he hasn't a bean... and there's a castle to do uphow do you think he could manage that on his salary?"
Then Amanda went completely off on one about her interior design plans for the castle. I'd actually been there. (Fraser had asked a bunch of us along, but I'd tried to pretend it was a private outing for me alone.) It was less a castle, more a few old stones, and his uncle had then lived in the only staff cottage still standing, but she clearly didn't know that yet, given the lengths she was prepared to go to give it that cozy Amanda style.
"I thought we'd go for a cutting-edge, post-industrialist look," she was saying.
I knew I had to say somethinganythingat this point. So I followed my time-honored rule of saying the first thing that comes into my head.
"Wow, so really it's like a 'class weds money' type of thing! That's practically...."
I was going to say Hogarthian, but too late. I got a look that could peel an apple whole and a very long pause. Eventually:
"Well, of course, us Phillipses can trace our ancestry back pretty far."
"What, to Woking?" said Fran.
"Ha ha, very funny." She turned. "Are you getting married, Fran? Oh no, I forgot, you're not seeing anyone, are you? Because maybe if you ever do, we could make fun of you for a change."
Fran raised her eyes to heaven and headed back to the bar for more drinks.
Tantrum over, Amanda leaned in chummily. "So, you and Fraser were quite close, weren't you?" She smiled as if to show that this didn't actually mean "Envy me! Envy me!"
"Not really," I said, meaning, "Well, I fancied him and he completely ignored me."
"Oh, you must come to the wedding. It's going to be absolutely wonderful. Daddy just insists on making a fuss."
Amanda's dad had been married about four times since we were sixteen. At this point, he got a discount.
"I'd love to." I would be generous. She was the first of my friends to get married, to a lovely bloke. Why shouldn't I be happy? Without warning, a thought of Alex popped into my head, and I winced.
"Great! Oh, I'm sorry I can't make you a bridesmaid, but Larissa and Portia are such good friends from Varsity, I just had to ask them."
"You will meet someone, Melanie, you know, someone nice. Such a shame about Alex dashing off like that. He was a bit of a one, wasn't he? And of course so terribly well connected."
Meaning what, exactly? I put my drink down rather too emphatically.
"Well, I don't care about that, and I don't care about Alex."
"No, of course you don't," she said, patting me on the hand in an infuriating manner.
I was constantly forgetting Amanda's true potential for sheer malice. Revising my earlier estimate, I hoped she'd have a proxy marriage and get divorced before we'd finished the cake.
Fran came back with the drinks, but Amanda immediately hopped up and said she had to be elsewhere. She shook back her blond sheet of hairrootlessand sashayed her pert little leather-trousered arse out the door to her latest-model convertible, mobile phone already clamped to her ear, waving merrily behind her, off to somewhere infinitely more glamorous and exciting than the pub on a Friday night.
Fran and I sat in silence for a bit, till Fran said, "Sod that, then," and we drank her white wine as well as ours, and then we had another one to cheer ourselves up, and then a couple more, and before long we didn't care that Amanda Phillips had found her handsomeif scruffyprince and was going off to live in a castle.
Much, much later we were yabbering nonsensically about the last bloke Fran metaphorically kicked in the bollocks and threw out of the house-actually, when I came to think of it, she had literally kicked him in the bollocks, and he had limped out of the house of his own accordwhen across the crowded pub I spied what looked like a familiar pair of knees. Following upward, I deduced that it was in fact Nicholas, tallest accountant in the world. (How did I know him again?) Gosh, he was tall. I liked tall.
I tugged on Fran's sleeve. "Look...'s Nicholas."
Fran looked over roughly. "Wanker," she said. Had Fran not said "wanker" about every bloke we'd mentioned for the last hour and a half, I might have listened to her and saved myself some trauma. Instead I waved at him in huge circular motions.
"Knickerless!" And I dissolved in giggles. He flew over and gave me a big kiss. Oh, we must have been old friends, then.
"Melanie, fantastic to see you. I've just been having another crazy night out with the accountants."
I squinted to make out anyone else who'd been at the other end of the bar, but they all seemed to have mysteriously disappeared.
"God, we're mad. Can't see us getting home tonight without a police caution! Chaw chaw chaw!"
"Buy's a drink, Nicklas! You're loaded!"
"Sure, babe." And he did so with the fervor of a man who knew only too well just how much alcohol he usually had to get down a woman to get her to sleep with him.
In normal circumstances I would have run six miles from Nicholas, whom I had accidentally slept with at a party once because he was, er, very tall. He'd phoned me up constantly since, and I'd realized that, tall though he might be, he was also the most boring bastard who'd ever lived. In fact, he was the most boring accountant who'd ever lived. After the inevitable grilling I caught from Fran when he turned to pick me up in stone-washed jeans and pink cowboy boots, I'd made Linda answer the phone for a month. And here he was again: He was desperate, and I was desperate for attention&$151;a deadly combination.
Ensconced in a corner next to Fran, who looked half-asleep, but with a look that still said she could bite you on the face if you thought about trying anything, Nicholas started telling me all the latest pranks he and his fantastic accounting mates had been up to. By the time they actually got on the coach they'd hired to go see Bryan Adams, I was about to gnaw off my own hands in despair. With impeccable drunk logic, I decided I'd better kiss him just to get him to shut the fuck up. It wasn't the easiest of tasks: on a par with climbing a tree. While pissed out of your head. So, once I got to the top, I decided I'd better stay, until the tree fell asleep and I'd crawled from under the wreckage the following morning.
"So now what am I going to do?" I complained to Fran. "There's a big stinky man in my bedroom whom I hate, and if I go in and wake him, he'll start telling me hysterical stories about tax again."
"So, ehm, could you go... like, ask him to move?"
"Me! Why me? You're the one with all his saliva! Anyway, plus, what if he's naked?"
"Oh, right, you've never seen a naked man before?"
"Not one that's six feet seven. It'll put me right off my sausage sandwich."
Suddenly my ultraloud doorbell rang, which made us both jump. Fran and I looked at each other, and I limped dourly toward the door, to stop the infernal noise.
Whop! Straight out of my bedroom, an absolutely starkers, very hung-over six-foot-seven man ran full into me in panic, and it didn't look like he had the faintest idea what galaxy he was in.
"Is there a fire?!"
We stood for a while, looking straight at each other like rabbits caught in headlights. Then my psyche made an independent decision to turn me into my mother for as long as necessary.
"No, Nicholas, of course there's not. Go get dressed immediately!
Now! Before I open the door."
He blinked and retreated without saying a word, headed for the bedroom, then did a quick U-turn and made a bolt for the loo, where I could soon hear him having a six-foot-seven pee. Well, it was either him or a passing horse had got in there. So I had solved one problemgetting him out of my bedroomand discovered another. Maybe I could keep him locked in there forever and the neighbors would let us use their shower.
I opened the door finally, putting on an ingratiating look, not that the fat postman on the other side of the door gave a toss.
I signed for it, trying not to get too excited, but this was one huge parcel. Perhaps I had a secret admirer who was sending me precious gifts because he was totally rich and also perhaps completely famous.
Fran wandered through to try to use the loo. The fat postman noticed herevery man noticed her. Even gay men wanted to use her as an icon.
"Hello, fat postman," she said. "Hey, is that for you?" indicating the parcel. I turned it over in anticipation.
"No! It's for Linda. Damn, damn, damn."
"God, what is it-the latest in the Woodland Farm Princess Diana Star Wars plate collection?"
"No, too heavy."
The postman wobbled off. As ever, we looked at each other, wondering how a man who walked ten miles a day could get that fat.
"Linda doesn't read books. She eats them."
"Is that true, or is it just because you don't like her?"
I looked at my feet. "It's just because I don't like her."
"Well then, can we open it?"
"No, of course not."
"Why not? She wouldn't mind."
"Fran, I believe, she might, in fact, mind."
To be honest, I had no idea whether she'd mind or not. In fact, all I knew about her was that she worked in a bankI couldn't remember which onewas an only child, and had inherited money from her grandmother to buy this lovely flat and cover it in pastel tat. And I had learned all this from the flat interview, where I tried to look unbelievably fascinated, thus moving in under false pretenses, which was a huge relief, as at the time I'd been on the run from a cabal of physiotherapists who were terrorizing me out of my shared flat in Edgbaston, a period of my life I normally flashed back to only at four o'clock in the morning, wide awake and sweating.
As if hearing our thoughtsor, more likely, she had her ear up against the door, hearing our entire conversationLinda stomped out into the corridor from her big bedroom at the back of the house, managing not to look either of us in the eyes, even while grabbing the parcel out of my hand. She was short and round, with a definite aura of mustache, and her skin always looked a bit scratchy. As she stomped back to her room, Fran and I swapped our familiar "Linda" look.
"Erm, guys... ha ha," came a strangulated voice, "can Iercome out of the bathroom now?"
Fran raised her eyes to heaven. "Any time you like, darling. We'll be right here."
I started to giggle.
"Right, okay, right," came the voice. Then there was a pause, during which we didn't move back to the kitchen.
Finally the door finally started to open and Nicholas emerged, with a mass of tissue paper covering his genitals. And I mean a mass.
"Bwah hah! Corking night, eh, ladies!" he hollered, putting on a good front, I have to say. "What's for breakfast?"
"For you, a number 38 bus," said Fran. "They deliver."
"Haw haw hawI'll just get my dancing trousers on and be right with you. And how are you, my darling?"
We both looked round, till I realized he was talking to me.
"Oh, you know, some variation of fantastic," I said, hunched over, still in my towel. "The negative one." Suddenly I saw something on the floor I hadn't seen previously. I picked it up. It was a postcard, and this time it was for me.
"Fraan!" my voice quavered as I followed her into the living room. "It's a postcard."
"So I see. Oh, and look over there, Nicholas: It's a door!"
"Cwah cwah!" came the voice from the other room. "Just wait till I tell the boys at work about this."
I sighed. "Look," I said urgently. "Look who it's from."
The postcard was of the Empire State Building, almost completely obscured by a close-up of a woman's breasts. On the other side it said simply, "Darling. I'm so sorrybig mistake. I'm coming home. Alex."
There was a long dramatic pause. Or, well, there would have been a long dramatic pause, except that Nicholas chose that moment to launch into the room wearing purple trousers (I hadn't noticed they were purple; the effect was like a terrible plum canning factory accident), shouting, "Hey, I know what would be hystericallet's make some French toast!!"
Fran gave him a Paddington Bear hard stare. "Go look for some chocolate, Nicholas."
I was in shock and scarcely noticed when Nicholas disappeared, then returned obediently with a dozen chocolate minirolls. I was too busy staring straight ahead without blinking and trying to work everything out: Alex, Alex, Alexmy "one true love." Alex, Alex, Alex, Mel's "low-level rat bastard," according to Fran and pretty much everyone else in the world.
The first time I ever saw Alex I thought, Phwoar, I'd like to get into his pants. And he looked at me and thought exactly the same thing: It was a true meeting of minds. Oh! That shitty West London party (well, I should have known better than to go to parties in West London and expect to have a good time, but just that once it paid off).
I was searching for the more expensive beer hosts hide at the back of the fridge.
"Is it just me," growled a tall voice, "or does everyone here look like they've got something uncomfortable up their bums?"
"That's trendy," I hissed. "You're supposed to be envying them. They're only pretending to not be having a good time."
"Ohhhhh. Now I understand. Right. So I can either try to get out of West London...."
"Can't be done," I pointed out.
"Trueor I could get absolutely wasted and do something awful which I could later abdicate any responsibility for."
This was so pointed that I gulped and took a closer look at this six-foot-two, dark-haired, unruly-looking character with the most heavy-lidded, pointy-lashed brown eyes I'd ever seen.
"That," I said, "sounds like it would be completely out of character." Eighteen astonishing hours later, damp, grubby, and absolutely starving, lying in an unfamiliar bedroom having my tummy tickled with a teabag, I realized I was on to something.
Ten months later I was blissful: swanning around with Alex, who was trying to make it as something in the music industry. He knew everyone; we always ended up at a party, and all his friends were louche, slightly dodgy but with terribly nice accents. I was with the band: It was great. He wasn't exactly the most romantic character on the planet, but I didn't care; here I was, Melanie Pepper, twenty-six and watching minor pop stars throw up in the corners of filthy nightclubs. Life was cool.
More than that, though, I absolutely adored him. I loved his cool long floppy hair and his sad brown puppy eyes, and I longed for his attention. I would jump up and down trying to reach him, and he would give me his big lazy grin and check out who else was in the conversation. Occasionally he would indulge me by noticing me, and I would be like one of those pathetically affectionate little dogs they're always rescuing on programs about the RSPCA. Other times he'd flirt with other women for ages, and I would be distraught. In short, he was not that good a boyfriend, no doubt about it. But in his leather trousers, well, you know, a girl is a girl, and leather trousers and pop star friends are leather trousers and pop star friends, so of course I did what the cool girls should never do, which is fall in love with the cool boys. It blows the whole thing.
Still, he'd been coming round. I'd notice the odd look of tenderness on his face. Or he'd phone me for no reason. Or come home early from a gig. He was coming round, I could sense it. He loved me. He even passed the "Would you mind just picking me up some Tampax on the way over?" test. So I was just about to suggest that we... possibly... think about moving in togethernot seriously or anything, just a casual moving in thing as, after all, all that toothbrush expense just didn't seem worth it, ha hawhen he vanished. Off the face of the earth.
I waited for him to call one weekend, and he never did. It was that simple. Assuming it was an X-Files-style incident and could have nothing to do with me, I waited twenty-four hours before I finally phoned his flatmate, Charlie, who lived in Fulham. Charlie wasn't pleased to have to put up with Alex's shit and too posh to be kind. He informed me wearily that Alex had gone to the States to find himself and was sorry he hadn't told me but it seemed easier that way.
Not even a desultory note! Alex had dumped me by moving continents and leaving a message with a laconic friend!
For weeks I was too strung out even to cry. It felt like someone had scooped out my insides with a cold spoon. Fran was wonderful then; I'd never known anyone with a fuller range of colorful epithets and hexes. She spat venom for me; I sat in corners and rocked myself. I felt embarrassed just walking down to the shops for more crisps, convinced that the sheer humiliation I felt must be written all over my face. It was pain like I'd never known, worse even than when I got the spangles papers stuck up my nose (when I was four; I'm not weird or anything).
As the months passed, everything had settled to the occasional dull ache, which I had most recently attempted to assuage with the guest now smacking his lips over the chocolate minirolls as if they were caviar.
"Okay," said Fran. "I'm just going to take this little piece of junk mail and put it where it belongs."
I snatched it out of her hands."Come on, Mel. This is low-life trash bastard post. In fact, if you like, I'll even give you the honor of setting fire to it."
"Hey, guys, what's going on?" said Nicholas the Intuitive through a mouthful of chocolate mush. Apparently if he didn't get fifteen thousand calories a day, he'd die or something. I opened my eyes.
"Look, I really don't want to be rude, but would you just go away!"
But I couldn't hold the moment. "Ehm, it's just that Fran and I have this really important thing to do that we've been planning for ages."
"Yeah, it's called the 'getting away from Nicholas thing,'" said Fran, not quite under her breath.
"Sure, hey, not a problem, babe. How about I pick you up tonight at seven and we go for a ludicrously expensive dinner at my client's expense, chaw chaw chaw!"
"Unfortunately, this thing that Mel and I have to do lasts for ages," said Fran. "So sorry. But you have to go. Now."
"Hey, cool your jets. No one ever said that Nicholas Snodley couldn't take a hint."
I suddenly ran to the other side of the room and started de-alphabetizing Linda's CDs in case he tried to give me a kiss. Linda's CDs: The Greatest Love Songs Ever 1, The Greatest Love Songs Ever 2, and, for a bit of variety, The Greatest Love Songs in the World-Ever!
And some dolphin noises.
"Mel, babe. I'll ring you soon, huh? About the Brian May appreciation bash?"
"Absolutely," I said. "Bye."
He went for playing it cool. "Yeah, right, what's your number again?"
I meant to give him the wrong number but in my confused emotional state got mixed up and accidentally gave him the right one.
"Ciao, then, babes," he sleazed, and, bending under the door frame, he was gone. I swear I could hear the echoing "chaw chaw chaw" down the corridor.
Out of the frying pan, I thought to myself, picking up the postcard again. I moved back and collapsed on the sofa next to Fran, leaning my head on her shoulder.
"Please never do the Nicholas thing again," she said.
"But it's so much fun for you."
"Mel, you know I'd rather grate myself than see you go anywhere near that eight-foot pole of slime."
I held up the postcard weakly. "I missed him so much."
"I know you did."
"I still do."
"I know you do. But what kind of man would do what he did to you without being a total bastard?"
"I don't know. Boys are weird."
"Yes, they are. All of them. And they think we're weird. But some of them are nice-weird and some of them are not. Think of Alex as an Amanda of the boy world. He made you feel exactly the same way that snotty cow did when she took up with all those nobs and dropped you like a stone."
"And I still see her."
Fran sighed. "And she makes you miserable. Which means you probably won't listen to a word I say."
"Okay, well, fuck that for sisterly advice, then. Any minirolls left?"
We regarded the debris of tinfoil strewn across the floor.
"That boy frightens me," murmured Fran.
I lay back on the sofa, groaning. "Oh God. First Fraser, then Nicholas, and now this. I hope karma isn't true."
A thought struck me. "You don't think Amanda's marrying Fraser just to fuck me off, do you?"
"Probably," said Fran, stretching lazily and putting on the TV.
"Don't worry. If Alex is coming back, she can marry him instead."
Neither prospect filled me with glee.
Excerpted from Amanda's Wedding , by Jenny Colgan . Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenny Colgan . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top