Chapter 17

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'What a bastard!' screeched Dee as she extended her lycra clad legs out and reached to touch her toes.

A few women stretching around us paused to look at her.

'I wouldn't say he's a bastard.' I lowered my voice along with my head as I tried to get my ear to touch my knee. My fingers unsuccessfully attempted to find my toes. 'His email back was just a bit cold, that's all. I haven't actually talked to him yet.'

I felt a burn in my thigh as I stretched and recalled the reply that flashed up in my inbox at around 3.30pm. 'Sorry, been busy. The rest of the weekend was good thanks.' It was a rejection if ever I'd read one. It was almost as bad as if Leon hadn't replied at all. I'd read He's Just Not that Into You, after all. I knew the score. So did Dee, hence the screwed up expression on her face.

'He dipped his nib in the company ink and he thinks he can just get away with it, no questions asked?'

'Let's not read into those two sentences he sent me too much,' I said, although I had. I knew it and Dee knew it.

'Come on Bethy.' She threw me an exasperated look. 'You also told me you saw him outside the office after work and he walked right on ahead of you.'

'Yeah, well, I don't think he saw me,' I shrugged. 'Besides, I could have run to catch up with him.'

'Oh yeah? Why didn't you? Oh, that's right! His stupid email blowing you off, that's why not!'

I nodded. It was true. Dee had just articulated why I hadn't called out after him as he walked to the tube station. It was exactly why I'd made sure I'd seen him swallowed up by the crowds hurrying down the steps to the underground and stopped to buy some mints before I followed. I didn't want to run the risk of finding myself in the same carriage as him. I wasn't interested in bringing our awkward email exchange to life.

A loud clap brought me back to the bright gym room. Romy, our perky Zumba instructor, continued to clap as she sprinted to the front of the room.

'Who's ready to have some fun?' With a big jump, she landed to face us.

'Me,' I mumbled half-heartedly as all the other women squealed. Dee jumped up and down on the spot, shaking her fingers out at her sides. I hoisted myself up and tapped my foot to the opening beats of Justin Timberlake's 'SexyBack.' Romy prompted us to step side to side and put a bounce into it. As I fell into the rhythm and prepared to lose my body and mind over to the 'Trousersnake' for the next three minutes, Dee shouted, 'Matt's been calling and texting more and more lately. It's great.'

I forgot she was a 'talker' at the gym. No amount of saying, 'What? I really can't hear you' seemed to stop her. I nodded as we launched into the grapevine.

'The sex is still amazing.'

'That's great Dee.' I was happy for her, but I was also surprised that Matt was being more attentive to Dee than to any other girl he'd been with since I'd known him. Perhaps she kept Matt on his toes. Let's face it, the woman was anything but boring. Still, I worried that Matt's texts would soon drop off.

The worry nagged at me through class. During the cool down, I tried to concentrate on my breathing as Dee chatted away about a band he'd taken her to see over the weekend. They were a metal band that Rick liked. I would have laughed if I hadn't been concentrating on steadying myself as I lifted a foot behind me and held it to my bottom. Dee McNamara going to see a metal band. Even though she was a social chameleon, it was still a stretch to imagine her there. Next thing, she'd be telling me that she was going to spend three nights in a tent covered in mud with Matt at the Download Festival.

I asked her if she was now a heavy metal groupie as we made our way to the locker room.

'Oh, god no!' Her eyes widened in horror. 'I had to sedate myself with Sambuca to get through that set on Saturday night. But these things are all about compromise. Matt's coming with me to that interactive Japanese restaurant in Soho tomorrow night. The one where you order stuff from your table top.'

I was impressed. I'd only ever seen Matt eat pizza while watching Anchorman on our couch.

'Hey!' Dee exclaimed, slamming her locker door shut. 'You and Rick should join us. Make it a foursome?'

'Oh, we wouldn't want to impose on your date.'

'Don't be silly! It'll be fun. You ask Rick and I'll change the booking.' She looked up from her gym bag and winked at me.

'What was that wink for?'

'Are you absolutely sure there's nothing going on between you and Rick?'

I suddenly felt very conscious that I was only wearing knickers and a sports bra. There was no hiding from her. I hurriedly grabbed my jeans and shoved a foot in them. I'd shower at home.

'Me and Rick? No. I told you before that I've got to be 100 percent sure before hooking up with a flatmate.'

'Come on Beth,' she said, pulling on her jumper. 'You won't be living in that flat forever and I think there's something there between the two of you.'

I had to admit that there was something between Rick and I that I didn't experience with Mitch. It was a friendship that I knew would last after I moved out. It was something I'd never had with a straight man, and there was no way I was going to jeopardise it, no matter how much I thought about kissing him when we watched old Simpsons episodes together.

'Yes Dee, it's called a friendship,' I sighed. 'Besides, you're assuming that Rick would be interested too.'

Dee cleared her throat and pursed her lips. Wearing just her jumper and knickers, she turned to face me, her hands on her hips.

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